For ACWA's Spring 2008 Global Scholars orientation, four Fulbright Scholars interning at Kent State University facilitated small group discussions with students on developing domestic products for global distribution. The countries represented for this exercise were Malaysia, India, Lebanon and Bangladesh.
Ms. Joyce Mitri, Lebanon; Ms. Fahmida Sharmin, Bangladesh; Mr. Shaji Choorapuzhayil Mani, India; Ms. Mary Chan, Malaysia; and Dr. Linda Robertson, Director, Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, Kent State University.
Ellet High School, an Akron, Ohio, public school, hosted the orientation on January 30, 2008, for ACWA’s Global Scholars participants. High school students in the Global Scholars program participate each academic semester in a formal orientation focusing on global trade and politics. Content is prepared by Jane Walker Snider, ACWA’s Executive Director, and Dr. Linda Robertson, Director, Read Center for International and Intercultural Education, Kent State University.
Presentations and exercises for the Spring 2008 orientation:
Teams asking questions regarding product development steps.
I challenged the students in my group to look past their own economic security and to recognize that the UN’s Millennium Goal of "eradicating extreme poverty and hunger" applies to my country, India. I explained the paradox of paucity in the midst of plenty being experienced by a substantial segment of India’s masses, especially women and children.
I contrasted for them these contradictions in Indian society compared to the rapid economic advancement taking place in India overall. I then led the students in my group into creative thought, results-oriented discussion and a project formulation for a product from my country.
They worked on a product based in a specific state in India — Kerala — that might be marketed globally. I emphasized the necessity of developing global partnerships for such development to replace the cut-throat competition of the last century.Five students worked with me, with one taking the role of discussion leader.
The group designed a project to tap the potential fresh water reservoirs of the district of Alappuzha in the state of Kerala, India, to grow "Karimeen", an indigenous fish variety that grows in and, in turn, cleanses its waters.
Proposed Global Product Study Team: "Karimeen Fish".
The students developed a list of requirements for such a project to move forward, ranked in order of importance. This included agricultural laborers in the district being trained in modern aqua-culture practices and financial management techniques.
What impressed me most about these high school students participating in ACWA’s Global Scholars program was their inquiry into on-the-ground realities related to the project and their grasp of the range of possibilities that needed to be addressed to bring it into existence.
I was both surprised and gratified to learn that the Millennium Goals are similar to the New Economic Policy in Malaysia. Both for Malaysia and the U.S., as well as all other countries, education is the essential component in eradicating obstacles towards development.
Education directs minds towards critical, creative and profound thinking. It is an absolute necessity for achieving economic and social development in any country.
Students in my group introduced themselves and responded to my questions about their education and career ambitions, their families and their communities. For the product project, we discussed ways to utilize rubber which is grown in abundance in Malaysia.
Peninsula Malaysia is the world’s most important rubber growing area with approximately 6 million hectares (more than 14 million acres). Malaysia produces about 20% of the world’s natural rubber and is the third largest exporter of natural rubber worldwide. Malaysia is also the number one consumer of latex concentrate for producing these products, number one supplier of medical rubber gloves, number one supplier of catheters, and number one supplier of latex thread and cord.
Proposed Global Product Study Team: "Akron Rubber Products".
The students' ideas included a wide variety of rubber-related products, including tires, stoppers, tubing and more. They proposed that a selection of rubber merchandise should be manufactured in Akron and labeled "Akron Rubber Products".
The students drew a poster with suggestions on setting up a company, transportation modes for raw materials and finished products, together with marketing and distribution on a global basis. Local workers at both ends of the pipeline, from raw materials to finished products, would be employed to boost the economies of both Malaysia and the Akron area.
Ms. Mary Chan teaches English as a Second Language to 18 and 19 year-olds in a public all-girls secondary school in Malaysia. She is working towards her PhD in Education.
The group of students with whom I worked chose to launch a new product, keeping in mind a) the market they would aim to capture; b) the availability of selected raw-materials; c) obtaining capital to be invested; d) timeframe required to bring it to market; and e) viability of product marketing success.
The students chose to produce bottled water with the flavor of lemon and with the brand name Lemon Water. This product was chosen following a discussion on the economic and social conditions in Bangladesh related to the Millennium Goal of empowering women.
Proposed Global Product Study Team: "Lemon Water".
The students were informed that Bangladesh is a developing country where women are uneducated and financially dependent upon the male members of their families. To empower women in Bangladesh would require educating them in order to help them to be financially solvent. They could then contribute their productivity to the national income of my country.
Bangladesh is a 'riverine' country, located on or inhabiting the banks or areas near rivers or lakes. It has ample sources of water, but it is not safe to drink so people purchase bottled water.
Students addressed the issue of competing with existing bottle water producers in my country. They proposed the idea of squeezing a lemon into each bottle, providing the goodness of pure water with added benefits of vitamin C and better taste.
The group assessment of this project was that a) capital needed would be nominal as the main raw-material was abundant; b) labor used would be unskilled women; c) technology would be modern but easy to learn and use. There would be a need for reservoirs and a bottling plant.
An extended benefit considered was that the women would be trained to operate more sophisticated machinery as the company developed, thus being turned into semi-skilled workers. Marketing plans would include international distribution at a future time.
Ms. Fahmida Sharmin teaches Economics to 9th and 10th grade students and prepares them to participate in the O’ level examination, following the British Curriculum. She is Head of School of Sir John Wilson School, a private English medium school, with its classes from the 5th through the 10th grades.
Proposed Global Product Study Team: "El Kooras Olive Oil".
In working with the students in my group, I was impressed by their originality, self-confidence and spontaneity. I value their ability to think about others and care for the benefit of all while still so young.
We focused on the olives of Lebanon which go back to Biblical times. There are estimated to be at least 13 million olive trees in Lebanon, grown on some 20% of the total cultivated area. The areas of growth is regionally distributed, perhaps 40% in the North, about the same in the South, possibly 15% in Mount Lebanon and other groves in the Bekaa Valley.
The majority of the olive groves in Lebanon are rain fed, subjecting the trees to climatic extremes and year-to-year supply fluctuations. Around 30% of Lebanon’s olives are consumed fresh and the remaining 70% is sold as oil. Several varieties are usually grown within one grove.
The students focused on the possibility of differentiating varieties of olive oil and marketing them globally, possibly via Internet sites. Potential customers could sample variety packs and reorder their favorites. This is turn would influence decisions along the marketing chain to increase production of certain varieties. At the same time, internet marketing could expand demand for all types of Lebanese olive oil.
The International Educator's Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and IREX, The International Research & Exchanges Board. Kent State University (KSU) participates by bringing English teachers to study on its campus for six months.
Countries represented since the start of KSU’s participation include Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, India, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia.
These Fulbright visiting scholars visit KSU graduate classes, doing internships at area schools and attending specially designed seminars. Dr. Linda Robertson is the director for this program at KSU.
Fair trade is a growing worldwide movement. Since 1946, Ten Thousand Villages has cultivated longstanding relationships with over 100 artisan groups in more than 30 countries.
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