How will Mark Zuckerberg's new school challenge education?

The Primary School, spearheaded by Mark Zuckerberg's wife Priscilla Chan, is designed to embrace a holistic perspective on education with its combination of health care services and early childhood programming. 

Rick Wilking
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks with his wife Priscilla Chan at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort in this July 11, 2013 photo.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has a new business venture, and no, it's not in tech.

Under the leadership of Zuckerberg's wife, Priscilla Chan, the couple is planning to open their own school in Palo Alto, Calif. The Primary School will serve the children of East Palo Alto and Belle Haven, Kindergarten through grade 12. More distinctively, the school will also provide its students health care services from birth to graduation.

“I'm so proud of Priscilla for starting The Primary School – a new kind of school that brings education and healthcare together,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “Health and education are closely connected. When children aren't healthy, they can't learn as easily.”

In partnership with Ravenswood Family Health Center, the school will even offer prenatal care for parents. There is no tuition.

The health center, located close to the school, will give comprehensive health and dental care for students and their families. The school will also have an on-site clinic.

“By integrating education, health, and family support services starting at birth, TPS will expand the traditional definition of ‘school’ in order to prepare all children to succeed in college, career, and life,” the organization’s website reads.

Programming starts next year with full-time school for four-year-olds and parent-based activities for infants and two-year-olds.

Dr. Chan, a pediatrician and teacher, will be the CEO. Before going to medical school, she ran an after-school program and taught elementary school science in Boston.

“My experiences of running an after school program in a low income housing project and working as a pediatrician in a safety net hospital has shown me first hand that we need a better way of caring for and educating our children,” she wrote in her own Facebook post. “The effects of trauma and chronic stress create an invisible burden for children that makes it very difficult for them to be healthy and live up to their academic potential.”

“We must address these issues holistically in order to allow children to succeed,” she added.

Health and education have long been intertwined as a social issue. According to the 2010-2011 National Survey of Children’s Health nearly one in four children are reported to have been diagnosed with at least one of a list of 18 health conditions thought to be chronic. But support for personal development and attention to health, the authors write, are essential to all students.

Chan’s holistic approach echoes the modus operandi of “whole-child” education programs, in which every factor outside of K-12 school is considered pertinent to education as a whole. The Harlem Children’s Zone, for instance, is an ongoing community project that encompasses every stage of education starting from early childhood as well as offering an array of community programs, including ones designed to that promote health.

While there have been mixed reviews of their subsequent academic impact, early childhood education programs like HCZ’s Baby College still serve the community in ways that had been lacking previously.

"There's a lot more to learning and development than test scores," W. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University, tells NPR in May. "And so if it only has modest impacts, it's probably worth it."

Chan’s Primary School will opens its doors August 2016.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to How will Mark Zuckerberg's new school challenge education?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today