Key Takeaways
● Through direct interventions at the primary level, Peace Corps
Volunteers can have the optimal impact on s...
Respondents believe Peace Corps should be at the primary level because it creates a strong
foundation for later academic s...
San-Eou Lan and Annette McFarland are 2015 graduates of the Master in Global Human Development
Program at the Edmund A. Wa...
of 4


Published on: Mar 4, 2016

Transcripts - PolicyBrief_LanMcFarland

  • 1. Key Takeaways ● Through direct interventions at the primary level, Peace Corps Volunteers can have the optimal impact on student achievement and host counterparts’ teaching capacity. ● Through supplementary projects with adolescents, Peace Corps Volunteers can foster critical thinking and positive life skills development, which supports student success. ● Supporting a Community of Practice framework would enable Peace Corps posts to improve pre-service training and the effectiveness of interventions directed towards host country teachers. Source: UNHCR Optimizing the Impact of Education Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa San-Eou Lan and Annette McFarland, Georgetown University Photo Source: UNHCR Introduction Education is the Peace Corps’ largest sector, and there are more PCVs serving in Africa than in any other region. Peace Corps works in 21 countries in Africa, with education projects in 18 of those countries. Education in Africa is a priority for Peace Corps, and the agency is interested in whether a Peace Corps Volunteers’ impact in education programming in African host countries would be higher at the primary and/or secondary level. An Education Volunteer’s impact can be separated into two categories: impact on learning and impact on values. The impact on learning is the change in the amount and quality of student and teacher learning that occurs as a result of a PCV’s work. The impact on values can be understood as the influence a PCV has on the principles and standards of behavior of students and teachers. This analysis intends to address the following question: At which level of education, primary and/or secondary, must Peace Corps Volunteers work in order to have the optimal impact on learning and values of students and teachers?
  • 2. Respondents believe Peace Corps should be at the primary level because it creates a strong foundation for later academic success and TEFL programming is more effective at that level. Respondents believe Peace Corps should be at the secondary level because values-related activities like life skills workshops, youth clubs, and summer camps are more effective with secondary-aged adolescents, and students at the secondary level possess the advanced language ability to master more difficult concepts. Respondents believe students and teachers are important reasons for Peace Corps to work at both the primary and secondary levels. What do Education RPCVs Think? Host Country Needs What PCVs do Well The Peace Corps niche is the overlap between a host country’s needs and what PCVs do well. PCVs are not suited to address all needs in a host country’s educational system, and there are too few PCVs to comprehensively address any single need in a given host country. Programming for optimal impact occurs within the Peace Corps niche. Peace Corps must consider both host country needs and PCV characteristics when deciding where and how PCVs should work, and design in-service training accordingly. Peace Corps Niche What is the Peace Corps Niche?Overview of Case Study Countries The Gambia: The education project recently transitioned from working in secondary schools to working in primary schools. Now Education PCVs work as teacher trainers at primary schools. ‘Unqualified’ teachers are new teachers in the process of earning certification during school breaks. These young, willing learner-practitioners are a population with whom PCVs can have a large impact. Lesotho: Because of Focus In/Train Up, some Education PCVs are direct teaching English in primary schools, while some continue to direct teach math and science in secondary schools, due to a shortage of qualified teachers in these subjects. Communities of Practice focused on math and science could be useful in Lesotho. Uganda: The primary literacy project was begun in Uganda in 2012. All Education PCVs work at the primary level, either as teacher trainers at primary teacher colleges, or as literacy specialists. Literacy specialists use EGRA tools to assess pupils’ reading levels and intervene with mid to low performing students. Pupils are re-assessed at the end of the year. It is fairly straightforward to show impact with such a targeted tool.
  • 3. ThisresultsframeworkillustrateshowEducationPCVscancontributetothesuccessoftwokeypopulationswithwhomthey work,studentsandteachers.EducationPCVsdothisthroughtheirimpactonthelearningofstudentsandteachersaswellas throughtheimpacttheyhaveonthevaluesofbothstudentsandteachers. ResultsFrameworkforImpactonLearning&Values
  • 4. San-Eou Lan and Annette McFarland are 2015 graduates of the Master in Global Human Development Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. This brief was prepared in conjunction with their Second-year “Capstone Project” entitled “Optimizing the Impact of Education Peace Corps Volunteers in Africa.” The recommendations are the expressed views of the authors who can be contacted at and For more information on Georgetown University’s Global Human Development Program, please visit: The Impact on Learning Community of Practice The Impact on Values “PCVs can talk to secondary or university students about social issues in a way that primary school students aren’t likely to grasp.” -RPCV, Niger 2009-11 “...many of the primary school teachers were poorly trained, had large classes, and just struggled with classroom management, let alone teaching anything.” - RPCV, Guinea 2004-06, Mali 2006-07 “Working with younger children gives them a stronger foundation on which to build.” -RPCV, Bulgaria 2009-11 The impact on student learning is higher at primary schools, because mastery of basic skills such as literacy and numeracy creates a strong educational foundation which enables continued learning and success at higher levels of education and beyond. The impact on values is larger for adolescents because they are going through cognitive and physical changes, developing their worldviews, coping with negative external influences, and looking for role models. PCVs believe their work with secondary-aged youth on fostering critical thinking, well-being, and developing positive life skills is effective because adolescents possess a greater capacity, maturity and receptivity to these topics. A Community of Practice is a group of individuals who share a common domain and work together over time to improve their practice. A Community of Practice of teachers could engage in such activities as: sharing their experiences in the classroom, problem solving together, observing each other’s teaching and offering feedback, mapping what they know and organizing trainings and workshops to address gaps in their knowledge as they identify them. We recommend that Peace Corps posts adopt a Community of Practice framework to improve teaching. PCVs, who are frequently recent college graduates with little or no professional teaching experience, do not have the background to be a “teacher trainer.” However, as a “community of practice facilitator” PCVs learn alongside counterpart teachers, and can initiate a culture of inquiry and co-learning that can survive long after the PCV leaves. Summary Direct interventions at the primary level address the need for enhanced quality of primary education in Africa, and supplementary activities with adolescents address the need for effective life skills education. By engaging in these activities, PCVs can contribute to student success. By facilitating communities of practice, PCVs contribute to teacher success and enhance education quality. These activities fall within the Peace Corps niche of host country needs and what PCVs do well. Therefore we believe our recommendations can optimize the impact Education PCVs have in the education sector of African host countries. Primary school teachers in many African countries are untrained or unqualified. By building teacher capacity at the primary level, PCVs can have a multiplier effect, enhancing the quality of education for many more students than they could impact by direct teaching themselves.

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