Society & Culture

UGA education prof, alumni work with schools for Tibetan refugees in India

Athens, Ga. – A University of Georgia gifted education professor has joined two UGA alumni and faculty from several other U.S. universities to improve the teaching practices and evaluation system in schools for Tibetan refugee children in India.

Bonnie Cramond, a professor in the College of Education’s department of educational psychology and instructional technology, was asked to work with the Tibetan Children’s Villages Schools by UGA graduates Charles Martin and Ted Anders.

Martin (Ph.D. ’82), director of the Center for Program Evaluation and Development at Georgia College and State University, originally contracted with Anders (Ph.D. ’82), a professor of education at Newman University in Wichita, Kan., to increase the global visibility of the center.

Anders began conversations with Madame Jetsun Pema, the Dalai Lama’s sister and then-president of TCV, about the schools’ needs at a 2006 conference of Nobel laureates he was facilitating. Pema and Anders remained in contact regarding the schools for nearly three years before Martin and Anders met with current TCV president Tsewang Yeshi, and other TCV leaders to develop a plan. During a private audience with Martin and Anders, the Dalai Lama endorsed the plan, which led to a multi-year commitment from Georgia College, Newman University, and UGA to work with TCV schools.

Cramond was invited to join the project to improve the gifted education program and to assist all of the feeder schools in implementing a selection procedure that meets the needs of their system.

“I love teaching children, and I love working with teachers,” said Cramond, who is head of UGA’s gifted education program and former director of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development. “The children and faculty at TCV are so eager to learn and feel they have a mission. It is exciting to work with them. They don’t have an administration that is forcing them to do something. We are working together toward a shared vision.”

Cramond has agreed to the five-year commitment to work with the TCV School for Gifted Children in Selakui to redesign the school’s selection process and add some programs that will help the school meet the Dalai Lama’s goal of producing top professionals who will serve as ambassadors of peace and compassion throughout India and the world.

“The students and faculty are very aware that they are exiles from their land, and they feel a strong mission to succeed, to retain their cultural heritage, and to embody the Dalai Lama’s vision of them as ambassadors of world peace,” said Cramond, who made an initial 10-day visit to India in March.

During her visit, Cramond observed classes and met with individual faculty members and administrators to learn about their culture and schooling, as well as what they wanted to achieve.She also introduced the faculty to three curriculum innovations that she thought would fit well with what she had learned about the program and their goals.

One of the programs Cramond proposed was the International Future Problem Solving Program, which was developed by the late UGA Alumni Foundation Distinguished Professor Emeritus E. Paul Torrance in 1974. Torrance was an internationally recognized pioneer in research on the identification and development of creative potential.

Cramond also suggested using the organization and ideas of the DaVinci Academy in Hall County (Ga.) developed by Hall County Rigor Specialist and UGA alumna Sally Krisel (Ed.D. ’00) and school superintendent Will Schofield to provide a program of choice that uses student interest in the arts and sciences as the foundation for advanced learning in all content areas.

“I think it is meaningful that alumni from UGA are having such a positive impact on the schools in the Tibetan Children’s Villages,” said Cramond.”All of us involved have been touched by Paul Torrance in various ways.Charlie, Ted, Sally, and I were all students of his at one time.He marked us with an understanding of the importance and possibilities of teaching creativity as well as a sense of mission to share this knowledge.”

Cramond will work with the TCV faculty over the next few months and plans to return to India in October with the resources necessary to carry out the plan.

Most of the funding for the TCV Schools program has been provided by the Georgia College and State University Center for Program Evaluation. Additional funding and technical assistance is being provided by the University System of Georgia’s Digital Innovation Group.