“The teaching of mathematics and science is one of the most needed contributions Peace Corps Volunteers can make to the developing nations. The future of these nations hinges directly on their ability to speed technological and industrial development.”
– “Math and Science Teachers in the Peace Corps” pamphlet, circa 1967
Since the mid-1960s, the Peace Corps has sent volunteers across the globe to assist in developing educational initiatives in other countries. Two collections in our archive highlight the work done in the field of science education. Stephen Bossi served in India from 1966-1968 and Duane Hudson served in Nigeria from 1963 to 1965.
In preparation for their teaching experiences abroad, Peace Corps Trainees go through a rigorous training process. Peace Corps volunteer Duane Hudson’s training materials contain a daily schedule that has future Peace Corps volunteers take classes all day interrupted only by small breaks for meals and coffee. When teaching math during their service, Peace Corps volunteers must take into consideration cultural and societal differences in how different countries teach and conceptualize math. In 1960s Nigeria, for example, students used a “raised dot,” instead of a decimal point in the center between the two digits. Also, instead of the a “billion,” Nigerians referred to the number as a “thousand million.”
Although there are differences between cultures, there are also many universal aspects of how math and science are taught. Steve Bossi served in India and his handbook recommends teachers facilitate science fairs, staple among many American classrooms. Peace Corps volunteers were instructed how to make rudimentary microscopes for their students to use, an item many American school children are familiar with today. Such cross-cultural education through Peace Corps service is especially useful today in an increasingly global community.