MARSHALLS ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS LEAP AHEAD

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MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, June 3) — Public
elementary schools in the Marshall Islands with American volunteer teachers in
their eighth grades this past year produced a passing rate for students nearly
double that of schools without the U.S. program’s support.

Statistics from the Ministry of Education’s annual high school
entrance exam released Friday show that nearly 50 percent of eighth graders in
schools with U.S. WorldTeach program teachers passed the test, compared to a 28
percent passing rate for non-WorldTeach schools.

WorldTeach, a Harvard-based organization that sends American
volunteer teachers to developing countries, started work in the Marshall Islands
in Aug. 2002, the beginning of the just completed school year.

The education ministry contracted with the U.S.-based program in
an effort to boost flagging academic results at most public elementary schools.

A report from the College of the Marshall Islands shows that
only one in 10 high school graduates is academically qualified to attend the
college, and many high school seniors graduate with fourth grade — elementary
— level English.

Overall, education ministry statistics show that high school
entrance test scores at public elementary schools both with and without
WorldTeach teachers improved in 2003 compared to last year. Test scores at
schools with WorldTeach teachers improved nearly 28 percent over last year’s
scores, while non-WorldTeach schools improved about 12 percent in 2003.

About half of the 27 teachers were placed in schools on remote
outer islands. The balance were in Majuro, the nation’s capital.

WorldTeach is now gearing up to bring in 25 American to begin
teaching in public schools in Majuro and the outer islands for the new school
year that starts in August.

"Although most of the WorldTeach teachers had no teaching
experience, they did a phenomenal job in their classrooms with resourcefulness,
creativity and energy," said Alexis Miesen, the field director for the
program who is leaving shortly.

The teachers received an enthusiastic welcome and reaction from
their Ministry of Education "mentors," the communities and principals,
she said. The first year wasn’t without struggles, she said. "We came in
not knowing much about the Marshall Islands," she added. "I give
credit to the WorldTeach volunteers. They were very flexible."

Pat Lane, who taught this past year on isolated Ujae Atoll and
is taking on Miesen’s post as field coordinator in Majuro, said that the
hospitality and welcoming attitude on the outer islands made the transition to
teaching much easier because the support of the community was behind him and
other volunteers.

Lane said one of the goals for the 2003-04 school year is to get
more involvement of volunteers in extracurricular activities that involve
parents "to help build the idea of the overall importance of
education."

Community involvement in the schools increases parents’
appreciation for the value of education, Miesen said. "If (parents) see the
importance of education, they won’t stand for teachers not showing up to
class," Miesen said. "We need to think ‘outside the box’ and draw
people in (to school programs). It will develop a more supportive environment
for education" that will produce higher achievements."

June 3, 2003

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com 

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