IMC Basis is part of the IMC Weekend School Foundation in the Netherlands, which offers supplementary motivational education and has stood for educational innovation since its establishment in 1998. This includes the IMC Weekend School on Sundays and language classes with IMC on Tour, as well as IMC Basis, which is integrated in normal primary education. IMC Basis prepares young people from underprivileged neighbourhoods for the most important step after their school life by assisting them in finding work that really suits their talents and in which they can develop further.
"Children in deprived areas have few role models in their immediate environment with whom they can identify. For the more ambitious among them, looking into the possibilities can even leave them feeling gloomy about their future.”
“I'd like to be an engineer – do you know any engineers?” When psychologist Heleen Terwijn was asked this question 22 years ago, it really opened her eyes. She had been researching the motivation of primary school students in the underprivileged Bijlmer district in Amsterdam and discovered that such questions usually went unanswered.
According to Gemma Beij, project leader at IMC Basis, “Heleen saw that pupils in Bijlmer went to school to prepare for adult life, but nobody showed them what that life could look like. Children in deprived areas have few role models in their immediate environment with whom they can identify. For the more ambitious among them, looking into the possibilities can even leave them feeling gloomy about their future.”
Looking to create a place where these children might broaden their future prospects gave Heleen the idea of bringing children into contact with inspiring professionals and interesting fields of study. This resulted in the founding of the IMC Weekend School in 1998, with the financial support of IMC Financial Markets & Asset Management.
“I started working at the IMC Weekend School in 2004, by which time we already had three locations,” Gemma continues. “This was eventually expanded to ten weekend schools spread over seven cities in the Netherlands. While these ten schools really let us show that the system worked, we still needed to decide how to proceed. Did we want to continue setting up something in parallel to the existing school system?
“We decided that the answer was no: we wished to reach all schoolchildren with our concept. Moreover, many primary schoolteachers saw how well children participating in the weekend school fared during the rest of the week, and could tell that they thrived and advanced in more than just a cognitive way. Finally, many medium-sized cities wanted to have a weekend school, but a place like Roermond or Oss doesn’t have enough kids for whom a weekend school would be relevant and cannot therefore raise as much money from the business community.”
"In recent years, IMC Basis has grown very fast: in just three years, we grew from 4 to 38 locations all across the Netherlands."
“Based on all this, we decided that making an impact would require us to look at ways of doing things differently. This was the start of IMC Basis, which integrated our method within normal elementary education. We started looking for a primary school in a medium-sized city to see if the IMC Basis concept could work, then executed the programme with all children aged between 9 and 13. With IMC Basis, the focus is still on underprivileged neighbourhoods. We start in places where it is most needed.”
Gemma was involved in the establishment of the first IMC Basis site. “I have worked at a range of locations for the IMC Weekend School on Sundays, and have always been involved in the concept of our organisation. Now, I am also responsible for the financial situation as well as upscaling our IMC Basis programme. We have fundraisers who raise money locally, but we are also looking for partners to join the broader programme. In recent years, IMC Basis has grown very fast: in just three years, we grew from 4 to 38 locations all across the Netherlands.”
"Our first step is to grow to fifty schools in about two years. As we get closer to that goal, we will evaluate the results and determine our next step. Of course we have ambitions, but we strive for quality over quantity, Gemma says." One of the reasons we would love to scale up is because we wish to cover the whole of the Netherlands, including shrinking regions such as Groningen and Friesland as well as vibrant cities such as Utrecht. We're also investigating the impact of the IMC Basis programme. We carry out surveys among schoolchildren in group 6 (8-11 years) as well as at the end of group 8 (10-13 years). This research lets us investigate how IMC Basis impacts these children in the short term. We look at a range of variables, including confidence, motivation and school experience. To compare the effects, we administer the same survey at another primary school where we don’t run the IMC Basis programme. A professor at the University of Amsterdam helps us with this research as part of a larger research project that has been made possible by the national science agenda.”
The long-term ambition is to ensure that IMC Basis is embedded in the existing curriculum of primary schools in a sustainable way, explains Gemma. “This is difficult to realise, due to various issues, such as the shortage of teachers. Even so, we wish for this to be integrated within the policy frameworks of a primary school. The question is whether we can create a model in which schools themselves take more ownership and where every school looks to anchor our programme into their daily classes. Currently, we are in talks with several Pabo programmes (Teacher Education for Primary Schools), the Ministry of Education and the teachers themselves. The current model cannot be maintained indefinitely, especially as we intend to keep growing beyond 50 locations to eventually 150 locations in 2024. The real challenge lies in the next step: How are we going to ensure that IMC Basis is truly integrated into normal education, who do we need to involve, and what role will we play?”
"The long-term ambition is to ensure that IMC Basis is embedded in the existing curriculum of primary schools in a sustainable way."
"The central question in this process was: What organisational model do we need to scale up from sixteen to fifty locations within two years and up to a hundred fifty locations in 2024?"
Strategy& performed an impact study for IMC Basis back in 2015. Gemma: “Strategy& looked at the impact IMC Basis had made after 1.5 years of running our four pilot schools – specifically, we wanted to know what people really thought of the programme. Based on this research among stakeholders, we initially decided to scale up to sixteen locations. Strategy& has since helped us to scale up further.”
“The central question in this process was: What organisational model do we need to scale up from sixteen to fifty locations within two years and up to a hundred fifty locations in 2024? We discussed a number of relevant models together with Strategy& Associate Florine de Mol van Otterloo. One of the options was the learning community model, in which we would work much more from within the regions. We have adopted this model during last school year. Our 34 locations are spread over four regions and each region has its own fundraiser and concept supervisor. Moreover, we also have two people at the head office who take care of central activities, such as long-term strategy and the everyday functioning of the entire organisation.”
Florine describes it as inspiring to have worked in close collaboration with Gemma and Heleen on the development of their organisational model and to see it implemented so successfully. “Together with the IMC Basis team we were able to determine the actions needed to accelerate growth,” she says. “We evaluated the programme and its success became evident from our conversations with the school coordinators, parents, and schoolchildren involved. The astonishing growth of the programme over the past year will allow IMC Basis to positively impact even more schoolchildren, and I am proud that Strategy& has been able to help in their mission to provide additional education to children who most need it.”
"The astonishing growth of the programme over the past year will allow IMC Basis to positively impact even more schoolchildren, and I am proud that Strategy& has been able to help in their mission to provide additional education to children who most need it."