ASU South Sudan fellowship program incubates methods to enhance international education

A gleaming new thread is being woven into the fabric of international education as ASU's Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education is giving African teachers a chance to learn skills that will enhance education in their home countries.

The Center, which operates out of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, is hosting 15 teachers from South Sudan and one from Rwanda.

Valery Kaikai, one of the fellows, said one of his favorite parts of the experience has been learning new teaching methods. The fellows started learning under close instruction from ASU's professors immediately after orientation, something Kaikai said was very good for him.

"It gave a very wide range of understanding as to how you can control a class in order to have a conducive environment for learning," he said.

Kaikai said he was particularly fond of the method of posting clear objectives for students to reflect upon. He said he feels this tactic will allow students to anticipate what's coming next and contribute more when the time comes.

"The program gave a very good appetite for looking forward," he added.

The program, which allows Fellows the opportunity to harvest a powerful set of skills to enhance schools in their home countries, has been made possible with the help of passionate educators from the teacher's college and funding from a private donor.

Throughout this semester-long program, the fellows have taken courses at ASU in subjects such as economics and technology while tutoring students and observing classrooms at ASU Prep, Alissa Koerner, the Center's senior project manager, said.

Koerner said the fellows must have 3-5 years of teaching experience and a sufficient level of aptitude speaking English to be selected. Ultimately, Koerner and her team select those who demonstrate a desire to go back to their home country, make a difference and train other teachers.

Omaya Felix Oyet, another Fellow, said he has enjoyed learning the different methods through which teachers can create critical thinking amongst students. Oyet said students in South Sudan are not grouped by age as they are in America. A student between the ninth and 12th grade in his country could be anywhere from 14 to 28 years old.

"There are concepts (at ASU) that we do that we do not realize (in South Sudan)," Oyet added.

He said he was also very excited about the new technology the program has given them.

Oyet said the Fellows have been given MacBook Pros and iPads to practice using tools like Excel and PowerPoint, technology that both he and Kaikai are very excited to take back to South Sudan.

The dual-sided benefit of hosting these Fellows has already been apparent in their interactions with ASU Prep students. Koerner said things like tutoring a middle-school student and participating in a panel where the Fellows were asked questions by students has allowed the children to see a different perspective of African culture and history.

The Fellows all come from different specialized backgrounds of teaching; Kaikai, for instance, teaches physics and math, and Oyet teaches mathematics. Koerner said the Fellows will meet in-depth with subject-area teachers in two weeks.

With all the new information and experience the Fellows have been given, one of the more notable realizations for Kaikai has been figuring out how to measure the understanding of his students.

Before coming to ASU, Kaikai said his students would occasionally ask questions and then demonstrate their knowledge through a test. Now, he said he wants to know the students fully comprehend the material before they leave the classroom each day, a method of "instantly proving" their understanding.

Overall, Koerner said this program is positively contributing to ASU's global mission. She said ASU is the perfect place to do this kind of work, and that the relationships it will form across the world will build the University's capacity to do more of this work.

Reach the reporter at celina.jimenez@asu.edu or on Twitter @lina_lauren.

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