Monthly Archives: March 2014

International Credential Evaluations: Standards and Best Practices

March 27th, 2014

Paperwork

Throughout the years, several U.S. international education individuals and organizations generously applied themselves in establishing guidelines for applied research and the evaluation of international educational credentials, while at the same time outlining the professional ethics and principles for the profession. Since its inception, the development of Standards and Best Practices has been the mission of the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE). We are committed to addressing the needs of the international credential evaluation profession and the first association to publish and enforce consistent standards for its members.

What is AICE?

The only U.S. membership association concerned primarily with:

1. ensuring quality assurance in international credential evaluations.
2. setting standards and offers certification for international credential evaluation professionals.
3. providing best practice guidelines and training for its members.

The Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) was created in 1998 as a non-profit organization in order to address known deficiencies in the international credential evaluation marketplace through the adoption of ethical standards. AICE works to safeguard the interests of both international students and the newly-arrived immigrants in the U.S. as well as schools and institutions of higher learning, professional licensing and regulatory boards and employers, through the promotion of ethical, standards-based international academic credential evaluations.

AICE’s purposes are to:

1. Develop standards of ethical practice pertaining to the evaluation of international academic credentials and conversion of these studies into their U.S. equivalent.
2. Develop best practices and training for its members to serve more proficiently those with international credentials seeking admission to U.S. educational institutions, employment, or professional certification with a regulatory board.
3. Establish a framework through which its members can become certified.

AICE takes pride in being the only U.S. Association to publish and enforce standards for expert qualifications, methodologies and reporting outcomes in international credentials evaluation. The Association’s members provide U.S. equivalents of international educational documents that are utilized by institutions of higher education, USCIS, state/local/national government departments, personnel departments such as teacher credentialing and other employers. AICE members are responsible for developing and implementing the ethics and correct practices required by a profession that touches the individual lives of each of our clients as well as our society as a whole. AICE’s Standards are posted on the website’s home page. www.aice-eval.org.

AICE Members:

Each member of AICE must submit to a rigorous application process to indicate that it fulfills the Association’s standards for expertise, methodology and documentation. Evaluations completed by organizations and individuals that meet AICE standards are accepted as reliable and complete within the field of applied comparative education.

AICE members assist those with education from abroad who are seeking residency and employment, professional licensure or further education in the United States. Individuals with foreign education are referred to AICE members by immigration attorneys, managers and educators who need information. AICE member evaluators provide practical and up-to-date knowledge on foreign ministries of education, institutions of education, educational areas of study, diplomas and transcripts.

AICE-certified member organizations are: Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute. (ACEI); American Education Research Corporation (AERC); Foreign Credential Evaluations, Inc.; Globe Language Services, Inc. International Evaluation Services; Lisano International; SDR Educational Consultants.

A major part of AICE’s mission is to provide the general public with access to trustworthy credential evaluation research and experts. AICE members satisfy this mission by meeting the Association’s requirements for expertise, evaluation methodology and thorough evaluation report by following stringent guidelines in the preparation of credential evaluations.  We will continue our collaborative efforts with our members as well as those organizations who share the same mission.

David A. Robinson, Ph.D.
President
AICE
www.aice-eval.org

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8 things to know about Nowruz (Persian New Year) Celebrations

March 20th, 2014

setting
We are going to share the blog we posted in 2012 on the Persian/Iranian celebration of Now-Ruz with a few new additions.

Vernal Equinox
The celebration of Now-Ruz (New Day), takes effect at the exact astronomical beginning of Spring, known as the vernal equinox. Now-Ruz is celebrated today on March 20th and has been celebrated for nearly 3000 years by Iranians. It is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. Its rituals and traditions date back to Zoroastrianism, the ancient Persian religion that existed until 7th century A.D. before the Arab invasion and the enforcement of Islam.

Nowruz: An official UN observance
The United Nations has proclaimed Nowruz an official UN observance because it promotes peace and solidarity, particularly in families.  The day also focuses reconciliation and neighborliness, contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.

National Holiday
Now-Ruz celebrations last for 13 days. As a child growing up in Iran, Now-Ruz meant a school holiday lasting for 13 days. In fact, most businesses throughout the country would shut down for the duration of Now-Ruz. Everyone was on holiday!

Spring Cleaning
In preparation for Now-Ruz, Iranians embark on the spring-cleaning of their homes, even make or buy a new set of clothes (my brother and I loved getting a new outfit or two), and bake pastries in anticipation of visiting guests when gifts are exchanged and feasts enjoyed.

Chahar-Shanbeh Soori Fire Festival
The rituals surrounding the celebration of Now-Ruz are rich with symbolism and ceremony. They begin on the last Wednesday of winter with Chahar-Shanbeh Soori (Eve of Wednesday), a fire-jumping festival, where people create small bonfires in their neighborhoods and jump over them as the sun sets.
firejumping
Celebrants taking a leap of faith during Chahar-Shanbeh Soori

Parents join in with their children and jump over the flames inviting happiness and abundance while releasing and letting go of darkness and negativity by chanting: “Offer me your lovely red hue and take away my sickly pallor.” With fire signifying light (day), the symbol of all that is good, and dark (night), the unknown and all that is evil, celebrants partaking in the fire festival look forward to the arrival of spring bringing longer days and new beginnings.

Minstrels, Troubadours and Mischief-making
As a child growing up in Iran, I remember the minstrels or troubadours, known as Haji Firuz, who sang and danced in the streets dressed in bright red and yellow satin poufy pants and shirts, spreading good cheer and bringing merriment to neighborhoods.

haji
Boys and men in costumes as Haji Firuz

Another tradition, somewhat resembling the trick-or-treat of Halloween, included young men who disguised themselves as women under chadors (long veils) and went from street to street banging on pots and pans, shaking tambourines and raising raucous. All this was done in jest as seeing a boy or young man in such a disguise invited laughs and more laughs.

Haft-Seen Display
haft_seen

A major feature of Now-Ruz is the preparation of “Haft-Seen,” (seven “S’s”); a special display of seven specific offerings each beginning with the letter “S” in Farsi. Typically, the “Haft-Seen” includes the following: “seeb” or apple (promotes beauty and good health), “seer” or garlic (wards off bad omen), “samanou” (a sweet pudding, symbolizing affluence), “sabze” or wheat-germ (representing rebirth) grown in a flat dish a few days before the New Year, “sek-keh” or coin, preferably gold (for wealth and abundance), “senjed” (dried fruit from lotus tree, symbolizing love), and “somagh” or sumac (color of sunrise). In addition, there will also be a mirror (symbol for the sky), a goldfish in a bowl (life force), lit candles symbolizing fire and promoting enlightenment, colored eggs (symbol of fertility corresponding to the mother earth), sweets to spread sweetness and a book of poems by Hafiz or Rumi.

Sizdah Bedar (Out with the 13th) Festivities
The Now-Ruz festivities end on the 13th day known as “Sizdah Bedar” (out with the 13th), and it is celebrated outdoors. Staying indoors is seen as a bad omen and families spend the day outside in parks and in the countryside near streams, rivers, and lakes, enjoying a festive picnic. The “sabze” or plate of wheat-germ that was the centerpiece of the Haft-Seen is taken on this picnic so that young unmarried women wishing for a husband will tie a knot between the green shoots (symbolizing a marital bond) and toss it into running water.
sizdah_bedar
Images of Sizdah-Bedar of the past and present

About 300 million people worldwide celebrate Nowruz, with traditions and rituals particularly strong in the Balkans, the Black Sea and Caspian Sea regions, the Caucasus, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.

Despite Iran’s Islamic Republic’s attempts to do away with Now-Ruz, calling it un-Islamic and pagan, the ancient tradition of celebrating the arrival of Spring continues in Iran. Now-Ruz is a reminder that the darkness is fleeting: the day will soon be longer than the night; and with the arrival of a new day, change for the better, is in the near horizon.

Happy Now-Ruz!

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Celebrating Spring

March 13th, 2014

spring

With nervous pleasure,
The tulips are receiving
A spring rain at dusk
––Richard Wright

Cultures around the world celebrate spring as a time of renewal, healing, and rebirth, moving from the darkness of winter to the much-anticipated light of spring. Whatever form of celebration this takes, it is a time of new beginnings and hope. A time to celebrate life.

Original peoples were in rhythmic harmony with natural cycles, and created seasonal festivals, to honor their connection and dependency on the natural world. It seems only obvious then, that people who later came to believe in dying and returning gods–– synchronized their celebrations of birth, fertility and life, with those of the original people, often at the beginning of Spring, the Vernal Equinox.

The word Equinox comes from the Latin aequus (equal) and nox (night), equal night, meaning a moment in time when the earth’s axis is tilted neither towards nor away from the sun, but is aligned directly with the poles, and day and night are about equal in length. It is a global time of perfect balance.

Original people the world over understood that a state of balance was necessary for well-being and harmony, and knew that imbalance in nature or with the self was the source of illness or disease. To the Yoruba people of West Africa, “…disease is seen as a disruption of our connection to the earth.”

Spring is regarded as a time for healing, and cleansing, a much-anticipated occasion heralded by the appearance of tiny green buds, the first flowers poking through the still cold ground, and of course the winter-absent sounds of birds.

Birdsong and flowers are two mythically powerful avatars of spring in most cultures worldwide, and therefore it is not surprising that both are honored ritually in connection with celebrations of spirit, and of dying and returning gods.

Birdsongs

About three weeks ago, I was happily surprised when I realized that once again, I was hearing the sounds of birds. I had been tuned to a different, internal biorhythm––Winter, and had not even realized the sound was missing, and it made me walk around smiling all day.

At just about the same time, I read a poignant and bittersweet article titled” How to build a Perfect Refugee Camp” in the Sunday Feb.13, 2014 New York Times Magazine. It is a about the lives of Syrian refugees in Kilis, a refugee camp in Turkey near the Syrian border

One of many moving details that ran throughout the story was the presence and implied importance of Canaries in cages. They were photographed everywhere in their cages, inside and outside of most of the container dwellings, and the author often noted their presence, but without a real explanation.

I found that to be fascinating and have been trying to find information that could explain the origins of the tradition, of keeping Canaries, if in fact it was one…or is it rather a result of the heartbreaking situation they find themselves in. I began to think that perhaps the birds are there for another reason. A healing reason.

The sound of a songbird is at the same time elevating and calming, reassuring. We feel more at ease somehow, which means our lives are just flowing better, and we like that.

If some of us are lucky enough to hear the songs of birds interrupt and rise above the noise of a city or the noise of traffic, consciously or unconsciously, we feel better.

Julian Treasure explained that in his recent Ted Talk: The 4 ways Sound Affects Us,”… Most people find the sound of birdsong reassuring. There’s a reason for that. Over hundreds of thousands of years, we’ve learned that when the birds are singing,” things are safe.” It’s when they stop–– that you need to be worried.” Maybe it is a tradition based on the healing wisdom of the natural world, and as refugees themselves, perhaps these Canaries sing to bring about harmonious balance––a beautiful coping mechanism that calms everyone down, giving them a reassuring space to heal from the trauma of war.

Atahualpa Yupanqui, the famous Argentine folk musician, was quoted as saying,” Music is a torch with which to see where beauty lies, “ and the music of singing birds is certainly that. Perhaps that is why the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians in California, among many native tribes in California, chose to call their very important singing rituals, Birdsongs. These songs are very important to their cultures, and are meant to be shared in social gatherings. The songs tell stories, which unfold in a series of songs about migration, and life lessons. Both men and women participate, singing and dancing to the accompaniment of rattles.

Flower Fusion

The Yaqui Indians of the Sonoran Desert revere flowers, and view them as manifestations of souls. “Haisa sewa?” is a Yaqui greeting among men, which means,” How is the flower?”

In the springtime, the Yaqui perform their sacred duty of ensuring the existence of the world, by dancing the Deer Dance in Lenten and Easter rituals. After the Conquest, the Yaqui fused their original beliefs, synchronizing them to the Catholic Holidays, ensuring the survival of their ways. The deer dancers represent the spirit of the sacred deer who lives in the Flower World, one of the five worlds of Yaqui belief. Their rituals are conducted to perfect these worlds, and eliminate the harm done to them.

During these spring rituals, the sacred deer returns to this world, and the songs of the deer singer, are the voices of the deer, bringing mystical messages from their world. The return of the Deer spirit is syncretic with the resurrection of Jesus Christ, returning on Easter with divine messages from heaven.

For the ancient Nauhua people, Xochiquetzalli, the goddess of flowers and love, was the mother of their sacred dying and returning god Quetzalcoatl, or Kukulkan, the plumed serpent. As a dual-natured god, Kukulkan’s feathers represent his heavenly abode, and his serpent body allows him to travel on the earth. The Quetzal bird’s iridescent green plumes were used in royal costume and ceremonial garb for kings and priests.

The great pyramid El Castillo, or Kukulcán’s Pyramid, built in the center of Chichen Itza in Mexico, displays an astronomically symbolic reenactment, of the return of Kukulcán, as he descends to earth on the Vernal Equinox. An unusual shadow creeps down the northern stairway, appearing as a serpent, which finally unites with its stone head, which sits in the light at the pyramid’s base.

Tonantzin, Xochiquetzalli, and the Virgin of Guadalupe are all aspects of the great mother goddess of fertility, of life, and creation.

The ancient goddess Xochiquetzalli, (Flowery Plumage), gave rise to the pre-Hispanic belief in a “flower-woman”, who represented Mother Earth and fertility. She is celebrated on the Friday before Palm Sunday, in the Flor más Bella del Ejido (Most Beautiful Flower of the Ejido or Field) pageant, honoring the beauty of Mexican indigenous women, held in Xoxhimilco, Mexico. In the Náhuatl dialect, Xoxhimilco means,” place of the flowery orchard.”

In about 1570, Friar Diego Durán, who grew up in Texcoco, described the celebrations of Xochiquetzalli, ”… The dance they most enjoyed was the one in which they crowned and adorned themselves with flowers. A house of flowers was erected on the main pyramid . . .. They also erected artificial trees covered with fragrant flowers where they seated the goddess Xochiquetzalli… On this day they were as happy as could be, the same happiness and delight they feel today on smelling any kind of flower, whether it have an agreeable or a displeasing scent, as long as it is a flower. They become the happiest people in the world smelling them…”

As Christians honor the Virgin of Guadalupe with roses, and the Virgin of Candelaria with marigolds, the Nahua people honored Xochiquetzalli, singing Xochicuicame, flower songs. Xochitlahtoane (flower speakers), performed publicly. The songs were about flowers or related to rituals honoring Xochiquetzal, and were a channel to invoke a deity in an individual and personal way.

The most famous flower songs were those of Hungry Coyote, a ruler, and poet in ancient Mexico. One of his songs, The Flower Tree Song was sung during this Spring celebration in honor of Xochiquetzalli. Here is an excerpt:

“…Delight, for Life Giver adorns us. All the flower bracelets, your flowers, are dancing. Our songs are strewn in this jewel house, this golden house. The Flower Tree grows and shakes, already it scatters. The quetzal breathes honey, the golden quéchol breathes honey. Ohuaya ohuaya.

You have transformed into a Flower Tree, you have emerged, you bend and scatter. You have appeared before God’s face as multi-colored flowers. Ohuaya ohuaya.

Live here on earth, blossom! As you move and shake, flowers fall. My flowers are eternal, my songs are forever: I raise them: I, a singer. I scatter them, I spill them, the flowers become gold: they are carried inside the golden place. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Flowers of raven, flowers you scatter, you let them fall in the house of flowers. Ohuaya ohuyaya.

Happy Spring!

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jeanniewn@gmail.com

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15 Facts on Education in Developing Countries

March 6th, 2014

globe

According to UNICEF’s January 2012 report, all children must have access to primary education that is free, compulsory and of good quality. Universal education and gender equality and empowering women are vital components of this mission. Educating children helps reduce poverty. Education will give the next generation the tools to fight poverty and conquer disease. School also offers children a safe environment, with support, supervision and socialization. Here they learn life skills that can help them prevent diseases, including how to avoid HIV/AIDS and malaria. Children may receive life-saving vaccines, fresh water and nutrient supplementation at school.
 

Many countries have committed themselves to more than the achievement of universal primary education. They are also looking at expanding universal education so that it includes several years of secondary school and a new basic education. The challenge of keeping children in school after primary school is great. UNESCO reports that when lower secondary-school-age children are counted in, the number of out-of-school children is doubled, as more than 72 million adolescents in this group are out of school.
 
The barriers to school attendance at secondary level resemble those at primary level, but those barriers are intensified. The cost of secondary schooling is often higher than the cost of primary schooling and therefore more difficult for families to afford; secondary schools are further from home, often requiring transportation; and the conflict between educational aspirations and the potential income that could be earned by a working adolescent becomes greater. 

We are now in the early months of 2014, yet progress in offering free, compulsory and good quality universal education in the developing nations has been slow. Overall, females have been the most affected with little or no access to educational opportunities which can be attributed to social, traditional and deep-rooted religious and cultural beliefs that are often the barriers they encounter and unable to overcome.

The following are a few facts about education in developing countries that show how it affects children and adults:

1. In most developing countries, public school is not free. The costs of books, uniforms, and teachers’ salaries are borne by the students’ families.

2. 67 million primary-school-age children are still denied the right to education.

3. As much as 115 million children of primary school age are not enrolled in school.

4. More than 226 million children do not attend secondary school.

5. Illiteracy is highest amongst females. In more than 20 developing countries, illiteracy rates amongst women exceed 70%.

6. Of the 67 million out-of-school primary-school-age children, 53% are girls. Of the lower secondary out-of-school adolescents, 52% are girls.

7. While girls are less likely to be in school, boys are more likely to repeat grades or drop out altogether.

8. Educated girls and women are less vulnerable to HIV infection, human trafficking and other forms of exploitation and more likely to marry later and have fewer children. An education can help decrease the spreading of infectious diseases.

9. Children born to educated mothers are less likely to be stunted or malnourished. In fact, each additional year of maternal education helps reduce the child mortality rate by 2%.

10. The African continent has areas with less than 50% literacy among children ages 18 and under. In comparison, the youth literacy rates in South American and European countries are among the highest with 90-100% literacy.

11. In developing, low-income countries, every additional year of education can increase a person’s future income by an average of 10%.

12. Ethiopia: By applying an education sector plan with affirmative action towards girls, the country went from a girls’ enrollment rate in primary education of 40% in 1999 to 90% in 2008.

13. Burkina Faso: The Government management to change the label of girls’ education from ‘worrisome’ to ‘progress’ within a couple of years. The number of girls enrolled in school increased 73% between 2002 and 2008, and increasing numbers of girls are continuing onto secondary school.


14. A 10 to 20% increase in women’s wages is associated with each additional year of schooling.

15. When women and girls receive an income, they re-invest 90% of their income into their families, as opposed to 30-40% for men.

Clearly an educated world is a healthier and more humane world for all.

Sources:

http://www.wordbank.org
http://www.unicef.org
http://www.nationmaster.com
http://www.unesco.org
http://www.uasaid.gov
http://www.globalpartnerhip.org

ACEI

Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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