A global thread for the Groton School flag: that’s how Nishad Das sees global education integrating itself into Groton’s curriculum and program. Nishad was appointed Director of Global Education shortly after the School’s first director, Adrienne Miller, left Groton to accept a head of school position. Over the past 12 months, Nishad has been working with faculty, current and past parents, students, and alumni to begin to get a handle on the kind of global education that best suits Groton School.
Though Groton’s global reach has expanded during the past few years with successive orchestral, choir, and service trips abroad, there was minimal coordination among the groups and little sense of how these trips connect to the School’s overall program. In the past three years, as the Groton-sponsored trips increased both in number of trips per year and in the number of students and faculty involved, it became increasingly apparent that Groton needed to develop a cohesive and cogent approach to global learning.
Nishad’s charge was to determine, with input from many stakeholders, what the scope and sequence of the global education program should look like at Groton. Nothing was to be left off the table. He invited trip leaders and other interested members of the faculty to join a committee and share their concerns and ideas. From the outset there were numerous hurdles, including trip leadership, continuity, cost, open access, and curriculum integration.
Everyone on the committee pointed to the high costs of the various programs. Whether run by an outside group like World Leadership School or internally by Groton faculty, the costs of the trips are steep. Though the School is generous in providing financial aid to many of the students, and faculty members have been able to tap into professional development grants, many participants face a funding shortfall. Program leaders often reach out to parents to request financial aid funding for a musical or athletic trip for which group members are already part of an identified “team.” The service trips have a more difficult time finding the additional resources needed because the participants may have little in common, but for Groton and the desire to take part in an overseas service trip. The challenges of funding are substantial, for the issue is as much equity as cost.
There is, in effect, a barbell of participation, with students whose families can afford the trips with relative ease coupled with students who receive financial aid and thus qualify for additional support. Students who don’t receive financial aid are often quite aware of their family’s finances and may not pursue a trip due to myriad financial concerns. These nuances are not lost on the committee, but solutions are tied to the question of overall School support for the programs and their value to our community, our mission, and to the students who take part.
The committee has identified the many ways in which global learning can be incorporated into the School’s academic program to ensure that it becomes part of the School’s ethos. One of the programs has designed a curriculum required of students both prior to and following the trip, but that is not expected for all the travel groups.
Currently, all global service learning trips are isolated to the period of travel. It is as if students parachute into the host community then leave. Pre-trip preparation is needed to educate our students about the cultural, economic, and social conditions of our hosts. We must think about ethical service and understand the consequences of bringing methods and ideas from modern economies into traditional ones. A pre-trip program, followed by a prescribed curriculum during the trip and a post-trip program, would help achieve this. Linking these post- and pre-trip programs to our current curriculum will be one of the tasks of the committee.
The hard work of this committee and Nishad as the Director of Global Education has just begun. The group is also looking for additional resources and connections. Parents, past parents, and alumni who have experience working with non-governmental agencies or service programs are invited to contact Nishad and share with him opportunities or observations that will help Groton to develop a strong, meaningful, and dynamic global education program.