Monthly Archives: September 2013

Greece: Teachers’ strike, attacks on public education & privatization

September 26th, 2013

Like most of you, I’ve been watching the events in Greece unfolding from the sidelines. We have all been following the economic breakdown of the country and threats by the EU to rescind Greece’s EU member status. As Greece’s economy continues to spin out of control, giving rise to right wing fascist movements proudly expressing their xenophobia by blaming the country’s economic collapse on immigrants, another target and casualty has been the country’s public education. Political unrest and economic instability in Greece has led the government to impose draconian measures that have severely impacted the country’s public education system. The drastic steps taken by the government has led to ongoing strikes by Greek teachers since September 16th protesting attacks on public education.

Greece

The situation in Greece is dire. Teachers and education staff as well as students in Greece are facing a situation that has dramatically impacted the quality of education in the country.

According to International Education, the following are some of the highlights of the situation:

• There are 16,000 fewer teachers in secondary education, a 20 per cent reduction since June 2013
• Over 100 Vocational Education Schools are closing down http://www.ei-ie.org/en/news/news_details/2624
• 2,500 Vocational Education Teachers are being suspended, just one step before dismissal
• In 2009, there was 33 per cent reduction of spending on education which is expected to reach 472 per cent in 2016
• There is a compulsory transfer of 5,000 teachers to primary education and administration posts
• The government has passed a new law on education without a dialogue establishing a harsh, examination-centered system in all forms/grades of upper secondary education forcing students to seek private tuition outside school and leading to school dropouts.

Strong words from ETUCE:

The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) has been observing the developments in Greece and has issued some harsh words to the government. On 19-20 September, 2013, the Director of the EI region, the ETUCE, Martin Rømer, went to Athens to support Greek colleagues. The ETUCE issued a statement on September 18th that the “Greek education system (is) on the brink of collapse”. The ETUCE declared that by 2016, Greece will cut its education spending by 47% and called on the government of Greece to be more inclusive in its dialogue with social partners in the education section and abandon its authoritarian approach by encouraging an open forum for discussion.

There has also been a surge in privatization of vocational education in Greece which is another subject protested by the ETUCE. The absence of free, high qualify public education with equal access is seen by the ETUCE as an obstacle to bettering the lives of the people and promotion of a prosperous society. The government’s sweeping privatization plans is not only affecting the country’s education system but also its public radio and television media. According to a report by EI: “Last June, Greece woke up without public radio or television services. On 11 June, the government announced it was going to shut down the radio and TV services of the state broadcaster ERT, sacking 2,500 employees, and becoming the only member state of the European Union to abolish the public service of broadcasting.” This is similar to waking up one morning here in the U.S. and finding NPR, PRI, and PBS have been shut down.

Interesting to note is that virtually all the top-performing countries on international education measures have strong teacher unions, including Finland, Japan, Canada, and Australia. However, in Greece, the government is working toward dismantling the teachers’ unions threatening teachers and school administrators with imprisonment if they choose to exercise their right to strike. The EI is calling on its members to support and “actively show their solidarity” with the Greek educators. The world is watching.


The Frustrated Evaluator
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7 things to know about Mexico’s Historic Education Reforms

September 19th, 2013

Mexico
The president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto pictured at the promulgation of the Educational Reform ceremony in the National Palace.

Earlier this month, by an overwhelming vote of 102-22, Mexico’s Senate approved the over-haul of the country’s public education system. The education reforms, proposed by Enrique Peña Nieto when he took office as president last December and largely supported by Mexico’s three main political parties, favor standardized system of test-based hiring and promotion of its public school teachers, approved the over-haul of the country’s education system.

The new education laws diminish the control the teachers unions have over the country’s education system that include the corrupt sale and inheritance of teaching jobs and shift the power to the state. The new education reforms have given rise to protests by thousands of teachers, led by powerful teachers’ unions, who’ve been clashing with police in the streets of Mexico City in an effort to halt and derail the reforms.

Using Finland and South Korea as examples, Mexico wants to incorporate the same conditions followed by these two countries that have led to successes in their respective education systems. These conditions include: selection of the best teachers, social recognition of teacher and the teaching profession, higher wages and on-going improvement of the system.

Here are some of the highlights of Mexico’s New Education Reforms:

• New teachers seeking to gain a teaching position in the national educational system are selected through a national examination. Once selected, new teachers will have to pass an evaluation assessment in order to demonstrate their knowledge and competency to become a teacher. New teachers are given up to two chances (one per year in each of their first two years) to pass this evaluation.

• Existing teachers (1.2 million), just like new teachers, will have to pass an evaluation assessment to provide their knowledge and competency to teach classrooms. Existing teachers are given up to three opportunities (one per year in each of the following three years) to pass the evaluation assessment.

• Union leaders will no longer be able to fill 50% of the new or vacant teaching positions (eliminating the power formally granted in 1963)

• Retiring teachers will no longer be able to sell their positions or pass them on to relatives

• Teachers who chronically underperform may be dismissed

• The union will lose their “comisionados” – some 80,000-100,000 officials paid by the government to do union work.

• Promotions and pay raises will be merit-based.

For more on this topic, visit these links:
http://www.thedialogue.org/uploads/LAA/Daily/2013/LAA130910.pdf
http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2013/09/10-teachers-mexico-education-reforms-rozental

Alan
Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

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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 http://www.acei-global.org.

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Education in Syria: Struggling to Cope amidst Conflict

September 12th, 2013

Syria
Image source: http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/11/23/251368.html

The on-going civil war in Syria has prompted us to address the troubled state of the country’s educational system. The United Nations, in its report released in March of 2013, depicted the collapse of Syria’s education system. With thousands of schools damaged or converted into temporary shelters for displaced civilians, many children have not attended class for nearly two years, since the conflict started. Fearing the safety of their children, many parents don’t even send their children to school even in areas where their school may be open.

The UN report said that “at least a fifth of the country’s schools have suffered direct damage, and in others where classes are still held, overcrowding has pushed class sizes to 100 students.” UNICEF’s assessment of the situation was carried out in December 2012 and since then, the conflict has escalated and worsened with no end in sight.

“The education system in Syria is reeling from the impact of violence,” said Yo Jelil, the UNICEF representative in Syria. “Syria once prided itself on the quality of its education. Now it’s seeing the gains it made over the years rapidly reversed.”

Here are some facts about the current state of education in Syria based on the March 2013 report from UN’s UNICEF:

• More than 75% of schools in the country have been closed because of the on-going conflict. About 2,960 schools out of more than 22,000 schools in the country have been damaged and destroyed.

• Over 1,500 schools are being used as shelters for displaced person

• More than 200 teachers and other staff have been killed and many others are no longer reporting to work

• Some schools have been used by armed forces and groups involved in the conflict

• Educators are looking at alternative ways of offering lessons, such as using mosques instead of schools to teach, as parents worry warplanes usually target schools where the displaced have sought refuge.

• A group of activists in Idlib Province has started a radio station called “Colors FM,” and offer a daily 90-minute broadcast of lessons in English, math and science aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 10.

• UNICEF’s plans to try to alleviate Syria’s education crisis include the donation of school supplies and prefabricated classrooms and outreach to internally displaced children. UNICEF needs US$20 million to complete its projects. (At the time March 2013 report was released, the agency had received no more than $3 million.)

• Two charts prepared by UNICEF depicting the regions in Syria where school have been damaged and attendance rate:

Syria_chart

Syria_chart_2

• University education and university students have been severely affected by the conflict. For a glimpse of the damage brought on this sector of Syria’s education system, we strongly recommend the article “Syria’s Lost Generation,” Keith David Watenpaugh which appeared in the June 3, 2013 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. http://chronicle.com/article/Syrias-Lost-Generation/139517/

Want to help?

The Institute for International Education (IIE) http://www.iie.org together with Jusoor http://www.jusoor-sy.org and the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) http://www.iit.edu have announced a “Commitment to Action at the 2012 annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org that includes providing emergency grants to students whose education has been interrupted by the crisis, and to scholars whose lives are threatened in Syria. To join the consortium, visit the IEE link: http://www.iie.org/Who-We-Are/IIENetwork/Emergency-Support-For-Students-From-Syria

You may also reach out directly to UNICEF at http://www.unicef.org.

Alan
Alan Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO

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 http://www.acei-global.org.

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5 helpful tips for international students

September 5th, 2013

Students at Climate Change Downscaling Program

So, you’re an international student and freshly arrived on the campus of a U.S. college. Welcome! Now that you’re here, it’s understandable that you’re going to find college life daunting. You’re thousands of miles away from home and family and out of your comfort zone. Here are five tips to consider as you start your first semester, which hopefully will help your college experience as an international student in your host country rewarding and memorable.

Orientation – Many colleges will have arranged an international student orientation program before the official start of the semester. The program maybe offered as a lecture over a course of a day, or a few days in length. The orientation day or week is a great opportunity to acclimate to campus life and find your bearings. You’ll be offered information on important matters such as visas statuses, local laws, campus security, campus maps, checklist of things to do before the start of the semester. Orientation week also offer opportunities like mixers and sporting activities to bring the new students together. Make sure you participate in both the practical and fun activities.

Join a club or society – Most colleges will have a club fair at the start of the semester. Walk around and visit each booth, ask questions, and see which activity interests you. It’s not only about the Greek system of fraternities and sororities. If the fraternity or sorority life is not your style, you’ll find many other campus clubs that focus on a specific topic or interest, such as language groups, like the French club, or Spanish club, or musical groups, like the guitar group, or ukulele group, or a cappella singing group. There are also sporting societies and many other extra-curricular organizations. It’s important that you mix your academic calendar with at least one extra-curricular activity to benefit from a full campus experience.
Source: HYPERLINK “http://www.sbcc.edu” http://www.sbcc.edu

Make Friends outside your comfort zone – It’s easy when you’re an international student to gravitate to students who are from your country of origin. You speak the same language and share the same culture. There’s nothing wrong with this but you need to step out of your comfort zone and initiate conversations with other classmates. Not only will this help improve your command of the English language (if English is not your native tongue) but will also open you up to new cultural experiences. In fact, you will also help open and broaden your new friend’s perspectives on your culture.

Explore a (fun) course – Your major be mechanical engineering, or political science, or computer science, but make sure that you take at least one course that is not related to your major but is interesting and different. It could be a Square dancing or Salsa dancing class, or a course in Sufi meditation, or on the Evolution of Hip Hop, whatever the offerings, add a little variety to your program. Usually, these courses are 1 unit of credit, so you’re not taking a bite out of your regular course schedule.

Off campus – Though a college campus can be a small town of its own and offer a great variety of activities, it’s important that you step out of campus and venture into the local town or city where your college is located. It could be as simple as going to see an exhibition at a museum or gallery, to having dinner, seeing a movie, hiking, camping, or visiting the local farmer’s market. Exploring the local community is vital to your own personal growth and offers you a better perspective of life outside the college campus environment.

It’s easy to get into the routine of going from the dorm, to a class, to the library, back to the dorm, to the cafeteria, and become a couch potato without leaving the campus. Get out of your comfort zone. You’ve come this far to America, go out and explore and discover new things about the country and yourself!

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
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