Teach for the World Program – More Realistic than BBC?

For those of you who missed it Nicholas Kristof of the NY Times recently wrote an article putting forth what I think is a great idea to move international volunteering forward.

Here’s a brief snippet,

“In my mind, Teach for the World would be a one-year program placing young Americans in schools in developing countries. The Americans might teach English or computer skills, or coach basketball or debate teams.

The program would be open to Americans 18 and over. It could be used for a gap year between high school and college, but more commonly would offer a detour between college and graduate school or the real world.

The host country would provide room and board through a host family. To hold down costs, the Americans would be unpaid and receive only airplane tickets, a local cellphone and a tiny stipend to cover bus fares and anti-malaria bed nets.

This would be a government-financed effort to supplement an American public diplomacy outreach that has been eviscerated over the last few decades. A similar program, WorldTeach, was founded by a group of Harvard students in 1986 and does a terrific job. But without significant support from the American government, it often must charge participants thousands of dollars for a year’s volunteer work.

Teach for the World also would be an important education initiative for America itself. Fewer than 30 percent of Americans have passports, and only one-quarter can converse in a second language. And the place to learn languages isn’t an American classroom but in the streets of Quito or Dakar or Cairo.” To read the full article click here.

The Building Bridges Coalition’s goals are:

1. To improve the quality of international volunteer service
2. To scale up the number of international volunteers sent abroad annually
3. To maximize positive impacts of international service in communities throughout the world, and at home

…and there also was a goal to double the number of people volunteering internationally by 2010 which as far as I know was not reached.

How can we as an industry adapt Kristof’s idea to utilize the BBC’s membership to actually increase the number of volunteers and in doing so make a bigger difference??

Let’s start the debate!

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4 thoughts on “Teach for the World Program – More Realistic than BBC?

  1. How many volunteers would be “placed” at a school or an area? We have plenty of room for people to teach in Kenya. Obviously I cannot pay for the plane tickets, but I can find the places to teach, give them a safe place to live, and give them a network of people to welcome them to the new area.
    Does anyone have a connection to an airline willing to cover the airfare?
    I dont want to start a philosophical battle here…but why rely on the government when we can do it ourselves. In my opinion the government has too much on their plate already.
    We have the space, the network of people in country, and the schools that would welcome the help. I think the people who want to go would come easy if we had everything else set. So, the way I see it, all we need is plane tickets?

  2. I don’t see why his idea is very different from the Peace Corps – besides being 1 year over 2. The only thing the Peace Corps does in Cambodia is English teaching – placing Americans in High Schools to teach English to students at teachers.

    I don’t think we should be sending people to volunteer to teach English directly to kids is as productive for improving systems as having people teach teachers….. but that’s a whole other thing.

    Another part I don’t love about what he wrote is “Fewer than 30 percent of Americans have passports, and only one-quarter can converse in a second language. And the place to learn languages isn’t an American classroom but in the streets of Quito or Dakar or Cairo.” – if those are the motives – then let the kids pay for the experience in my opinion – rather than give them free flights and support them.

    Relates to the moral imperialism etc here:
    http://lessonsilearned.org/2010/02/voluntourism-what-could-go-wrong-when-trying-to-do-right/

  3. What you appear to be asking is not if Kristof’s idea is good or bad but how our industry might “adapt” Kristof’s ideas to further the BBC mission. If I missed the point of your question, please comment here. My understanding is that you are asking how we take Kristof’s idea of Teach for the World and adapt that idea to the BBC mission of doubling the number of volunteers that go abroad each year.

    I just don’t see how doubling the number of volunteers each year has anything to do with Kristof’s idea of Teach for the World.

    For those of us who recruit teachers to go abroad, and also recruit volunteers to go abroad, we see daily that the expected outcomes are different. And the motivations are different. What do you assume the motivation is of a person who agrees to volunteer abroad for a month or two vs. the person who agrees to move abroad for one year and hit the classroom each and everyday?

    If I’m going to volunteer abroad for 1/2 day up to six months, let’s say, my motivations are different than if I’m going abroad to teach for a year in a formal classroom.

    Kristof doesn’t get into details because an op ed piece is not a platform for that. But using a similar model, Teach For America, recent college grads agree to go into areas where recruitment of teachers is most difficult and they sign on for 2 years. They are paid the same salary as the local teachers and they also receive almost $5000 in grants to put toward their student loans. Student loan interest is forgiven for those two years. Student loans are deferred during those two years.

    Current “teach abroad” programs that ask teachers or recent grads to go abroad and teach for at least one year also provide salaries equal to the local teacher salary. For that matter, teachers coming to the U.S. on the U.S. State Dept. inbound teacher program also requires that foreign teachers receive the same salary as local teachers.

    Teach For America accepted less than 10% of their applicants…that is how many people applied. Peace Corps is also rejecting a very high percentage of applicants.

    The two programs are full, yet, if you listen to volunteer abroad senders from the U.S. and U.K. the numbers are down…or at best flat. Not everywhere, but overall.

    There are a lot of people out there who are eager to teach in rough areas for up to two years. So many, Teach For America has to turn away thousands. Would Kristof’s idea work? Depending on the model, yes. But some of the motivation is the experience, the deferred loan payments, the payment of 100% of the student loan interest by Teach For America.

    In the thousands of volunteer abroad programs I see, there are no such incentives.

    Given the mission of the BBC and given Kristof’s suggestion about a Teach for the World initiative and then looking at the Peace Corps and Teach for America (models that work well) it seems to me it would be impossible to “adapt” these ideas/models to the BBC mission.

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