Life Abbreviated



On my way to work this morning, I stopped by the German bakery nearby.

Me: Hi! (Trying my best to greet the young staff with my cheery presence.)

Server (20-something male with bleached blonde spiked hair): no response, a simple nod.

Me: Plain croissant, please.

He reaches inside the display case and from the assortment and selects a flaky croissant which he then places in a small paper bag. He hands me the bag, punches some keys on the cash register and says: “Three.”

Three? Three, what? I wondered. What did he mean? Was he asking me if I wanted three croissants? Was he talking to someone else? Party of three? Then it dawned on me. Aha! It’s the cost. He’s telling me it’s three dollars. The young man didn’t even look up and stared at the cash register. He, the product of today’s Twitter/Snapchat, ‘talk-to-the-screen-and-not-to-my- face-generation’ had pretty much cut through the chase and just like an abbreviated text message or Tweet quoted me the amount. There were no niceties or extraneous words. Straight and to the point, he’d muttered “three.” Gone were the words: “That’ll be three dollars, please.” Or, “would you like anything else?”

I reached into my wallet and handed him three single dollar bills and left feeling disconnected and somewhat forlorn. I realize it’s cliché to rant against technology and social media and how we’re hiding behind our gadgets and avoiding face-to-face communication, but there is truth to it.  Machines are doing all our talking for us as though speaking is just too much of a chore. People aren’t even uttering the words “I love you” anymore. Instead, they join their index fingers and thumbs in the shape of a heart or text an emoji of a happy face blowing heart kisses bookended by multi-colored hearts.


But, maybe its in our nature to look at shortcuts. Technology and social media are taking care of it for us today, and even as far back as when the Pilgrims rolled in, our forefathers were looking at ways of shrinking words in the English language by cutting out letters they saw as useless. Though, for the life of me, why even have letters in words if they remain silent? For a primer on how this came about, watch this video:

You may be wondering what this rant has to do with international credential evaluations? Absolutely nothing and everything. But, those of you in the world of credential evaluations know exactly what I’m speaking of: there are many in our field who are looking for a shortcut and the quick answer to what are sometimes the gray and complicated areas of international transcripts and degree evaluations.


Churning out evaluations by the hundreds, like a sausage-making factory, oblivious of the nuances surrounding each case and the needs of the specific institution and applicant by skirting standards and ignoring good customer service is becoming more and more de rigueur. (Yes, I thought since I’m on a rant, I might as well show off my 5th grade knowledge of French). I get it, time is of essence…time is money, blah, blah, blah. Institutions and private (profit and non-profits) organizations all have a bottom line, They need to be productive and show healthy numbers and a fast or quicker way of doing it is the desired method. Except, when we do it at the expense of research, critical analysis, and veer off the path of best practices. Then we’re in trouble and trouble has a way of catching up with us, maybe not today, but soon, in the near future. Price of becoming a society of ‘short-cutters’.

Frustrated Evaluator

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

Leave a comment

Filed under Credentials, Human Interest, Language

What Sparked the Student Protests in South Africa?

October 13th, 2016

University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) on Monday, protesters throwing rocks were dispersed by riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. (Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, October 10, 2016 was supposed to be the start of regular classes at the University of Witwatersrand but this did not happen as students continue their protests against tuition hikes.

Here is some background and update on the ongoing student protests in South Africa:

1. In 2015, tuition fee hikes of between 10% and 12% were proposed.

2. The demonstrations began last October at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Students blocked the entrance to the university campus in protest against proposed hike in fees by 10.5% for 2016.

3. Under the banner #FeesMustFall, demonstration caused the closure of some of the country’s top universities. President Zuma ordered a freeze on tuition fees for a year.

4. Students have been protesting since September 20th, following the education minister’s announcement that universities can raise tuition up to 8 percent.

5. Protests at many universities have been peaceful. But at the University of Cape Town, protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

Students protesting under the “FeesMustFall” banner. (Photo credit: BBC)


6. Fire destroyed a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

7. Fires were set at Cape Peninsula of Technical (CPUT).

8. Students at Rhodes University put up burning barricades on campus streets.

9. President Jacob Zuma says the damage has cost the government more than $40 million.

10. According to President Zuma, the government has also absorbed $1 billion after similar protests forced a tuition fee freeze last year.

11. Annual increases in student fees differ between universities as fees are determined by institutions. Fees also vary by degree programs.

12. The government subsidizes tuition for poorer students, but undergraduate fees can be as high as $5,000 a year, which makes it unreachable for many black students.

13. More than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africans continue to face extreme income inequality. The students want the opportunities they were promised when apartheid ended.

14. Protests show growing disillusionment with the governing African National Congress (ANC), which took power after 1994.

15. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, President Zuma announced the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to resolve the current impasse at institutions of higher learning. Those invited to serve on the  Task include heads of the following Ministries: The Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Minister of Police, Minister of State Security, Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, and Minister of Home Affairs.  Absent from the team is the Minister of Finance who is set to answer a summons to appear in court on November 2. Ultimately, it is the Finance Ministry that would be tasked with finding the funds to address the funding issue for higher education.

For an audio/webinar presentation of this blog report on student protests in South Africa, please click here:

Sources: demands?

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

1 Comment

Filed under Credentials, Education, Politics

Top 5 Countries Ranked Best for Education

October 6th, 2016


The USNews recently released it’s 2016 Best Countries rankings and included the Best Countries for Education in its survey results.  In partnership with brand strategy firm BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania they asked more than 16,000 survey participants from four regions to associate countries with specific attributes. The Best Countries for Education, according to USNews “are ranked based on scores on a compilation of three equally weighted country attributes: has top quality universities, well-developed public education system and would consider attending university there. Nations with federally run education systems ranked first, as with the United Kingdom, and last, as with Iran.”

The top 5 countries ranked for best education are:

1. United Kingdom

2. Canada

3. United States

4. Germany

5. France

Take a look at the full list of the USNews Best Countries for education: and let us know your thoughts. Do you agree or disagree? And, why?

Thank you!

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Travel

Qawwali Music: The Mystical, Peaceful Side of Islam

September 30th, 2016


I first heard the Sufi devotional music called qawwali around 1982 on a WOMAD (World of Music and Dance) album. WOMAD was Peter Gabriel’s world music label and brainchild. This was right about the time when a bunch of Brit record executives coined the term “world music” as a category for retail sales purposes. The five-minute excerpt I heard was powerful, enthralling. I was transfixed. I contacted WOMAD and asked them how long the original was. The answer? Two hours.

The music was that of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a Pakistani devotional singer who died in 1997. His musical journey started with a dream he had of singing in Pakistan’s most famous mosque, and it was something he was able to realize before his untimely death at 49.

The word qawwali means “utterance” in Urdu, and Nusrat was and is the most famousqawwal. I first saw him perform at a fundraiser at the LAX Hilton on behalf of a cancer hospital in Lahore. The speaker was Pakistan’s #1 cricketeer, Imran Khan. My table was besieged by men asking us to raise $5,000, the amount assigned per table. Me and a bunch of music fans and public radio types? No way could we come up with that. Nusrat had food poisoning and looked green onstage. It was not easy for him.

The second time I saw him involved driving to Buena Park for an all-Pakistani show. I recall hundreds of Mercedes in the parking lot but no BMWs. Fans were crumpling up $10-20 bills and throwing them on stage in tribute to the great singer. His next show took him to the former Universal Amphitheater (now Gibson). I didn’t make it to that one.

One time I was playing Nusrat’s music on air when KCRW’s then General Manager Ruth Seymour got a call from her mother, who was put on phone hold while the music was playing. When Ruth picked up the phone, her mom said the music sounded like somebody getting their toenails pulled out. It’s a good thing that not all people hear Nusrat that way. Though often intense, his is a music of peace and love.


Nusrat would try anything musically, which is one reason he became the most famousqawwal. There was the Massive Attack remix of “Mustt Mustt,” and also the fun, crazyBally Sagoo remixes. Don’t be fooled, however. Nusrat also performed powerful, rich devotional music and love songs with his group, as you’ll hear on the first cut by him of this show.

Abida Parveen is the most famous female qawwali vocalist, adored by fans all over the world. I heard her once in Orange County years ago. She has a big voice, perfect pitch, and a powerful, ecstatic delivery.  She will occasionally visit the U.S., but you will likely not know about it unless you read the local Pakistani newspapers.

In a 2013 article in the UK paper The Guardian, Parveen said, “My culture–our culture–is rich in spirituality and love. Sufism is not a switch, the music isn’t a show–it’s of life, it is religion. If I want to recognized for anything, if we should be recognized for anything, it’s the journey of the voice. And that voice is God’s.” Qawwali, like gospel music in the U.S., is a communal experience, a joy meant to be shared.

I did not include another famous qawwali group, the Sabri Brothers, because their tracks are super long. Sadly, I recently wrote a post about one of their founding memberswho was murdered by an Islamic extremist. Sufi gospel is a way of getting closer to the divine, both for listeners and performers.  Dictatorships and Islamist hardliners don’t like music, don’t trust it either. We’ve seen that in the Soviet Union, Chile, Argentina, Iran, and other places.

For those who don’t know about this powerful and ecstatic music, let it be a reminder that its message of peace and harmony is an antidote to the turmoil in Pakistan that we hear in the news.

Here is a video shot in Pakistan in 1993 of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan:

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 9/2/16:

  1. Abida Parveen / “Choonghat Ohle Na Luk Sajna” / Baba Bulleh Shah / Oreade Music
  2. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan / “Allah Hoo Allah Hoo” / Devotional Songs / Real World
  3. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan / “Mustt Mustt” / Mustt Mustt / Real World
  4. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan / “Kinna Sohna (Bally Sagoo Remix)” / Big Noise: A Mambo Inn Compilation / Hannibal



Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

Leave a comment

Filed under Arts, Creativity, Human Interest, Music

The New Normal in the 21st Century

September 22nd, 2016

Police Robot sent on the mission to deactivate/detonate the suspicious object.

The “new normal” paid me a visit on September 20, 2016 at 7:02 AM PST. My husband and I woke to the sound of our neighbor knocking on our door alerting us to news that the police and bomb squad were outside our condominium building. A medium-sized pressure cooker was found sitting on the sidewalk directly in front of our building. In no time, our quiet non-descript neighborhood in West Los Angeles, was turned into a crime scene. LAPD had barricaded all roads and streets around us blocking all types of traffic.  The police robot was brought in which detonated the suspicious object. Luckily, the object was empty, no one was hurt though a little shaken. By 8:00 AM the police began lifting the barricades and one by one left the scene returning our neighborhood to normal.

This event happened at the heels of the bomb that exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood over the weekend. The term I heard on the NPR news hour, following the Chelsea explosion, was that this is the “new normal.” For a second, I nodded in agreement; yes, this is now the new normal and we just have to continue with our lives. Yet, this is not the new normal at least not for those of us growing up in the 1970’s where the “new normal” was most likely originally introduced. In the 70’s, I was attending a boarding school in Bexhill-on-Sea, in Sussex County, England. This sleepy beach town, home to mostly blue-haired retirees and a couple of boarding schools, was the quintessential English town with charming tea shops and antique stores. Ensconced in the protective walls of my school, my classmates—fellow boarders from the four corners of the world—and I were hundreds of miles away from the terror and disruption experienced in European capitals like London, Munich, Rome and beyond. We did not have social media or round the clock cable news alerting us of terrorist attacks, but they existed and had become a part of our daily lives; the new normal.

Every morning, especially, in the last two years of my schooling, before the start of our classes, we would converge in the school’s small library and pour over the daily newspapers in preparation for a pop quiz to be delivered by our fastidious History teacher, Miss Wade, an Australian transplant. This exercise kept us abreast of the world, the ongoing war in Vietnam, the Cold War between the USA and USSR, the Watergate Scandal, terrorist threats and attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Spain’s Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Italy’s Anni di Piombo (Years of Lead) and the Red Brigade, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Libyans, Germany’s Red Army Faction aka Baader Mainhoff Gang, and other subversive groups with agendas to disrupt societies and topple governments. A day didn’t pass us by without news of a plane hijacking, explosion at an airport or Tube station in London, kidnappings of top government officials, and even the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Prime Minister of Italy. There was even the 1975 brazen hostage taking of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who were meeting in Vienna, Austria by German and Arab terrorists led by Carlos the Jackal. And, let us not forget the brutal hostage taking and massacre of athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. 

In September 1975, during a weekend visit to London, where I was going to spend the time with my father who was staying at the Hilton Hotel on a business trip, the lobby of the hotel became the target of a suspected IRA bomb explosion. My father and I had just the left the hotel to dine at a nearby restaurant and returned to find the entrance blocked off with police, ambulance and fire trucks parked outside in the driveway. Two people were killed and 63 people were injured in the main lobby. Londoners woke up the next day to the tragic news and set off to work, school, or on errands as before. It was the new normal.

Another time, in mid-70’s, when returning to England after a short holiday at home in Iran, the BOAC flight from Tehran to London made a surprise landing in Beirut, Lebanon. It may have been a technical problem which had forced the Captain to land us in Beirut. We were not allowed to disembark. I was most likely 13 or 14, traveling alone, something I did regularly on the trips between school and home and back. I had read about the civil war which had erupted in Lebanon and remember looking out the window of the airplane and through the darkness of the night, I could make out the silhouettes of tanks and military vehicles. It was an eerie sight and one that I remember clearly to this day. The plane sat on the tarmac for perhaps an hour but soon after takeoff the Captain apologized on the PA system for the unscheduled stop and explained how lucky we were to have taken off when we did as the airport had been the target of a bombing as soon as we were in the air.

In its March 25, 2016 article, The Telegraph includes a glimpse into what the world was like in the 70’s and 80’s, marred by terrorist attacks fueled by various governments and insurgent groups. The world, as the old saying goes, has not just recently gone to hell in a hand basket. Yes, there’s no denying the horrific impact and loss of lives brought on by this century’s recent terrorist attacks in the U.S., Norway, Spain, Belgium and France, the ravages of the Civil War in Syria, the Refugee crisis, the savagery of religious fanatics who will go unnamed as their mere mention gives their heinous acts credit.  In no way am I belittling or dismissing this century’s horrible acts of violence. The present is as equally horrible as the past. The new normal has been with us throughout history. I always say that the only way to understand or make sense of the present is to know our history. It will not lessen the grief for the loss of a loved one or a way of life, but knowing the lessons learned from the past offer us perspective and focus to understand the present so that we can courageously navigate our way through it empowered without feeling afraid and helpless. It may sound trite or simplistic, but there is something to be said for the two words “Carpe Diem,” so beautifully memorialized in the film “Dead Poet’s Society,” by the late actor/comedian Robin Williams. The lessons of the past are there for us to learn from. We need to know the past in order to survive the present with its currents threats and Seize the Day.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

1 Comment

Filed under Human Interest, Politics

Education For All – A UNESCO Challenge

September 16th, 2016


On September 13, 2016, ACEI’s President and CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert was interviewed by CCTV (China Central Television)-America on the current state of education and literacy around the world.


The United Nations has admitted that It has been unable to meet its goal of getting all of the world’s children into school. Right now, some 263 million children and youth are out of school. The United Nations has previously set a goal of educating all children by the year 2030. A new report from UNESCO, however, says that this goal is too ambitious and that at the current rate of progress this goal cannot be met until the year 2042.

The inability to avail universal education to children has broad implications for not only societies, but also economies.  We need to ask the following questions:

  • Why is there is such a divide between rich and poor countries when it comes to education?
  • How will the limitations of poor countries in enrolling their children in school until 2042 affect their opportunity for growth, when rich countries have met this already met this target.
  • How does a society benefit when its children are provided access to primary school education?
  • What are the biggest obstacles in achieving this goal?

UNICEF answers these questions in its 2007 report which may be summarized into one word: lack. The inability of the poorer countries to meet these goals has to do with the capacities of their governments and those in public office.  Lack is the key obstacle to providing children access to free primary school education. There is lack of both financial (absence of a functioning tax base and budget priorities) and human (absence of skilled manpower) resources.  There is a lack of responsibility on the part of governments refusing to accept obligations without political commitment to do anything about it. There is lack of coordination between the different branches of governments and its various offices. There is also a lack of knowledge and appreciation for the benefits and values of education. Uneducated and illiterate parents may not realize that they too have an obligation to make sure their children are schooled and educated.

Where there is a deficit in a strong education plan, we will see country’s overall health and social and economic success in peril.  As Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert stated in her interview: “literacy is currency.” A nation of educated and literate people is one that can pull itself out of its vicious cycle of poverty and economic stagnation.

ACEI Logo with Slogan - FINAL

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

Leave a comment

Filed under Education, Gratitude, Human Interest, Politics, Travel

Sharing a Reality (in International Education)

September 8th, 2016


With the oh-so-fun election season in full swing here in the U.S., it is more difficult than usual to ignore how people can operate in such different realities. People can’t seem to agree on what is a “fact”. In many cases, this is for good reason, because so much around us has subjective meaning.

However, a shared reality does seem to exist. If it didn’t, then mathematics would be meaningless. The “fact” that 1+1=2 is true for you, for me, and for everyone connects us all, independent of our subjective realities. Fantastically, this also seems to mean that if a group of different people living in their own subjective worlds can collectively learn enough about our shared reality, they can successfully invent something that will blast off from our planet and fly to a precise place in the previously unexplored depths of space-time! And then do it again, and again!

Working in international education with credentials, I sometimes feel like I’m searching for relationships between separate “educational realities”.  Of course, credentials and educational situations are complicated issues involving a significant amount of subjective human behavior. As a result, simple arithmetic is insufficient for understanding comparative education, and we may never have credential evaluation solutions as precise as the results of a mechanical-physics equation. Nonetheless, I certainly believe we can reduce biased decision making in our field and improve fair treatment of applicants by using transparent and consistent, evidence-oriented methods. Eventually, if we collect and exchange enough information in a coherent manner, we might even build our own shared reality in international education!


Drew Feder

Drew Feder co-founded Credential Consultants in 2007 and is a lead designer of Credential ConnectionTM software and the GRADE DatabaseTM, as well as co-author of the GRADE MethodTM. Drew began working in the credentials evaluation industry in 2004 as an evaluator and immediately became involved in management of production and customer service. Since then, Drew served as a Communications Director, General Manager and Evaluator for organizations including the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE). Drew studied at Johns Hopkins University and Colorado College, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy in 2003, and is acting President of Credential Consultants.”

Credential Consultants is an Affiliate Member of Association of International Credential Evaluators

Leave a comment

Filed under Credentials, Education