This commitment was inspired by the desire to address two critical educational challenges facing Mexico: (1) spoken English language instruction in Mexican public schools is very limited and of poor quality; and (2) current pedagogical practices emphasize repetitive learning versus critical thinking. Spoken English and critical thinking skills are becoming increasingly vital to private investment and economic growth in Mexico.
To best address these challenges, Worldfund has designed an intensive two-week US-based pedagogical training course. The program will enroll 50 Mexican teachers in its first year and 100 teachers in years two and three. The course will target both Mexican education professors, as well as current public school teachers. The educators will be selected based on the following criteria: socio-economic make-up of the schools and universities at which they teach in, with priority given to those working in disadvantaged regions; potential for teaching in a more interactive way; written essays; and evaluations from supervisors.
The two-week program will involve more than 12 hours of classes and activities each day at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. During the mornings, Professor Rassias will lead a four-hour session on the Rassias Method. Afternoons will include drill sessions with The Rassias Foundation instructors and presentations by guest lecturers from the Dartmouth faculty, teacher training programs, and public and private schools. The Mexican teachers will board in Dartmouth's dormitories and eat most meals at the campus dining facilities, alongside Dartmouth students and professors. They also will have the opportunity to visit the areas surrounding Hanover, as well as Boston, MA.
The Rassias Foundation and the Rassias Method were developed by Professor John Rassias at Dartmouth College in the 1960's. The Rassias Method is an innovative and highly effective system for teaching the conversational use of second languages. The instruction method is based on the premise that students speak a language to learn it rather than learn a language to speak it. Master teachers combine mechanical techniques, cultural education with intensive participant involvement. The pedagogical tools developed by Rassias can also be used to teach other subject content, such as literature and the sciences. The Rassias Method has been used to train more than 165,000 Peace Corps Volunteers in languages, as well as countless numbers of students and teachers throughout the world.
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
Worldfund's intensive pedagogical program will be measured in three ways:
1. Number of students being taught by teachers and professors participating in the program. Worldfund estimates that over 50,000 students will be impacted during three years of this program.
2. Written and oral feedback received from the educators during structured follow-up in the year following participation in the program. A bi-monthly audio-visual conference call between Dartmouth professors and participating Mexican teachers is planned, as well as a monitored blog between the Mexican teachers to encourage discussion around successes and challenges of implementing the new pedagogical techniques learned.
3. A formal evaluation will be developed by a Mexican education consulting firm, with extensive educational evaluation experience. This will be conducted, starting in year two.
Four organizations, NII Holdings, Rassias Foundation, Fundación Televisa, and Nextel México, were brought together by WorldFund in the spring of 2007 to develop a pilot program targeting both Mexican University education professors and public secondary school teachers. A pilot for 18 Mexican secondary school teachers, working at schools serving impoverished youth, was successfully tested in Mexico, in March 2007. A second pilot for 20 Universidad Pedagógica Nacional (UPN) education professors was successfully tested in Hanover, NH in June 2007.
The administration of the project, selection of Mexican participants, logistical arrangements and follow-through, will be conducted by a fully-dedicated Worldfund program officer, who is a Mexican Dartmouth alumnus trained in Rassias pedagogy, a partially-dedicated Fundacion Televisa program officer, and a Rassias Foundation manager. The pedagogical core of the program will be managed by the Rassias Foundation, with the administrative support of the dedicated Worldfund and Fundacion Televisa program officers. Interaction with Mexican education authorities and university officials, financing and Mexico-based PR will be spearheaded by Fundacion Televisa and Nextel Mexico.