February 13, 2004 - PCOL Exclusive: NPCA on a new Course
Peace Corps Online:
Peace Corps News:
February 2004 Peace Corps Headlines:
February 13, 2004 - PCOL Exclusive: NPCA on a new Course
NPCA on a new Course
NPCA President Kevin Quigley says the NPCA has come up with a Strategic Action Plan for the next eight years and is executing the plan.
The NPCA's Board of Directors met in Miami from January 29 through February 1 and PCOL sat in on the Board Meetings. Our assessment: The board is making some changes and things seem to be turning around for the NPCA with an emphasis on long term planning and better execution of plans.
The Board decided in Miami to streamline their governance structure reducing both the number of board members and committees, Worldview is going to become more oriented towards the RPCV community, the NPCA is running a small surplus for the year (about 12k) and a new cooperative agreement recently signed with the Peace Corps is bearing fruit.
But the most noteworthy thing we saw at the board meeting was the presentation of the NPCA's Strategic Action Plan for the next 8 years and the fact that the NPCA so far has executed as promised by delivering the Strategic Action Plan to the board and membership six months after last August's NPCA Annual Convention in Portland. We had a chance to sit down with NPCA's President to discuss these issues and others. Read our exclusive interview with Kevin Quigley at:
Interview with Kevin Quigley on Sunday, February 1, 2004 *
* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.
Interview with Kevin Quigley on Sunday, February 1, 2004
PCOL: A lot has happened this week in Miami. How would you characterize what has happened? Is the NPCA setting off on a new course?
KQ: I'd say this was an extremely important meeting both because it marks the beginning of our 25th year and because the Board took a number of very important steps. These steps will enhance our relationship with our groups and members, will strengthen our organization in ways that help us advance the mission of fostering peace and service through education and advocacy, and will better position NPCA for the future.
PCOL: When we talked six months ago you said that you wanted to talk to a lot of people and come up with a plan for the future of the NPCA. Can you tell us a little bit about the strategic plan?
KQ: First let me tell you about the process and then let me tell you about the outcome. Since the last interview, I talked to 150 or 160 people inside the National Peace Corps Association and to people outside the organization who might become part of it to solicit ideas on how we might grow and revitalize this organization and help it realize more of its potential.
PCOL: And what has been the outcome of those conversations?
KQ: Let's step back in time, first. These outcomes are the result of a process that began almost two years ago with the strategic planning process at the Board retreat. The strategic planning process resulted in a new vision and mission statement and new goals for the organization.
Half way through this process, my predecessor, Dane Smith, announced his decision to step down. Following the search process, on my first day on the job, I promised to come back to the board in six months with a strategic action plan. I did that, and that plan was discussed by the Board.
Let me tell you a little bit about the strategic action plan. The strategic action plan focuses on ways that NPCA can enhance what we call "the value added proposition." What we mean by that is what we offer to individual members and groups. We do this primarily around issues of advocacy, around education and service, as well as through enhanced membership services.
In the future, NPCA intends to change our emphasis by trying not to be all things to all people and rather focus on our core programs. In addition, we want to facilitate the work of innovative, passionate members of our community, and help them do the kinds of work and address the kinds of issues that closely align with our mission.
I think some of the changes will involve important stylistic and cultural issues. We are all working hard to make sure that we deliver on our promises. I think that was one of the accomplishments of this Board meeting in that we set and met the goal of having a strategic action plan in six months.
The Board also discussed and approved a plan to change the Board's size and its composition, with an eye towards enhancing NPCA's efficiency and better providing services to our members.
PCOL: You mentioned that you want to focus on the fiftieth anniversary of the Peace Corps. Can you give us an overview to the stages in getting there?
KQ: Let me just say one more thing about the plan, which is designed in three phases. The first phase in 2004 is really a kind of stabilization year, a year to set clear goals and strengthen some of our systems. A key one of them is the Association Management System, which will improve significantly our database and enable us to focus our energy on our key program areas, including advocacy and our global education. This will also help us begin to explore the possibility to doing something major by the time of the 50th anniversary through a feasibility study.
In the second phase between 2005 and 2008, after we have done the necessary work to strengthen our infrastructure, we expect to have much greater ability to reach out and provide support services to members and groups.
In the third phase of our plan which goes through 2011, the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps, we plan to capitalize on that one very special moment, to leverage it in the best way so that we can position NPCA for the next 50 years.
PCOL: There are plans and then there is the execution of plans. Do you have specific milestones and deliverables along the way that you are going to be looking at?
KQ: Three days after the Board meeting, we posted the plan and other meeting notes on the NPCA web site (www.rpcv.org) so that members of our community could see that we have some pretty clear deliverables in the first phase. Although there is less specificity about the subsequent phases there is a framework for measuring our progress. During this first phase, we want to make a special effort to communicate that we have a new vision and mission, and that the organization is beginning an important new chapter in its history. During this milestone year and going forward we are going to focus on clear deliverables.
PCOL: Six months ago the NPCA had one of the most interesting President's Forums that I have attended in which Karen Keefer, Ken Hill and Chic Dambach presented a motion to change the governance structure of the NPCA. After the motion was amended, it was passed on to the Board of Directors. Can you tell us how the Board addressed the issues that were raised?
KQ: I will tell you-just to refresh our memories-that the proposal as it was amended was to look at the issue of the board size. The board in its discussion of the proposal thought that it was important not just to look at size but to look at issues of composition, to look at issues of effectiveness, and by effectiveness what we they meant was how could we best organize the board to fulfill its responsibilities to enhance the mission that we just talked about. Since that President's Forum Meeting in Portland, there has been a very engaging and dynamic process involving Board members and others, who looked at these issues very seriously. A group led by Pete Johnson did a survey with 43 people around the community to solicit ideas and survey best practices of not-for-profit organizations. This group came up with a plan whereby the Board has agreed to reduce the size of the board, to also change the composition, and to be much clearer about board expectations related to Board members.
And a fourth issue in terms of enhancing our effectiveness is to simplify some of the governance structure. At the moment the NPCA board has 5 standing committees, and 14 subcommittees and a task force. These are going to be consolidated. Again, this is an area where we will be posting the information on the NPCA web site in the next week or so, laying out what the Board decision was in those three areas. The next step in the process is to have these changes discussed and approved by our groups and members, since they will require by-law changes to be implemented.
PCOL: So you expect to see the question on the ballot this year for a by-law change concerning the issues addressed by the Board?
KQ: That's right. This is a process that is going to involve a lot of consultation with the groups and members. These changes related to Board size and composition require by-law changes. So, the board has agreed to in principle is making these changes subject to the approval of our membership.
PCOL: And you expect the outcome of these changes to be a more effective governance structure that is more responsive to the interest of the members?
KQ: That was clearly the intention of the committee, to design a structure that is more efficient and that could help the organization focus on key Board roles. Those roles include setting policy and strategy, hiring/evaluating/supporting the President/CEO, supporting ongoing fund-raising, maintaining good financial stewardship, and raising the profile of the organization. The Board recognizes that these are essential Board roles.
What was driving the Board was an interest in enhancing its effectiveness, with an eye towards how best they can develop the kind of governance structure that will position the organization to grow, to better serve our members and groups, and take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of Peace Corps' 50th anniversary that is going to come very, very soon.
PCOL: You mentioned when we talked previously that the NPCA needs to learn how to communicate better with its members and with members of the broader Peace Corps community. Can you tell us about the actions that you are taking with regard to Worldview magazine and with regard to the NPCA web site.
KQ: Another key part of the discussion of these last few days was coming up with a communications strategy both short- and long-term and also seeing how we could potentially re-focus and re-align some of our publications so that they are much more explicitly about the NPCA. The aim is to be clearer about who we are and what it is we are trying to accomplish.
There was a committee of the board that took a look at these issues, and the staff made a number of proposals to try to find ways to strengthen Worldview so that it aligned more closely with the mission and major activities of the organization.
The plan optimizes resources and intends to rely to a greater extent on electronic as opposed to print publications. One of our intentions is to make Worldview a magazine that is much more about NPCA's vision, mission and goals. Not to be a house organ per se but trying to put concerted focus on efforts to foster peace through service, education, and advocacy.
I would say that what it really means is a couple of things: some fine tuning of the publication, including putting some of the features on the web site as opposed to in the magazine. In addition, some features from our newsletter might be included in Worldview. In cases where the author or the issue is tied in some way to a Peace Corps activity or a Peace Corps individual, we are just trying to make those connections more explicit. A of lot of this is already inherent in the publication.
This publication plan is something we are going to be adapting, improving over the next year or so, but the direction is really clear. We want to accomplish the following: aligning our publications more closely with vision and mission, optimizing the resources that we use, and increasingly relying on electronic rather than print means.
PCOL: Two days ago over a hundred Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps trainees met at Miami Dade College for a job fair that was a joint activity between the NPCA and the US Peace Corps. I had the opportunity to hear both you and Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez address the group and I was very impressed by the enthusiasm and by the way the whole event took place. Tell us about the new cooperative agreement between the Peace Corps and the NPCA and what future events we can expect to see.
KQ: It is a great question. This event grew out of the cooperative agreement between the Peace Corps and the National Peace Corps Association around some recruitment and third goal - bringing the experience back home - activities.
As part of that agreement, three career fairs are planned. The Miami Dade event was the first career fair. Following that career fair we had a staging event where fifty-four trainees, who were en route to seven countries in the Eastern Caribbean, had an opportunity to meet with former volunteers and staff who were affiliated with NPCA.
The event was a model. We hope that we do more of these in the future that combine a career fair, combined with a staging reception. As we saw at Miami Dade, this is a very, very powerful activity for the Peace Corps community.
And I would say that for me personally, that evening was one of the most magic evenings of my tenure with the NPCA. Having the 54 trainees look around the room, learn and see that there were 60 or so Returned Volunteers and staff in the room with them. At that moment, it become clear to the trainees that they were part of something we all know which is a larger Peace Corps community.
That recognition led to some wonderful conversations over the course of the evening. So, I hope that we can do this in many, many different places and that this becomes the model used throughout the country.
PCOL: Longer term how can the NPCA help the Peace Corps meet its very ambitious recruitment goals of doubling the number of volunteers in the field to 14,000 by 2007 and how can the Peace Corps help the NPCA get better access and penetration to returned volunteers who are completing their service?
KQ: How can NPCA help Peace Corps? Something that we have all learned is that the best recruiters are people who have been there. Most people in the NPCA have served as volunteers and staff and they are very, very powerful recruiters.
Career fairs, staging events where there is participation of NPCA, outreach events that we do at colleges and other venues, as well as using our varied communications devices, our publications, our list servs, gives NPCA the opportunity to speak about the Peace Corps experience in a slightly different but complementary way to Peace Corps. We talk about the Peace Corps experience as a lifetime experience. Within our community we provide a lot of powerful models of people who many years after their formal Peace Corps experience are living Peace Corps values and taking a Peace Corps approach to the world.
Peace Corps helps the National Peace Corps Association in a variety of ways. Through this cooperative agreement and with close working relationships between the leadership of the Peace Corps and the NPCA, we have begun to deepen and broaden our relationship. For example, Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez participated in this joint reception, he participated in a discussion with the NPCA board, in a meeting with the NPCA's Advisory Council, as well as attending a reception hosted by NPCA Advisory Council member and University of Miami President Donna Shalala.
So those kinds of frequent interactions, joint involvement in each other's activities, the relationship is good and becoming stronger. There are many, many more opportunities in the future where we can work together in ways that are good for the Peace Corps and good for the NPCA.
PCOL: With the cooperative agreement between the NPCA and the Peace Corps and the many thousands of issues of Worldview magazine that the Peace Corps purchases from NPCA, the Peace Corps actually provides about 10% of the NPCA's annual operating revenues. What do you say to returned volunteers who say that the Peace Corps may unduly influence the NPCA on issues or stands that the NPCA might be taking? Are the interests of the Peace Corps and the NPCA always going to be 100% in alignment or are there going to be instances where the NPCA may disagree with policies the Peace Corps takes?
KQ: I want to be very clear that we are an independent organization. Part of our mission is to support the Peace Corps goal and Peace Corps type activities. Peace Corps doesn't always agree with the NPCA or do we always agree with the Peace Corps about policies and programs. But there is that absolute rock-solid agreement about the mission of the Peace Corps.
Yes, Peace Corps through the cooperative agreement and the purchases of Worldview which it provides to serving volunteers as a way to keep them connected and to help with their eventual transition back to the United States helps the NPCA. The funding relationship is important but 90% of our resources come from other organizations. I think we have a good mix of sources of funding coming from government, corporations, individual contributions and membership related income. While at this point the diversification is quite good, my hope and expectation is that the pie, so to speak, needs to be enlarged and we are working very hard on that.
PCOL: You know we heard a very spirited discussion today in the board of directors about the five year rule at the Peace Corps. That's not the specific issue I want to raise but what I was struck by was what seems to be a new willingness of members of the NPCA and members of the board to discuss not just issues like global warming and an increase in appropriations for the Peace Corps but more controversial issues regarding Peace Corps service. Do you see the NPCA taking a more active role on issues like Safety and Security of Volunteers and health care for volunteers after they have returned from their service overseas and may be having difficulty getting treatment for long term medical conditions that they have contracted while serving in the Peace Corps?
KQ: In the strategic action plan, the NPCA wants to be clear that its role is to support the Peace Corps community essentially through three program areas: service, education, and advocacy. It is our intention to focus attention on advocacy issues that are important to the Peace Corps community. Certainly those issues that you mentioned, Safety and Security, are very important issues.
It is my hope and expectation that the NPCA will be more pro-active and in some cases take the lead on certain issues that we know through our interactions with members and groups and through surveys that are essential issues and that we can have some impact in advancing the issues and making either legislative or policy changes. These changes could help Peace Corps further enhance the safety and security of volunteers and assist Peace Corps in its efforts to strengthen the organization.
So, I do see that is exactly the kind of discussion we want our board to have - to be out in front of some of these issues - recognizing that we can't take on all issues, - but certainly we want to take on issues that are of central concern to the Peace Corps community.
PCOL: I have heard that one thing that is being discussed with the Peace Corps is the possibility of an Ombudsman. Do you want to comment on that?
KQ: That's an issue that the Board hasn't really discussed.
PCOL: I heard you discussed it with leadership at the Peace Corps.
KQ: I did discuss it with Peace Corps leadership. I know members of our community are quite interested in pushing for an Ombudsman. It is my hope that the NPCA will take a look at this issue and decide whether the NPCA could play a useful role in enhancing volunteer safety and security, providing better benefits and ensuring that volunteers who experience challenges in their services receive appropriate and sensitive consideration. I would anticipate the NPCA will be taking a look and making some contribution to the discussion of that issue as well.
PCOL: I think we have covered everything that we have seen this week with the evidence of the fruits of the cooperative agreement, the new directions in communications, and the new board governance structure that the NPCA is proposing. Anything final you would like to add?
KQ: I would just say that we feel being here in at the start of our 25th year, that it is an extremely exciting time to be part of NPCA. After this Board meeting we have many of the pieces in place to move ahead to strengthen what we do for members and groups. Now what we need to do is execute, to track what it is we are doing, and to report to the Board, our members and groups, and to the broader Peace Corps community on our progress in meeting some of these very ambitious goals we have laid out. I very much look forward to doing that.
Read the NPCA's Strategic Action Plan through 2011
Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL
Read the series on Safety and Security here
Leave your comments on the series below.
Read comments by RPCVs here, here and here.
Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.
This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; NPCA; Strategic Plan
I may have missed it but where is the defense and protection of human rights mentioned in the strategic plan? Thx, Richard Leigh, Chile 5
By P Carroll (rrcs-nyc-24-136-115-39.biz.rr.com - 22.214.171.124) on Wednesday, February 18, 2004 - 2:30 pm: Edit Post|
would be nice if the style of this interview would be less corporate -- sure I understand it, but I would prefer to know concrete accomplishments as well as plans.
By daniel (0-1pool136-28.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 126.96.36.199) on Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 7:57 am: Edit Post|
Here is a novel idea Kevin. Fund us with your attorney if you are so much for RPCV's.
By Nijma (h-64-105-233-174.chcgilgm.covad.net - 188.8.131.52) on Thursday, February 19, 2004 - 5:47 pm: Edit Post|
These guys are good at acting as the political action arm of the Peace Corps, i.e. getting votes for appropriations, but what do they do for the returned volunteers? Miami must be nice this time of year.
By daniel (0-1pool136-74.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 184.108.40.206) on Friday, February 20, 2004 - 2:12 pm: Edit Post|
That's right. Sun Tanning in Miami, how nice? see you folks soon. Daniel
By ANONYMOUS (publicpc106.public.library.utah.edu - 220.127.116.11) on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 2:25 pm: Edit Post|
PEACE CORPS HAS PARTENRSHIPPED WITH PEACE CORPS ONLINE AND NPCA FOR UNKNOWN SUMS OF MOENY. THEY HAVE COME UP WITH 'STRATEGIC ACTION PLANS' FOR THE FUTURE TO KEEP THAT MONEY COMING IN.
THIS IS SO NGO.
NEITHER ONE, ESPECIALLY PEACE CORPS ONLINE, ARE RESPONSIBLE WHEN IT COMES TO PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEER ISSUES WHETHER THEY ARE ACTIVE, RETURNED, OR DEAD.
THEY DO NOT ALLOW ANY FEEDBACK, MUCH LIKE PEACE CORPS ITSELF, AND DO NOT FULFILL THE AREAS THAT THEY SAY THEY SERVE IN. THEY ARE SIMPLY PAID PEACE CORPS BEAUROCRACIES.
By spellcheck (0-1pool136-105.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 18.104.22.168) on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 2:37 pm: Edit Post|
The Great Public Librarian Poet has spoken!
Bureaucracies, that is the correct spelling last sentence/phase.
First sentence, money is spelled this way.
Take your time. Go to the dictionary.
Do I sound like and RCV now?
and Members of the NPCA
Dear Utah Public Library,
For the Record: "Peace Corps Online" receives no funding from the US Peace Corps. "Peace Corps Online" receives no funding from the NPCA. "Peace Corps Online" receives no funding from any other organization or source.
"Peace Corps Online" is one volunteer's contribution to the third and fourth goals of the Peace Corps and is run as a service to the Returned Volunteer community at our own expense. Shirley Chisholm used to say she was "Unbought and Unbossed." That's what we mean when we say "Peace Corps Online" is "The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers."
Publisher and Co-Editor, Peace Corps Online
Peru 1970 - 73
By daniel (0-1pool136-27.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 22.214.171.124) on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 10:10 pm: Edit Post|
I some of us greatly appreciate your service and "voluteer" effort. I am humbled when I think of the work you put into this.
By daniel (0-1pool136-27.nas12.somerville1.ma.us.da.qwest.net - 126.96.36.199) on Sunday, February 22, 2004 - 10:10 pm: Edit Post|
I some of us greatly appreciate your service and "volunteer" effort. I am humbled when I think of the work you put into this.
Maybe you're the one to spread this around and get some easily implemetable action. I've tried getting throwaway 4,5,6th grade textbooks shipped to Kyrgyzstan, it's relatively cheap but out of my budget, and it would do world's of good teaching ESL, the PC's primary tasking. Anne Marie, the writer, is on an English Language Fellowship sponsored by the US State Department.
Leonard Butters, 5094489688 Spokane
----- Original Message -----
From: anne burk
Cc: email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
Sent: Wednesday, April 14, 2004 3:27 AM
Subject: 19th Dispatch--Peace Corps
Dispatch 19: Peace Corps Recommendations. April 7, 2004
The drive thru avalanche territory and the flight of the YAK-40 were
all on behalf of a larger mission-to provide some training sessions to 46
K-11 Peace Corps Volunteers. The K-11s came in September of 2003, which is
the 11th year of PCVs in Kyrgyzstan; Peace Corps has been here since 1992,
one year after KG independence. The latest 60 Volunteers arrived here last
September, and most of them were assigned to teach English in very primitive
settings in villages throughout KG. They spent their first six months in
training-learning the language and becoming acclimated to life here-and then
they were sent to their assigned villages to live with local families and to
teach in the local schools. After three months, they are provided with some
in-service training. And that's where I come in.
I thought you all might be interested in the "inside story" about what
the Peace Corps is doing in KG and what the PCVs are confronted with. The
majority of them-46out of 60-are assigned to teach English in village
schools. Their mission is not only to teach English to the school children,
but to also influence and potentially transform local teaching practices.
The following is my report to Peace Corps:
Anne Marie Burk
Senior English Language Fellow
Report on Kyrgyzstan Peace Corps Teacher Training, March 22-29, 2004:
Carol Marsh and I met with 27 Peace Corps Volunteers in Osh and 19 PCVs at
Lake Issyk-kul to conduct teacher training sessions with Volunteers assigned
to teach English at various schools and universities in Kyrgyzstan. The PCVs
had been on their jobs for three months and so had the benefit of experience
to add to our sessions. They had some very specific concerns and questions
We received very positive feedback from the Volunteers, who told us these
training sessions were very useful to them. They appreciated the handouts,
worksheets, and classroom ideas they could take back and use in their
classrooms. They especially enjoyed the opportunity to talk with one another
and share experiences, problems, and individual resolutions to those
problems, which were often very creative.
We allowed time in these sessions for the PCVs to share their own
experiences, especially in the session on Classroom Management. There are
some situations that I believe deserve to be highlighted because 1.) They
are common to many of the Volunteers placed in classroom settings, and 2.)
These situations could be addressed-and alleviated-by Peace Corps policy and
follow-up. Below are several problems PCVs encounter and my recommendations
for how they could be addressed:
1. Some PCV teachers seem to be viewed by their host schools not so much as
valuable teachers, but as a "dumping ground" for the students other teachers
do not want to teach. There are Volunteers who find themselves with classes
of unmotivated students who have an assortment of behavior problems. These
students have been kicked out of other classrooms and given to the "new
teacher," who happens to be the Volunteer.
Recommendation: When PCVs are placed in a host school, the administration of
the school should be encouraged to consider their new native English speaker
as a valuable resource and assigned those students who can best make use of
this resource, i.e., the best and most motivated students in the school.
Bishkek Peace Corps staff should be available for support when needed.
2. It appears that often the host teacher "counterpart" or some other
teacher in the school will leave her class with the PCV teacher in addition
to the PCV's already full class. This can happen several times a week,
expanding the number of students in the classroom to 35 or more. Often, the
PCV does not know these students' names or history or level of ability. Of
course, all continuity from the previous day's lesson is lost. Teaching to
this number of students in these circumstances becomes impossible and chaos
is often the result. PCVs have been accepting these additional students
because they have a strong desire to be helpful and to "fit in" with typical
school practices. The schoolteachers are not paid well, and they often find
reasons to abandon their classes to willing teachers who can do nothing more
than "babysit" a huge class of strangers.
Recommendation: Peace Corps Officers could tell the school administrators
that it is a Peace Corps policy that PCVs be given a class of their own and
will NOT be expected to teach additional classes while their own class is in
session. Furthermore, they should be assigned no classes larger than 25
students. In the U.S., even the most experienced teachers have found they
cannot teach effectively to more than 25 students. Administrators tend to
respond very respectfully to a Peace Corps "policy" decision. The Volunteers
can then simply apologize for not being able to comply with extra demands
and state that it is Peace Corps policy that their class not exceed 25 and
that they are not supposed to manage other teachers' students. PC staff
should be available for support.
3. PCVs who are young and inexperienced as teachers are usually placed alone
in a village and find themselves without a support system. They want to try
to effect a change in the school's teaching styles, i.e., be less punitive,
less violent toward students, more communicative and relaxed in their
teaching methods. Yet they often feel there is no one at their school who
agrees with them or supports them. They can come to feel very discouraged
Recommendation: Send PCVs to schools not alone but in pairs. They can each
be assigned individual classes, but at the end of the day, they will have
someone who can support, counsel, and encourage them. There is strength in
numbers. Not only will the PCVs feel better about their individual efforts,
but also their impact on the school system and their fellow teachers will be
far more powerful. All research on school reform supports the "pair
4. Volunteers who are not Education majors and have no experience as
classroom teachers are given minimal training and no textbooks with which to
teach. The schools do not provide texts for students, and the texts
available for the teachers are out-of-date and do not incorporate any of the
modern teaching methods.
Recommendation: Pre-service training should include several days of
teacher-training where the focus is on setting up the classroom to maintain
order and control-American style. Beginning teachers need to be shown how to
establish routines, how to introduce activities and how to maintain orderly
transitions between activities. The First Days of School by H.K.Wong is a
good resource book for teaching such skills. Also, PCVs should be provided
textbooks and other teaching materials for classroom use. Side by Side
textbooks, teacher books, and workbooks are an excellent series for EFL
learners. Each volunteer could be issued 25 of these textbooks and use them
as the basis of teaching in each class. The books could be handed out at the
beginning of class and collected at the end of class, reused in each class,
year after year. There are four levels of the Side by Side series. Levels
one and two would be most useful at village schools.
Both Carol and I were impressed with the intelligence, humor,
resourcefulness, and general competence exhibited by these (mostly) young
people. I am sure they are representing our country well.
However, their jobs could be made a lot easier with Peace Corps staff
support. Since part of the PCV mission is to teach English, they should be
assured of an environment where they can do that. Peace Corps policy should
be very clear on how the Volunteers should be used-and on how they should
NOT be used. In some school systems here, it is the tradition for new
teachers to get the worst students, the worst classes, and to be assigned
double class-loads when other teachers want the day off. Peace Corps need
not be naïve about this abuse of new teachers, and they should prevent such
abuse from happening to PCVs by setting up policy guidelines that anticipate
and specifically preclude such actions. After the PCVs have been placed in
village schools, regular Peace Corps staff visits are strongly recommended
to monitor conditions and support the Volunteers.
The mission of the Peace Corps Volunteers should be the guiding factor in
determining how and where Volunteers are placed and to what use they are
put. I believe implementing the above recommendations would result in more
effectively accomplishing the mission of both teaching English and
positively affecting the teaching system in Kyrgyzstan.