April 14, 2014

Building Skills While Living Abroad

“I loved the interdisciplinary way they set things up, because it enabled me to connect my academic work to policy and practice.”

by Lakshmi Gandhi

Young woman standing in front of grand, white building.
Sarah Horns, GED’11, pictured at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, is an education advisor at the Abu Dhabi Education Council.

Young woman standing next to chart.
Khaing Zah Lynn, GED’12, advises on training and vocational education for the German International Development Cooperation in Yangon, Myanmar.

The faculty of Penn GSE’s International Educational Development Program (IEDP) strive to match students with internships that will put their strengths to best use. Some students, such as Sarah Horns, GED’11, develop curricula for their organizations. As an intern for UNICEF in Kampala, Uganda, in the summer of 2011, Horns worked with a program that assisted children diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. “They had a problem with kids who weren’t taking their medications,”explains Horns, a former teacher who was drawn to the internship because it combined public health with educational issues. “So I did informal interviews with them and designed a life skills curriculum to help reduce the problems experienced by the HIV-positive adolescents.”

Horns now applies similar skills as an education advisor at the Abu Dhabi Education Council, where she works with a cluster of schools to help teachers and develop resources, focusing on long-term strategies rather than short-term fixes.

“In my job, it would be easy to walk into a school and make changes to procedures, write school policy, or create action plans for a department all on my own,” Horns explains. “But when I leave that school, it is likely that these changes will be reversed or forgotten. What I have been hired to do is to build the capacity of the teachers and administrators in a group of schools. This is not an easy process and takes time.”

Horns credits the IEDP with giving her the right combination of hands-on and theoretical experience for this challenging work. “I loved the interdisciplinary way they set things up, because it enabled me to connect my academic work to policy and practice,” she says.

She also notes the ease with which the program faculty were able to place students at some of the most reputable organizations around the globe. “Without the IEDP, I don’t think I would have been able to get into UNICEF,” she says.

Other students focus their internships on research and assessment. Khaing Zah Lynn, GED’12, interned with UNESCO Bangkok during her course of study. In addition to reviewing UNESCO’s former policies on education in the Asia-Pacific region and recommending effective programs and projects for the future, Lynn worked on several non-formal education programs meant to help students who have dropped out of school return to the mainstream school system.

While at UNESCO, Lynn also had the opportunity to assist with organizing and preparing the Asia-Pacific Annual Review meeting, a gathering convened by the Japanese government to review all state-funded Asia-Pacific projects.

A citizen of Myanmar, Lynn accepted a position in Yangon, Myanmar, with the German International Development Cooperation (GIZ) after receiving her master’s degree and working for UNICEF in Myanmar. GIZ supports the German government’s goals for sustainable development around the world. Lynn applies her research and assessment skills as an advisor for technical and vocational education and training development, reviewing current training methods and supporting the creation of an Industrial Teacher Training Centre. “I have traveled across the country, observing teaching workshops and interviewing teachers on their backgrounds and skills to be updated for their teaching effectiveness,” she says.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Penn GSE Magazine.