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PPE Attracts International Educators to Annual Institute

Thirty-one international educators had a unique opportunity recently to explore education systems in America and reflect on their countries' education systems. As part of the Programs in Professional Education (PPE) institute, Improving Quality in Education Systems: Building Quality Schools, participants spent two weeks tackling tough issues like how to build sustainable schools, design effective systems for monitoring and evaluating student and school performance, and define quality schools.

"This is a unique program because it engages a wide range of educational policymakers and practitioners from around the world with HGSE faculty, educational leaders from Massachusetts, and a number of HGSE students," said Senior Lecturer James Honan, the institute's educational cochair. "It is a powerful learning experience for all involved."

The seminar examined the challenges of building sustainable, quality schools and bringing them to scale to meet the needs of all students. Sessions -- led by HGSE faculty members and other prominent members of the education community including Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, Ed.M.'88, Ed.D.'91, and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson -- were held in a variety of formats such as large-group lectures, small-group discussions, and case studies.

Participants also had opportunities to visit local school systems, allowing them to observe how education is managed and delivered in the United States and how U.S. educators are addressing the demand for quality schools -- the approaches they are taking, what is working best for them, and why.

The institute, now in its 22nd year, has remained immensely popular among international educators. Some nations -- such as Gambia, Ghana, and India -- have sent participants over the course of several years to enable broader change in their countries. "The program participants bring a rich set of experiences and expertise in educational planning and policy development," Honan said.

During the final days of the institute, participant-led group presentations outlined important action points on issues of educational leadership, teacher quality and development, and monitoring and evaluation.

For many participants, the institute prompts them to enact major changes in their education systems. Amicolen Mbaye, a principal education officer in Gambia who came to Cambridge this year with a team of eight people, said that she really sees a difference in performance from her Gambian colleagues who have attended the institute over the past several years. "It is really worth coming," she said, explaining that Gambia is working on implementing a policy program. "There's a big difference between policy and practice - this [institute] broadened my thinking. If we can't close the gap, we will definitely change it."

Marco Rossi, superintendent of Fundacao De Rotarianos de Dao Paulo in Brazil, was attending the institute for the second time. Part of Rossi's job is to travel looking for the best practices in education systems. He says that the institute provides a unique sharing experience that really drives him to keep attending. "People are alike in progress everywhere," he said. "I feel like we are working together and might find a solution."