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Empowering Return Migrants as Inspiring Teachers (ERMIT)

We will prepare return migrants to Mexico to be dynamic, successful English teachers and leaders in Mexican public schools and communities.

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What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)

Approximately 1 million Mexicans and their families (including US-born children) returned to Mexico voluntarily and involuntarily between 2009-2014 (i) and this trend continues. Although adults are typically skilled workers, they often cannot find jobs because they lack diplomas and/or paperwork recognized in Mexico to document their skills. When they are hired, their pay is minimal and they often lack such benefits as social security and retirement. Meanwhile, English is a prerequisite to work in industries from aerospace to pharmaceuticals to tourism. (ii) Mexican professionals who speak English command 28% to 50% higher salary. (iii) Yet, despite sharing a border with the United States, Mexico ranks 57 out of 88 countries in English proficiency - below Ethiopia, Panama, and Guatemala. (iv) In a 2015 study, only 3% of graduating middle school students reached the minimum level of English established by Ministry of Education. (v) Two primary causes of these problems are that English teachers often lack English proficiency, pedagogical preparation or both (v) and Mexico does not have enough trained English teachers to meet the demand (vi). Our win-win solution is to offer an expedited path to prepare return migrants to be dynamic, successful English teachers in Mexico. The Rassias Method (RM) will be used as a base for training, they will be enrolled in a support network with their peers and teaching positions will be guaranteed upon successful completion of the 6-month program. The RM emphasizes oral production, eliminates student inhibitions, and engages students in dynamic activities from day one. Our coalition of mission-driven non-profits, universities and government entities are committed to addressing these two problems with our win-win solution. We have anticipated and are prepared for the obstacles that have prevented previous attempts from succeeding (e.g., ineffective training, teacher certification requirements, and union resistance).

Geography of focus (500 characters)

Our initial focus is in the Mexican states of Baja California, Jalisco, and Guanajuato, all of which are ranked among the 5 states with the most repatriations to Mexico from the US and are states where we have the proper contacts and infrastructure to carry out the pilot. By targeting states with such a large return migrant population, the pilot adds value to the migrants' situation and specifically benefits communities with both tangible and concrete needs to communicate in English.

Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)

Our idea builds a bridge between return migrants from the United States to Mexico and their new Mexican neighbors. The return migrants often have a unique cultural and linguistic skill set and their new Mexican neighbors have an urgent need to learn these skills -- for both their own prosperity as well as for their communities and country’s future prosperity.

What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)

Our idea helps integrate return migrants as leaders and educators in their communities. It provides them with a rewarding profession through which they can contribute their unique skill set to individuals and Mexico’s future prosperity. Often, when they return to their hometown, it is challenging to integrate and become part of the community again. And although return migrants are skillful in different types of activities and/or had their own businesses in the US, they cannot find jobs in Mexico because they do not have academic diplomas or paperwork that show their skills to be hired. Our win-win solution not only trains and certifies migrants as English teachers, it is also a pathway for them to be a change agent and play a positive role in their local schools and communities. This very role holds promise to be highly rewarding on a personal level for the new teachers and will positively contribute to their students’ and Mexico’s future prosperity as a nation.

What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)

Return migrants will have productive and satisfying jobs and will be integrated into leadership roles in their communities and into a support network with their peers, affording them both respect and dignity. At the same time, Mexico’s youth -- in communities with large numbers of return migrants -- will have heightened respect for cultural differences and similarities. Both groups will also share a joy for learning a second language with which to communicate, making them all better-prepared citizens of an interdependent global community. Based on our coalition’s collective track records, we can also expect that Mexico’s youth will excel in English class and in school in general, have higher school completion rates, greater employment possibilities, higher average incomes, more cross-cultural sensitivity and have more fulfilling lives.

What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)

Our inspiration is three-fold. IAPE, now in its 12th year of preparing, supporting and mentoring in-service English teachers, allows us to witness teachers bringing more learning and satisfaction than fear to their classroom. IAPE, USMEX, and the Ministry of Education of Baja California united last year to prepare English teachers to implement Mexico’s first Seal of Biliteracy. Seeing entire school communities rally behind the Seal has inspired us to look at the influx of return migration as an opportunity to change the lives of millions. Finally, Israel Concha, founder of New Comienzos, an NGO that assists migrants' reintegration, has shown us the need for easier integration pathways and has inspired us to consider additional opportunities for this population. While not all are qualified or interested in teaching, many are. Mexico needs them and they deserve a dignified and respectful training and integration process.

Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)

While the dynamics of the community our idea serves are diverse, individuals share many common characteristics. They typically have lived in the United States, have reintegrated to Mexico, have a high school diploma, a strong desire to teach and/or learn to teach in Mexican public schools and strong leadership and/or entrepreneurial skills. In addition, some community members have reported that they do not feel welcomed by their families in their home states, that when they return to their hometown, it is more difficult to integrate and become part of the community again and they migrate to places where they can find better job opportunities. They also report that although parents are skilled in different types of activities and/or had their own businesses in the US, they cannot find jobs in Mexico because they do not have academic diplomas or paperwork to be hired and that when and if hired, their pay is minimal and they do not have the main benefits of other workers.

How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)

Our win-win solution is comprised of a number of entities and participants that are all bringing their assets to the table allowing for the creation of an environment for success. The IAPE Program has a proven pedagogy, the Rassias® Method, and a proven implementation strategy for teaching English in Mexico. The return migrants bring their English language and cross-cultural skills to a country severely deprived of them. Mexico has self-identified the need for English teachers and support for return migrants when they reintegrate. Mexico’s federal and state governments have jobs for qualified and certified English teachers. CONOCER and/or other potential partners provide a pathway to certification. And finally, the Center for US-Mexico Studies at UC San Diego (USMEX) has the will and skill to build the bridges required to connect all parties and bring the program to fruition.

What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)

Current Partners: The Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies (USMEX) - based at UC San Diego's School of Global Policy and Strategy. USMEX conducts academic research on Mexico and US-Mexico relations, informing the creation, implementation and evaluation of public policy. Mexico’s Ministry of Education. The Inter-American Partnership for Education (IAPE) - a program of Educando and Dartmouth College's Rassias Center. IAPE builds and supports a network of leaders in English language teaching to inspire and open doors for Mexican public school students. New Comienzos - a Mexico-based non-profit whose mission is to assist and empower repatriated Mexicans, Dreamers, and binational families to re-integrate to Mexican society and to pursue and obtain their life goals. Potential Future Partner: El Consejo Nacional de Normalización y Certificación de Competencias Laborales - CONOCER - a Mexican government agency that develops national standards and certifies labor competencies.

What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing

  • Returning home

Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing

  • Systems design: Solutions that target changing larger system

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Prototype: We have done some small tests or experiments with prospective users to continue developing the idea.

Group or Organization Name

The Inter-American Partnership for Education (IAPE) and the Center for US-Mexico Studies (USMEX)

Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)

The Inter-American Partnership for Education (IAPE) was formed in 2007 when Educando invited Dartmouth’s Rassias Center to join them to improve English language learning in Mexico’s public schools, using the Rassias Method which was originally created for the Peace Corps. Today, the IAPE network includes 2500+ teachers and has reached 2.5 million+ students in Mexico. The Inter-American Development Bank has documented IAPE’s student outcomes with a randomized control trial and IAPE has been cited as a best practice to address Mexico’s English language deficit by Mexicanos Primero, The Economist, the World Bank, and The Dialogue: Leadership for the Americas. In 2018, IAPE partnered with Baja California and the Center for US-Mexico Studies to implement Mexico’s first Seal of Biliteracy which recognizes and promotes bilingual education. Our successful experience learning from and collaborating with such serious and committed entities inspired us all to work together on this next project.

Website URL:

Type of submitter

  • We are a registered Non-Profit Organization

Organization Headquarters: Country

United States

Organization Headquarters: City / State

Washington, DC

In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)

• Are return migrants willing to fund part of their participation? • What other options besides CONOCER should we consider as an accrediting authority? • Should ERMIT be part of a college degree or could it be a stand-alone certification option to work as a public English school teacher? • What additional funding sources can support the development and/or implementation of ERMIT? • What existing scholarships are there (e.g., support for returnees and/or for teacher certification)?

Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)

We did indeed, and found them very helpful. 

1. Our mentor, Cristina, provided valuable insights from her own experience as a migrant and advised that it is advantageous for the managing entity to be an NGO registered in both Mexico and the U.S. She also stressed that the opportunities ERMIT opens for return migrants to gain a sense of belonging and of community are critically important on an emotional level.  

2. Among other valuable suggestions, our expert, Nate, led us to consider the importance of tying revenue sources to the program and establishing partnerships with companies that are seeking a pipeline of hirable English speakers. He also stressed the importance of testing whether return migrants are willing to fund part of their participation (we have continued to test this and the answer has been yes), and to continue analyzing whether the program should incorporate a Bachelor’s degree or be a stand-alone shorter program (see below).  

3. Through community research (see photos), we have refined our purpose and agreed that we should initially “begin small” by targeting the pilot training for return migrants, who already have a Bachelor’s degree and English fluency, in one region of the country. Community members we interviewed during this research phase included return migrants now living in Zacatecas, Baja California, and Mexico City; university level teacher trainers; current and past Mexican public education officials at the federal and state levels; and community organizers and leaders.  

4. In addition to learning how much our idea resonates with -- and the storyboard touched -- return migrants, education officials, and community leaders, we have determined that we need not be dependent on one accrediting authority and we have advanced our relationships with key stakeholders who are important to the program being accepted and adopted. 

In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)

From our previous nonprofit experience, we know that funding is typically less forthcoming for developing ideas and getting pilots off the ground than for projects that are already underway and producing results. Discovering the BridgeBuilder challenge just as we were beginning to develop ERMIT was pivotal for us, given the potential for funds to support the research and development required to launch a pilot and the pilot itself. These funds will allow us to apply our expertise and many years of experience working in education in Mexico and the United States to address an urgent need. 

What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)

The essential aspects that the potential Bridgebuilder funds will support are 1) seed funding to research and establish relationships with potential partners including certificate-granting institutions, school systems that will hire graduates of the program, and potential funding partners; and 2) operational expenses to implement a first pilot program in one region of the country, specifically for returnees with a Bachelor’s degree. It is important to note that with time, we intend to explore the idea of an additional program for those who do not yet have a Bachelor’s degree.

What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)

We anticipate spending up to a year on research, development and design, leading to a pilot launch no later than January, 2020. The first generation of 40 graduates will be teaching approximately 10,000 students by August, 2021.  

Starting January, 2020: •Research certification partners •Research training (i.e., university) partners •Develop curriculum •Formalize relationships with government institutions that will certify and hire graduates •Explore 3 states with the goal of selecting 1 state or geographic area for first pilot •Outreach in community to promote program among return migrants

Starting January, 2021: •Pilot first training in 1 state

Starting August, 2021: •Pilot group of teachers enters classroom •Minimum 1 year of online and in person support/mentorship

Note: Times may be adjusted if we complete milestones before anticipated dates.

What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)

IMPACT: Teachers and their families will have more rewarding jobs and dignified lives. Students will learn more English and, as a result, will have more opportunities for higher education and employment, and increased cross-cultural understanding. 

MEASUREMENT: During the initial pilot, we anticipate measuring primarily outputs and outcomes (i.e., numbers of participants who achieve stable work and increased earning power; number of students impacted by these teachers). At scale, we envision measuring impact on participants (e.g., employment, family income and community engagement) and students (e.g., English learning, changes in personal expectations and life goals) with an RCT and/or other evaluation tools. 

QUESTIONS: What is the profile of the return migrants most interested in ERMIT? Will there be more demand for a program for those with a Bachelor’s degree or without?

Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)

We have a very successful model of collaboration upon which to build. With the Seal of Biliteracy project, under the umbrella of Baja California’s Department of Education, we have seen real results from committed collaboration. USMEX (Molly Fisher) in this next year, will focus on public policy research and establishing further needed relationships, utilizing extensive contacts and experience implementing education projects in Mexico. The Rassias Center (Helene Rassias-Miles and Donna Hill) will develop and deliver the curriculum and interface with the other implementing curricular partner(s) to assure quality and compliance w/Mexican authorities’ requirements. Educando (Jim Citron and Julieta Sánchez Garduño) will collaborate with all implementing partners to put in place and direct day to day program operations, government relations, fundraising, enrollment management, and the continuous evaluation and improvement of the program. 

Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)

The feedback has been very helpful in many ways. It affirmed our idea and assured us that not only is there a market, but also great interest and need for ERMIT - for both the return migrants and the students they will teach. Witnessing how eager people are to participate and support ERMIT has been heartening and inspiring. Conversations with our mentor and feedback from our expert, multiple community members, and experienced professionals showed us the need to launch at a smaller scale, beginning with return migrants who already have a Bachelor’s degree, and that we must initially narrow our geographic scope in the pilot.  It also showed us that there are multiple certification and credit validation options available.  We are grateful for the feedback and expert advice and look forward to seeing ERMIT grow and develop into a full-fledged program supporting thousands of migrants, and millions of Mexican students.

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Attachments (2)

ERMIT Joseìs Story for Oct 14.pptx (3).pdf

José Gómez has not lived in Mexico since he was four years old. Prior to returning to a border state in Mexico, he lived in the US Southwest with his immediate family. At 23, he finished a four-year degree in Chemistry at a State University while in the USA. He hoped to become a doctor. A series of events led him to be repatriated. His parents and siblings are able to remain in the USA. [Note: This is an updated version of José's Journey based on feedback received during the Improve Stage.]


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