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GSE Professor Takes Technical Expertise to Ghana


GSE Professor Takes Technical Expertise to Ghana

While in Ghana, Abigail Harris was introduced to Fordham graduate the Very Rev. Fr. Seth Osei Agyemang (Fordham MA, ’90, PH.D., ’95) , the secretary general of the National Catholic Secretariat in Ghana, who works to improve Catholic education and health care in the country.
Abigail Harris, Ph.D., associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Fordham, spent three weeks this summer in Ghana editing an educational handbook that will eventually be distributed to all the primary school teachers in the country. The 200-page handbook is a guide to teaching English with an emphasis on writing.

“English is the official language in Ghana, and national policy states that children should learn it quickly,” said Harris. “The problem is that there are dozens of local languages that children learn first.”

The handbook reflects the unique challenges faced by teachers in rural areas, where schools may lack electricity and where there is sometimes no written form of the local language. Teachers of grades one through six will receive instruction on everything from teaching students the best posture for writing to teaching them to write in English as they are simultaneously learning to speak the language.

Harris was invited to work on the handbook based on her previous work in Ghana. Between 1993 and 1997, she worked on a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development to improve the quality of primary education. For six weeks each year, Harris worked with local teams of teacher trainers, administrators and other education officials collecting data in schools, building a longitudinal database and developing a program to guide policy.

She has gone on to lead similar projects in Malawi and Honduras.

“My role in these countries is to provide technical leadership around assessment and research,” said Harris. “Outcome assessment is becoming increasingly important and there is a need for instruments to measure achievement that reflects the curriculum and changes in learning.”

— Suzanne Stevens

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