BBC News : Dreams of A British Education

Posted by TC on Thursday, February 4, 2010 9:49 PM in
Following the UK's recent spate of students visa application suspensions on certain parts of South Asia, BBC News recently produced an in-depth news report on the UK's visa system, implemented last April.

BBC journalist Lucy Williamson went to Southall to interview South Asian students on how they are being affected by the new system. One student from India used an agent to enter the UK, with only GBP 500 on him and a promise that he would be able to find jobs easily. These agents are supposedly the middle men between UK colleges/universities and the students, tasked with helping students with their university applications, accomodation and travel documents.

Even more interesting is an interview between Williamson and a 'legit' agent, who explains that agents have mushroomed following the relaxation of visa rules, hence bogus agents who 'guarantee' entry into the UK using student visas. 

This is because the new visa system uses points-based evaluation, Williamson explains, where a student with proof of being enrolled in a UK university  or college is given 30 points and another 10 points for if he/she can show he/she has enough money to live in the UK.

It's what happens AFTER they get their 40 points that lands these 'students' in trouble. Visit the BBC web site to listen to Williamson's findings in "Dreams of A British Education".


Create Your Own Education Jargon

Posted by TC on Thursday, December 17, 2009 2:55 PM
When I first began my graduate degree, I got hit by education jargon such as "Bloom's taxonomy", "Barrett's reading taxonomy", "grammar-translation approach" and a host of other equally mind-boggling words in my first Teacher Development class. The jargon was overwhelming and faintly ridiculous, as I recall.

So it was with much amusement that I read Valerie Strauss' post at The Answer Sheet on how to create your own education jargon. Apparently there is even a website that generates educational jargon. Here are some of my favourites:

grow top-down multiple intelligences

engage holistic competencies

synergize intuitive undefined


The Ups and Downs Of Teaching

Posted by TC on Sunday, December 6, 2009 7:30 PM in
It's been a little crazy for me the past week, and I've not had much time at the computer-- work, personal study and weddings (friends, not mine!) have kept me busier than usual. But fortunately not too busy to appreciate what others write, such as Nithya Sidhu's thoughtful tribute to Frank McCourt and teachers in general in today's edition of The Star: 

The ups and downs of teaching

While teachers impart knowledge and contribute to student progress, they too need to reflect and evaluate their triumphs and failures as the year comes to an end.

I always thought teaching was a simple matter of telling the class what you knew and then testing them and giving them grades. How was I to know how complicated the life of a teacher could be?Frank McCourt

AS THE year draws to a close, my thoughts inevitably return to how the year has been for me. In particular, my life as a teacher this year. What did I really achieve? How much of what I taught sank in and made a difference? How much of it succeeded in bringing about positive change? What did I do right this year? What mistakes did I make?
Despite the years of experience I now have as a teacher, what new thing did I learn this year? Did I make an effort to be innovative? Did I create some ripples?
I ask all these questions of myself, but I sometimes wonder, “Do others also reflect and ask such questions?” Well, I know one thing. Frank McCourt did.
The Pulitzer-winning author and teacher, who passed away in July, was always hungry for ideas and information, often asking questions and seeking answers.
He not only wrote Angela’s Ashes, but also wrote about his teaching experiences in Teacher Man.
The book was about him — of his teaching career, how he coped, how he suffered, what his students were like, what they could be, what he would have liked them to be, and what some would never be, what his personal life was like, as opposed to his professional one.
The challenges of facing children with different personalities, wondering how to treat each one of them, getting it right, getting it wrong, learning by making mistakes, hitting the right note, hitting the wrong one, managing, inspiring, taking it in his stride, cursing, appreciating, procrastinating, caring too much or not caring at all, touching lives, being the brunt of parents’ complaints, being aware of diversity, mannerisms, upbringing, personality, attitude, being shouted at, shouting back, striking a chord, not striking one, bobbing, swimming, drowning — what a life! And, McCourt lived it.
An Irish man, this remarkable teacher was once very poor; as a child in Ireland, he even stole to survive extreme poverty; as an adult in America, he found his niche, first in teaching and then in writing.
He was a man who wasn’t sure if he were doing the right thing in class. He tried to understand the young charges he taught while he “examined his conscience”. Reading Teacher Man will make you realise how funny he was and how he inspired despite the glaring personal weaknesses he claimed he had.
Recently I borrowed the book to read it again. Parts of it made me laugh and parts of it made me feel like crying. And, I felt this kinship. The understanding that flows from one teacher to another. The empathy. The sympathy. The truth of our professional existence.
He was Irish, while I am Malaysian, yet as teachers our worlds are the same — our worries, our concerns, our weaknesses, our mistakes, our triumphs, our acceptance of the limitations of our students, and also that of ours. How similar we really are.
The work we do — it may be appreciated, it may be not. It may be glorified, it may be condemned. It may help a child find his way in life, or it may have little impact. It may also bring enlightenment or it may not. It may make a difference, or it may not.
But, the fact remains — we, who are teachers, have to do our jobs. We can either do them very well, making the most of our skills, knowledge and potential, learning as well as teaching, contributing significantly to student progress – or, we could do a cursory job and be done with it. The choice is ours.
As the year ends, think about it. Reflect. How are you as a teacher? Do you still harbour doubts about your own ability?
If you do, be brave and remember McCourt’s words, “You have to make your own way in the classroom. You have to find yourself. You have to develop your own style, your own techniques. You have to tell the truth or you’ll be found out.”
Every teacher is capable of doing good. To Frank McCourt – thank you for sharing your life with us and making us, the common teacher, realise how much we do for other people’s children.


Malaysia ahead of Philippines in IELTS scores

Posted by TC on Sunday, November 29, 2009 11:00 PM in
By some strange miracle, Malaysia actually surpassed the Philippines in IELTS scores last year, according to IDP Education. The Manila Mail writes:

"Despite the claim that the Philippines is the third largest country in the world with the most number of people who can speak English, it is only second to Malaysia in the whole of Asia when it comes to proficiency in listening, speaking, writing and conversing in English. Andrew King, country director of IDP Education Pty. Ltd. Philippines, said the average overall score of Filipinos who took the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) last year was a poor 6.69 points where 7.0 was largely the passing score for those who took the test for migration to the usual countries that Filipinos seek to migrate to such as Australia....

According to King, Malaysians had an average overall score of 6.71, leading among countries in Asia in overall English proficiency. Philippines was second to Malaysia with 6.69; third was Indonesia with 5.99; fourth was India with 5.79; and Thailand fifth with 5.71."

Interesting that the article does not mention Singapore, considering that IDP does have an office in the island nation. Hmm.


Education and Economics: Unwilling Bedfellows

Posted by TC on Wednesday, November 25, 2009 10:44 PM in
However much you try, separating education and economics is like separating oil and water---the two don't really mix, but they're stuck together whether they like it or not.

Also an ingredient in this unlikely brew is politics and frankly, that's the case here in Malaysia and in the UK and US, whose leaders are now pressured more than ever to rejuvenate their respective education systems.Education is definitely the 'hot topic' in the latter two countries right now.

We've yet to see such strong fighting spirit from the Malaysian media or public for better education (evidently it isn't as 'sexy' as political or celebrity scandals). But I digress, after reading the following letter to Malaysiakini.com: 

What you must know about our economy

By Pak Sako

A new World Bank country report has this to say about Malaysia:

'The economy seems to be caught in a middle-income trap - unable to remain competitive as a high-volume, low-cost producer, yet unable to move up the value chain and achieve rapid growth by breaking into fast growing markets for knowledge and innovation-based products and services' (see page 53 of the full report).

We are unable to break into higher-value markets because our brightest minds leave the country in droves while our research institutions, such as our local universities, have woefully poor track records as far as research and innovation is concerned (negligible amount of publications in top academic journals and no significant, original product development; innovation effort against GDP per capita is lower than for Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines).

Our education system in general appears to stifle true and unbounded thinking and dissent — the preconditions for creativity and innovation. There are structural and institutional causes for this quagmire.

Read the rest of the letter here.

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