Trotting the globe for education

Medjy Pierre-Louis’ parents didn’t receive the best education in Haiti, she says, but it provided enough opportunity for them to move to South Florida, eventually buy a home and start a family.

Medjy Pierre-Louis worked with students in Kingston, Jamaica.

Medjy Pierre-Louis visited with this group of students in Jamaica who had access to more technology than students in Haiti. She was studying how the education systems of developing nations prepares students for success in the 21st century.

“Education is everything,” Pierre-Louis recalls her father telling her from a young age.

“You can go much further than me. Imagine how much further you can make it with everything.”

Now 19, Pierre-Louis is testing the limits of how far around the world education can take her. She recently returned from research trips to Haiti and Jamaica where she worked to determine how developing countries were preparing their future generations for the 21st century.

“There is a big issue of brain drain in both countries,” Pierre-Louis says. “Resources are scarce and domestic industries are limited, which forces students to leave their countries in search of better opportunities. Each country has social constructs such as class and gender roles, which make climbing the social mobility ladder through education even more difficult.”

To overcome these challenges, Pierre-Louis sought to leverage a curriculum for middle and high school students designed by the Chicago Grassroots Curriculum Taskforce that would improve a child’s ability to develop critical thinking and leadership skills, as well as being able to use new or emerging technologies through a civic education model.

It differed greatly from how students in Haiti are taught. Pierre-Louis says a government official described Haiti’s education system as being stuck in the 19th century, that lessons there focus too much on rote memorization.

“In Haiti, most students never had the experience of working with computers, particularly kids in the rural part of the country,” she says. “Their eagerness to learn propelled them to succeed. They figured it out.“

Along the way, Pierre-Louis received support from FIU’s McNair grant program, an FIU Global Learning fellowship, and a Purdue University research grant.

She also consulted with College of Education assistant professors Meg Gardinier and Sarah Mathews.

“From the very beginning she set her sights really high as far as the contributions she wants to make to society,” says Gardinier, who teaches in the college’s International and Intercultural Education MS program. “In that way she’s one of those one in a million people who are inspiring.”

Gardinier worked with Pierre-Louis to sharpen her focus on research methodology and to prepare her for difficulties that might present themselves while working in the field.

She also encouraged Pierre-Louis to present the initial findings of the research trip to Haiti this February at a conference at the University of Central Florida and they’re working on a paper they hope to present at the American Educational Research Association’s annual conference in 2016.

Pierre-Louis still hasn’t quenched her thirst for knowledge. For most of August, she will intern with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in the West African nation of Burkina-Faso, through FIU’s West Africa Water Supply, Sanitation Hygiene Program (WA-WASH), where the agency is developing water and sanitation systems.

She’ll then travel to China for a semester abroad studying Mandarin at the Beijing Language and Culture University where she also hopes to teach English in schools there. After earning her undergraduate degree in international relations and political science with social science education, Pierre-Louis will travel back to Haiti to continue her research and apply for graduate school.

Scroll through down for a peek at Pierre-Louis’s journey around the world. We’ll keep it updated as she posts photos from Burkina-Faso and China.

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