MIT Associate Professor of Linguistics Michel DeGraff recently received a one million-dollar grant from the National Science Foundation for his linguistics research in Haiti, which includes developing classroom tools to teach science and math in Haitian Creole (Kreyòl) for the first time. We spoke with him about his vision for the research, about the Kreyòl language, and the future of education in Haiti.
How will the NSF grant further your work?
DeGraff: This NSF grant will allow us to take substantive, systematic steps to build on the small, initial steps that we have already taken in Haiti with the engagement of MIT's Office of Educational Innovation and Technology, alongside our partners in Haiti-Fondasyon Konesans ak Libète (FOKAL), the Faculty of Sciences of the State University of Haiti, and University Caraïbes. Thanks to this grant, the MIT-Haiti Initiative will be doing something that has never been done before.
As far as I know, this is the first-ever project to create and evaluate a substantial body of online Kreyòl materials for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in higher education. We are helping create a new lexicon and new tools for science in Kreyòl and a new culture for deep learning in Haiti.
This culture is radically different from the traditional approach in Haiti-that is, rote memorization of French texts that few can understand. And this project can serve as a model for the millions of science-hungry students all around the world who speak local languages like Haitian Creole. So our project is breaking new ground both in linguistics and in STEM education (...)
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