BU Wheelock’s Global Impact
Innovative online program prepares Bahrain’s education leaders
More than 2,000 students have graduated from Bahrain Teachers College since it was established in 2008. The college, part of the University of Bahrain, has done much to strengthen the island nation’s education system, but it didn’t have any advanced degree programs for aspiring education and policy leaders. With the help of BU Wheelock, that changed in 2022.
The connection between the two schools is a BU alum, Aseel Al Khalifa (COM’95), a member of the Bahrain Teachers College (BTC) governing board. When she reached out to discuss a collaboration, Wheelock administrators embraced the idea. “Dean [David] Chard is always on the lookout for places where we can have a global impact,” says Lisa Ijiri, a clinical professor and senior advisor to the dean. And BU Wheelock has a long history of international partnerships: in the 1990s, the college developed Singapore’s first master’s program in early childhood education and has nearly 4,000 alumni in that country.
Wheelock administrators and faculty worked with BTC to develop the two-year master’s in K–12 education leadership, an online program taught by Wheelock professors in Boston. The first cohort of 24 students, which includes current school leaders as well as teachers looking to move into leadership roles, began in fall 2022. The second class began in fall 2023 and, in January 2024, BU Wheelock and BTC plan to launch a master’s program in curriculum and teaching.
In January, a Wheelock delegation that included Chard, Ijiri, and faculty members Stacy Scott, Pipier Smith-Mumford, and Robert Weintraub traveled to Bahrain. They met with school and government officials, including the minister of education, and toured several elementary schools.
“The education challenges that we have in the US are the same kinds of challenges that we saw in Bahrain,” Ijiri says. “Issues around supporting students with disabilities, supporting families, team dynamics. Despite the cultural differences, the commonalities were striking.”
The trip also provided a chance to meet their first cohort of students in person. One indication of the program’s early success came when the students asked BU Wheelock to reconsider plans to switch to an asynchronous schedule in their second year. They felt such a strong sense of community from meeting online for a year, they wanted to continue that until they graduate.
And in February, four students were recognized for creating a new system for teacher evaluations. Noora Aljawder (’24), Shaikha Alfadhala (’24), Mohamed Alawainati (’24), and Lateefa Aldoy (’24) entered their project in the national Fikra Government Innovation Competition, and it won the public vote prize.
“Any time you do an international collaboration, you want to make sure that you’re not imposing a curriculum that doesn’t meet their needs,” Ijiri says. “The award feels like validation that this is exactly what was hoped for—it’s relevant, meaningful, and will have an impact.”