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Bentley University Students Use Skype to Teach English to Students in Afghanistan
Bentley University students are using technology to help teach English to students in Afghanistan, and to break down cultural barriers. Founded by Robert E. McNulty, director of programs at the Center for Business Ethics at Bentley, the one-on-one tutoring program offers language lessons via the web-based live-video service Skype. The initiative was organized under the Pax Populi program of Applied Ethics, Inc., a nonprofit organization founded by McNulty, whose work focuses on advancing peace in Afghanistan through people-to-people, institution-to-institution, and community-to-community initiatives.
"English is the language of economic development and international affairs, and jobs that connect Afghans with the world beyond their borders require high proficiency," says McNulty. "Though some schools in Afghanistan do teach English, many students leave high school with few English language skills and no opportunity to improve."
McNulty initially proposed the program to the director of an Afghan school [whose name is undisclosed for security reasons]. Once accepted, he worked with Jeff Jorge, a skilled English as a Second Language instructor based in Seoul, Korea, to create guidelines for the tutoring curriculum and methods. An Afghan student handled the coordination from Kabul, and McNulty worked through the Bentley Service-Learning Center to recruit tutors, typically matched with students by gender in accordance with Afghan social norms. The program launched in September 2010.
Among the early participants was Bentley senior Surajdai Lokenath, a native of the Republic of Guyana and a Boston resident.
"At first we were both nervous, because of the cultural gap," she says of interacting with her Afghan counterpart. "But then we got to know each other and found we had a lot in common. I talked to her roommates, too. Her English got so much better . . . I just heard that she passed her TOEFL [Test of English as a Foreign Language]."
Similarly, the Afghan students have been extremely enthusiastic about the program, both for the opportunities to advance their English language skills as well as to have an opportunity to develop friendly relations with American students.
"What I find especially exciting about this program, is that both Afghans and Americans learn so much about each other's cultures," McNulty says. "Real understanding and friendships have developed through this program."
The tutoring program was relocated from the original school to another location following potential Taliban attack on the school for educating girls.
"We are, much more than we realize, truly brothers and sisters around the world, in a deep moral and spiritual sense," McNulty notes. "The project aimed to find a way in which ordinary people here in the United States can reach out to ordinary people overseas, especially where there are conflicts."
McNulty will present along with two-time Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times journalist, David Rohde, at the program, “Afghanistan: Surviving the Taliban and Finding a New Way Forward,” on April 30 at 7:00 p.m. at Abbot Hall in Marblehead, Mass. McNulty will discuss the work that led him to travel to Afghanistan in 2009 and propose steps to contribute to the development of a positive peace out of America’s longest war.
About the Center for Business Ethics (CBE) at Bentley University
CBE is a nonprofit education, research and thought-leadership organization, focused on business ethics and corporate responsibility. Based at Bentley University in Waltham, Mass., it is one of a number of innovative campus-based centers and initiatives that comprise the Bentley Alliance for Ethics and Social Responsibility. Founded in 1976 by W. Michael Hoffman, PhD, (who remains its Executive Director), CBE is credited with being a major influence in the development and success of the business ethics movement, both in the United States and around the world.
About Applied Ethics, Inc.
Applied Ethics, Inc. was established in July 2007 as a nonprofit organization based in Massachusetts with the mission of seeking ethical solutions to significant social issues through projects, education, counseling, and advocacy. The organization is a diversified nonprofit dedicated to the common good and carries out its mission through programs that focus on particular ethical domains.
About Pax Populi
Pax Populi is the people-to-people peacemaking program of the nonprofit organization Applied Ethics, Inc. Pax Populi seeks to advance peace through helpful people-to-people, community-to-community, and institution-to-institution cooperative endeavors. It is founded on the simple idea that for peace to flourish, we need to recognize in each other our shared humanity and dignity as brothers and sisters in the human family, and from a place of fellowship and goodwill seek mutually beneficial solutions to our problems. Rather than leaving peacemaking to politicians, Pax Populi looks to ordinary people - educators, businesspeople, people of faith, artists, scientists, and people of goodwill everywhere - to heed the call help advance peace.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.