African School for Excellence

School Type: Urban

Year Elected: 2015

The African School for Excellence (ASE), now in its third year, is a low-cost independent school based in the Tskane township near Springs outside of Johannesburg.  Since its founding, ASE has radically shifted its thinking around how to measure success, thereby redefining and reestablishing new standards for what “excellence” means. This shift came about after ASE recognized that the ability to problem solve and teamwork were more effective indicators of measuring success than academic grades alone. ASE has put extensive thought into developing a new approach to learning, by letting go of problematic curriculum, redesigning its own curriculum and introducing a new approach to teacher training.

The goal of ASE today is to enable its students to become transformative leaders in their communities and greater society, step into any vocation or leadership opportunity and have the ability to meet that challenge head on while having a deeper insight and awareness of who they are and who their fellow peers are. ASE is collapsing hierarchies and seeking to create new paradigms for education for South Africa’s poorest members. Students are eager to learn, excited by the challenges presented and often do not want to go home when the day is finished. ASE is also a school with a heart - students come from difficult socioeconomic circumstances and feel that ASE is a safe space to share and be supported. Students take enormous pride and ownership in the school and they are thriving. 

Changemaking Initiative

  • The “Black Swan” initiative was recently founded by ASE and is a professional development program that moves teachers away from the “banking model of education” to a focus on cognitive and character development. The change leader of ASE, Jay Kloppenburg, describes this new initiative as a way to shift teachers’ mindsets from traditional spoon feeding to thinking about themselves as researchers and facilitators of inquiry.
  • ASE encourages active learning by enabling teacher-less classrooms, problem solving without teaching and peer based learning and also through student-led assemblies and the “scholar led-initiatives program”.