The last three weeks of the semester were dedicated to the students working together in teams to analyze development challenges within a particular country and then design an education/training program that addresses those challenges. My Dad and I use a fictional country called Afrinia – a country that faces a lot of challenges related to the topics we covered in the class – ethnic tension, inadequate access to education (particularly for women and girls), high levels of international debt, emerging from a civil war, monoculture economy, high rates of HIV/AIDS, and more.
In addition, as the students delved into this project they were asked to view themselves not as AU students, but rather as young professionals working for an international development organization called, Education and Development Associates. My Dad and I designed a whole scenario where the organization is in need of re-thinking its approach to development to better serve the countries and communities with whom they work. These teams of young professional are asked by the new President to design an education/training program with the country Afrinia.
Each team delivered their final presentation yesterday and I was very pleased with the level of thought, analysis, and creativity they put into their work. It was a great way to conclude the semester.
At the end of the class I thanked them for their excellent contributions to the class. Their discussions in class, their comments on the online forum, and their blog posts provided my dad and I with a lot of new ideas, resources, and learning. It was clear to the students that my Dad and I got a lot of the class, but I wanted the students to really think about whether or not they felt they got something out of the class. Of course, this is their decision to make, but I offered up a couple question for them to think about, and depending on their answers to those questions, they may be able to gauge whether or not they did, in fact, benefit from the class. The four questions I asked were as follows:
1. At the start of the semester, would you have been able to analyze an in depth, country profile like that of Afrinia, and from the report (data, statistics, narratives, history, etc.) design an education and training program that seeks to address specific challenges? If the answer is “no” then you got something out of the class.
2. Are you now able to watch news reports, listen to lectures, and read articles about international development with a critical eye and identify assumptions and paradigms that are embedded in how other people view the developing world? If the answer is “yes” then you got something out of the class.
3. Are you interested in taking another class that will allow you to delve deeper into the various topics we covered in the class, whether is be economics, curriculum design, international communication, women’s studies, environmental science, business, conflict resolution, etc.? If the answer is “yes” then you got something out of the class.
4. And most importantly, do you care more about how other people around the world live? If the answer is “yes” then you got something out of the class.
As always, it was sad to know that this was the last time we would all gather as a group, but I am glad that my Dad and I were able to engage these students in a field that many of them had never before studied.
Onto next semester!