Inside-Out Learning, Inc. was founded by Marilynn Clark in 2007. Marilynn had traveled to Kenya during 2001 for humanitarian work visiting several schools and distributing school supplies. While the intent was sincere, she realized the short term gain would not bring about any significant change. Following several trips to Africa and a diligent search for a root cause of poverty, it was noted that natural resources were abundant and the general population was educated. But the unemployment rate was alarming and in some areas as much as 65% of the population not employed. The lack of employment was causing havoc with a stable family and society.
So a closer look at the rote/memorization and test focus education was studied. This type of teaching has been called a colonial method of education and is prevalent in developing countries. It is primarily teacher centered and lecture. When students do get to talk, they repeat what the teacher has said or repeat sentences from the textbook. There is a lack of original thought and inquiry from the students. It is passive learning. The vast majority of questions from the teacher do not require higher level thinking skills. The lack of creative interactive discussion in a safe learning environment discourages collaboration and innovation. Critical and creative thinking are skills that can be taught and used to enable students to identify problems, seek out and evaluate relevant information and resources, and design and carry out plans for solving problems.
Through a U.S. and African collaboration a methodology was developed to implement critical/creative thinking skills and character strengths into the existing curriculum. Being educated is vital to overcoming poverty, but we must also ensure that we are educating learners to be able to apply what they are learning to go forth and earn a living, be self-reliant, productive moral citizens and problem solvers.
Over the last few years more children, especially girls, are attending school in developing countries. However, getting an education in these countries does not guarantee a young person will be able to find employment and solve the problems they face upon graduation. There are countless learners with diplomas and college degrees in these countries that cannot find a livelihood to sustain themselves. They continue to look to outside sources to solve their problems.
The reason? Students in these countries are leaving school without the basic learning skills to escape poverty and create opportunities for themselves in the marketplace. Building schools or even increased education does not alone result in a decline in poverty unless a shift occurs in how they apply their learning.
This is why IOL is teaming up with other NGO’s that have built schools. IOL offers an alternative to the traditional learning methods that keep students trapped in a poverty mindset. IOL identifies existing schools and partners with them to create improved learning environments that equip young people with the skills that will make them assets for any work environment in the 21st Century. Using a student-centered, interactive approach to learning IOL’s methodology cultivates creative/critical thinking, inquiry, teamwork, empowers individual strengths, character education and an entrepreneurial approach to problems. Learners’ perception of themselves and belief that they are not victims and have within themselves the power to change their circumstances breaks down the barriers of poverty.
Inside-Out Learning is based on the premise that we are each endowed with all we need to survive and thrive in this world. When we seek and find the God-given potential within us, we will embrace moral values and gain the ability to solve problems. We will be inspired to develop creativity, critical thinking skills, and to become leaders and productive citizens. Both the teacher and the student are required to take responsibility for learning and for living correct principles.
When human potential is smothered, and hope is lost, a begging hand is extended and a false security is propagated. The most devastating poverty is poverty of the mind. Therefore, the change agent must begin while the young mind is developing and formulating processes of intelligence and benevolence. Marilynn Clark