Joe Ricketts, founder, benefactor, and CEO of Opportunity Education along with Jim Ricketts, who serves as President of the organization, were recently honored by Louisiana College as the first time two brothers have been selected in the same year for their highest award, the Trustees’ Distinguished Service Award.
The award, first presented in 1990, is based on achievement, not on future potential, and Joe Ricketts’s vision of using education as the ladder to ascend out of poverty has a proven success record.
The journey started in 2005 with one school. Opportunity Education now provides support to over 1,200 schools, 5,000 teachers and half a million students located in 11 developing countries in Africa and Asia. The program provides English medium DVD based lessons along with televisions and DVD players. The lessons include comprehensive teacher’s guides with a wide variety of supplemental exercises to reinforce concepts of each lesson; and assessment to check learning. Classroom tools, books, posters and other items used in the lessons and supplemental exercises are also supplied. The focus on English in the delivery materials helps build English proficiency over the years, equipping students to pursue higher education opportunities requiring English.
Dr. Randy Esters, Dean of Education and his team from Louisiana College, with the support of Dr. Joe Aguillard, LA College President, have been involved with Opportunity Education for many years. They have held nine seminars hosting several thousand teachers in East and West Africa. This is beneficial in that elementary teachers in Africa are not required to have a teaching degree to be in the classroom. They aren’t even required to have a college degree or even any college so providing professional development for teachers helps not just them but in the end, the kids.
How does one know the program is working? Schools using the Opportunity Education Program are reporting lower absenteeism and higher enrollment. Girls are staying in school longer, teachers are excited to come to work, and students are capturing seats at the next level.