How many countries?

August 5th, 2016

How many countries

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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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Intensive English Programs (IEPs) Are in Trouble Again

July 28th, 2016

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Once again, we find ourselves in very challenging times for intensive English language programs in the US. These enrollment valleys occur once every ten years or so. One can cite a variety of reasons for the declining enrollments; however, the primary one is the decline in Saudi Arabian scholarship students. Other factors at play are the dollar, the “Trump card,” the Brazilian scholar program, the lousy world economy, more world competition (e.g. English in Malaysia), and some might even include “global warming” on their list of causes. But the primary cause of the situation we’re in today, the Saudi student decline, was certainly predictable. It was not a matter of “if,” but “when.”Along with the tremendous influx of Saudi students since 2005 came more IEP school openings. IEPs barely had to lift a finger to fill their seats thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There was really no reason to allocate resources to prime the pump of other potentially lucrative future international student markets. I am sure a few of the IEPs continued to cast their sales net far and wide and were able to groom some potentially new emerging markets; however, I suspect most did not. Life was good, so why make the effort?

Not the first IEP enrollment crisis, not the last

These major “market disruptors” such as the Saudi student decline occur about every decade for IEPs. For other examples, we can look back to the oil crisis of 1974, the huge Venezuelan scholarship program of the mid 1970s that saw a sudden end, and the Iranian take over of the American Embassy in 1979, as well as the 1997 Asian financial crisis and 9/11. In addition to these major market disruptors, there were minor ones such as periodic foreign government fiscal controls on travel abroad, major currency devaluations (or stronger dollar), Europeans no longer able to quit their jobs to study abroad and easily return home to better jobs (Switzerland in particular), and military conflicts, just to name a few.

So, here we are in this mess today with declining enrollments, instructors being laid off, administrators being placed in classrooms, program levels being combined (out of financial necessity), and IEPs closing (more by the end of the 2016). And then there is the possible impact on international education if Donald Trump becomes our next president, or a disruptor of some sort occurring in the People’s Republic of China, either of which would bring further hardship to IEPs.

How to survive the Saudi slump

There are few short-term solutions to getting us out of this mess. If the student numbers do not turn around soon, there will be an increasing number of IEP closures resulting in fewer IEPs, providing some enrollment growth among the remaining IEPs. Yes—you are all competing in the same markets for the same students with few exceptions. You are all friends, but you are also friendly competitors.

Those IEPs that are able to survive the carnage will be those that are best able to manage their expenses throughout this period. That is how they will survive. I say this because developing new markets is costly, time consuming and requires skill sets that might no longer be available at the IEPs. This is especially true since those IEPs that do survive into the fall of 2016 will have eliminated many administrative positions.

A common marketing mistake of many college/university IEPs is that they look to the “big name” schools to set the standards for recruitment. “Big name” schools do not require the same aggressive marketing efforts as those IEPs on lesser known campuses. So, if you are one of the “small name” schools, you need to be very creative and very aggressive in the ways you market your IEP program. You have to put the students first. For instance, if you have a program schedule designed to meet the schedule of your college/university instead of a schedule most convenient for your prospective students, well, need I say more?

Recruiting: an ongoing project

IEPs may sometimes forget that the sales effort does not end with receiving a student application. Special efforts need to be put forth to ensure that the student applicant will actually arrive and enroll for classes. And the sales effort continues. As you know, the student can easily pick up and transfer to another IEP if he or she becomes unhappy with yours. Regular blind student surveys will certainly go a long way to help you identify and rectify reasons behind unhappy student customers. When I think of the IEP program, I think in terms of 24/7. IEPs which do not accept 24/7 responsibility will be those programs which lose students to the IEPs which do think in 24/7 terms.

The surviving IEPs will be those that are customer centric and have carefully studied market conditions resulting in knowledge that will help them finely tune their sales efforts. They will need to be able to identify new potential markets utilizing recent US government visa statistics that are not readily available to the general public. Using student statistics such as those found in Open Doors can easily lead you astray. You need to know where the student activity is today, not where it was one or two years ago. A shotgun sales method will not yield the results you are looking for. Also, if you are not working with very qualified and carefully screened productive agents in key countries around the world, you will have great difficulty recovering from this downturn.

So, do your homework, target your promotion, keep your expenses in line with your revenue, work with good referral agents with whom you communicate by Skype once a month, and you will be around when the dust finally settles. And, yes, it will settle as new markets and new opportunities begin to appear on your radar.

See this article as it originally appeared on iTEP Chairman Perry Akins’ LinkedIn page. Follow iTEP on LinkedIn

Perry Akins
Chair
iTEP
http://www.itepexam.com/

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In Contribution to Peace: The Role of Multilingualism in Contributing to Process of world Peacemaking

July 21st, 2016

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Growing up in a country which has lived long successive wars for more than three decades makes Peace and Peacemaking my very first priority. Civil wars, fighting, explosions, extremist groups, segregation and  destructed social structures, displaced people, frightening number of widows, orphans, and immigrants, polluted environment, declined agricultural lands, poverty, hunger, collapsed economies, and almost all other serious problems, are the consequences of long years of unjustified successive wars. I believe that it is time for everyone, for each of us, to take the responsibility of rebuilding a sustainable peacefulness in this world. As an Iraqi architect, faculty, and researcher within the field of architecture, I had a dream, a small dream: for architects and architecture to promote the process of peacemaking, not only in my country but in all conflict zones all over the world.

The Journey was not easy at all. The dream had started to fade behind the rapidly rising conflicts in Baghdad, especially following the civil war of 2006, until the moment when a light started to emerge again at the end of the tunnel. I was blessed with a scholarship to study a PhD abroad. The dream came alive: to study at a University in the United States was the key to my goal.

Being blessed again, I was accepted to study at the University of Cincinnati and that was for me the very first step to bring my dream into reality. One of the requirements for the admission of international students was a language certificate in order to improve their language skills and prepare them for the academic life of University.

Initially, learning English was simply a requirement I had to fulfill in order to start my journey at the university.  I never expected that my journey would actually begin earlier, from ELS, where I learned the real meanings of living in peacefulness. The experience of learning English itself turned out to be my very first, crucial step towards achieving my dream; that is to contribute to the process of peacemaking in this world. 

From the first day, I discovered that ELS is not just a school, it is a new home and the ELS team is our new family. In that small, safe world where I was learning English, I was receiving so much more than I ever expected. Every day I had a new experience. From inside our warm, safe, small classes, I travelled all over the world through our class presentations and discussions about our countries and cultures.  I can’t count how many times we laughed together or how many times my eyes filled with tears. I can’t forget when we were asked by our teacher in SSP class about what we miss the most from our home countries, and how we all answered the same: family and food. During that class I kept listening to my young Omani friend trying his best in English to express how much he was missing his mother and how beautiful he sees her; I was feeling the same.  In our Reading and Writing class, our teacher asked us to write about unforgettable moments in our life and my Chinese friend shared with us his experience with his parents when he was a little child. He used to see a homeless person with his child begging on the street every day on their way to school. His parents taught him to never to look down on that homeless child; instead, he should help him because a homeless child is also a human being and we all need to help each other.    

I also remember my Korean friend when he was trying to explain his understanding of religion; he sees religion as a way to appreciate every beautiful blessing around us on this earth, the sun, the rivers and the seas, the moon surrounded by the stars in the night, the mountains, the colorful flowers, and the birds flying high in the sky, and he feels that there should be a great creator behind all of this beauty. 

Every time that I was blessed to listen to my friends, I asked myself the same question: how would I be able to communicate with all these wonderful people and have this rich experience and live this peacefulness without sharing English as a common language between us? 

The Experience of learning English at ELS gave me the opportunity to learn about cultures, art, history, family traditions, food, and so many other things about different countries.  My horizons expanded. I learned how to accept different points of view as new ways of seeing the whole life. But above all, it is by learning English that I started to build connections with people from different cultures and nations. I discovered the beauty of diversity and I realized that we are all, from all over the world, just a big family. We have the same feelings; the only difference is that we express them in different languages.

The time passed and I transferred to my university program and coursework.  The role of multilingualism in contributing to the process of peacemaking did not become clear enough to me until I started working on my PhD thesis. Searching deep in the theories of peace and peacemaking revealed important derivatives, among them are the following points:

The first is the crucial role of building common grounds between different groups in order to promote a more peaceful and harmonious future for them.The experience of learning English at ELS is an example for the viability of this point. The process of learning English, in one of its deep structures, was an act of building common grounds between people coming from different cultures and nations with totally different native languages. Without English as a common ground language I would not be able to communicate with my Chinese, Korean, Indian and my all other amazing friends from all over the world.

The second point is the emphasis on producing productive connections.  It is essential to the process of creating more peaceful environments to get others with all of their differences to establish new inclusive inter-relational systems. Here comes the importance, if not the urgency, of learning other languages as it enhances communication and builds productive connections between people from different cultures and nations. Building such productive connections can produce a new means of expression, or a new realization. Peacefulness, based on this point, could be the new realization in this world.

Lastly, defining the process of peace building distinguishes negative from positive peace.  Negative peace is an act that halts the direct violence, but it does not end the tension, while positive peace is a process of life enhancement. Positive peace is not a direct act and it is not the absence of violence; it is, rather, a process of creative transformation towards achievement of more sustainable peaceful environments. Building common grounds and producing productive connections are crucial for this creative transformation. Learning other languages helps end separation and opens the doors for creating more communicative and dialogic spaces, wherein multiple points of view benefit from each other’s presence, without necessarily resolving themselves or negating each other. Within such spaces, transformation towards achieving sustainable peacefulness would be possible.

It may seem that the dream of peacemaking in a world full of meaningless wars and war consequences is almost impossible, but sharing my life journey until this moment might be an inspiration. 


  1. John Paul Lederach, Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies (Washington D.C.: United States Insyitute of Peace Press, 1997), 73-87.
  2. John Wilmerding, “The Theory of Active Peace,” Peace and Collaborative Development Network. Colombia University, January 4, 2009, http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/topics/the-theory-of-active-peace.

  3. Graham Livesey, “Assemblage” in The Deleuze Dictionary, ed. Adrian Parr (Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 2010), 18-19.

  4. Johan Galtung, Peace By Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization (Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 1996), 9-23.

  5. Dongsei Kim, “Towards A Dialogic Peace in the Demilitarized Zone,” Architecture of peace 40, no. 2 (2014): 40-43.

 

My long journey goes back to 1990, when my father left this world. My mother showed strength and great care: education was her very first priority. She used to repeat her dream for me: to become an architect as my father wished, and to get a graduate degree from a university in the United States of America. Although becoming an architect was not an easy dream to achieve, to continue my graduate studies in the United States of America was such a huge dream, enough to be unrealistic and close to impossible. The situations were especially difficult due to the economic embargo suffered by the Iraqi people at that time in addition to many other political and social pressures. But, my mother used to say: “dreams have to be huge otherwise what can change our reality but the ambition to achieve our unrealistic huge dreams?”

Time passed. Despite all the difficulties, by 2002, I was not only the first architect woman in my family but also the first woman with a Master’s degree in Architecture.  Soon after, by 2003, the Iraq War was announced; my mother left this world, but her dream stayed with me and became mine.

In 2003, my first day as a faculty in the same university I graduated from, was the same first day of official work after the military operation in Iraq. Everything in Baghdad including my University turned into destruction. The situation rapidly deteriorated that by 2006 a civil war had broken out; there was bombing, blocked roads, fighting everywhere. Life in Baghdad had almost reached a zero point; many professors left Iraq, students couldn’t attend classes. All of these difficult circumstances were challenges that pushed me to identify a clear goal for my life: to have a positive role in rebuilding this society.

In December 2009, I walked toward the stage among the Arab Ministers of Housing and Construction at the Arab League in Cairo while my name was announced, to receive the Architect Award of the Arab World as a first woman winner of the award. With every step I saw all the faces that have supported me in my long journey, teachers, real friends, and my family especially my parents.

By March 2013, my mother’s impossible dream came true. I started learning English at ELS preparing for my next academic life in the University of Cincinnati, United States Of America.

By 2014, I was the winner of Tamayouz, Excellence Award in Architecture, for the rising star category, announced by Angela Brady; the former president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA.

My journey has not yet ended; as an architect and scholar, I am working on the possibility of introducing the concept of architecture of peace. As a citizen of the global society I am calling for the learning other languages for the role of multilingualism in building connections and common grounds between different cultures and nations, a role which is crucial to the process of rebuilding positive sustainable peacefulness in our global society.

I am fully aware that this is a huge dream and maybe difficult to achieve. But I believe that if peace is our desire, and if each of us take the responsibility and if we all stand together to achieve it, then impossible itself would be the impossible. Peace can become the new realization making this world a better place for living not only for us but also for the next generations to come and the role of multilingualism can help us achieve this dream.  Love still exists deep in our hearts; all we need is to bridge the differences together and bring the barriers down.

Bibliography

  1. Galtung, Johan. Peace By Peaceful Means: Peace and Conflict, Development and Civilization. Oslo: International Peace Research Institute, 1996.
  2. Kim, Dongsei. “Towards A Dialogic Peace in the Demilitarized Zone,” Architecture of peace 40, no. 2 (2014): 40.
  3. Lederach, John Paul. Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies. Washington D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1997. P: 73-87.
  4. Livesey, Graham. “Assemblage”  in The Deleuze Dictionary, edited by Adrian Parr, 18-19. Edinburg: Edinburg University Press, 2010.
  5. Wilmerding, John. “The Theory of Active Peace.” Peace and Collaborative Development Network. Colombia University, January 4, 2009. http://www.internationalpeaceandconflict.org/forum/topics/the-theory-of-active-peace

 

Venus Suleiman Akef

Architect_venus@yahoo.com

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Why Does Mindfulness Matter in Schools

07/15/16

Shanti_Generation_Educators

This is not an article about the neuroscience supporting mindful practices in schools. For that good stuff, click here and here.

Nor is this a treatise on the many ways mindful practices contribute to academic success. You can read about that here.

And click here for a well executed visual on the importance of mindful practices in the classroom.

I want to get down to the very basic foundation of mindfulness and why schools need mindful practices to flourish. It starts with a question:

What matters in education?

It’s a question I reflect on constantly and suggest every person spend some time thinking about whether you have children currently in school or not. What happens today in schools becomes the culture of society in the very near future. When I think critically about social culture today, it is painfully obvious that too many people did not learn, in their formative years, the social and emotional skills needed to navigate diversity and uphold democracy.

When we over focus on testing and standardize education, we often leave the individual needs of students out of the education process. What we now see asextracurricular (arts, music, physical education, mindfulness) are the very aspects of curriculum that make learning possible for many students because those activities meet the needs necessary for learning.

We know that children cannot learn well if they are hungry. We also know that students cannot engage well with information they do not care about. By taking away the aspects of curriculum that spark creativity and individual expression and movement and collaboration, we take away what students need to make progress in academics.

What matters in education? What matters in society?

Working backwards, what values do we collectively want to cultivate in society at large? Can we all agree that we want people to be more kind, compassionate and empathetic? Is it important to us all that citizens are skilled in problem solving and know how to weigh important decisions? Do we need more acceptance and understanding of difference? Do we care about inner and outer peace?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, you have made your own case for mindfulness is schools.

Mindful practices support a balanced inner life for students and teachers such that we can bring more balance, equity and consciousness to our relationships. Since every aspect of our lives are influenced by relationships; to self, others, society, it makes sense that an effective education would provide us many opportunities to cultivate strength in our ability to relate effectively.

Increased standardization of education has led some people to believe that better test scores and academic outcomes will arise from more time focused on testing. Critically thinking educators, researchers, legislators and parents know this is misguided.

The practices of mindfulness bring people back into focus in education. With people, comes back creativity, passion, spark and innovation.

Mindful practices, interwoven through the daily course of learning, support what matters most in education and society. We learn to move, breathe, think, and communicate with more grace, consciousness and intention.

SG-Mindful-Classroom-300x300

If YOU think mindfulness in schools is a cause worth supporting, please consider contributing to our SoulCycle fundraiser today. All funds raised will help deliver our new mindfulness program for teens in schools. Learn more here.

 

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Why ACEI?

July 8th, 2016

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Brexit and its Impact on U.K. Higher Education

July 1st, 2016

brexit

On Thursday, June 23rd, with a margin of 52 to 48 percent, British Citizens voted for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union, spreading uncertainty and confusion among its universities and educators.

For a quick (and I mean quick) primer on the UK, watch this highly informative clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rNu8XDBSn10&feature=youtu.be

Those in higher education opposed a British exit, or Brexit, from the EU. They view a severing of ties with the union as a detriment to collaborations in research, free movement of faculty, scholars and students. UK universities are concerned that the exit will have a severe impact on these international collaborations.  An exit from the union, also means that and end to E.U. funding which U.K. universities were receiving, an issue which they now have to ensure will be addressed by the government guaranteeing the continuation of funds and support.

As far as research collaborations are concerned, many opponents of Brexit argued that an exit from the union would prevent British academics from participating in E.U. research programs, such as the Horizon 2020, a program which is funded at nearly 80 billion pounds (approximately $88 billion) over a span of seven years.

Another issue which has U.K. universities concerned is about student mobility and whether it can still continue to participate in the union’s Eramus+student exchange programs? Will having to pay higher international study tuition fees deter students from the E.U. from attending U.K. universities?

According to a June 24, 2016 post on Inside HigherEducation: “Under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty, the U.K. has two years after it notifies the European Council of its intent to withdraw to negotiate a new agreement governing its future relations with the union. As the BBC reports, the referendum is not legally binding on Parliament, which must take action in order to initiate the U.K.’s separation from the E.U.”

For a positive spin on how Brexit may impact higher education, click here: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/eu-referendum-result-brexit-leave-remain-higher-education-sector-students-a7100106.html

One thing is certain, and that is we can’t assume with Brexit business will continue as usual. Change is coming, but what that change will be and how it will affect U.K. higher education is for us to wait and find out.

jasmin_2015
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.

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How To Verify Chinese Degrees

June 23rd, 2016

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