Community Colleges for International Development Conference strengthened International Partnerships

February 25th, 2017

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ACEI attended the Community Colleges for International Development (CCID) 41st Annual Conference last week in beautiful Houston. The conference theme, “Aligning the Stars” was the perfect theme to align the stars for international partnerships.

CCID recognized their board member organizations for their leaderships in internationalization ranging from Washington State, Australia, Denmark, Japan, Canada, Iowa, Honolulu and so many more U.S. cities and states. It truly was an international event!

The conference was kicked off with welcoming remarks from Lone Star College Chancellor, Dr. Steve Head, who said that he appreciates us – the hardworking faculty, staff, researchers, partners, and administrators for inspiring their students and alumni. He said our commitment and contributions to CCID are what moves us forward. And move forward we did! The conference atmosphere was very collegial and positive.  Many partnerships were formed with ACEI.

ACEI was very well received by many U.S. colleges and international organizations as we discussed the importance of the exchange of information and research.  In this positive light, we discussed how credential evaluation reports and research from ACEI can help strengthen the relationships between international organizations and the U.S.

Dr. Chris Whitaker, Chair of the CCID Board of Directors and President of Humber College in Canada, reinforced the continuing theme of partnering by saying, “I hope that each of you finds this conference to be a useful, dynamic opportunity to establish new partnerships and to strengthen connections already in place.” He also stressed we need to explore new initiatives and trends in our fields.

Mara Anderson, Executive Director of CCID, was absent due to the very recent birth of her child. She sent an upbeat message that she was thrilled to bring everyone together in CCID’s own backyard and that Houston is a wonderful home and resource to CCID, as one of the most diverse cities in the U.S.

The pre-conference workshops ranged from study abroad programs to intercultural awareness training. The sessions presented a wonderful assortment of topics including collaboration towards global understanding to how Community Colleges can stay engaged.

In this time of uncertainty of internationalism, the relationships formed with ACEI will be ever lasting. There was excellent exchange of ideas, tactics, and goals for international partnering. And our red cowboy hats were a complete hit!

Laura Sippel

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Laura Sippel
Marketing Consultant
Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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30 Facts on the Education System of Iran

February 16th, 2017

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After intense negotiations, on July 14, 2015, the U.S. and five other world powers have reached a deal to freeze Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for gradual sanctions relief that rolls out as Iran complies with a multi-step process. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) ensures that Iran’s nuclear program will be exclusively peaceful.  And now, in 2017, with the recent travel ban imposed by the Trump Administration against Iran and six other countries, we thought it would be helpful to revisit the blog we had written on Iran in July 2015.

Given these recent developments, we would like to spotlight Iran and share with you the following facts on the country and its education system:

1. Iran is one of the oldest nations in the world, with a history dating back tens of thousands of years. The country’s first great city, Susa, was built on the central plateau around 3200 B.C.

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2. Iran (pronounced ee-RAHN), formerly known as Persia, is situated at the crossroads of Central Asia, South Asia, and the Arab states of the Middle East. The name “Iran” means “land of the Aryans.”

3. Iran is a republic in Central Asia, sharing a border with seven countries: Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Iraq, Turkey, and Turkmenistan.

4. It has been officially known as the Islamic Republic of Iran since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.

5.Iran is a Shiite Muslim country, but the majority of its people are Persian, not Arab.

6. Iran’s capital is Tehran.

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Tehran: Azadi Monument (formerly Shahyad Monument)

7. Iran has a population of 80,840,713 (median age 28) and covers an area that is 636,372 square miles (1,648,195 square kilometers), slightly smaller than Alaksa.

8. Official language of instruction in Iran is Farsi/Persian. English and/or French are taught in most private schools.

9. According to 2015 estimates, the literacy rates of total population age 15 and over is 86.8% of which 92.1% are male and 82.5% are female.

10. According to 2013 reports, Iran spends 3.7 of GDP on education.

11. Starting with 7th grade, English is taught as a second language in all public schools and is compulsory through the secondary level years.

12. Primary school is called “Dabestan” and includes grades 1 to 5 (ages 6 to 11). At the end of the 5th year, students take a nation-wide exam which they must pass in order to continue to the next cycle.

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13. Middle school is called Rahnamaei also known as Lower Secondary School (Guidance) and includes grades 6 to 8 (ages 11 to 14). At the end of the 3rd year of middle school, students take a region-wide exam administered by the local provisional board of education which they must pass in order to continue to the next cycle.

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14. Secondary school is called Dabirestan and includes grades 9 to 12 (ages 14 to 17). The 4th year of grade 12 includes a college-preparatory year known as Pish-daneshgahi. In dabirestan, students choose subjects from either one of two tracks: 1) academic/general track that includes a] physics-mathematics, b] socio-economics, c] literature and culture, and d] experimental sciences; or 2) technical/vocational track in such areas as business and agriculture. On completion of 3 years of study (Grade 11), students receive their diploma before they are determined eligible to continue onto the 12th year (Grade 12) pish-daneshgahi studies.

15. Pre-university or Pish-Daneshgahi is the 4th year extension (Grade 12) to secondary school and last one year. It is an intensive year of study intended to prepare students for the national university entrance examination known as the Concour.

16. The Concour determines students’ chances to enter public and some private universities in Iran. It is a very challenging examination and only a minority of students who take it are successful in passing.

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Photo Credit:PressTV – University Entrance Exam (Concours) in Tehran

17. At the higher education level, Iran has private, public and state affiliated universities.

18. Universities, institutes of technology, medical schools, and community colleges make up the higher education sector.

19. Except for medical schools, all state-run universities are under the direct supervision of the Iranian Ministry of Science, Research and Technology. Medical schools are under the supervision of the Ministry of Health, Treatment, and Medical Education.

20. Currently, there are over 50 public universities and over 40 public institutions specializing in medical study and 200 private postsecondary institutions in Iran.

21. Tuition at public universities is free.

22. Private institutions charge fees.

23. The largest private institution in Iran is Islamic Azad University.

24. Women make up more than 60 percent of the college population in Iran but less than 20 percent of the working population.

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25. Out of 1.176 million people registered for higher education in the Iranian academic year of 2012-2013, women accounted for 522,248 (44.38 percent) while men’s share stood at 654,593 (55.62 percent).

26.The number of female university students also increased by almost twofold from 1,231,035 in the Iranian academic year of 2005-2006 to 2,106,639 in 2012-2013.

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Photo Credit: Ebrahim Norrozi/AP – Iranian women, shown here in downtown Tehran, are among groups in the country pushing for social and economic change.

27. Distance learning degree programs are provided mainly by the University of Payam-e-Hour.

28. University degrees in Iran include:
• Kardani (formerly Fogh-Diplom) – 2-year program equivalent to the Associate degree;
• Karshenasi (formerly Licence) – 4-year program equivalent to the Bachelor’s degree;
• Karshenasi Arshad (formerly Fogh-Licence) – 2-year program beyond the Karshenasi equivalent to the Master’s degree;
• Doctora (Doctorate) degree – 3-year program; requires a master’s (Karshenasi) degree for admission and is awarded on completion of 60 semester units and passing a comprehensive exam before entering the research phase of the program, during which they prepare and defend their dissertation.
• Specialized Doctorates – Degrees in dentistry, medicine, pharmacy, veterinary medicine are awarded after 6 years of study and a thesis and require completion of the pre-university year for admission.

29. Grading system at primary through university is based on a 0-20 scale. At the primary, secondary level, and undergraduate levels, an average grade of 10 is required for promotion to the next academic grade. At the graduate level the minimum average grade is 12 and in doctoral programs the minimum average is 14.

30. Every year about 150,000 highly talented Iranians emigrate in what the International Monetary Fund calls the highest brain drain in the world.

Bonus Fact:
31. Since we love cats here at ACEI, here’s a bonus fact on the Persian cat; one of the world’s oldest breeds. They originated in the high plateaus of Iran where their long silky fur protected them from the cold. Italian traders brought the breed to Europe in the 17th century, where they became an exotic status symbol. (source: Rajendra, Vijeya, Gisela Kaplan, and Rudi Rajendra. 2004. Iran (Cultures of the World). New York, NY: Marshall Cavendish.)

Helpful links & Sources:
https://www.educationusairan.com/edu-professionals/education-systems
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/iran_statistics.html
http://www.snipview.com/q/Schools_in_Iran
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ir.html
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14541327

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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 www.acei-global.org.

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One Rhythm, One Planet: Music from the Banned Countries

February 9th, 2017

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I have always believed that music brings people together and bridges cultural divides. Music can connect us like no other arts, with its universal language of rhythm and melody. Maybe even more importantly, music—especially world music, helps us understand and appreciate other cultures and people. I have bonded instantly with immigrant taxi drivers from Nigeria, Cameroon, Armenia, Argentina, and other places simply by asking them about the music of their homelands.

This core belief in the binding power of music has underpinned my work over the past 30 years to popularize world music in Los Angeles and beyond. It’s been a joy to watch ecstatic crowds dancing to Pakistani qawwali (sufi gospel) music or Nigerian afrobeat and juju, to see people entranced by whirling dervishes from Turkey and Syria, and to swoon with others to achingly beautiful classical music from Iran. My life and personal horizons have been immeasurably enriched by these experiences. Sadly, some of these experiences may now be in peril due to the recently enacted immigration ban on seven predominately Muslim countries—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya.

In this time of division and discord, it’s imperative to keep building bridges through music. With that in mind, I want to celebrate music that I’ve loved by artists from the seven countries targeted by the recent immigration ban. This sweeping ban will most certainly prevent artists from these countries from performing in the U.S., but we can still support their music and arts from afar—by continuing to share and learn about them through recordings and the vast resources of the internet.

We begin in SYRIA with the poet-musician Abed Azrie and his albums Lapis Lazuli and Aromates. Azrie was born in Aleppo but has been based in Paris for many years. Aromates was his first album released in the U.S., on Nonesuch. I put a beautiful cut, “Pareil à l’eau” (Like Water) from the album Lapis Lazuli on a compilation that I produced called Trance Planet Vol. 3. His poetry is as beautiful as his music.

IRAQ: Munir Bashir has been called the King of Oud and is credited by many as the greatest modern oud player. Algerian-born, French singer-songwriter Pierre Bensusan gave me my first Munir Bashir LP years ago. I immediately fell in love with his finely-filigreed music. Sadly, Bashir died at the age of 47 in an auto accident in Budapest. Here is a track from his album Mesopotamia:

I also want to mention an upcoming concert at the Getty Center by Iraqi-American oud musician Rahim AlHaj. His concerts take place on Saturday, February 18 at 7 p.m. and Sunday, February 19 at 4 p.m. Admission is free, but you must make a reservation. Click here for more information and reservations.

IRAN: Masters of Persian Music is a classical music ensemble formed in 2000 by true masters of Persian music. Iran has an amazing classical tradition, as complex and arabesque as any Mozart or Bach. Lyrics come from the classic poets and mystics: Hafez and Rumi, as well as more modern writers. The group once performed at the Hollywood Bowl with a live calligrapher rendering classical Persian poetry; it was one of the most stunning concerts ever to grace the Bowl’s celebrated stage. Here is a song from their album Hanan (Without You), featuring Hossein Alizadeh, Kayhan Kalhor, and Homayoun Shajarian. It is a gentle, passionate, and powerful love song.

YEMEN: When I think about Yemen, I immediately think of the late Yemenite Israeli singer Ofra Haza. Her parents moved from Yemen to Israel in 1950 in the airlift known as Operation Magic Carpet. She burst upon the scene in 1986 with her transcendent album Yemenite Songs. Many of the songs on the album were written by a 17th century rabbi. Her song “Im Nin’alu” topped the European charts, even rising to #1 in Germany. To me, her success was more convincing proof that music transcends language and builds bridges between cultures. Ofra once visited my UCLA World Music class—International Bandstand—and performed a Yemenite song, drumming a large oil can on her shoulder. It was a beautiful moment. Here is “Im Nin’alu“:

SUDAN: Sudanese music has incredible rhythms and deep groove. Crowds love it, though it’s featured more in big European summer festivals than in the U.S., especially after 9/11. Sudanese singer and oud player Abdel Aziz El Mubarak leads a large group, playing music that blends Arabic styles and Western forms. The great UK label Globe Style released his music back in the 1980’s, and I was listening.

SOMALIA: Somali poet, musician, and hip hop artist K’naan (born Keinan Abdi Warsame) was born in Mogadishu in 1978 and now resides in Canada. His hybrid sound draws from world music, hip hop, reggae, and of course, Somali music. He has collaborated with artists from the great Youssou N’Dour to Bono. Here is his song “Take a Minute.” Watch him as he walks by portraits of Gandhi, Mandela, Bob Marley, and Nina Simone:

LIBYA: We don’t hear too much from Libyan artists, especially here in the U.S., due in part to the country’s isolation under the four-decade long rule of Qaddafi. Ahmed Fakroun is a pioneer of modern Arabic pop music and one of the most popular Libyan artists, both in Tripoli as well as among Libyan expats. His crossover style blends Arabic instruments and lyrics with Western pop elements like synthesizers and electric bass. Here’s a track called “Ya Farhi’ Bik” from his 1983 album Mots D’Amour – it definitely has that 80’s pop sound but with an Arabic twist:

Finally, I want to mention the compilation album Lullabies from the Axis of Evil, released back in the days of the Bush 43 administration. It features music from all the countries above, as well as music from Afghanistan, North Korea, and other “evil” places.

I hope you enjoyed these tracks and will keep exploring musical riches from around the world.

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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
www.tomschnabel.com

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Recognition of refugees’ qualifications – Norwegian and European experiences and solutions

February 2nd, 2017

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Early and effective evaluation of refugees’ qualifications and skills, including those refugees who hold qualifications but lack proper documentation, is a critical measure to ensure that refugees are able to enter the labour market or pursue further studies as quickly as possible. As a result, both society and the individual can benefit from rapid and effective integration processes.

The Lisbon Recognition Convention clearly states that the Parties are committed to the establishment of a system for recognition of qualifications held by refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation. This applies even in cases in which the qualifications obtained cannot be proven through documentary evidence (Article VII).

Since 2005, Norway has attempted to implement a special recognition procedure for this target group. In 2012, NOKUT developed a unique recognition scheme for refugees, displaced persons and persons in a refugee-like situation. The UVD-procedure is a centralized recognition procedure administered by NOKUT. Academics from HEIs assist NOKUT, through a thorough and structured process, to reach legally binding decisions on recognition.

In 2015, with the record-high numbers of arrivals of refugees in Europe, NOKUT saw the need re-think recognition procedures for refugees. NOKUT and UK NARIC proposed the idea of establishing a European Qualification Passport for Refugees, bearing in mind the legacy of the Nansen passport.

In the 2016 pilot project – NOKUT’s Qualifications Passport for Refugees – the methodology was tested. The procedure has already become part of the Norwegian recognition scheme, with a focus on the integration of refugees.

In 2017, a similar methodology will be the basis for a pilot project in Greece, administered by the Council of Europe and Greek Ministry of Education, Science and Religious Affairs, to test out a European Qualifications Passport for Refugees. In the Erasmus+ funded project Toolkit for Recognition of Refugees, in which several European partners participate, a testing of similar methodology will carried out.

NOKUT believes the Qualifications Passport for Refugees is the optimal tool for recognition of refugees’ qualifications. In the procedure, higher education qualifications are assessed based on available documentation and a structured interview. The resulting document, in addition, summarizes and presents available information on the applicant’s, work experience and language proficiency. Bearing this in mind, the document aims at providing credible and reliable information essential to integration and progression towards employment, upskilling and admission to further studies.

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Stig Arne Skjerven is Director of Foreign Education at NOKUT (Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education) and Head of the Norwegian ENIC-NARIC, where he oversees the recognition of foreign qualifications in accordance with the Lisbon Convention and advises policy in the areas of education, recognition, labor markets and integration. Prior to his time at NOKUT, Stig Arne was the Director of Academic Affairs at Aalesund University College, Norway and a political adviser for the Association of Norwegian Students Abroad (ANSA). He has gained additional experience from various national and international committees and working groups on higher education and has presented at several international conferences and seminars on themes such as recognition, policy, marketing and recruitment. Stig Arne is currently a member of the EAIE General Council, the ENIC-NARIC Board and the Drafting Committee of the global convention of recognition of higher education qualifications.

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The Women’s March: Perspectives from Los Angeles and beyond….

January 26th, 2017

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This past Saturday, I was one of the millions of women and men on all seven continents who participated in the Women’s March. The march started as a movement on Facebook but quickly expanded to more than 600 “sister marches” in major U.S. cities outside of Washington D.C. and even outside the U.S. According to CNN, some 2.2 million people worldwide participated in marches from Australia to Hong Kong, New Zealand, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Serbia, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Kosovo, Georgia, The Netherlands, Macau, Mexico, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and as far south as Antarctica.

The final count for the crowd marching in my hometown Los Angeles was 750,000. It was heartening to see so many Angelinos, of all ages and ethnicities peacefully converging and marching through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. There were no police, at least in uniform, and no mayhem or looting, just happy peaceful people marching in solidarity for human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and the health of our planet.

While we were marching in Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of people were doing the same in the nation’s capital to show their solidarity and support for those who feel their rights may be threatened by the new administration, under Donald Trump who was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Tens of thousands of college students, faculty and administrators were also at the march in D.C. as they too feel their rights are under attack.

According to Madison Thomas, the march’s national coordinator for college engagement as reported by InsideHigher Education: “An estimated 50,000 students from college campuses across the country attended the Women’s March on Washington.” Many of these students had traveled from their college campuses far away to be at the march. InsideHigherEducation reports: “College women marched for reproductive rights and stronger legislation against sexual assault and sexual harassment. Some students said they were marching for the rights of undocumented immigrants, Muslims, members of the LGBT community, people of color and people with disabilities. And university professors marched for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry and campus diversity.” Clearly, many see the current administration’s intended policies to be in direct conflict with the gains made during the previous administrations concerning women’s reproductive rights, women’s rights, human rights, and gender equality.

Participating at the march in DC, was Julie Schmid who is the executive director of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP); one of the groups that had partnered with the Women’s March. AAUP is deeply concerned about protecting freedom of expression and inquiry on college campuses and ensuring that qualify of education and accountability of educational institutions is not negatively impacted under the Trump administration. According to Ms. Schmid, AAUP had “members participating in over 600 sister marches across the country.”

Here in Los Angeles, I was overjoyed to see such a large contingency of young college- and even high school-aged women and men marching side by side chanting slogans and carrying signs supporting women’s rights. On the metro ride to the march, during the march and on our return home, I overheard informed and passionate conversations on the importance of having stronger legislation against sexual assault and sexual harassment on college campuses, as well as protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants, people of color, Muslims, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community.

The nationwide and global outpouring of support for the Women’s March and the record breaking numbers of participants highlight the significance of human rights and social justice issues. The question is if this global solidarity was a moment in time or start of a worldwide movement as more countries, especially in Europe lean toward extreme right leaning nationalistic political parties and candidates running for positions of leadership.

Links to sources:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/01/23/tens-thousands-college-students-and-professors-march-washington

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2017-01-21/the-women-s-march-in-pictures-from-washington-to-antarctica 

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-21/women-s-march-draws-thousands-to-washington-to-protest-trump

http://www.thedp.com/article/2017/01/womens-march-reflections

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

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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 www.acei-global.org.

The Million Woman March: A Los Angeles Perspective

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I attended the Million Woman March in Los Angeles this past Saturday with several friends, and although I knew it would be crowded on the trains, the only logical transportation to the downtown location of the march, I never imagined exactly how crowded it would be. As of 2016 the “counted” population of the city exceeds 4 Million.

Our urban rail system is relatively new, and we spend a significant portion of time isolated in our cars on endless miles of streets and freeways, without much human contact. This is rapidly changing as the Metropolitan Transit Authority continues to make significant additions. Public transportation is the only way to understand the true nature of a city, sadly lost otherwise. Los Angeles is a polyglot, multicultural city with 224 languages spoken other than English, and it was a rare, unique moment in time when many of us converged, at the same place, at the same time, united in the same cause.

What an overwhelmingly beautiful thing to see and experience.

The first thing I noted was the way we all negotiated the new rules of personal space/distance. Perhaps it was because we were united in a singular cause, we seemed to be part of one organic form, functioning together, effortlessly, with unexpected grace and of all things, kindness. We were there for things much bigger, much more important, much more urgent than our personal issues of comfort.

No aggressive pushing, no shoving, all emotions channeled into a common cause. Not even a noticeable police presence, which is unheard of in protests in the city. Men, women, transgender, straight, gay, infants on their mother’s backs, grandmothers in wheelchairs, children holding signs on their father’s shoulders…all flowing together, extremely close together and everything just worked. 

I felt an overwhelming sense of empowerment, and a core feeling of joy. This is what the world should be like, this is what the world is moving towards, and my city is an outstanding example of how it can work in a “perfect world.”

Joining the masses moving effortlessly down the street, the views of the sheer numbers packed into streets and alleyways was staggering. Once we reached the stage set up in front of City Hall, and were lucky to position ourselves with a view down on the masses I had a realization that something else deeply significant had occurred, which warmed my heart and gave me hope for the next generation.

Driven by the critical nature of the serous issues we were and are protesting, we had, collectively as a society, altered the invisible overlay of puritanical ethics by casually using the word “pussy” so openly, so cavalierly…a slang word used in a defiling way, by Donald Trump, bounced around the world in a never-ending sound bite. These young parents, had to have explained it all to their children in some way that made sense. One father, surrounded by pink-hatted little girls, had his daughter on his shoulders.  Her neon-pink sign read “Don’t’ touch my …” with her own hand-drawn face of a kitty.

I tried to imagine the conversation he must have had with her, and I was filled again by the second wave of pride and hope for the future of our children. These young girls, and some boys, got it. They understood what we are all fighting for. This word, held up on hundreds of thousands of signs was a channel for the outrage and represented our refusal to accept the civic, personal, and human rights, the ecological and environmental abuses, the rising, and very frightening agenda to silence the voice of the people. 

The way I see it, is that these young parents have given us all hope, by shifting the paradigm. Their children have learned to fight, to stand up and continue to have their voices heard, and we need them.

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Jeannie Winston is a frequent guest blogger for ACEI’s Academic Exchange. Jeannie is an artist and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. Jeannie completed her undergraduate studies in Illustration at The Arts Center of Pasadena, California.  Her vast and intricate knowledge of Los Angeles and its cultural history bring a new perspective to our understanding of the City of Angels. She draws her inspiration from the natural and inhabited world around her. She is especially inspired by her observations of cultural fusions and how people strive to invoke spirit in daily life.

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The never ending case of Credential Fraud and Misrepresentation

January 19th, 2017

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On January 5, 2017, the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA), frustrated with the continued proliferation of diploma mills and fraudulent qualifications, made a bold announcement that it will name and shame holders of these bogus degrees and diplomas.  The SAQA has established a national registry where those found guilty of having misrepresented their achievements with the use of fake degrees will be listed and said registry will be made public.

The issue of diploma mills and misrepresentation of academic documents is not new but it is a growing problem which continues to fester in countries around the world.  Here at ACEI, we realize the importance of doing our due diligence in vetting and verifying academic documents and ensuring that they are in fact issued by legitimate educational institutions to individuals who have duly earned them through actual attendance and participation in classes and coursework validated by final examinations.

From time to time, we share tips we’ve gleaned from our years of experience with academic documents and in this week’s blog we’d like to do exactly that and repost a comprehensive to-do list for you. We welcome any tips you would like to add to this list.

Ensuring the authenticity of educational credentials is by far the single most important step in credential evaluation and international student admissions. Without due diligence in fraud detection, we may run the risk of evaluating documents that may have been falsified, or fraudulently procured and admitting the students into our institutions based on unauthentic credentials. As professionals involved in international credential evaluation and admissions, we must remain vigilant and adopt best practices that protect us and the community from fraud.

In this blog post, we offer some tips to consider when evaluating international academic credentials.

What is an authentic academic credential?
The definition adopted by the Michigan Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers is as follows:

An official transcript is one that has been received directly from the issuing institution. It must bear the college seal, date, and an appropriate signature. Transcripts received that do not meet these requirements should not be considered official and should be routinely verified for validity and accuracy before proceeding with the evaluation and admissions consideration.

The 5 Most Common Types of Non-Official and Illegitimate Documents

1. Forged or altered documents – Official, legitimate document that have been altered in some way (usually by omissions, addition, or changes)

2. Inside jobs – these are special cases because the documents are actually produced by institutional employees, usually for a fee; inside jobs are virtually impossible to detect upon initial review.

3. Fabricated (counterfeit) documents – documents fabricated to represent official documents from real or non-existent institutions (including use of letterheads)

4. Degree or Diploma Mill Products – The products of degree/diploma mills are not in themselves fabrications but the academic study they purport to represent certainly is.

5. Creative translations – “Translations” of foreign-language documents that are not just inaccurate but systematically misleading, tantamount to fabrication.

Watch for the Red Flags!

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Checklist of Clues:

• The application is unusually late, assuming that it would impede verification, or is accompanied by a long letter from an impressive office – usually located in the U.S. – which may be attempting to lend an aura of officialdom to otherwise unacceptable documents. Do not be pressured or rushed into completing the evaluation or reaching an admissions

• Discrepancies/inconsistencies noted in the application for evaluation;

• Evidence of corrected personal data (birth date, gender);

• Document is tampered and has evidence of white-out, burn-marks, erasures, corrections;

• Credentials do not display misspelling, wrong course titles for the time period, smudges, white-outs, or erasures;

• Fonts, text layout, and symmetry of documents are correct for that institution’s credentials.

• Interrupted/obliterated lines where information is generally typed or printed;

• Missing pictures on diplomas or professional identification cards;
• Partial seals on the surface of superimposed pictures not on the document surface;

• Institutional logos are clean and correct for the time period.

• Signatures of institutional authorities do not look forced, unsteadied, nor copied and pasted.

• The type is inconsistent throughout the document because subjects have been added or grades changed. In some cases, crude alterations have been made in longhand, or lines may have been typed in at a slight angle to the computer generated originals;

• Irregular spacing between words or letters, or insufficient space for the text;

• Questionable paper quality, texture, size (regular or legal), weight coloration;

• Ink color and quality;

• Inappropriate or outdated signatures;

• Incorrect seals/emblems, colors, shapes;

• Excessive seals and stamps attempting to help the document appear official;

• Does the document security features, such a embossed seals, foil printing, raised text, or holograms that should be the official document of that country?

• Does the document include a stamp “not to be released to student’ or “confidential,” yet it is provided by the student?

• Applicant claims to have lost the original documents;

• Applicant claims to have graduated from an institution but can provide only a letter indicating completion of program;

• Although the applicant had taken external examinations, the certificates have been lost and all he/she has left is a statement of attendance or graduation from the school;

• You know the education system to be different from US system, yet the transcript appears to be very American, giving, subjects, grades and credit hours in US terms;

• Grade certificates prepared in a language other than the official language of the country where the document originated. Many countries are currently using official transcripts in English: Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Canada (except Quebec), Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Israel, Oman, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and India.

• Names may have been substituted. Typically, a person will type his/her name on a sheet of paper, cut it out and paste it across a copy of an original, which he/she then photocopies; the substitution of names will rarely appear on an original;

• Grades listed may be absurdly high, or the number of course hours claimed to have been carried per semester an improbably load;

• Numerical aberrations: credits do not add up and the overall grade point averages are a mathematical impossibility;

• Is the educational terminology correct for the country concerned?

• Use of unprofessional language on academic documents, poor grammar, misspellings;

• Are there any dates or signatures on the documents?

Our advancement in technology is both a blessing and a curse. With sophisticated computers and printers at their disposal, counterfeiters today produce flawlessly perfect documents that for the uninitiated make it difficult to detect fraud. We hope that the tips shared in this blog and your institution’s enforcement to have in place strict standards for the submission and receipt of academic documents help thwart it and eliminate fraud.

Who ever said international credential evaluation is dull doesn’t know and appreciate what we do. Stay vigilant and happy sleuthing!

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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 www.acei-global.org.

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Vive la Différence!

January 12th, 2017

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I was lucky to be invited by Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, the President and CEO of ACEI (Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute) to attend an event at the residence of the French Consul General in Beverly Hills, on Monday, January 6.

The event was the reception for the France Alumni USA Launch. The idea is to enable meaningful connections between those who have lived and studied in France and now find themselves living back in the states, with the French Culture here in Los Angeles, as well to encourage students from France to study in the U.S.  At least on the surface.

The event marked the latest endeavor to form new cultural alliances between Francophile/ Francophone professionals in the arts, science and technology. Many of us there, in fact most of us spoke both English and French, and presentations were done in both languages.

Considering the troubling transitions of government–– in our own presidential election and the up-coming April presidential election in France, it is imperative that we find new ways to better understand each other to work together to create new paradigms for our respective societies.

How people go out into the world for life, business, pleasure, and even love, is greatly affected by their own cultural pre-dispositions. It is so important to learn a new culture, to immerse yourself in its language, customs, and ideas to facilitate and anticipate and resolve differences in fulfilling and constructive ways.

The French Consul General, Christophe Lemoine, warmly, and easily charmed the audience by acknowledging the joys and appreciation of French wine, culture and history, and extoling the virtues and strengths of the French education system. He explained how important it is that we continue to seek out and foster an educational exchange between our two countries, and invited several speakers to share their points of view on “Multi-Cultural” immersion. This exchange is particularly successful in the exchange of cultural and artistic endeavors.

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Learning a second language was once a must in U.S. education. I was one of the lucky ones, having studied French from Second grade all the way through high school and college. I even went to live and study in France and on that night found myself in familiar company.

Not only did it gift me with the confidence of being able to travel almost anywhere in the world and communicate, it opened the receptors in my brain to the ability to learn and absorb language in general, encouraging me to learn other languages, in my case Spanish and German.  I doubt I would have done that without learning French, and immersing myself in French culture from a very early age.

Albeit through colonial conquer and rule, the French culture spread and became the lingua franca in most of the world, enabling people to communicate when they did not share a common language. In 1920, The League of Nations pronounced French as the official Language of Diplomacy worldwide. Up until 1990 my US Passport was written in both French and English, then was changed to include Spanish as well. I so appreciate that!

I love speaking other languages, because it has allowed me to truly understand the way people think, their cultural expressions in art, business, spiritual beliefs and life. It is like a magic key to a doorway one did not realize was previously there.

That evening, we stood at a table with a young, married, bi-cultural couple; she is French and he is American. They met while attending a university in France.  Obviously, a successful cultural exchange! She is in International Admissions/Student Affairs here at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California and shared with us the alarming fact: Due to the recent shift in presidential powers here and the non-inclusive immigration platform of the incoming party, she has noticed a steep drop-off in queries from students around the world, wishing to study here in the United States. Prospective students are of course mirroring global feelings of uncertainty and concern.

I asked her husband what he perceived were the differences between the education systems in France and those of the U.S. His response was quick at hand. He said that in France they teach following a pedagogic model of passive listening to lectures, while in the U.S, students have access and the ability to have meaningful discourse with teachers, aids and other students.  While he loved and greatly benefited from the more well-rounded studies required in France, he preferred the more engaged creative model in the American Universities.

This just made the feeling of needing to connect on a variety of different levels with those outside the United States an even stronger imperative for myself and many of the people we talked to. We the people, have, to find ways to come together, as our governments are not presently setting exemplary standards.

That creative and collaborative exchange of ideas, was really, what the evening was about. Finding a pathway in challenging and rapidly changing times, to engage in new ways of creative collaboration across many platforms: the arts, sciences, technology and of course education, to change and enrich our selves and the societies we live in.

Vive la différence.

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Jeannie Winston is a frequent guest blogger for ACEI’s Academic Exchange. Jeannie is an artist and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. Jeannie completed her undergraduate studies in Illustration at The Arts Center of Pasadena, California.  Her vast and intricate knowledge of Los Angeles and its cultural history bring a new perspective to our understanding of the City of Angels. She draws her inspiration from the natural and inhabited world around her. She is especially inspired by her observations of cultural fusions and how people strive to invoke spirit in daily life.

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