Tag Archives: education

Tanda Extendida and the Dominican Republic

Tiffany Hynek completed her post-practicum reflection on her experience in the Dominican Republic and passionately describes the adverse situation that the private school system is facing there.

Tanda Extendida, the policy changes affecting the public school system in the Dominican Republic, have created a huge threat for the K-12 Christian private schools to which Edify and its microfinance partners, Esperanza and Aspire, provide loans. I was assigned to a team of University of San Diego graduate business students who were hired by Edify and its partners to travel to the Dominican Republic to help find solutions for these private schools. The schools were seeing high loss rates in their retention of students and teachers who were believed to be moving to public schools, due to the apparent rise in public school education levels and higher teacher salaries. The issue became apparent as we met with Edify, Esperanza and Aspire staff who shared their high levels of apprehension with us. They were concerned that with tuition beginning to leave the private schools, it would be increasingly more difficult for their clients to make loan payments and the availability of faith-based private education would decrease.

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Lunch meeting with Esperanza’s CEO

After hearing about the issues concerning our clients, we headed out into the field to visit thirteen private schools and hear the concerns of the principals and directors of these schools. These individuals largely echoed the concerns voiced by our client’s staff members: students were rapidly withdrawing from the private schools in order to access free education at the public schools, teachers were leaving in order to gain higher paying jobs at the public schools, and loan payments were going to be harder to make with less tuition coming into the private schools.

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Visiting K-12 Private Christian Schools

At this point, our team decided it was important for us to meet with the private school parents to find out their opinions on education, as they were the major decision makers in this situation. We were able to meet with a number of parents who shared their concerns about safety, nutrition, and discipline. Many of the parents had attended public schools as children themselves, but were concerned with the level of safety in the public schools where there were often 50 to 60 children for each teacher to both watch and educate. They were also concerned that the teacher to student ratio in the public schools made it impossible for teachers to discipline their students. However, due to the Tanda Extendida regulations, the public schools were now offering free breakfast and lunch programs for the children, which was very enticing for many of the parents whom we were able to speak with.

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Fernando Silva interviewing private school parents

At this point, our team recognized the importance of the situation and we needed a solution. We realized that the public schools had a huge benefit that the private schools were missing out on: economies of scale. For example, the public schools were able to purchase cheap meals from suppliers for their students because they were purchasing thousands of meals per day. However, the private schools would only be able to purchase a couple hundred meals per day, therefore losing out on bulk discounts. We realized that in order to compete with the government supported public school system, the private schools needed to work together to form a trade association.

Through this trade organization, they could work together to create benefits of economies of scale, learn from each other’s best practices, and create large scale marketing campaigns. We were able to contact food suppliers who were interested in working with a trade organization of private schools to supply affordable meals to a number of private schools. At this point, we were able to develop the beginnings of a food program for interested schools. This would not only help them remain competitive in the new market conditions, but it would also help to provide the much needed nutrition to their children. We presented our idea of the trade association and accompanying programs to CEOs and staff members of Edify, Esperanza, and Aspire, who loved the idea and wanted to move forward with the creation of the trade association as soon as possible. Our team is looking forward to also presenting our findings and recommendations to the CEO of Edify, and longtime supporter of USD, Chris Crane.

To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.

Can Greek Youth Overcome Generations of Failed Social Norms and Save Their Economy?

Joe Bird visited both Germany and Greece as part of his study abroad experience and chose to focus on the Greek crisis, including its implications for future generations of Greek youth.

Although both located in Europe, my visit to Germany and Greece this summer unearthed a stark contrast between these two respective countries. My European adventure began in Munich, Germany where my classmates and I experienced firsthand the efficiency and productivity the Germans are known for. From its omnipresent public transit to its factory floors, we got to see why Germany is experiencing both economic and social growth. Germans are highly educated and have invested heavily into infrastructure and health services. We toured the BMW factory where luxury vehicles are created to the exact specifications of a demanding and loyal global customer base, and this deep understanding of both global business and value creation was put on display. image008

The picture in Greece is quite different from Germany. Athens is a city rich in history and culture, but contains little else. The Greek economic crisis is well known, and highly visible once you leave the tourist areas near the Acropolis. The Greeks’ long-held attitudes toward job security, guaranteed pensions, and state benefits are no longer sustainable in practice. Restauranteurs actively compete on the street for patrons, each making every effort to lure you into his establishment. Proprietors of stores do the same. At one restaurant, the host gave our dining group the first round of drinks on the house as an enticement. (It worked!) However, all this demonstrates that business is not thriving in Greece.

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While the attitude of many that the state owes them a living is prevalent, we saw some incredible and inspiring examples of entrepreneurs in Greece who are working hard to improve things for themselves and their country. We met Niki Koutisanas, a co-founder of APIVITA cosmetics, whose company develops natural products for the skin and hair. The company is innovative in its approach to business and society by thinking of itself as a living organism—like the bees for which it’s named—continuously creating value through its industriousness. With companies like APIVITA growing and thriving in Greece, there is hope.

But ultimately, change will need to come from the Greek youth. They need to buck the old way of thinking that has led to this crisis. Greece will need to liberalize its education system, a problem outlined by the Dean of the ALBA Graduate Business School, Nickolaos Travlos, during his presentation to our group. Greece is an economy dominated by small and mid-sized businesses, many of which are unable to find the skilled labor they require, which hurts efficiency and growth.

It occurred to me that Greece could benefit from an organization that is devoted to the direct placement of young workers who possess the skills needed by these companies. Employment agencies exist in Greece to service specialized professions, much like in the rest of the developed world; however, my concept is to partner with companies, learn their specific needs, provide training specific to roles, and place applicants in apprenticeships, or internships, for more comprehensive on-the-job training that will lead to permanent employment. It would help to bridge the gap that currently exists in the higher education system that isn’t preparing Greek youth for employment.image004 It also alleviates the stigma against vocational education held by many Greek youth, because it involves a direct link between training/education and the employer.

No business education could be complete without opportunities such as those provided by the Ahler’s Center, to instill a global and social perspective on each participant. I’ll always be grateful, not just for the chance to see cool, new places, but for the insights I received through seeing businesses operate outside my home country. We live in a global marketplace, and it is imperative to understand all the segments of this expansive market. Studying abroad is the perfect way to develop an understanding of how we are all interconnected, which, in turn, will help you succeed in your future endeavors.

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To check out more student experiences, visit our Study Abroad blog page.

Information on international opportunities can also be found on our website.