Aidana Alibaeva worked abroad for 10 years as a Chinese language interpreter. She was always inspired by her grandparents, who were teachers. To gain some teaching experience, she taught Chinese to six or seven kids in the neighborhood for free. In 2018, she channeled her passion for teaching into opening I-Class educational center in southern Kyrgyzstan in the city of Osh.
“My mother always prioritized our education. She sent me and my three siblings to the best educational centers to learn English. These opportunities were quite expensive. That’s when I realized that quality education needs to be affordable,” Aidana said.
For 2,500 Kyrgyz soms (an equivalent of $30) per month, I-Class educational center offers English language courses and analytical thinking math. It is also the first center in Osh to offer sport stacking, an activity that involves stacking nine to 12 specifically designed cups in preset patterns as quickly as possible. Sport stacking improves memory, creativity, and focus.
There are hundreds of overcrowded schools in Kyrgyzstan. Every year the number of students increases. According to recent research, on average Kyrgyzstani schools have 1.5 times more students than they should.
As the demand for educational services in Osh kept growing, Aidana thought of expanding her business. In 2020, she applied to the Business Acceleration Program, organized by the USAID Enterprise Competitiveness Project in the Kyrgyz Republic, implemented by ACDI/VOCA, to raise funding for the expansion of her business.
“Initially, I thought of expanding the existing educational center. After participating in the USAID Business Acceleration Program and doing careful market research, I realized that there is strong demand for quality primary education in Osh. I decided to open I-Class private elementary school for students from grades one to four,” Aidana said.
Business Acceleration Program
In 2018, USAID launched the Business Acceleration Program to help youth and women-led small- and medium-sized businesses kickstart growth and become investment-ready. More than 80 entrepreneurs from different sectors, including IT, catering, education, agriculture, and food processing, participated in the program. Entrepreneurs worked with mentors and financial analysts to strengthen their skills in financial analysis, marketing, strategic planning, and customer delivery. Entrepreneurs improved their business pitches and value propositions of their companies.
Aidana graduated from the USAID’s Business Acceleration Program Osh cohort as one of the three top peer-selected companies.
Partnering to Introduce Innovative Solutions
Armed with this wealth of learning, Aidana opened I-Class elementary school in Osh in September 2021. Aidana and her family pooled all their resources into renting and equipping a spacious building and recruiting teachers and employees.
Aidana prioritized IT education to increase digital literacy in the region. But she could not afford expensive equipment. As a successful graduate of the Business Acceleration Program, Aidana qualified for grant support from USAID. She used the USAID funding for modern IT equipment and classroom furniture.
Reaching More Students
I-Class is a full-day school that offers its students three meals a day, advanced English language training, coding classes, sport stacking, robotics, and analytical thinking math. In its first year of operation, I-Class recruited more than 130 students. The monthly payment is 8,000 Kyrgyz soms (an equivalent of $95). The school offers financial aid to talented students and children from low-income families.
“We did not expect such high interest and so many students wishing to study at our school. I would have considered it a success if we recruited 80 students in the first year. We nearly doubled that number.”-Aidana
Creating More Jobs in Southern Kyrgyzstan
Aidana focused on recruiting experienced teachers and young professionals. Employees receive competitive salaries and are encouraged to use creative approaches in teaching. The school employs more than 30 staff, mainly local women and young professionals.
One of the key personnel at I-Class is Madina Turgunbaeva, a teacher with 36 years of experience.
“I enjoy working at I-Class. Our director, Aidana, goes out of her way to create good working conditions for us. We do an important job here. At elementary school we build the foundation for the child’s bright future,” Madina said.
One of the young professionals working at I-Class is a 21-year-old student, Kairat, a part-time programming teacher.
“I am a front-end web developer. At I-Class, I teach kids to use Scratch visual programming language. Scratch is the best introduction to programming for young children. I love working with kids; they learn so quickly,” Kairat said.
With USAID support, I-Class elementary school will create an additional 23 jobs and increase its cumulative sales up to $133,000 in the next three years. With many eager students on the waiting list, Aidana plans to rent additional space to accommodate more students next year.
Learn more about our work in Kyrgyzstan.
Learn more about the USAID Enterprise Competitiveness Project.