International scholars share, expand knowledge with KSU

Dan Richardson

Kent State is hosting scholars throughout the year from developing countries across the world to further expand expertise in their subject areas, enhance their teaching skills and increase their knowledge about the United States.

The International Leaders in Education Program, now in its fourth year of operation, was created to improve the quality of primary and secondary education throughout the world by introducing scholars from developing countries to deserving universities.

Kent State has been selected for the program all four years, this year hosting 16 of the 52 international scholars involved in the program. Clemson University, the University of Minnesota, Northern Kentucky University, and the University of Alabama-Huntsville were also chosen as part of the program.

“The program helps with Kent State’s plan to internationalize the university,” said Jennifer Myers, Kent State’s International Leaders in Education Program co-director. The branch is a position the university had to apply for and must compete with other schools each year in order to be a participant, she said.

The program also fits Provost Robert Frank’s vision to have all Kent State students be a part of an international experience while at the university.

As part of ILEP, the scholars are required to take two graduate level courses, meet with faculty advisors once a week, and intern twice a week in northeast Ohio middle and high schools.

“Between my internship, working with the teachers, and going from class to class, I have picked up new methodologies,” said Imam Taufik Hidayat, an English teacher from Indonesia.

The opportunity for these scholars to develop their teaching skills and share their experiences gives them the opportunity to be educational leaders who can contribute to the economic and social development of their home countries, according to the International Research and Exchanges Board, which runs ILEP.

“Few people in Brazil know about technology,” said Katia Melchiades, an English and Portuguese teacher from Brazil participating in the program. She said she has learned much about new technologies during her stay in the United States, and she hopes to put this knowledge to use when she returns to Brazil.

“I want to teach my students, and make them teach their parents,” she said.

The frequent exposure to technology has helped Melchiades and other scholars open up to new ideas in their teaching methodologies. For some, including Mamatha Shamanna Megaravalli, a math teacher from India, the benefit of this exposure has been of more personal gain, as she has grown more familiar with computers and the application of graphing calculators. She said her lack of exposure was because of India’s cultural beliefs in education, which don’t allow calculators in classrooms until 10th grade.

“We encourage students to use their minds for every application, from addition to subtraction, but also for finding square roots and such,” Megaravalli said.

Through the scholar’s internships and studies, Ohio’s educational system has stood out among what the scholars had previously been used to.

“The amount of time teachers get to spend with students is inspiring,” Melchiades said. From her experience, she has found Brazilian classrooms from middle school to high school typically have 35 to 40 students to a room. For Hidayat, the voice of the students is what he would most like to take with him.

“It’s very difficult to make my students talk, whether it is to ask a question or have a say,” Hidayat said.

He said it is part of his culture for students to listen for information instead of being active in it. Through his experience with Kent State, Hidayat hoped he can work to change this.

“I want to learn how to make them talk and build their critical thinking,” Hidayat said. “I’m not going to just spoon the knowledge to them, I want to make them think.”

Contact education, health and human services reporter Dan

Richardson at [email protected].