To the Editor:
When emeritus education professor Andrew Garrod announced the termination of the Marshall Islands Dartmouth volunteer teaching program at dinner in early January, the 12 yearlong teachers were incredulous. Just several days earlier at a conference, we discussed how we could continue to strengthen the program. It has had nothing but success for the past 15 years, so I wondered what the true rationale was behind the College’s decision to abruptly end it.
As associate dean Lynn Higgins has identified, the program is different from other off-campus programs (“Marshall Islands teaching program terminated,” March 28). No, participants do not receive academic credit but instead gain a lot more: full-time professional teaching experience in a safe environment under the guidance of both a director and a field director.
Higgins is incorrect, though, to imply that there are inadequate safety screenings. Volunteers are required to get physical and mental screenings for the program, as well as background checks and HIV tests for the local government. In addition, we are covered by International SOS during our year here, just as students on language study abroad programs, foreign study programs or exchange programs are during their terms abroad.
Since arriving here in July, all of us have worked hard to teach our bright, yet shy and commonly under-motivated, students. As former College President John Sloan Dickey said and as former College President Jim Yong Kim often quoted, “The world’s troubles are your troubles ... and there is nothing wrong with the world that better human beings cannot fix.” This is the spirit that scores of program volunteers have come to embrace. No, it isn’t easy to leave our families and the comforts of home for 10 months, but it’s even harder to teach large, severely under-resourced classes while setting high expectations for ourselves and our students.
On its website, Dartmouth touts that its “engagement with the world includes ... institutional partnerships.” Does ending the program really align with the larger goals of embracing such partnerships and encouraging students and alumni to pursue opportunities around the girdled earth?
Perhaps the College does not benefit as much from working with the Republic of the Marshall Islands Ministry of Education as it does with international universities or governments of higher profile countries, but DVTP still does a fine job promoting the Dartmouth name abroad. More importantly, we’ve helped many Marshallese students realize their full potentials and helped our local colleagues become stronger educators. Such results exemplify the value of cross-cultural education.
Dennis Ng ’12
Teacher, Majuro Middle School, Dartmouth Volunteer Teaching Program
Former Photography Editor, The Dartmouth
To the Editor: