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Articles: Marshall Islands' Parents and Expat Teachers Differ in Educational Expectations

Contributed by YokweOnline on Jul 05, 2010 - 05:33 PM

Marshall Islands' Parents and Expat Teachers Differ in Educational Expectations


The small, Pacific nation of the Republic of Marshall Islands needs qualified teachers, especially for its rural island schools where the majority of the elementary teachers are only high school grads. For many years, American volunteer teachers have been solicited to boost student achievement and cover for local teachers on sabbatical for professional development. A former volunteer says there are few assessment measures being used to determine the effectiveness of these expatriate teachers.

Natalie Nimmer, who has worked in several different facets of the Marshall Islands educational system for eight years, addressed this issue in her research project for a Master’s degree in Education at the University of Hawaii.

While the project was not tied to the volunteer programs, it drew upon Nimmer's wide experience and contacts. She first came to the Marshall Islands with the initial World Teach group in 2002, followed by service as WT Field Director. Last year, she was High School Director of Majuro Cooperative School.

She hopes to use the results "to better recruit and train expatriate teachers in the Marshall Islands through the WorldTeach, Dartmouth and Majuro Cooperative School programs."

The investigation, conducted over a 4-month period, was administered to various stakeholder groups on urban Majuro and outer island Wotje with 141 parents and 53 teachers completing the survey.

The questionaire asked adult respondents to rate 30 "good teacher" characteristics on a scale from 1-5 (not important at all to very important).

"I was surprised at the findings of this research at nearly every stage," said Nimmer.

A teacher's fluency in English, organization, and excitment about school were extremely important to both the expats and the Marshallese community.

Most telling were the traits where teachers and parents diverged. "Speaks Marshallese Fluently" was not as important to parents, yet the World Teach orientation has 40 hours of language instruction.

Nimmer stated that perhaps volunteers should receive more than the one hour of training in "character development" which was one of the higher rated traits.

Parents ranked parent-teacher interactions as important, contrary to the expectations of some volunteers who note lack of parent involvement in educational endeavors.

Garnering parent involvement in ways that they can confidently and comfortably participate could be a theme for next year’s expatriate teachers, suggested Nimmer.

"WorldTeach, Dartmouth and Majuro Cooperative School could modify recruitment materials in order to attract volunteers who fit the personality the parents value."

- Aenet Rowa, Yokwe Online, July 5, 2010


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