JULY-JUNE ・ 11 MONTHS・ SHARED VOLUNTEER HOUSING OR HOST FAMILY・ TEACH ENGLISH, LANGUAGE ARTS, SCIENCE, MATH
The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) are a cluster of small islands and atolls in the central Pacific Ocean about 2,000 miles from Hawaii, New Zealand, and the Philippines, and just west of the international date line. Its unique geography of five individual islands and 29 low-lying coral atolls, rings of tiny islands enclosing blue-green lagoons bound on the ocean side by coral reef barriers, make for true island life as you are never more than a mile from the water. Two distinct environments make up life in this country– commercialized “urban centers” Majuro and Ebeye, and the rest of the atolls, or “outer islands,” where life is carried out in a more traditional sense.
WorldTeach, in partnership with the Marshall Islands Public School System, have been providing volunteer teaching opportunities in the Marshall Islands since 2002 both in the urban centers and the remote outer islands. The new government is very serious about tackling the considerable educational challenges facing the tiny island nation and funds WorldTeach volunteer positions in order to have native speakers teach English in their primary, middle, and secondary schools. UNICEF reports that their educational levels are the lowest of the 14 Pacific nations tested.
Recently, new national curricula and standards have been adopted as part of a vigorous attempt at educational reform, to which WorldTeach volunteers are able to contribute. We have seen considerable student progress on the High School Entrance exams as a result of our volunteer initiative.
The relationships that were formed throughout the course of the year are definitely the most rewarding experience for me. In the beginning, I felt like it was going to be impossible to break through that surface- level friendliness into real relationships, but by the end that was totally changed. My host brother became like my real little brother, my little girl cousins like family. You would think that coming from such totally different cultures, environments, and languages would limit the level of closeness, but it didn't.
While teaching abroad in the Pacific, WorldTeach volunteers have the opportunity to become part of a new culture and community and gain invaluable skills in the classroom that will transfer to any professional environment.
As a WorldTeach volunteer in the Marshall Islands, you teach English in either the urban centers or on the remote atolls across the vast ocean. Marshallese is the native language, but English is commonly spoken throughout the islands, and since 2001, the country policy has been that English is the primary language of instruction from Grade 1. Primary education is compulsory for Grades 1-8, yet many children are out of school, many do not attend high school, and only a few enter college. The majority of volunteers will teach English, but math and science teaching opportunities are also available in the Marshall Islands.
You should be prepared for the challenges of teaching in the Marshalls in that many schools on the outer islands lack basic supplies. Volunteers often purchase pens, paper, and markers before leaving for the country. Furthermore, you may have to teach students with a wide range of English skills. While these circumstances may be frustrating at first, to be successful, you will be adept at finding solutions that enable you to teach effectively despite the limited resources of the islands.
The Marshall Islands program is almost two different programs rolled into one. All volunteers teach English, math or science in public schools around the country, but outside of that one united theme, the volunteer experience depends on placement. An urban placement on Majuro, the capital atoll, or Ebeye, an island that serves as a U.S. military base, is defined by the city and its influence. An outer island placement on a remote atoll is defined by the confines of the island and all that is lacking. WorldTeach only places you on an outer island if you request that type of remote placement.
In an urban placement, you live in basic teacher housing near the school. You have access to supermarkets, internet, telephones and other modern conveniences, and have the resources to cook for yourself. In school, your classes tend to be larger and more advanced.
The outer islands are a very different story. Pristine and remote, these placements are in small communities living on atolls that have remained largely untouched by modernity. Life here is beautiful but very difficult. Internet and telephones are largely the stuff of dreams, and necessities as basic as water can be hard to come by. Food consists of fish from the lagoon and fruit that can be grown on the island. As a volunteer, you live with a host family who provides a doorway into the complex and all consuming social structures that allow these communities to function. Classes are smaller, usually not as advanced, and school supplies are limited at best. The outer islands are, by all accounts, a true adventure.
The Marshall Islands program is funded by the Public School System of the Marshall Islands. This generous funding covers visa, housing, monthly living stipend, supplemental overseas health and emergency evacuation insurance, orientation and additional training conferences, 24-hour in-country field director support, access to a remote teacher quality coordinator, alumni support and networking.
Each participant is required to purchase his or her airfare to and from the Marshall Islands. Participants will be eligible for airfare reimbursement up to the program’s travel allowance, which will be determined by WorldTeach and will be based off of costs associated with airfare between the continental United States (Los Angeles) and the Marshall Islands.
Volunteers in the Marshall Islands program must:
- Be a native-level English speaker
- Have a bachelor’s degree by the time of the program’s departure
- Be between the ages of 21 and 74
- Have an extreme level of flexibility and coping ability, maturity, and a genuine interest in teaching