TULA After-School Learning Centers: Building Success in School and in the Real World

building a scalable model for quality, affordable education that combines relevant knowledge and skills with social and emotional learning

Photo of Zhiela Santillan
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  • Yes, I fulfill all of the eligibility criteria.

Initiative's representative name

Zhiela Santillan

Initiative's representative date of birth

June 22, 1994

Initiative’s representative gender

  • Woman

Which eligible market are you based in?

  • Philippines

Where are you making a difference?

Metro Manila, Philippines Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan

Website or social media url(s)

http://www.tulaeducation.com/ https://www.facebook.com/TULAphilippines/ https://www.instagram.com/tulaphilippines/ https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-ultimate-learning-accelerator/

When was your organisation founded?

April 2015

Focus areas

  • Financial skills and capability
  • Reskilling and upskilling the workforce

Project Stage

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

Yearly Budget: How much capital do you need to accomplish your proposed project?

  • $50k - $100k

Organisation Type

  • For-profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed

James, a Filipino who grew up in Australia, worked in the best education systems around the world. His experience made him realize that the type of education a person receives early on largely determines their quality of life. He returned to his native country to help close the gap between private and public school students. He saw that millions of families around the world - more than 60% in East Asia - avail after-school support to supplement schooling, but noticed that most tutorials focused solely on academics. He grew excited by the idea of adopting best practices from the most innovative schools around the world into an easily deployable after-school solution that could be accessed by kids from a wide range of needs and backgrounds.

2. The problem: What problem surrounding employability or financial capability are you helping to solve?

Proper character education is integral to building a stronger and more inclusive workforce. The problem is that Filipino schools are under-resourced, have ranked poorly worldwide, and have been unsuccessful in teaching character and life skills. This led to a big skills shortage in the current workforce. In fact, one-third of employers were unable to fill vacancies in 2017 due to a lack of applicants with a mastery of key soft skills.

3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We offer affordable and quality afterschool education. Our holistic character, attitude, skills, and knowledge (CASK) curriculum combines SEL with modern knowledge and skills. This reflects in our sessions, coach training, and centers. Each of our sessions consists of Academic Boosters (ABs) and Missions. ABs teach mastery of specific English and Math topics while Missions simulate real-world scenarios and diverse industries and careers that cultivate values such as collaboration and compassion, and practical skills such as prototyping and personal finance. Our coach training ensures high standards for all Learning Coaches by immersing them in effective teaching methods and TULA’s educational philosophy. Coaches are given regular feedback for improvement as they shape students’ achievement and personal growth. Lastly, cost-effective and accessible centers provide a positive classroom environment designed to promote CASK. Each center’s colorful walls showcase questions, crafts, and reflections from our learners. Centers promote diversity and welcome learners from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, enabling them to become compassionate thinkers and grounded leaders in the future.

4. How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solving the problem?

Pito is a 10-year-old public school student from Metro Manila. She loves playing and dreams to become a chef. The problem is, working hard isn't enough. She lacks the opportunities to learn. She struggles to speak English and is bullied for trying in school. After over 7 months at TULA, Pito now consistently makes an effort to speak in English. Her coaches were her motivator and mentor. They prioritized overcoming her shyness. As a result, Pito grew from a timid girl to an honor student who is not just academically excelling, but also stands up for bullying in the classroom. Pito is part of the 100 learners that regularly attend TULA. There are still 23 million students that TULA can help succeed in the Philippines and around the globe.

5. Employability: how is your organization or project teaching people to develop the skills that they need to survive in the future job market?

Our goal is for each TULA learner to leave the program as a responsible, lifelong learner and leader in their community. Therefore we focus on developing habitual character traits, behaviors, and attitudes that will support them beyond school. We purposely develop CASK through our Missions and Character Cards that introduce them to essential traits such as courage and grit. Each mission session furthers CASK development by combining theoretical learning (assessments and lectures) and concrete action (games and challenges) that get learners to understand, practice, and develop CASK continuously. Moreover, our Character Cards target a personalized character focus for each learner. This character is developed by coaches that will mentor and support learners by giving weekly feedback. Lastly, we recognize and report their progress at home and in school to ensure a longer-lasting impact.

5a. Please describe which future-oriented skills your organization is focused on fostering and how you have measured / plan to measure progress

We develop necessary CASK that is measured weekly with each learner. At the end of every quarter, coaches report a child’s progress through consultations with parents. During the consultation, we give a personalized development plan through our report cards. These cards show skills and knowledge learned during the mission such as entrepreneurship and organizational skills, and character and attitude ratings such as grit and curiosity. Through these cards, we aim to engage parents and teachers on our modern progressive educational techniques to promote CASK development even outside TULA.

7. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Traditional for-profit after-school centers such as Kumon and MatheMagis offer academic support to learners especially for those who can afford it. Local NGOs also offer upskilling (e.g. coding classes) and academic help but are more focused on reaching a high number of kids, thus the drop-out rates are high. Our unique approach to quality afterschool learning combines academics with life-building character and skills. We are also more affordable to public school learners with fees as low as US$5 per week making us more accessible to families from a wide range of backgrounds.

8. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

For the past 5 years, we have opened 9 learning centers in the Philippines and in Pakistan. We recruited over 40 passionate educators from the best universities with various achievements. We have transformed over 2500 learners that have shown improvement in their academics and their character, attitude, and skills. We are growing. We have over 35 public and private school partners that are continuing to expand. We have reached over 1000 students through TULA learning events in their schools. Recently, we have been chosen as partners with local homeschooling communities that are expected to grow. We are shifting mindsets. 95% of our learners show an increased motivation in learning. Furthermore, we are building hope and renewing parents' experience in education through consistent dialogues and workshops centered on the importance of building CASK to our communities in Metro Manila.

9. Financial Sustainability Plan. Can you tell us about you plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

Our short term financial plan is to improve our robust customer acquisition and retention systems. We've created lead generation initiatives that find committed customers (in both private and public school parents) to enroll. One initiative we have is our school partnership program, where TULA helps local schools for free by assessing current learning levels and implementing new innovations in exchange for interaction with their parent and student base. TULA also created loyalty initiatives that encourage attendance to keep retention among existing learners. For our medium and long-term plans, we plan to improve our systems to pilot local franchise packages that will refine international franchises in the long term.

10. Team

We currently have 5 co-founders and shareholders, 3 central team members, and 12 learning coaches. TULA aims to reach as wide as the largest global tutoring chains and transform after-school learning for millions of children globally. To do this, we will increase our team with quality learning coaches, community managers, and master coaches. Plans in other countries, such as Malaysia and Thailand, are currently underway thus, we will continue to look for middle leaders with the same vision.

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation:

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 33.3%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 33.3%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 66.7%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Is this entry VIABLE financially and operationally?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 33.3%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

6. FEEDBACK: Highlights

IMPACT POTENTIAL: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) – and you have a concrete plan for future impact. You have specific tools for measuring impact. - 100%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful solutions - 33.3%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work operationally and financially in the present and future; your plan is specific and you value sustainability. - 0%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You have a good plan on how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 33.3%

Other option - 0%

7. FEEDBACK: Areas for Improvement

IMPACT POTENTIAL: make sure to provide specific instances of your social impact (or how you plan to measure impact) – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, the main activities/products, and provide evidence of (or plan for) impact evaluation - 0%

QUALITY OF INNOVATION: make sure to describe how your solution is unique and innovative – it is helpful to include the research you have done on past solutions and how your solution is different from (and/or builds upon) these. - 50%

FINANCIAL AND OPERATIONAL SUSTAINABILITY: make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: make sure you describe your plan for how to empower others to become changemakers through your programming, service, or product - 50%

WRITING STYLE. Try to be concise, descriptive, and specific. Avoid jargon. - 50%

Nothing stands out! I thought it was great. - 0%

Other option - 0%

Attachments (1)

TULA Mission samples.pdf

Samples of TULA missions. A TULA mission is a 10-week themed project that aims to build 21st-century life skills such as prototyping, brainstorming, and design thinking.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Jimmy

Too often in developing countries, obtaining accolades in education is only attainable for those who are from a wealthy background. I applaud you for your work to aiming your program for children from a variety of backgrounds and affordable too.

Photo of Zhiela Santillan

Thank you, Jimmy 
We appreciate the kind words.