Becoming an English Language Specialist in the State Department /Georgetown University Program

Former Community College Professor Jane Theifels describes several initiatives she has led as an EL Specialist for the US State Department…

May of 2011 was approaching, a magic date for me, the time of my retirement from 32 years of  ESL Teaching at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

However, instead of staring ahead at a blank screen, I held two future prospects on my horizon.  First, I was now a registered nurse, having studied in my college’s two-year evening nursing program, while teaching during the day. I was following  my dream of going on medical missions to other countries.  Secondly, I enrolled in the English Language Specialist Program sponsored by the US State Department and Georgetown University.

I discovered the EL Specialist Program at a TESOL information session.  I knew it would be a perfect fit for me on retirement.  I would become part of a database where I could be notified of English opportunities abroad, ranging from two weeks to several months. These opportunities would arise when a Ministry of Education in a particular country approached the US Embassy there asking for an English Language Specialist to fill a special need.

Collaboration

In 2014 I answered a request to go to Togo to do teacher training in interactive methodology in the capital, Lomé, and in three villages outside the capital.  Fifty chosen teachers came to each village training from afar and were lodged for the 4 days in retreat houses.  Four Togolese teacher trainers also each had a session on one of the conference days. My focus was on Active Grammar, the Interactive Classroom, Writing, Learning Styles, and Gender Equality.  The response was overwhelmingly positive for all of us.

In 2016 there was a request to go to Benin for six weeks and travel throughout the country conducting a survey of English language teaching with the Assistant to the Minister of Higher Education and a retired English Language Inspector. This survey was to pave the way for the introduction of English in the public primary schools. Five weeks later the three of us handed in our extensive report, and now there is a pilot program with 72 trained teachers of English in the first and second grades of the public primary schools.

My Partners in Curriculum Development

The request to travel to Djibouti came in 2017, this time requiring curriculum development over a two-month period. After meeting with English coordinators, it was determined that the 9th grade book be rewritten, and our team of two Djiboutian curriculum developers and I did just that. The book is now hot-off-the-press for use this school term.

My Djiboutian contract also stipulated a return for two weeks to do teacher training in interactive methodology and teacher observations. In fact, I am writing this on the airplane on my trip back to the U.S. after those amazing two weeks in Djibouti.

I say to you that if you want to see the world and deeply immerse yourself in a new culture while working alongside new colleagues on a creative and meaningful task, I can’t think of a better way to do it than with the EL Specialist Program. Each assignment opens a new world where you and your new colleagues share your expertise and bond together. You emerge from these experiences with new friends, new vistas, new cultural awareness and a mutual contribution that enhances English teaching in the country. Try it!  You’ll  love it!

https://elprograms.org/specialist/

Meet Professor Jane Theifels

Education for the future of Jordan

Here’s the first blog on this subject from Professor Trevor Male who is beginning a project in Jordan.  Stay tuned for more.

 

I am in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan this week starting work on a project funded by the Queen Rania Foundation.  The task is to examine best practice worldwide and produce a set of options for school councils and parental engagement, which form part of an education strategic plan for this nation.

Jordan is a small(ish) landlocked country bordering Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Israel.  In July 2017, the World Bank re-classified Jordan from an upper-middle income country to a lower middle- income country.  There are no natural mineral resources or other natural advantages, so its future prosperity will depend almost entirely on the talents and enterprise of its people.  As of 2010 (the latest estimate available), approximately 14% of the population lived below the national poverty line on a long-term basis, while almost a third experienced transient poverty.   This has had multiple effects on education as children from poor families may be less likely to attend pre-primary education and the burdens of indirect costs (clothing, transportation costs and the need to work to supplement family income) may contribute to non-enrolment, non-attendance and even drop out at the primary and secondary levels.

In addition to these factors, Jordan faces challenges associated with the huge influx of refugees fleeing the violence in Syria and now provides support for more than 1.3 million Syrians.  As would be expected this does place extra demands on the education system and labour market, in addition to other national services and infrastructure.  The challenges are compounded by the continuing rapid expansion in Jordan’s population, which is expected to increase by 1.4% per year for the next decade. Consequently, increasing demands for school and further education places are feeding growing numbers into the labour market.  Whilst this expansion provides a unique economic opportunity for Jordan because the working population will exceed the dependent population for the next twenty years. Nevertheless, based on current projections, there will be a need for over 660,000 new jobs over the next decade, if the national target of 8% unemployment is to be met.  One consequence of this situation is that the kingdom developed a National Human Resource Development Strategy in 2016 which seeks “to invest in our citizens’ education and training to create a generation of forward-looking young people, who are equipped with the skills necessary to analyse, innovate and excel” (King Abdullah II).

Education has been determined as the key to transforming these demographic challenges into opportunities for growth and development, with significant changes being required across Jordan’s education and training systems.  In turn this led the Ministry of Education to devise a strategic plan to address these issues, which was published in 2018.  This is where I appear in the picture as providing “the consultancy service that an international expert will be providing to the Ministry of Education (MoE) to support its goals of having all schools actively engaging parents and working in active partnership with their local communities by 2022”.

What I have discovered since arriving here just two days ago has been unexpected as I had not done my homework on this country and assumed ‘Middle East = must be rich’.     So yesterday I reviewed the documents and today talked to people who work in the schools’ sector.  What I witnessed here is a huge lack of building provision, specially to accommodate Syrian refugee children many of whom are taught in the camps, or in evening schools.  It is not uncommon for schools to be in inadequate rented accommodation and to be double shift i.e. one building with two school populations. They are also short of materials and quality teachers.

Patently the country is not rich and thus sits right in the frame of reference provided by this blogging service in that here is a country determined to overcome social injustice, even when the increase in poverty can be blamed partly on unexpected immigration.  Despite the impact of the influx of Syrian students, however, the Ministry is committed to ensure access and equality towards the vision of “Education for All”, equity in the realms of both gender and special needs, improving enrolment rates, accommodating all age groups, providing a stimulating educational environment and developing awareness and health programmes.  It has been a generous response by this largely Muslim population that puts Brexiteers to shame.

Meet Trevor Male

A Wake-up Call for NGO Boards:  What Can We Learn from these Tragedies?

Recently the international news reported the story of a terrible tragedy that took place over several years in Liberia.  A non-profit organization called More Than Me (MTM) failed the children under their care.  According to a video by ProPublica and story by Time Magazine, young girls who should have been learning care – free were instead raped by the lead administrator of a charity co-founded by an American woman.

Wasn’t it only a few months ago that we were reading about a sex scandal at Oxfam? In Haiti, Oxfam was accused of covering up an investigation involving the hiring of sex workers for staff orgies.  This resulted in the Haitian government withdrawing Oxfam Great Britain’s right to operate in their country.  And if these scandals are not about sexual exploitation then they are about fiscal irresponsibility or simply fraud.  Over a three-year period, the former CEO of National Relief Charities, which focused on improving the quality of life for Native Americans embezzled $4 million dollars from the organization.

Were these scandals about power?  Poverty?  Failed board governance?  Inadequate policies?  Employees who aren’t supervised or held accountable?  People with (hopefully) good intentions who are totally unprepared for what they are doing?  Was it about appallingly outrageous hubris?  Achieving (quasi) celebrity status on social media?  Yes—it is about all these issues and more.

In education development, some people approach their work with trying hard to do no harm, while others go for (quasi) celebrity status.  Too many NGOs have grandiose and self-serving claims about impact.  But where are the data?  Donors deserve rigorous qualitative and quantitative data, conducted by external organizations who are not invested in the NGO.  How is it possible that without impact data NGOs such as MTM can win million-dollar prizes or the CEO be included as one of Time Magazine’s People of the Year during the Ebola crisis?  In 2015 the Washington-based nonprofit GlobalGiving, which connects donors to charities, removed MTM from its platform.  ProPublica reports that GlobalGiving cited that MTM needed to “grow and support a leadership team that has a broad and diverse set of skills” and “continue to educate and develop the Board of Directors on matters of governance, objectivity and accountability.”

In the last twenty years in places like Africa too many expats believe, with good (but naïve) intentions that they are going to “save the world” and so they start an NGO.  Too often they are the new version of 18th and 19th century missionaries; however their language is different.  They talk about making an impact, being entrepreneurial, or ‘rescuing girls in poverty.’  Or, as Greg Mortenson, who wrote Three cups of Tea and founded an NGO told Tom Brokaw in a 60 Minutes interview:  “I always have operated from my heart.  I’m not really a head person.  And I really didn’t factor in the very important things of accountability, transparency…”   That is hubris!  Readers beware!—too often these organizations are a modern day version of the traveling ‘Medicine Doctors’ I wrote about in an earlier blog.

This time, work is indeed being done, and some of it is very good work.  But, professionalism, integrity, transparency, and accountability are too often missing.

I’ve come across an amazing number of ‘social entrepreneurs’ who have an exciting idea, an enormous amount of passion and persistence, and want ‘to make the world a better place.’ I grow weary of hearing the story of the African (or Asian, or South American) epiphany.  Some (usually) young White American has had an amazing encounter, usually with poor children involved, and they decide to dedicate the rest of their lives to ‘ensuring opportunity’ for these children. They put out their tin cup and it’s okay if you give small donations, but they really want the big ones—“for the children”.  Like the founder of MTM, they go for the international prizes worth six and seven figures.  With, at least in the beginning, (and I truly believe this) the best of intentions, they troll social media platforms for the cause.  During college or right after, they travelled to (name of low/middle income country here), met children or people who –if they only had access to (choose one: better schools, books, peace, etc.) their lives would lift them out of poverty.  So, they start an NGO in that country, create a ‘board’ back in the US and start raising money.  The board is usually comprised of their friends who are also early in their careers and passionate about this ‘exciting idea.’

So, what can we learn from the (too) many tragic stories about NGOs—who have failed their clients and their donors, particularly from those working with children?

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • NGOs need to have boards that are comprised of people who live in-country, or at least spend most of their time living in the country. For a nonprofit organization working in one country there could be a US-based board but it should be advisory in capacity and most likely their primary purpose would be friend and fundraising; while the governing board would be in-country and comprised predominately of local citizens.
  • If an organization is multinational, then the governing board needs to be representative of those nations and there should be local advisory boards with mechanisms for them to regularly communicate or liaise with the governing board.
  • NGOs and their donors should require audited financial statements. We wouldn’t support a US based nonprofit that didn’t show evidence of fiscal responsibility. So, why do we not do due diligence on international NGOs?
  • When possible, NGOs need to be locally registered. In the US, nonprofits are required to register with the Internal Revenue Service and pay appropriate registration fees—why should it be different if an NGO is operating in another nation? I’m in Rwanda at the moment and Edify, the multinational NGO I am working with, is registered in Rwanda with the Rwandan Governance Board.
  • For education-related NGOs, boards need to ensure there are child protection policies in place and all employees are following those policies. There should be a sign off by each employee that they have read the policy.
  • NGO boards need to ensure that background checks are conducted (Edify Rwanda does background checks.  They ensure all employees get proof of no criminal record from the Prosecutor General’s Office.)
  • Policies and/or protocols with donors need to be followed. For example, a staff member should accompany a donor on all school visits. This is good practice for clients as well as for the donor.
  • Board members need to be in touch with what is happening on the ground. They have to pay attention to not only their fiscal responsibilities but they need to ask about staff training, and the existence of child protection and similar risk  management procedures.
  • Finally, if there are any accusations of impropriety, whether fiscal, sexual, etc. then those allegations can’t be ignored. Staff should be trained in what steps to be taken if the CEO, or any staff member is accused of wrongdoing.

An article in the Guardian in 2011 describes how NGOs can learn from their failures: “NGOs battle for media attention, devoting considerable effort and energy into getting that crucial eyeball contact. Usually that means making the message as stark and sensationalist as possible, with the implicit message that the NGO knows exactly how to sort out the problem.”  Anyone agreeing to serve on a nonprofit board needs to understand the responsibilities of doing so. And if there are problems, them learning and reflecting on shortcomings is crucial.

Front Page Africa October 17, 2018

Picture4

The scandal at MTM is another wake up call for non-profit leaders and governing boards.  Strong governance structures and policies are crucial. Let’s look for humility rather than hubris and celebrity; instead, “trust but verify”– and show me the impact data!

Meet Paula A. Cordeiro

 

Humanizing the Migrant Caravan from Central America

This blog was written by a Doctoral Student at the University of California, San Diego who wishes to be anonymous.

On the evening of October 13th, 2018, I received a text from a friend that I was not expecting. It came in the form of a link to an article entitled “Hundreds of Hondurans head for U.S. border in mass migration ‘march’: report,” with a short message indicating what the article was about. My heart sank. As the webpage loaded, hundreds of faces rushed through my head–faces of all those I know and care about in Honduras.

Image: GUATEMALA-HONDURAS-US-MIGRATION
Source: NBC-News

The specifics of the article in itself did not surprise me: “64% of Honduran households live in poverty. Many of the migrants are fleeing a poor economy and some of the highest crime rates in the world” (Dedaj, 2018). These statistics and lived realities have been ever-present throughout my work in the region over the past five years, and yet this ‘march’ appears so sudden–especially considering the recent Central American caravan of migrants this past May.

It did not take long for me to find various sources on the issue, including the Washington Post which estimated that the group had “swelled” from 160 to 1,600 as it headed towards Guatemala; and while much of the focus has been on contesting or confirming this estimation as well as what the U.S. and Honduras plan to do in response, it is the sheer magnitude of this group that I feel has the potential to detract from the inalienable fact that each of these humans has a story and that their stories matter.

Currently, I am the director of a non-profit in Honduras which works with rural schools to provide teacher development and empowerment opportunities (the exact name and location have been withheld for protection of those referenced in this article). Our work, led by local Honduran educators, has reached ~2,500 individuals over the past year including teachers, administrators, parents, and children in some of the most impoverished areas in the country. I am humbled to have a community that trusts me and shares their stories; I am grateful to be a part of their lives. It is because of their stories, that I have been compelled to write this one–one that humanizes those in the migrant caravan, and brings us closer to understanding just how important each story is.

On October 14th, 2018 a close Honduran friend called me. She was struggling with anxiety attacks as her mother, brother, and sister had joined the caravan. Her brother, a shy, tall, skinny 17-year-old, was traveling with a limp left arm. In the December election protests (The incumbent was reelected, which is deemed unconstitutional in Honduras) he was hit by a stray bullet–requiring that his arm be immobilized by a large metal contraption for over ten months. When I saw him just 3 months ago, he was still struggling to fight off fevers from infection. My friend’s mother had lived in the U.S. for seven years, suffering the attacks of an abusive husband as she feared constant threats of deportation; every time I saw her she would laugh and joke uncontrollably–a practice my friend attributes to her need to mask the pain of her circumstances. This family has lived in poverty for decades, challenged to find stable work and reeling from the recent murder of the youngest teenage brother, to gang violence. As my friend relayed her fears, I listened and did my best to comfort her from a distance. Her heart heavy she said, “they are going to the U.S. in search of opportunity; they are risking their lives for a chance at a better one.”

On October 15th, 2018 I held a video call with two organization staff members for our bi-monthly meeting. The day prior they had held our monthly professional development opportunity for lead teachers from the schools we support. In this community-oriented space, we often learn about the personal and professional struggles these teachers face on a day-to-day basis; this month the migrant caravan was a key topic on everyone’s mind. In reflecting on the event, they started by sharing that this weekend an estimated 3,000 migrants had left Honduras. when I confirmed I was aware of the situation but not the number, they continued; two schools had documented at least seven students who had left with the caravan, and four teachers expressed having family members or close friends who had joined. To them this was not just a news story, this was a part of their reality, filled with people that they care for and are concerned about.

This “march” of migrants that “swelled” prior to reaching the Guatemalan border, formed just one day after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence urged the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala to persuade their citizens to stay home (Associated Press, 2018). News reports have said that the group can be heard singing the Honduran national anthem, praying and chanting, “Yes, we can” (Lakhani, 2018). However, when the media uses words that connect this group of migrants to a natural disaster or a dangerous invasion, these stories of resilience and connectedness can be forgotten, dehumanizing the individuals and generating fear (Pugh, 2004; Perera, 2002). While the news will continue to follow this migrant group as they get closer and closer to the U.S., I argue that their stories go far beyond why they are leaving and what they hope to find for their futures. Their stories include the political repression and violence that they are fleeing, the systems put in place to maintain inequality and poverty, and the history of U.S. capitalist interests in Honduras that has left the country economically crippled and heavily militarized. Adding these points to the conversation about the “migrant caravan” are so important to contextualize just what they are leaving behind and what returning might mean for their safety and opportunities.

Insider
Source: Insider

I write this to call attention to the damage that the media narrative can have on public views towards migrants and to argue that centralizing individual stories can help combat this trend of dehumanization. It can help to connect those digesting the news to those they may have never met and can generate a productive dialogue grounded in empathy over fear. From her brother, to our teachers’ students, to those they left behind–each story matters. The migrant caravan is a compilation of many yet to be heard.

Associated Press. (2018, October 15).Over 1,500 Honduran migrants join growing caravan to Guatemalan border. CBS News, Retrieved from NBC News

Dedaj, P. (2018, October 14). Hundreds of Hondurans head for US border in mass migration ‘march’: report. Fox News, Retrieved from Fox News

Lakhani, N. (2018, October 15). ‘Yes, we can’: caravan of 1,600 Honduran migrants crosses Guatemala border. The Guardian, Retrieved from The Guardian

Perera, S. (2013). Oceanic Corpo-graphies, Refugee Bodies and the Making and Unmaking of Waters. Feminist Review, 103, p. 58-79.

Pugh, M. (2004). Drowning Not Waving: Boat People and Humanitarianism at Sea. Journal of Refugee Studies, 17(1).

 

Postcards from Guatemala

I’m here learning about the educational system in order to assist colleagues in developing new materials, and to contextualize existing training materials for school leaders in low-fee private schools. I’ve also had the chance to experience the wonderful hospitality of this nation.

Guatemala City has about one million inhabitants and is subdivided into 22 zones making it easy to locate schools. Zones are numbered 1-25 and when asking for directions people will tell you that something is in a particular zone. The lovely historic area of town is Zone 1.

The school year is ending right now and I had the pleasure of hearing about what children and youth will be doing over the long vacation (working, hanging out with friends, taking extra classes, etc.).

These secondary students are sanding down their desks which is typically done at the end of the year in many schools.   I think it’s a great idea!

Students have a long vacation with classes not starting again until late January/early February. It begs all kinds of questions—How many days should children attend school and how long should the school day be? Like many other Central American countries most Guatemalan public and private schools have two shifts (7-noonish) and 1:30-2:00 to 5:00ish. So, although we know the research on seat time (it’s about quality not quantity) I just find that children in so many low-income countries are attending school significantly fewer hours than those in many high-income nations.

Here are two timetables (horarios).

Below is an end of the year exam schedule for the second shift students.

The outside of a typical school in Guatemala City.

The education challenges in this country are many: low levels of literacy, attainment and retention, and great disparities between urban and rural populations, among indigenous students, and between male and female students.

Children’s writings and art about the importance of peace.

Since the Peace Accords of 1996 (the Guatemalan Civil War lasted thirty-six-years and took place from 1960 to 1996), all government administrations have supported the expansion of primary schools. Since 2009, primary school enrollment rates have been almost 100% and there is nearly equal enrollment of boys and girls.  According to data from USAid, first grade completion rates have increased dramatically (by 18%) in the last four years as a result of the implementation of several quality education policies and programs.  Still, more than 30% of students did not pass first grade in 2013.  In addition, only about three-fourths of those enrolled in primary school graduate from 6th grade (80% of boys and 73% of girls), and the enrollment rate for middle school (7th-9th grades) is less than 40%. There’s so much work to do!

 

A newspaper article describing how test scores reflect the education reality of the nation.

 

We met with several staff in the Office of Evaluation and Assessment. According to 2010 Ministry of Education data, 50% of third graders reached national standards in mathematics and just over 50% reached national standards in reading.  Among sixth graders, only 45% reached national mathematics standards and only 30% achieved national reading standards.

More than two million youths between the ages of 15 and 24 are out of school and don’t have basic life or vocational skills to enter the workforce.  Youth face increasingly difficult conditions, including high levels of unemployment, social and economic marginalization, rapid urbanization, increasing crime, and lack of basic services.  You can see why so many youth head North for work.

Starting in a few months nine new countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Ecuador, Paraguay, Zambia, Senegal, Cambodia and Bhutan will be participating for the first time in the Program for International Student Achievement (PISA).

These posters were hanging in the ministry office.

Some travel observations…

Like nearly all major cities in the world there is chronic traffic congestion. Guatemala also has shortages of safe drinkable water in some areas of the city, and crime (there are maras—gangs) are perennial problems.  Folks told me that the gangs started in Los Angeles and when people returned to Guatemala they brought the concept with them.

The city of Antigua is a fabulous place to visit—lovely, colorful, lots of museums, art, gardens and great restaurants. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site. I only spent a day there, but I hope to return in a few months!

A main street in Antigua

 

The Convent of the Capuchin Sisters

Finally, I’m not sure how many countries in the world have MacDonald’s deliveries, but Guatemala sure seems to have these motor bikes everywhere!

 

You might want to visit some time…but skip MacDonald’s and try the flor de Jamaica—it’s a special type of hibiscus juice—a bit sweet and sour—deliciosa!

Meet Paula Cordeiro

 

Low-Fee Private Schools in Sub-Saharan Africa: Teacher Retention and Working Conditions

 

This is the second in a series of blogs I’m writing about Low-Fee Private Schools around the world. The first blog, written last May, is here.

The phenomena of Westerners and Western based-organizations building schools in ‘third-world nations’ has been occurring for centuries. Various faith-based groups (e.g., Jesuits, Friends, Anglicans, Methodists) and colonial governments (e.g., France, the U.K., Germany, the Netherlands) founded private schools in non-Western nations beginning in the eighteenth century, with some still in existence today.  Many of those schools targeted locals to be converted to a particular faith, while others were schools serving expatriates and had relatively high tuition that was often not available to locals and, in some cases, host country nationals were not invited to enroll.

Sunrise: A low-fee private school

Today there is great diversity in the types of private schools found in these emerging nations.  In addition to single, independent private schools, there are a growing number of for-profit companies investing in chains of private schools (e.g., Bridge International Academies, Omega, APEC, SPARK) as well as various secular and faith-based international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) partnering with private schools in a variety of ways (e.g., Edify; Opportunity International, Room to Read).  Given that the MDGs were developed in 2000 with the goal of having all children in every nation complete a basic education by 2015, and, given that many government school systems in low and middle-income nations did not have the resources to serve the thousands of children who had not previously attended school, the emergence in the last twenty years of large numbers of private schools is not surprising.  It’s estimated that there are more than one million low-fee private schools (LFPSs) in low and middle-income nations (Economist, 2015).  While many are run by NGOs, the fastest growing group are individual low-fee private schools (Cordeiro & Brion, 2018). And now with the SDGs replacing the MDGs in 2016 the focus has moved from access to school to inclusion and equity.

Educator Preparation in Africa

Because the preparation for new or existing principals is limited in emerging nations, there is a dearth of literature on the topic (Bush, Kiggundu & Moorosi, 2011).  Numerous scholars recognize that principals of schools are not prepared well enough for the tasks they have to accomplish (Donlevy, 2009; see various works by Raj Mestry).  This lack of leadership preparation is even more evident in emerging nations (Swaffield, Jull, & Ampah-Mensah, 2013). Yet many scholars argue that school leaders play a crucial role in school improvement, teacher morale and retention, and student learning (Grissom & Harrington, 2010; Ingersoll, 2001).

Typical school schedule in a low fee private school in Uganda

Bruce Barnett’s April blog on this site, maintains that leadership preparation and professional development requirements can be thought of as a continuum from tightly to loosely regulated.   As an example, the US has a tightly regulated system, while countries such as Australia, New Zealand, and Sweden have moderately regulated systems where trainings are offered but not required. Barnett and other scholars (Lumby, Crow, & Pashiardis, 2008) state that countries such as most African and Central and some South American nations have loosely regulated systems in which preparation programs for aspiring school leaders are rare or non-existent and professional development offerings are infrequent

In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, there are many untrained principals who do not have the necessary skills, knowledge, or attitudes to manage their schools effectively and efficiently (Otunga, Serem, & Kindiki, 2008).  According to Bush and Oduro (2006) schools in Ghana are often ruled by authority, seniority and language and not by who may be competent for the challenging tasks at hand.

In addition to the lack of school leader development, there is great variability in low and middle- income countries with regard to teacher preparation and retention.  In some African nations such as Ethiopia, the majority of teachers in LFPSs hold teaching credentials and/or degrees; while in countries such as Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana it is far more typical to encounter few teachers at the primary level who have any formal education beyond a high school diploma.

An acute teacher shortage exists in at least 74 low and middle-income countries. This results in millions of children being excluded from primary education and beyond.  Ghana is one of the sub-Saharan countries with an acute teacher shortage.  Thus, exploring what Ghanaian schools can do to support current teachers is key to Ghana achieving SDG 4.  Since approximately 25% of the schools across Ghana are private and it is estimated that up to 60% of the primary schools in Ghana’s capital region may be private (Cordeiro & Brion, 2018), understanding how private school leaders can increase teacher retention is a crucial part of developing education policy in Ghana.

Here I will briefly describe the results from four ethnographic case studies conducted in Ghana (Cordeiro & Brion, in process).  The section of the study reported here addresses the following research questions:  1) What are the challenges of Ghanaian teachers in low-fee private schools? 2) In what ways, if at all, do school leaders support teachers at their schools?

During the 2016-17 school year Corrine Brion and I conducted four case studies in the Greater Accra region. These schools serve children from nursery (age 3) until Junior High School (age 14).  We spent a total of 48 days in the four schools. There were six forms of data collection:  1) individual interviews with teachers and with school leaders; 2) focus group interviews with teachers; 3) a teacher survey; 4) classroom observations; 5) photographs and 6) documents. One focus group was held at each school with 5-7 teachers per group for a total of 25 teachers; additionally, three individual teacher interviews were held. We digitally recorded interviews with eight school leaders. A total of 67 teacher surveys were completed from all four schools with the response rates ranging from 80-95%. Using the Stallings Classroom Observation Instrument a total of nineteen classes were observed. We took dozens of photographs and collected documents such as teacher contracts, handbooks, etc.

Many sub-Saharan countries have handbooks for school leaders created by the Ministry of Education. Unfortunately, few school leaders have copies due to a lack of fiscal resources and printing of sufficient copies by the government.

We are in the process of writing the full paper but here are a few key findings. Teachers differed from school leaders in how they viewed the challenges they encountered. For example, teachers discussed three main challenges: 1) inadequacy or late payment of their salaries; 2) poor facilities; and, 3) few teaching resources.  For school leaders, proprietors hesitated to talk about late or inadequate salaries and they maintained that many parents were frequently late in paying tuition.  When probed as to what their financial plan was for the school, three of the four school owners did not have a plan beyond continuing current practices. The paper also discusses education policy implications with regard to Ghanaian private school teachers, as well as teacher preparation and development.

We hope to have our proposal for a conference session approved soon so in 2019 we can share the full paper. Stay tuned.

meet Paula A. Cordeiro

get in touch ……..

ALL-IN: An Emerging Knowledge Hub for School Leadership Globally

Here’s the latest from guest bloggers Azad Oommen and Sameer Sampat, co-founders of Global School Leaders, who attended the All-In meeting in New York City last week.

Azad Oommen
Sameer Sampat

This week, The Education Commission released a report on Investing in Knowledge Sharing to Advance SDG 4 (ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all). The report calls for three key elements of knowledge sharing infrastructure in education – global public goods, capacity development and networks. This call to action resonated with our work at Global School Leaders, where we are working on creating effective school leadership in the Global South. We see a tremendous need for our colleagues in the field to network, exchange information and create common tools that will accelerate progress on increasing the effectiveness of school leaders in the education ecosystem.

The findings of this report were particularly pertinent, as we had just participated in what we hope will be a real life example of such an investment – the ALL-IN (Agile Leaders of Learning Innovation Network) meeting hosted by the Qatar Foundation’s WISE Initiative. ALL-IN is focused on school leadership globally and is designed to be a networking and knowledge hub on this issue.

The meeting in New York, part of the WISE@NY event, was attended by around 25 participants from countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Kenya, Morocco, Lebanon, Ghana, India, Qatar, South Africa, UK and the US. This meeting was the third in a series of exploratory conversations – the first was in Doha at WISE 2017, and the second was earlier in 2018 at WISE@Accra.

Participants at the ALL-In meeting hosted by the Qatar Foundation’s WISE@NY event

At GSL, we are an active member of ALL-IN as it serves a critical purpose as a knowledge hub for school leadership globally. During our initial work on school leadership at the India School Leadership Institute, we found it very difficult to access information on best practices, innovations, and evidence of impact for school leadership, particularly related to the Global South. As we invest in the field of school leadership in Asia and Africa, we find many allied organizations have a similar hunger for knowledge and networking.

The discussions at the ALL-IN meeting in NY highlighted four pressing needs in the field of school leadership:

  1. Networking – there is a need for a forum where stakeholders can come together across geographies and function to create a composite picture of initiatives related to school leadership. ALL-IN can provide an opportunity for donors, academic researchers, and school leadership training providers to come together to discuss their interests and visions. Participants in the meeting mentioned consistently that ALL-IN was an opportunity to meet organizations that they did not know existed and with whom they would find value in interacting and collaborating.
  2. Knowledge Hub – as school leadership organizations have developed their programs in countries, there has been little systemic capturing of either their experiences or the tools that they have developed. Hence, many organizations felt that they are recreating tools and programs without the benefit of knowing what others have tried before them. They voiced the need for a knowledge hub that exposes them to resources and knowledge in the field.
  3. Investment in evidence of impact – Outside of a few countries in the Global North, there has been limited systemic analysis of the role of school leaders and organizations are grappling with assessing the impact of their programs on student outcomes. Many participants spoke of the need for robust evidence of impact frameworks that could help them evaluate their own progress but also make the case for more investment in school leadership.
  4. A more diverse vision for school leadership – as organizations discussed the varied contexts of school leadership in their countries, one theme that emerged is that there is a need to include more voices in defining models of school leadership. Many countries are engaged in defining professional qualification frameworks around school leadership and as these crystallize, the field should incorporate these emerging voices.

ALL-IN is an evolving network and we are excited about its potential. It has the opportunity to demonstrate how school leadership – an under-invested lever in education – can grow and mature through strategic investment in knowledge sharing. As Dr. Asmaa Al-Fadala, Director of Research at WISE noted, “Leaders need a better how, not just another why.”

We would be glad to connect with people who are interested in the issue of school leadership and want to contribute to the network. Kudos to the WISE team for their leadership and vision in developing ALL-IN.

Sameer Sampat and Azad Oommen

As the school year begins in many countries around the world, here are some fascinating and quick reads on education.

¡Saludos desde California!

News in education development

A good read from The Hechinger Report on literacy: This Mississippi district says these four strategies are helping struggling readers. And here’s one more by Matt Bardin on literacy and adolescents.

Meanwhile the World Bank is urging small schools to merge. And on the returns to investing in education here’s a link to a recent article by education economists George Psacharopoulos & Harry Patrinos.

Reading time in an Ethiopian classroom.

Philanthropy in education

So, Jack Ma, former English teacher and Chinese business investor, and philanthropist, is retiring. He is the co-founder and executive chairman of the Alibaba Group. Here’s a recent article about how he will focus on education philanthropy. Here’s an article about philanthropy in the USA. Religion is still the largest charitable cause in America with education ranking second.

 

Europe

Here’s a story about the European Union and Georgia. And as the new school year begins in Croatia: The experimental “School for Life” reform program begins. In France, a new law means that students can no longer use mobile phones in school. Here’s a video of students’ opinions. Your thoughts?

Education in Southeast Asia

Here’s an article on what’s happening in education in the Philippines. And here’s what’s new on the topic of literacy in several countries in Southeast Asia . This article on the Dongria Tribe in eastern India is fascinating. Education does indeed open doors to new opportunities for children but it also pulls them away from their traditional ways of life.

Education around Africa and the Middle East

Interested in why some schools are outliers? Read this blog on positive deviance in action. School leaders in Kenya who are willing to try things out!  Meanwhile in Ghana our University of San Diego team is working with Ghanaian colleagues to ensure that caning students is a thing of the past, but look at what’s happening at a charter school in Georgia in the US.

The world of low-fee private schools (a world I’m working in) is controversial. Here’s a recent article from Ghana. The train is out of the station so let’s focus on how we can improve these schools and ensure they offer quality education to all. This is a fascinating topic to follow—the bottom line is the issue of equity. And here is something to watch–The Education Commission (chaired by Gordon Brown, former UK Prime Minister) and the Global Steering Group for Impact Investment have established a $1 billion Education Outcomes Fund (EOF) for Africa and the Middle East. According to their website: “The Fund aims to help transform educational attainment in the region and achieve SDG 4, by pooling grant funds from official aid donors, foundations, and private philanthropic funders, to deploy into pay-for-success programs, with impact investors providing working capital at risk through development impact bonds (DIBs).” Social impact bonds, pay for success and similar approaches to financing education are hot in the impact investment world. It’s controversial and the union, Educator’s International (EI), has responded. Related to this is the request for input on the Guiding Principles on private actors in education from The Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. You can submit feedback since the consultation is open until September 30, 2018.

Video suggestions

My colleague and I have been writing about learning transfer for school leaders.  We are exploring the barriers and inhibitors to learning transfer for adults. Here’s a short and informative video (3:35) on learning transfer for students by Larry Ferlazzo. And in case you missed this 2017 article and video on an Indiana school’s language of love. Here it is.

Twitter suggestions

For some of the latest blogs on education development, school leadership and related topics you might want to follow:

Harry Patrinos @hpatrinos  He is a manager at the World Bank’s education sector.

Henry F. DeSio @henrydesio   DeSio is the Global Ambassador for Changemakers.

Global Schools Forum: @GSF_talks GSF supports and represents non-state schools and school networks operating in low and middle-income countries.

Global School Leaders: @gschoolleaders  GSL incubates, connects and supports organizations that train school leaders to improve the learning of students from underserved communities around the world.

And if you are interested in school leadership development in South Africa, check out:  @SchoolLeadersSA

Finally, I’ve always been a big fan of the University Council for Education Administration (UCEA) which is a consortium of higher education institutions supporting school leadership development. @UCEA

Movie suggestion

I’ve spent many years in higher education as a professor of leadership studies. So much written about leadership is generic to many different professions. If you missed Apollo 13 – it’s all about communication, creative thinking and collaboration.

Varia

Diverging (quite) a bit from the topic of education, I’m always fascinated by the food in Ghana.

Finally, here’s a great quote that we use in our school leadership workshops from the… oh so talented… Sir Ken Robinson!

The real role of leadership in education…is not and should not be command and control. The real role of leadership is climate control – creating a climate of possibility. If you do that, people will rise to it and achieve things that you completely did not anticipate and couldn’t have expected.”

meet Paula Cordeiro

@deancordeiro

cordeiro@sandiego.edu

SHIFTING THE PARADIGM IN AN ERA OF WORLD ENGLISHES: WHAT SCHOOL LEADERS NEED TO KNOW

Professor Chugani Molina describes how school leaders need to be aware of the changes taking place in teaching English in different contexts.

As a teacher educator, I have had the opportunity to work with teachers and students of English within the United States and abroad in a variety of contexts. What I have come to learn through these experiences is that it has now become increasingly important to re-conceptualize the traditional ways

in which English language teaching has been approached where English is a language that now belongs to its users. These multi-lingual users of English now far exceed users of English in “inner circle (Kachru, 1988) English-speaking countries. English has become “denationalized (Smith, 1988),” as in no longer associated with a particular nation or nations, and “renationalized (McKay, 2002),” as in become a language unique in its own right by users of the language across the globe.  This then challenges our assumptions about the ownership of English, what constitutes a good model of the language for our students, and re-conceptualizing materials and methods that are socio-culturally relevant and pedagogically sound for the local cultures of learning. English language teachers need to also recognize and be sensitive to the societal, political, economic, and educational environment in which they teach as the ideologies and shifting dynamics embedded within the context have a deep implication on classroom practice.

Professor Sarina Molina presenting in Thailand

Recently, I took a group of graduate students from the University of San Diego to Japan to learn about the Japanese educational system and practices. While our graduate students assumed that all countries around the world wish to have their students proficient in English for the global opportunities it provides, we learned that the Japanese were first and foremost concerned about nurturing their national identity with their children first, which meant that they wanted their children to be proficient in their own native tongue first before introducing any other language. The sense of urgency in Japan to be proficient in English was not as great as those in other countries such as Kenya, where I had the opportunity to work with a non-profit agency on providing a Business English for Global Communications program (Molina, 2015; Molina, 2016). The youth in this program were interested in working for multinational corporations and for upward mobility and saw proficiency in English as a way out of poverty. In China, I conducted surveys and interviews with 75 English teachers and learned about one of the Ministry of Education’s goals for English language education of which one was to help their students become competitive in the global market (Molina, 2017). In Thailand, I learned from the English 68 teachers I worked with that like China, students who had access to English language education beyond the schools had better work opportunities with higher income levels than those that did not come from homes with expendable income to afford these classes. In Singapore, in my conversations with the English language specialist at the Ministry of Education, I learned that though they speak their own variety of English, they have refocused their energies on teaching standard English to promote lingua franca communications. What this suggests is that it is important for English teachers and school leaders to understand the political, social and cultural contexts in which they teach as this will determine how they approach language teaching within their particular setting.

In addition to knowledge of the multidimensional influence on the context of language learning and teaching, I believe that language teachers and students need to develop “multi-dialectal competence” (Canagarajah, 2006) to negotiate meaning with English speakers globally and “meta-cultural competence” (Sharifian, 2009) to negotiate their unique culturally-specific expressions and ideas in English to encourage a “bi-directional  negotiation of meaning” (Inoue & Molina, 2011).

TESOL Master’s degree candidate students on visit to Hong Kong with Dr. Molina.

Because English is now used to express unique cultural ideas of its users, the users need to be skilled with communication strategies to express and clarify their culturally nuanced ideas and expressions to other users of English in order to expand and deepen individual and cultural understanding among and between users. There were so many occasions when I was an English teacher where my students would give up and say, “Never mind!” as they were trying to explain an idea, but I would never give up on them and would continue to elicit from them their intended meanings thereby broadening, enriching and deepening my understanding. Kumaravadivelu (2008) calls this “global cultural consciousness,” which no longer privileges the teacher as the sole cultural informant, but includes the students as cultural knowledge-holders as well. When students are placed at the center of the learning process in this way, there is a shift in power, where dialogical learning can take place. When students in the language classroom begin to see their ideas as being valued in a safe space, they begin to use the language in creative ways as they articulate what is meaningful to them individually and collectively as a society.

There was one semester where I had nine students, who were all from different countries and we used our time together to learn from each other about how we understood ideas such as time, space, behaviors, gender roles, societal expectations, marriage, and family to name a few, while at the same time following the curriculum and the language objectives of the course. One summer, I also had the opportunity to teach English to migrant farmers in a non-credit program. I worked with the students to understand their needs and what they hoped to gain from this course, and we collaboratively came up with a project that I believed would help them share their voices. I provided them with disposable cameras to document what was important to them in their lives and experiences and supported them with the language they needed to share their images. I invited the students to speak in Spanish if they did not have the English words and expressions and asked the more advanced students to translate for me so that I could listen, learn, and understand. As teaching moments transpired, I put pertinent vocabulary words on the board and helped students convey their ideas using English expressions without jeopardizing the flow of the discussion or their writing (Molina, 2015).

These are just some of the experiences that profoundly deepened my understanding of my students and their life experiences as a language teacher. I witnessed that the experiences created in these classrooms also deepened my students’ sense of appreciation for their peers’ cultural knowledge and experiences. English language classrooms lend itself to these opportunities for students to share their own cultural knowledge and experiences, but also to understand those of others in their classroom and globally through a purposefully designed curriculum that encourage such interactions. For school leaders, adopting this framework will require

USD TESOL graduates who are now teaching English around the world.

a fundamental shift in our understanding  of English language education and influence how we select and nurture our teachers, adopt and modify the language teaching materials we use within our contexts as well as our pedagogical practice.

 

 

Meet Dr. Molina

Canagarajah, S. (2006). Changing communicative needs, revised assessment objectives: Testing English as an international language. Language Assessment Quarterly, 3 (3), 229-242.

Inoue, N. & Molina, S. (2011). Lost in translation: Strategies Japanese language learners use in communicating culturally specific expressions in English. CATESOL Journal, 22 (1), 149-166.

Kachru, B. B. (1988). The spread of English and sacred linguistic cows. In Peter H. Lowenberg (ed.), Language spread and language policy: Issues, implications and case studies (pp. 207-228). Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Kumaravadivelu, B. (2012). Language teacher education for a global society: A modular model for knowing, analyzing, recognizing, doing, and seeing. New York, NY: Routledge.

McKay, S. L. (2002). Teaching English as an international language: Rethinking goals and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Molina, S. C. (2015).  Transnational English language teaching: Opportunities for teacher learning and development.  English Language Teacher Education and Development, 18, 20-28.

Molina, S.C. (2015). Navigating social responsibility alongside migrant workers in an ESOL classroom.  Social Responsibility Special Interest Newsletter. International TESOL Organization.

Molina, S. C. (2016).  The complexity of providing feedback when teachers and students speak different varieties of English: A case study.  Journal of Teaching and Teacher Education, 4 (1), 61-69.

Molina, S. C. (2017). English language teaching in China: Teacher agency in response to curricular innovations.  English language teaching: Teacher agency and policy response. Ng, P. & Boucher-Yip (Eds.) Routledge.

Sharifian, F. (ed.) (2009). English as an international language: Perspectives and pedagogical issues. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.

Smith, L. (1983). Readings in English as an international language. World language English series. Michigan: Pergamon.

 

A nation’s future at stake: An education system in crisis and its solution

Guest blogger Dr. Louise Van Rhyn describes the Partners for Possibility(PfP) program in South Africa which recently won the prestigious 2018 WISE Award.

The recently published results from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study reveal that 78% of 10-year-olds in South Africa cannot read for meaning – in any language. Most fifteen-year-old learners are unable to reach the lowest international benchmark in mathematics. Despite increased government spending, the education system continues to face challenges of quality and effectiveness of learning and teaching at all levels.

South Africa’s post-Apartheid public education system is characterised by stark inequalities. The bimodal schooling system created under Apartheid remains largely unchanged with 20% of the country’s 25,000 government schools providing world-class education, while 80% very poor education outcomes.

Whilst the academic performance of South African students is undeniably affected by their socio-economic circumstances, other critical factors differentiate the country’s successful schools from those that are ‘failing’. Key among these are the degree to which parents and community members engage with and support the school and, crucially, the extent to which the principal has been equipped for the task of leading the school.

There is increasing recognition that the role of the school principal is highly speacialised and that leadership at the school level is the critical factor in turning around an education system that is in crisis.

Possibility in action!

Career educators are often promoted to the position of principal – and this naturally comes with the expectation that the school will be run in a sustainable and efficient way by the appointed leader. In South Africa however, while school principals are now recognised by the government as critical levers for improving education, there is no compulsory preparation for the role of principal other than teaching experience, and most principals receive no training in leadership or management.

To compound the situation, the contextual reality within which principals are expected to run their schools is often underplayed or completely overlooked. South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world and the majority of principals face formidable leadership challenges which arise from factors including poor school infrastructure, under-qualified and demotivated teachers, and students who are often hungry and ill, do not have proper clothing and lack parental support.

A school principal and learner in Partnership for Possibility

In stark contrast to the experience of school principals, who arguably lead the country’s most important institutions, the leaders in South Africa’s business community have typically been very well-equipped by their various organisations to assume leadership positions and manage change.

A South African solution to a South African challenge

As a South African education activist with over 25 years’ experience as a change practitioner, I realised that the abundant expertise available in the business sector could be tapped to help equip school principals with the skills they need to lead change in their schools and communities. In 2011, I launched the Partners for Possibility (PfP) programme which establishes co-learning, co-action partnerships between principals from under-resourced schools and leaders from the business community. The aim of these partnerships is to support and equip principals with the skills they need to lead change and to mobilise communities to engage with their schools.

The business leaders provide practical hands on support to principals, sharing their knowledge and skills with them as the two leaders tackle challenges together in the school. At the same time business leaders learn from principals about leading in under-resourced contexts and are exposed to the challenges within the education system. Both partners also attend formal leadership training.

Louise van Rhyn (business leader) and Ridwan Samodien (principal) with learners from Kannemeyer Primary School

Six to ten partnerships are grouped into a leadership circle which is supported by a professional coach-facilitator during a 12-month structured, process of formal and informal learning. The leadership circle forms a community of practice that meets regularly and creates an opportunity for socially constructed knowledge, insight and skills to emerge.

 

The programme focuses on respectful reciprocity where partners are viewed as equals, each possessing the ability to make an invaluable contribution to the partnership through the sharing of professional and personal experiences. As the partners reach out to parents and community members to engage them in the life of the school, they foster a sense of shared responsibility, active citizenship and community building which strengthens of the fabric of society.

Effecting tangible change

To date, 825 school principals, most of whom had no previous leadership or management training, have joined PfP together with their business leader partners.

In numerous internal and external programme evaluations conducted since 2014, principals have reported becoming more confident and better able to lead and manage change at their schools. This new-found confidence has enabled principals to rally their communities to become actively involved in school life. Positive ripple effects of this include happier and more engaged teachers, who feel supported and appreciated, and a more engaged set of parents who now see the benefit of working in tandem with teachers.

Business partners have become better equipped to confront complexity and ambiguity, to lead beyond authority and influence across boundaries – and most importantly- they have learned to lead with humanity. Business partners have also gained real insight into the challenges faced by under-resourced communities which drive some of the major dysfunction in South African society.

Learners, as primary beneficiaries of education, have benefitted from these enablers of improved education outcomes.

External evaluations by ‎the Sustainable Livelihoods Foundation and Quest Research Services found improvements in academic outcomes in the PfP schools that were investigated in detail – even though the principals in these schools had only recently completed the programme. Academic performance in PfP secondary schools are better than national averages, with drop-out rates also lower than the national average.

As a driver of social cohesion in South Africa, PfP exposes participants to communities with whom they would not normally engage. Very few senior business leaders, represented mostly by white men, would ordinarily spend time in the poor communities where black men and women lead most of the country’s under-resourced schools.

As the PfP Theory of Change indicates, the impact of principals’ leadership growth on academic outcomes may take years to become evident. But it is clear that equipping school leaders with the requisite leadership skill set now is essential in realising the vision of an inclusive, quality education for all South Africa’s children in the future.

 

Follow us on Twitter: @PfP4SA

Meet Dr. van Rhyn

For more information, please visit: www.PfP4SA.org