Last year, Eastern Washington University landed a U.S. State Department grant to train Pakistani education officials. Some still stay in touch with Cheney educators through e-mail.
Now EWU will host two teams of Iraqi educators who will tour local school districts to help their rebuilding efforts in Iraq.
A $400,000 grant from the State Department will bring a team of Iraqi educators to campus in April, said Earl Gibbons, EWU’s executive director of educational outreach. A second group will arrive in the summer. EWU is the only U.S. institution to land the new grant, Gibbons said.
The Iraqi officials are coming to research educational systems and will spend time shadowing high school employees.
“It’s much more of a fact-finding mission for them,” Gibbons said.
For American educators, it’s a chance to connect with a world that’s only experienced through family, friends, video clips and written accounts. Given the war with Iraq and the steady news of car bombings and fatal explosions, there’s an interest in Iraq, as demonstrated by numerous calls from the media, Gibbons said.
“With Iraq being in the newspaper every day, there’s just a natural curiosity about getting a more personal look,” Gibbons said.
The group coming in April will consist of 10 secondary school officials who will stay two weeks.
In the summer, a group of 14 Iraqi educators – mainly teachers of English as a second language – will stay six weeks.
Of course, the schedule is tentative, due to the volatile situation in Iraq, Gibbons said.
“The best-laid plans by the State Department have been undone by the instability of the country,” Gibbons said.
What helped EWU secure the grant was the successful Pakistani educator project, which brought 11 educators through several school districts. They marveled at how all classrooms, even in rural schools, were equipped about the same.
The grant is another way to increase Eastern’s national reputation and profile, Gibbons said.
“(Securing the grant) is really a clear statement that Eastern has made a very firm decision to internationalize this campus and play a role in bringing the wider world to the Spokane community,” Gibbons said.
A number of Arabic-speaking students will be utilized as translators.
Cheney School District Superintendent Mike Dunn met with Gibbons on Thursday and said he’s helping recruit other school districts for the Iraqis to shadow. He couldn’t think of a district that wouldn’t want the foreign visitors.
“When you live in an area like we do in Eastern Washington, you don’t have the diversity that you have in other parts of the country,” Dunn said.
“We think it’s a great opportunity to learn from people who live very different lives.”
If the Iraqis do arrive as scheduled in late April, they will show up smack in the middle of when students in some grades take the Washington Assessment for Student Learning test.
That will give the Iraqis a look at a system of standards ushered in to meet federal education requirements.
“The Pakistanis were very interested in the federal government’s role in education,” Dunn said.
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