How Teachers Without Borders Combats Global Poverty

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ONTARIO, Canada —  In an interview with The Borgen Project, Dr. Fred Mednick discusses the successes of the global network Teachers Without Borders (TWB) and how the organization makes a difference through agency and change.

Dr. Fred Mednick

A brilliant scholar, author and professor who is humble when discussing his accomplishments, Dr. Mednick spoke of his idea to connect a highly skilled global teacher network as a way to create change and collaborate toward innovative solutions. In Mednick’s words, “teachers are an international development army of change agents.” They know about and are connected to everything, from the local community’s needs (the macro perspective) to the students who are absent or ill (the micro perspective). Through the sensibility of teachers, unique and timely solutions have been introduced to improve girls’ education and education amid emergencies. Mednick underlines the importance of interconnectedness through education as a way to combat global poverty.

Knowledge and Network of Teachers

Projections indicate that in the United States alone, by 2022, there will be more than 3.2 million public school teachers qualified to influence the future generation. Furthermore, the 2020 statistics on teachers worldwide indicate that 94 million trained teachers serve the youth of today. According to Lunenburg, (2010), change agents are capable of influencing the world through external or internal means.

Teachers are in a unique position to do just that by influencing the world in order to make a positive impact. Teachers’ awareness level of community needs can make lasting change in an immediate way. This was confirmed by Mednick through several examples of teachers who connected with TWB to make a difference. He explains that teachers were acutely aware of how to serve their community through both external and internal means of change.

Excellence in International Education

TWB has become a well-known name in global education initiatives. The organization has brought education to the teachers and communities of the world through its global network. Of the many successes of TWB, its contribution to relief efforts through Education in Emergencies and its work in Peace Education are likely the most unique. Solmaz Mohadjer, a geologist and teacher in Iran, approached TWB with her earthquake safety and recovery program for teachers around the world who experience natural disasters. TWB was able to organize and translate the course into many languages. This course has saved the lives of teachers and students all over the world, arising from a teacher’s simple intention to teach earthquake science.

Dr. Joseph Hungwa is the creator of the Peace Education Program. This program targets primary and secondary school teachers, but its reach extends beyond these limits. The Peace Education Program has received international acclaim, receiving the 2018 Luxemburg Peace Prize for exemplary efforts in peace education. In 2018, Dr. Mednick received the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace. These programs are just two of the courses available online and at no cost to TWB members.

Strengths and Legacy

The biggest strength of TWB is its ability to develop community-inspired, just-in-time professional development to address the immediate needs of teachers within local communities. TWB’s development is timely. Unlike the academic pursuits of doctoral candidates on the ground, TWB is able to bring timely responsive courses to meet the needs of communities in an organic and grassroots way. Some initiatives that have transformed into legacy programs include Bridges to Understanding, a program focusing on digital storytelling and problem solving for youth. Another legacy project, the Millennium Development Ambassadors Program, aims to identify and support talented individuals who make the Millennium Development Goals come to life.

Global Poverty and Teachers

Teachers Without Borders serves as an innovative antidote to combating poverty. The links between education and poverty are overwhelmingly clear. In 2017, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) published a report stating that if “all adults received two more years of schooling or completed secondary school, it would lift nearly 60 million people out of poverty.” The report continued to postulate that this change would increase economic output and directly decrease the poverty rate in that particular country.

Furthermore, a 2014 research paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research discusses the impact of teachers on students, noting lifelong benefits that pave the way to a lifetime of potential success. Specifically, the study illustrates the ripple effect of a student’s success on their family and the surrounding community. Overall, Mednick shows that the untapped global network of teachers is an effective way to ignite meaningful change in the lives of people while combating the effects of poverty.

– Michelle Renée Genua
Photo: Courtesy of Teachers Without Borders

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