Our History

 

For a look back at how it started and how it’s evolved, check out some of our highlights below.

WorldTeach was founded in late 1986 by a small group of Harvard graduates and students who had worked in Kenya in the mid-1980s. Michael Kremer, the program’s founder and current board chair, spent a year teaching in Kenya following his graduation from Harvard, and then organized a group of Harvard students to establish WorldTeach. The organization was established as a committee of the Phillips Brooks House Association, Harvard’s center for undergraduate volunteer service, with the support of Harvard faculty and administrators.

Working with churches and local government officials in Kenya, WorldTeach developed a program to place American college graduates as volunteer teachers at community-sponsored high schools for terms of one year. Volunteers paid their own expenses and also contributed a fraction to WorldTeach’s administrative costs. By the late 1987, WorldTeach had placed 100 teachers at Kenyan schools.

By 1992, year-long programs had been established in Botswana, China, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Thailand, Poland, and Namibia. WorldTeach also started summer programs in Kenya in 1988 and Shanghai, China in 1990.

From 1991 through 1993, WorldTeach partnered with SCORE, which provided athletic instruction to underprivileged minority children in South Africa. WorldTeach then established a year-long teaching program in the more stable areas of South Africa in 1994.

Short term programs were also established in Russia (1992-1993), Lithuania, and Vietnam (1997- 1998), the latter begun with a grant from the Ford Foundation. Despite this period of extensive program expansion, in 1998, WorldTeach closed a numbers of its programs where volunteer interest was not sufficient to cover in-country costs or where government guidelines for placing volunteers changed dramatically.

Beginning in 1996, WorldTeach began a partnership with the Rare Center for Tropical Conservation, which continued through 2003. This program trained local nature guides in various countries.

In 2003, WorldTeach began summer programs in China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Namibia, and Poland. The Marshall Islands, a year-long program, was the first of WorldTeach’s programs that partner with Ministries of Education, with increased government funding to cover all volunteer participation fees.

In 2004 WorldTeach began partnering with the Hunan Provincial Department of Education in China, which paid a substantial amount of the volunteer participation fee. WorldTeach also sent volunteers to Chile, partnering with the Ministry of Education, and in 2006 with DuocUC, an affiliate of Catholic University.

The partnership between WorldTeach and the Ministry of Education of Guyana began in the summer of 2005. WorldTeach began a summer program in the Cape Town region of South Africa, as well as a small semester-only program in Pohnpei, one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia. Pohnpei is now a yearlong program.

In 2008, WorldTeach began new year-long fully-funded programs in American Samoa, Bangladesh, and Kosrae, Micronesia, A year-long program in partnership with the Ministry of Education also began in Rwanda.

2009 and 2010 saw even more expansion to year-long programs in Colombia, Thailand, and Tanzania.

A program in Panama, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, began in March 2011.

Our newest programs are two summer programs in Morocco and Nepal beginning in the summer of 2014.

Organizational Change

From 1986 to 1991, WorldTeach functioned as a committee of the Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), Harvard University’s student-run social service agency. WorldTeach maintained its own Advisory Board of Harvard administrators and faculty. In July 1990, WorldTeach moved from PBHA to a new space contributed by the Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID). This move allowed WorldTeach to become closely associated with HIID. By 1991, WorldTeach’s rapid growth and the increasing difficulty of reporting to a student-run organization led the Advisory Board to vote to form an independent corporation.

The Advisory Board reorganized itself as the organization’s Board of Directors and established WorldTeach, Inc. as a private, non-profit organization incorporated in the State of Massachusetts on January 1, 1992. Soon thereafter, the organization achieved classification as a tax-exempt, non-profit charitable educational organization under section 501(c)(3).