Penn GSE helps rebuild Haiti’s education system

 December 7, 2010 - Nearly one year after a devastating earthquake hit the island nation of Haiti, Sharon Ravitch is helping the country to rebuild its education system from the ground up.

Sharon Ravitch, a senior lecturer at Penn GSE and a widely recognized expert in international applied development research, has been named senior international advisor to the Haitian Ministry of Education for its Educational Reconstruction Plan.

Creutzer Mathurin, a senior leader in the Haitian Ministry of Education, was on campus recently to formalize an agreement for Ravitch’s and Penn GSE’s role in the process of rebuilding the nation’s educational infrastructure. Dr. Mathurin, who occupies a key role in Haiti's efforts to reestablish the educational system, met with officials and faculty members from across the university and with others in the regional non-profit community.

“My role as an external advisor will be to work very closely with the Haitian Ministry of Education to assess and explore the challenges that existed before the earthquake and evaluate those in relation to the incredible strengths and possibilities that exist within and outside of Haiti,” Ravitch says.

The collaborators will build on the strengths that exist in Haiti and evaluate the country’s educational reconstruction plan, taking into consideration teacher education, leadership development and infrastructure and language issues, as well as concerns about access and accountability. “All of these issues converge in this work and we need to think comprehensively and critically about these multiple, intersecting moving parts so that we’re able to create the greatest set of possibilities for educational improvement, broadly defined,” Ravitch says.

This past summer, Ravitch traveled to Port-au-Prince with her Applied Research Team, where she began talks with Mathurin about an educational redevelopment project. While there, the team conducted a needs-assessment focused on education, and toured educational facilities in the region, including make-shift schoolhouses and remote islands without schools.

“We will look at what are the vibrant junctures between the kinds of skill sets and resources that we have here at Penn GSE, and also at other schools across the University... [and] other universities around the globe, other community partnerships and organizations that we can align with to create a hearty international network to assist in the development of resources on the ground in Haiti, with a profound respect for the many resources and kinds of expertise that already exist there,” Ravitch says.

“The education partnership that is taking shape with the leadership of Dr. Mathurin and Dr. Ravitch is exciting,” said Penn GSE Dean Andy Porter. “Our school has been working in international education development for years, and this work is definitely in line with University strategic priorities. It’s good to know that we’ll be able to have a role in Haiti’s recovery.”

Two of the team members, Ralph Bouquet and Wagner Marseille, were born in Haiti. Bouquet, a student in GSE's Teach for America Urban Teacher Master’s Program, teaches at Frankford High School in Philadelphia. Marseille, a graduate of GSE's Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership, is an assistant principal in Lower Merion, Pa. Another team member, Laura Colket, is a doctoral candidate in GSE's Educational Leadership program.

Team members have shared their accomplishments, personal reflections and more through their travel blog at

Photo: David Land, Hope for Haiti board member; Dr. Sharon Ravitch, Penn GSE senior lecturer and senior international advisor to the Haitian Ministry of Education for its Educational Reconstruction Plan; Dr. Creutzer Mathurin, a senior leader in the Haitian Ministry of Education; and Penn GSE graduate student Laura Colket.

Media contact: Jill DiSanto-Haines at 215-898-4820 or