The Preparation of Volunteers for Peace Corps Service:

Some Areas Need Management Attention

ID-81-25: Published: May 21, 1981. Publicly Released: May 21, 1981.

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GAO examined the management of three areas related to the preparation of volunteers for Peace Corps service: staging, pre-service training, and attrition.

A Peace Corps staging, which all prospective volunteers attend, is variously intended to provide country orientation, information about Peace Corps service, selection of individuals for service, some preliminary training, and medical and administrative processing. The three staging processes currently in use differ in format, objectives, and cost. All do not meet the intended purposes of a staging, and no formal criteria exists for determining which staging process a group of volunteers will undergo. Many individuals are sent to their assignment countries without having been assessed on their suitability and adaptability for the Peace Corps experience. A highly decentralized training system has evolved within the agency. Under the existing system, in-country staffs have become, to a large degree, autonomous decisionmakers regarding the form and content of training programs. They are operating for the most part with very little guidance, direction, or input from Peace Corps headquarters on what should be provided in pre-service training and how it should be provided. The ability of country staffs to design, conduct, and manage this very important function varies significantly from country to country. A core curriculum which sets forth both the elements and goals of pre-service training as well as standards and guidelines on what this training should provide is still under development. The Peace Corps is collecting data on attrition on a continuing basis. However, no analysis or distribution of this data is taking place on a routine basis.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Peace Corps should: (1) provide for more centralized direction and guidance of the pre-service training function; and (2) accelerate the current development of the core curriculum and include direction and guidance on how the core curriculum should be implemented.

    Agency Affected: ACTION: Peace Corps

  2. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Peace Corps should establish a system to: (1) collect and systematically evaluate relevant attrition data, including the identification of major causes of early terminations; (2) periodically distribute the evaluation results to appropriate managers; and (3) make changes to minimize the adverse effects of attrition as found in the Peace Corps cycle of programing, recruitment, selection, training, and service.

    Agency Affected: ACTION: Peace Corps

  3. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Peace Corps should complete the agency evaluation and take action to: (1) ensure that each staging process contains both a component where an objective assessment by qualified staff is made of the suitability and adaptability of prospective volunteers for Peace Corps service as well as a component that begins to impart the information needed to successfully make a transition to living and working effectively in a different culture; and (2) establish a single, uniform staging format containing the important components mentioned above and of a cost that makes it feasible for all prospective volunteers to attend.

    Agency Affected: ACTION: Peace Corps


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