International Educator - September/October 2011 - 16

In many places, efforts to improve literacy also are hampered by massive class sizes; lack of teacher training; cultures that value oral traditions rather than reading and writing; and students’ limited familiarity with the English language, even when it’s the official language of instruction.
Ricks Institute reopened in 2007, and over the years Menjay’s efforts have received continuing support from Mercer University. In 2009 Mercer started sending its students to Ricks Institute to help teach literacy skills to the youngsters, as well as helping the educators strengthen their teaching skills. Liberia is a country of 3.7 million, and according to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), about 50 percent of the population is believed to be illiterate, though Menjay says the illiteracy rate is much higher. In addition, more than 40 percent of the population is under the age of 15. “The key to the future in this country is relevant education— literacy, numeracy, creativity,” Menjay says. “Without it, we will be repeating history,” and the 14 years of civil war that racked the country, which was founded by freed slaves.

obstacles to Improving Literacy
eracy also are hampered by massive class sizes; lack of teacher training; cultures that value oral traditions rather than reading and writing; and students’ limited familiarity with the English language, even when it’s the official language of instruction. In rural Jamaica, classrooms are so overcrowded that children share desks. “It’s bedlam. You can’t talk, you can’t even hear yourself think,” says Eric Wills, an adjunct professor with the State University of New York-Potsdam, and director of the Jamaica Field Service Project. The project operates in various rural areas of Jamaica, and all students in the SUNY system, as well as from about 40 other universities, can take part. Literacy rates in rural Jamaica are low, and only 50 to 70 percent of children attend classes at any given time in those areas. Because teachers face an ever-changing sea of students, they teach the same things over and over, Wills says. Those parents who do place a value on education get fed up because their children are being taught the same thing repeatedly, so they stop sending their youngsters to school. “It starts to feed on itself.” The schools in poor, rural areas may be far removed from where a family lives, so they must pay taxi fare to send their kids to school each day. “It’s almost more convenient not to send them,” Wills says. On top of that, at home the children and teachers usually speak the local patois (or patwa), also known as Jamaican, which is a Creole language that slaves had developed in the seventeenth century, even though English is the official language of instruction in Jamaica. Education majors who take part in the Jamaica Field Service Project tutor elementary school children in literacy, and they work one-on-one or one-on-two with the students, giving them much needed individual attention. “A lot of what we’re trying to do is instill excitement” for literacy, Wills says. That’s the goal of many of the university programs that bring American students to far-flung parts of the world. Klein says Shippensburg University’s efforts began as part of the Honors Program’s capstone project in 2009. Students were given the option of doing a thesis or being involved in a servicelearning project. Those who opted for service learning decided to focus on the Dominican Republic because one of the students had been involved in a project there the previous semester.

I

N MANY PLACES, efforts to improve lit-

Illiteracy Afflicts Much of the developing World
lem that plagues much of the developing world. In 2008 nearly 800 million adults worldwide were illiterate, with Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa accounting for threequarters of the world’s adult population that was unable to read and write, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest rate of youth literacy in the world. In many cases, educators from U.S. universities who have spent time working in these developing countries have found that although students often can handle basic reading and writing, their skills tend to be far below those of students in comparable grades in the United States. Students at Ricks Institute “need a lot of help. They are probably more like struggling students in our schools,” says Emilie Paille, an associate professor of education at Mercer, who has led teams of education majors to the Liberian school for three years. In many cases, the Ricks Institute teachers’ “own educations have been hampered by the war years.” It’s a similar situation in the Dominican Republic, where Honors Program students from Shippensburg University in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, have traveled for the past two years to work with students and their teachers at Pathways of Learning elementary school in Santo Domingo. “Some teachers were barely literate themselves,” says Kim Klein, a history professor and director of the university’s Honors Program. “If you’re not literate, how do you teach?”

A

LACK OF LITERACY SKILLS is a prob-

InternatIonal educator S E P T + O C T. 11

16  

ErIC WIllS, JAFSP



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of International Educator - September/October 2011

International Educator - September/October 2011
Contents
From the Editors
In Brief
Building a Literate World
In Sync:  The Peace Corps and International Education
Expanding Cooperative Education Across the Globe
Education Abroad
Foreign Student Affairs
Partnering
A View From Out Here
Forum
In Focus
Supplement: A 360º View
Supplement: Making the Numbers Work
Supplement: International Recruitment and Enrollment Listings
International Educator - September/October 2011 - International Educator - September/October 2011
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Cover2
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Contents
International Educator - September/October 2011 - From the Editors
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 3
International Educator - September/October 2011 - In Brief
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 5
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 6
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 7
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 8
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 9
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 10
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 11
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 12
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 13
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Building a Literate World
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 15
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 16
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 17
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 18
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 19
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 20
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 21
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 22
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 23
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 24
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 25
International Educator - September/October 2011 - In Sync:  The Peace Corps and International Education
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 27
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 28
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 29
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 30
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 31
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 32
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 33
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 34
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 35
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Expanding Cooperative Education Across the Globe
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 37
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 38
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 39
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 40
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 41
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 42
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 43
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 44
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 45
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Education Abroad
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 47
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 48
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 49
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Foreign Student Affairs
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 51
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 52
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 53
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Partnering
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 55
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 56
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 57
International Educator - September/October 2011 - A View From Out Here
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 59
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Forum
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 61
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 62
International Educator - September/October 2011 - 63
International Educator - September/October 2011 - In Focus
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Cover3
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Cover4
International Educator - September/October 2011 - CoverS1
International Educator - September/October 2011 - CoverS2
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Supplement: A 360º View
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S2
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S3
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S4
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S5
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S6
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S7
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S8
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S9
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S10
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Supplement: Making the Numbers Work
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S12
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S13
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S14
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S15
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S16
International Educator - September/October 2011 - Supplement: International Recruitment and Enrollment Listings
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S18
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S19
International Educator - September/October 2011 - S20
International Educator - September/October 2011 - CoverS3
International Educator - September/October 2011 - CoverS4
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