Description of Service
Mr. Larson? service fulfilled a request from the Bangladesh Ministry of Education for teacher trainers in English as a foreign language at a Primary Training Institute (PTI) in Patia, part of a nation-wide network of PTIs that train all primary school teachers. Directly accountable to the institute? superintendent, Mr. Abdul Malek Bhuyan, and to the Peace Corps programming staff, associate Peace Corps director Ms. Jane Zimmerman and program and training assistant Mr. Ahsan Haque, Mr. Larson worked full time as a staff member at the PTI.
Patia PTI enrolled 100 to 170 trainees annually for an intensive one-year program from July to June designed to impart subject knowledge and teaching techniques to primary school teachers from Banderban zila (division) and the southern half of Chittagong zila. This objective was accomplished through self-learning manuals, classroom instruction, demonstration class observations, practice teaching, and national final competency exams. The PTI class schedule called for eight classes each day from Saturday to Wednesday and four classes on Thursday. Classroom size ranged from 50 to 160 trainees. Challenges faced by the PTI included high student to instructor ratios, general apathy, endemic cheating, and almost guaranteed completion certificates.
During his service, Mr. Larson introduced methods of objective measurement and accountability for both the trainees and instructors performance. He created lesson plans for each class, assigned and graded homework assignments for trainees, and developed a grading system to track the progress of trainees in their work. He also modeled Western professionalism by following the approved class schedule, beginning and ending his classes on time, and fulfilling other required, but often neglected, duties such as weekly demonstration lessons in the experimental primary school at the PTI. Mr. Larson? scheduled classes included twelve trainee classes and two classes in the experimental school each week. His duties included teaching the NAPE-approved English curriculum, teaching English and language teaching techniques beyond the curriculum that could be used in the trainees primary schools, teaching demonstration lessons in the experimental primary school, critiquing trainees practice teaching efforts, and proctoring the national examinations.
In addition to his primary assignment at the PTI, Mr. Larson also engaged in secondary activities at the PTI and in the surrounding community. At the PTI, he created spoken English lessons for his fellow instructors which he held three times per week during the lunch break. More than 50 per cent of the teachers and instructors at the PTI voluntarily enrolled for these classes. Mr. Larson also organized and taught optional spoken English classes for the trainees in three ability levels. About 20 per cent of the PTI trainees consistently attended these extracurricular classes. He also organized and administered a practice TOEFL examination to help his trainees gauge their true English ability and measure the progress they would make during their time at the PTI.
Outside of the PTI, Mr. Larson taught English at the Bangladesh Marine Academy to 120 cadets. The Academy provides an internationally accredited two-year education to young men aspiring to join the merchant marines. He taught four classes each Thursday with an average of 30 cadets per class. The English level was advanced and the lessons focused on conversational English, pronunciation, and colloquialisms.
Besides teaching English, Mr. Larson promoted gender equality and environmental sensitivity in the classroom and by example. His lessons included stories or discussions that challenged traditional gender stereotypes and facilitated critical discussion between and among genders. He encouraged and supported women and men who thought outside of the traditional gender restrictions but were repressed by their society. Playing football (soccer), planting rice, cooking, and cleaning were all activities that are generally restricted to one gender in Bangladesh which Mr. Larson encouraged both genders to do. He also presented environmental problems in his lessons and challenged students to work together in identifying appropriate solutions as a means of practicing English. Mr. Larson also attempted to model environmentally responsible solutions by avoiding the use of plastic bags when shopping, which causes a major waste problem in Bangladesh. By bringing a cloth bag and reusable plastic containers, many people in his community noticed and talked about his practices.
Through these efforts, Mr. Larson was not only accepted as a member of the community and fellow instructor at the PTI, he also acted as a positive role model to those with whom he worked. When he was leaving the PTI for the last time, the superintendent expressed his desire to have Mr. Larson return to complete his work. Unfortunately, that request cannot be fulfilled at this time.
Pursuant to Section 5(f) of the Peace Corps Act, 22 USC 2504(f), as amended, any former Volunteer employed by the United States Government following his/her Peace Corps Volunteer Service is entitled to have any period of satisfactory Peace Corps service credited for purposes of retirement, seniority, reduction in force, leave, and other privileges based on length of government service. That service shall not be credited toward completion of the probationary or trial period of any service requirement for career appointment.