Tag Archives: middle-east

20 Facts About Turkey

June 07, 2013

Flag_of_Turkey

In light of the protests that have erupted in Turkey against the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we wanted to share a few facts about this country situated at the northeast end of the Mediterranean Sea in southeast Europe and southwest Asia. North of Turkey is the Black Sea and on its west is the Aegean Sea. Its neighbors are Greece and Bulgaria to the west, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania to the north and northwest (through the Black Sea), Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Iran to the east, and Syria and Iraq to the south. The Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus divide the country.

The history and culture of Turkey is such that coming up with 20 facts out of thousands was an incredibly difficult task. We know that so much has been omitted for the sake of brevity. The list below is a primer to this country’s rich heritage.

1. Turkey is officially known as the ‘Republic of Turkey’.

2. The Republic of Turkey was founded on October 29, 1923, under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

3. Turkey is a democratic, secular, unitary and constitutional republic.

4. Ankara is Turkey’s capital while Istanbul is its largest city.

5. It has a population of 71.1 million.

6. Of the 87% of the population that is literate 95% are male and 80% female.

7. The major religion of Turkey is Islam, while its official language is Turkish. Kurdish, Dimli, Zaza, Arabic, Armenian, Greek and Azeri are also spoken in the country.

8. Istanbul is the only city in the world built on two continents and has been the capital of three great empires, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman for more than 2000 years.

9. The part of Turkey in Europe is called ‘Thrace’ (an area about equal to the state of Massachusetts), while the part in Asia is called ‘Anatolia’ (an area about the size of the state of Texas).

10. Anatolia is the birthplace of historic legends, such as Omar (the poet), King Midas, Herodotus (the father of history) and St. Paul the Apostle.

11. Julius Ceasar proclaimed his celebrated words, “Veni, Vidi, Vici” (I came, I saw, I conquered) in Turkey when he defeated the Pontus, a formidable kingdom in the Black Sea region of Turkey.

12. The oldest known human settlement is in Catalhoyuk, Turkey (7500 BC).

13. Temple of Artemis and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the two of the seven wonders of the ancient world, are in Turkey.

14. Turks introduced coffee to Europe.

15. Turks gave the Dutch their famous tulips.

16. Turkey has 94 State universities and 45 Foundation (Private) universities

17. Approximately 55,000 Turkish students go abroad annually for educational purposes.

18. Turkey has been sending more than 10,000 students a year to the U.S. since 2000 exceeding other European countries such as Britain and Germany.

19. Istanbul’s Robert College (established in 1863), is the oldest American school outside the United States.

20. Turkey provides 70% of the world’s hazelnuts; the nut in your chocolate bar was most probably grown in Turkey.

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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Dispatches from the 2013 AIEA Conference in New Orleans

February 21, 2013

aiea-tag-logo

It’s been almost a decade since I last visited New Orleans. I have to thank the AIEA (Association of International Education Administrators) http://www.aieaworld.org/ for hosting its annual national conference in the Big Easy this year. No visit to New Orleans is complete without a stop at the world famous Café du Monde for a plate of its freshly baked powered sugared confections and cup of café au lait. Given that most of my days at the conference were booked with meetings and sessions, I still managed to enjoy the city’s culinary fare (charbroiled oysters at Dragos, bananas Foster’s at the Palace Café) and even took a 45 minute cruise on the Natchez Steamboat with colleagues from various universities in the U.S. and around the world.

This year the conference theme was “Re-imagining Higher Education in a Global Context,” and several of the sessions I attended attempted to address this issue in roundtable or speaker settings. The keynote speaker, Eric Liu http://guidinglightsnetwork.com/bio, former White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, set the tone for the conference by emphasizing that innovation begins with imagination.

I attended sessions on topics like “Using Accreditation Standards to Internationalize,” “Global Changes and Challenges: Is the United States Doing Enough to Stay Competitive as a Study Destination.” But the session that I found most relevant was one about the “Pursuit of Academic Diplomacy in Iran: Challenges and Opportunities.” Gregory Sullivan and Kristen Cammarata with the U.S. State Department and Sara Kurtz Allaei from Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis presented the session. According to the session’s presenters, it appears that the number of students from Iran seeking visas to study in the U.S. has risen from the low 1000’s in 2007 to the high 6000’s in 2011/12. The number of Iranian students enrolled at US institutions prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution was about 45,000. The EducationUSA https://www.educationusa.info/ advising center focusing on Iran reports an increase in the number of Iranians querying about studying at U.S. institutions. Sullivan mentioned that 14 specialists at the State Department are dedicated to the Iranian student project.

Specific conditions are in place for granting visas to Iranians planning to study in the U.S. According to Sullivan (paraphrased in this report): “visas are not granted to students or exchange programs relevant to sciences with a clear military, nuclear/energy component” or to groups or agencies with ties or affiliations to the Iranian government, terrorism or human rights abuses, or programs with commercial value that will benefit the Iranian government.” At this time, Iranian students accepted to U.S. colleges and universities must leave Iran for Dubai or Istanbul, Turkey to apply for their U.S. student visas, since U.S. and Iran do not enjoy diplomatic relations and have no embassy presence in their respective countries. We can look at the number of visas reportedly issued in 2011/12 as an indication of the U.S. State Department’s willingness to exercise openness in the visas granted to Iranian students and the Iranian government’s loosening of its hold on the youth.

Another interesting fact shared by Kristen Cammarata was that since the SAT is not offered in the region, many Iranian high school graduates instead take the GRE (Graduate Records Examinations, a test taken by students intending to apply for graduate school admission in the US) and scoring very high on the math section; further proof of how seriously motivated these young Iranians are in their pursuit of higher education in the U.S. Cammarata indicated that her office receives much of the inquiries from young Iranians via email and Skype. She also commented that the Iranian population in the U.S. has proven to be one of the most educated and successful of immigrants in this country’s history.

Sullivan mused that perhaps the government in Iran recognizes its shortcomings in satisfying its youth population with education and job opportunities by relaxing its grip and releasing the pressure valve and allowing some exchange through education (studying abroad in the U.S.). The pressure valve may be temporarily tightened during Iran’s upcoming Presidential elections, but to be relaxed once again after the new President has been elected.

Sullivan also noted that the US in turn will grant specific licenses to U.S. institutions wanting to engage in education, cultural, and sports exchange programs as well as topics concerned with human rights, the environment, health and medicine. Perhaps through academic diplomacy we can begin to see a thawing of the icy relations between Iran and the U.S. But I can’t help wonder how concerned the Iranian government may become when its youth heading west to the U.S. returning not only armed with their university degrees but an arsenal of information.

Partnering with my colleague Zepur Solakian, Executive Director of CGACC (www.cgacc.org), we held joint meetings with representatives from Washington State University (USA) http://www.wsu.edu/, Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey) http://bilgi.edu.tr/en/university, and Swinburne University of Technology (Australia) http://www.swinburne.edu.au/. We discussed how the U.S. community colleges serve as a viable route to the four-year institutions for international students and the added benefits of international credential evaluations in the admission and transfer credit processes. With more exchanges on these topics, we feel community colleges can begin to become a significant venue for higher education in the international market alongside the four-year institutions.

The exhibit hall showcased exhibitors from China, South Korea, Italy, and companies like Zinch http://www.zinch.com/ a website connecting students with colleges, and Mezun http://www.mezun.com , an educational portal for Turkish students studying abroad.

Stay tuned for next week’s dispatch from Atlanta, Georgia where I’m co-presenting a workshop on “Best Practices in Recruitment and 2+2” at the CCID (Community Colleges for International Development) https://programs.ccid.cc/cci conference.

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

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Heroes, Activists, and Martyrs: Lending their names to the streets of Tehran

January 24, 2013

Tehran_Streets

When I heard the story of Granada, Spain planning to approve a measure to name a square in honor of the British punk band The Clash’s Joe Strummer http://www.theworld.org/2013/01/spanish-square-to-be-named-in-honor-of-the-clashs-joe-strummer/ I was reminded of the battery of street name changes that Iranian cities underwent immediately after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. The changing of names applied not only to streets and boulevards but to schools, colleges, universities and any building or organization that carried a name resonant of the former regime and all those it supported.

Besides serving as a practical guide to find one’s destination, street names and place names in general, create symbolic connections with the past, or recent past by commemorating and honoring the contributions of historical figures, military heroes, political leaders, inventors, industrialists, and athletes. According to the cultural geographer Wilbur Zelinsky in Nation into State, “the United States has a long history of naming places, especially streets, after patriot heroes and other notables.”

I first came across the term “commemorative landscape” a term referring to “a wide range of material sites devoted to remembering the past,” in an essay entitled “Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina,” by Derek H. Alderman. We can safely agree that one of the most common of commemorative landscape types is the street name. In most cases, reasons to rename a street, monument or building are primarily politically motivated, reflecting the mood and sentiments of a new regime and its antipathy or respect for the past. When the Soviet Union collapsed, its satellites quickly set about a mission of de-Stalinization by renaming streets and building that once honored Stalin.

Though my recollections and understanding of Iran are memories frozen the moment I’d left the country in June 1978, I still remember those streets in Tehran named after American Presidents like Kennedy Square, Eisenhower Avenue, Roosevelt Avenue and British heads of state like Elizabeth Street and Winston Churchill Boulevard. Yet soon after the revolution these streets were renamed to honor martyrs of the Islamic Revolution and religious leaders. Kennedy Square is now Tohid Square, Eisenhower Avenue (named after the American President who helped the Shah topple Mossadeq) is Freedom Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue has been renamed Mofateh Avenue. Winston Churchill Boulevard, the site of the British Embassy in Tehran, was renamed Bobby Sands Street after the Irish Republican Army IRA member who went on a hunger strike and died in prison in northern Ireland in 1981. Apparently the British Embassy changed its entrance to another side of the building as they didn’t want the address to be Bobby Sands Street.

Tehran_Streets1

But not all American names have been censored in Iran. I read an LA Times article about Tehran’s decision to name a street in honor of Rachel Corrie, an American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed while protesting against the demolition of Palestinians homes in the Gaza strip. The photo below is proof of the street sign, which also includes a brief profile of Rachel Corrie.

Tehran_Streets2
“Tehran street sign named after American pro-Palestinian activist Rachel Corrie”

Iranian colleges and universities weren’t exempt from the name changing fever that had gripped the country following the 1979 revolution. Autonomous colleges, like the College of Surveying, or College of Statistics and Computer Science, or College of Mass Communication were phased out, merged and consolidated into university complexes named after revolutionary martyrs and religious leaders. Universities too saw their names changed, especially those that were named after the Shah or his family. Aryamehr University, known as the MIT of Iran, is now Sharif University of Technology, named after a former student who was killed in 1975. Melli (National) University was renamed Shahid Beheshti University. Farah Pahlavi University was renamed after the prophet Mohammad’s daughter as Al Zahra University. And the list goes on.

I haven’t returned to Iran since I left in 1978 but what I hear from friends and relatives who travel back and forth is that the old street names seem to still exist in people’s memories and used colloquially. It’s not unusual for passengers hailing a taxi to give their destination with the current name but also add its former name as backup. “Take me to Freedom Avenue, formerly Eisenhower.”

There’s a strange sense of belonging that happens when one sees and recognizes a familiar street sign. The main street leading to our home on Lane 8, off of Pakistan Avenue in northern Tehran, was Abbas Abad Avenue. That’s how I remember our ethnically diverse neighborhood of small mom and pop shops, the bakery, dry cleaners, and a vast empty dirt lot soon to be a large housing development. Our next door neighbor was a French diplomat. Across the street lived an American family from Maine whose eldest son was my brother’s best friend and attended the Tehran American School. A few houses down were a Japanese family whose patriarch would take strolls up and down our quiet street in the afternoons in his kimono and wooden shoes.

Abbas Abad Avenue has since been renamed as Shahid Beheshti Avenue. I have no connection to this new street and all that it represents, but one thing that seems to have not changed is the international flavor of the district that has carried on. Today, Shahid Beheshti, aka Abbas Abad Avenue, is home to embassies and foreign firms. Do you have any stories to share of the street names in your neighborhoods?

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

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Reflection, Renewal, and Red Underwear

December 20, 2012

2012 Calendar

At the close of this year—at least in the Gregorian calendar— which is celebrated in Europe and in the Americas, I find myself reflecting on what entering a New Year means to people around the world. As I am at the end of my first year living abroad, the differences and similarities are foremost on my mind. Of course moving from sunny Southern California to a rainy North Germany has its noticeable differences. And, as we all know, climate affects our general outlook on life as well as our daily routines, and life rituals. I can now personally attest to the fact that sunnier climes create sunnier dispositions, and a general sense of optimism, which is less understood, in colder more northern parts of the world.

But what really makes it all so interesting is the fact that both places have fairly large immigrant populations, which bring their own cultural ideals, ways of life, and ritual celebrations into daily life. Everyone finds the time, once a year to celebrate the coming new year, and ritualize the “out with the old in with the new” which is historically so important, vital in fact, to cultures all over the world.

New Year celebrations were originally based upon harvest celebrations, which were informed by cycles of the sun, the moon and the movement of stars. There is a difference though, between the “civil” calendars adopted by countries and the religious calendars, which are followed by people all over the world, though they often exist and are celebrated side by side.

The Julian Calendar (a reformation of the Roman Calendar by Julius Cesar in 46 BCE) was intended to approximate the Sun’s cycle as it returns to the same position each year, in other words from vernal equinox to vernal equinox. The Berber people of North Africa still use this calendar, as do most Eastern Orthodox Churches.

As the Julian calendar is slightly inaccurate (it gained about 3 days every four centuries,) it was later replaced by the Gregorian calendar, (The Christian Calendar) in 1582, in order to have a fixed date for the Spring Equinox, to which the celebration of Easter is attached. It is now the more internationally, widely accepted civil calendar. However, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Iran, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia do not adopt the Gregorian calendar as their civil calendar. Many other countries use their own calendars alongside the Gregorian calendar, such as: Bangladesh, Burma, India, and Israel. Then there are those that use a modified version of the Gregorian calendar: Cambodia, Japan, North Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Taiwan.

The date of the Islamic New Year is determined by the visibility of the hilal, or the waxing crescent moon following a new moon and may vary according to location. The day that marks the beginning of the New Year in the Islamic Calendar is called Hijra. While Muslims do not “celebrate” the beginning of the year, they do acknowledge the passing of time, by reflecting on how they have led their lives and on their own mortality. It is very similar to the Jewish ritual of their New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

Nowruz (New Day), the Iranian and Zoroastrian New Year’s Day is celebrated on March 21stthe Spring Equinox. It is celebrated as a theme of renewal, personal renewal and that of the home and friendships. It is also celebrated as a secular cultural festival in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Kashmir, Azerbaijan, as well as the Kurdistan regions of Iran, Turkey, Iraq, Armenia, Syria, and Georgia.

What do all of these human constructs of time; religious or civil have in common then? Plenty. People all over the world celebrate and ritualize the passage of time. Whether their New Year falls in February, March, April, September or November, or December, most cultures see this as a time of introspection and reflection, a time of rebirth— an illumination of the soul. It is a chance to be cleansed of the old sins of the previous year and celebrate the potential of hope for a healthier, happier, and prosperous coming year.

Saint Sylvester

It was not until I moved to Germany that I first heard New Years referred to as Sylvester. I felt silly asking but I did, and found out that it is celebrated as Saint Sylvester’s Eve after Pope Sylvester I, who died in 335 and was reported to have miraculously cured the Emperor Constantine of leprosy. Since that time of “miraculous healing” New Years was traditionally called St. Sylvester’s Eve in predominantly Catholic countries such as France, Germany, Italy and Poland. Even in Israel where so many European immigrants landed, Israelis celebrate the civic holiday of New Years as Sylvester Nacht—who knew?

Fire

Fire, fireworks, and light are ritually used for dispelling evil spirits and marking the time of transition from darkness to light as we move away from the Winter Solstice. Even countries whose religious beliefs are not connected to the Gregorian calendar, often celebrate the civil New Year with fireworks, such as: Morocco, China, India, Malaysia, and Thailand.

Those that celebrate their new years at other times also use the element of fire as a cleansing, to mark this passage and burn away the previous years’ evils and sins and scare off any spirits that may wish to take up residence in the coming year.

In Iran and those following the Persian ritual passed down since ancient Zoroastrian times, the Persian New Year celebrations begins with the festival called Chahar-Shanbeh Souri, which literally means “Eve of Wednesday” because it is always held on the last Tuesday of winter, just before the Vernal Equinox or first moment of spring. The fire ceremony symbolizes the changing of seasons and rebirth. The tradition includes people going into the streets and alleys to make bonfires, and jump over them while singing the traditional song Zardi-ye man az to, sorkhi-ye to az man. This literally translates to “My yellowness is yours, your redness is mine,” with the figurative message “My paleness (pain, sickness) for you (the fire), your strength (health) for me.” The fire is believed to burn out all the fear (yellowness) in their subconscious or their spirit, in preparation for New Year.

Diwali, Festival of Lights, is a five day Hindu festival which falls between Mid-October and mid-November. Small clay lamps are filled with oil and lit to signify the triumph of good over evil, and firecrackers are ignited to drive away evil spirits.

In Mongolia, the Lunar New Year is known as Tsagaan Sar. It is celebrated in February, and candles are used on altars to symbolize enlightenment.

In Mexico the tradition of making lists of all the bad or unfortunate events of the past years are written down and thrown into a fire before midnight to remove any negative energy from carrying over into the New Year.

In Ecuador men dress up as women to represent the “widow” of the year that has passed and then create life-size dummies which are burnt at midnight to “burn away” the years past misfortunes.

Tibetans also celebrate Losar in February, and traditionally go out into nature to perform rituals of gratitude by making offerings to the water spirits and smoke offerings to local spirits of the natural world.

Water

The Chinese New Year is known s Spring Festival and marks the end of winter, as families gather for a reunion dinner or Chúxi, which translates into “Remove Evening” or “Eve of the Passing Year.” Every family thoroughly cleans the house, sweeping away ill-fortune, cleansing it of evil omens from the previous year and making room for a new year filled with good luck.

Laotian people celebrate their Pbeemai April 13-15 by cleansing their homes and villages with perfumed water and flowers. The Burmese celebrate Thingyan April 13-16 with water as a means of washing away the sins of the pervious year. Water throwing and public dousing is rampant on the streets for days. In Nepal Fagu is celebrated on the full moon day in February by spraying colored water, and throwing water balloons at each other.

In Thailand the Songkran festival is celebrated from 13-15 April, by the throwing of water. However they can— jars, pots, water guns, are used as a means of washing all of the bad away, even spraying total strangers on the street. Of course we have to remember that in April temperatures can get up to 40C. In traditional celebrations, it is believed that good luck and prosperity for the coming year may be obtained by pouring water filled with fragrant herbs over the Buddhas on household shrines as well as at monasteries. This water is considered blessed and is then used to give good fortune to elders and family members by pouring it on their shoulders.

Red Underwear, Grapes, and Lentils

Believe it or not, another common link in New Year’s celebrations is the wearing of red underwear. Italians, Spanish, and Venezuelans all wear red underwear on New Years for good luck and love, though only the women in Mexico wear red underwear for finding love.

The Spanish, Mexicans, Chileans, Costa Ricans, Brazilians and Guatemalans all eat 12 grapes for each chime of the clock at midnight, making a wish for the New Year with each one.

Lentils seem to represent money and prosperity because of their round “coin” shape and are traditionally eaten by Brazilians, Hungarians, Chileans, and Italians. The Italians who seem to go lentil crazy— have lentils at dinner before midnight then take one spoonful of lentil stew per bell as the bells toll midnight.

So as 2012 comes to a close here in Germany, I will be celebrating Sylvestre and honoring the spirit of the transition from darkness into light, and wishing for a global time of renewal, hope and joy.

Jeannie Winston Nogai
Owner / Winston Nogai Design
www.jeanniewinston.com / E: jwndesign@me.com

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20 International Education Hubs: A Global Movement

December 13, 2012

Education Vector Word Cloud

It used to be that if, for example, a student from Malaysia, Singapore, or Indonesia wanted to earn a degree from a university in the United States or the United Kingdom he/she had to attend the university in the county where it was based. But that’s no longer the case. More and more countries are seizing on higher education as way of making it more international, affordable and accessible. Aspiring students seeking a degree from Yale University or MIT or University of Glasgow will no longer need to fly out to the U.S. or U.K., instead they can attend one of the global education hubs that are fast becoming a preferred international destination for students.

What is an “education hub?” According to Global Higher Education, an education hub is a “designated region intended to attract foreign investment, retain local students, build a regional reputation by providing access to high-quality education and training for both international and domestic student, and create a knowledge-based economy…include different combinations of domestic/international institutions, branch campuses, and forming partnerships, within the designated region.”

Competition amongst countries set on establishing global education hubs is fierce and Asia seems to be leading the movement. Some countries pushing forward with plans to be an education hub see it as a cost-effective way for students in the region to receive quality education while some higher education authorities question whether some hubs will be successful or may simply be a fad likely to fizzle and fade. It’s too early to tell. Several of the education hubs already in operation are in countries with proven experience in education-related projects but there are also some little-known aspiring hubs forming which are interesting to watch. There are probably some new hubs being launched as we speak.

Below is a list of 20 education hubs we’re aware of that include the already established, those which are concepts in the making and some up-and-coming ones (#s 15-20):

1. Abu Dhabi http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
2. Dubai Knowledge Village/Dubai International Academic City http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
3. Dubai International Financial Cityhttp://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
4. Dubai Healthy Care City http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
5. Dubai Silicon Oasishttp://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
6. Bahrain http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
7. Kuala Lumpur Education Cityhttp://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
8. Iskandar (Malaysia) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
9. Singapore’s Global Schoolhouse http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
10. Incehon Free Economic Zone (South Korea) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
11. Education City (Qatar) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
12. Republic of Panama – City of Knowledge http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
13. Jeju Global Education City (South Korea) http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
14. Songdo Global University Campus in the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) (South Korea) http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
15. Doha (Qatar) http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
16. Manama, Bahrain http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
17. Fort Clayton, Panama http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
18. Colombo, Sri Lanka http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/

19. Bangalore, India http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/
20. Bhutan’s Education City http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/

It’s too early to gage the effectiveness and success of these education hubs, but it goes without saying that Western countries, once the destination point of international higher education, are keeping an eye on this global phenomenon and most probably taking notes and learning new strategies. This new approach to bringing the best of the West to the East certainly takes the international mobility of students and the globalization of credentials to another level.

Website to check out for more information on each of the above countries:
http://www.globalhighered.org/edhubs.php
http://www.nafsa.org/_/File/_/ie_julaug12_asia.pdf
http://www.thebhutanese.bt/bhutan-education-city-board-in-place-a-step-closer-to-fruition/
http://monitor.icef.com/2012/08/little-known-aspiring-education-hubs/

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

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Higher Education in Iran: The Path to Freedom and…Singlehood

June 21, 2012

5th Day - 3V

Three years ago Iranians marched through the streets of Tehran and other major cities in Iran protesting the presidential elections, which soon became known as the Green Revolution. I remember watching news clips and YouTube videos of the protests and found myself moved by the faces of all the people marching, especially the young men and women. But what really moved me were the faces of the Iranian women, mostly in their late teens and twenties, dressed in jeans, and form fitting coats, their heads and hair covered under loosely tied scarves. Video after video showed these fearless young women standing up to the riot police even if it meant being struck by their batons, feet or hands. These women did not back away but continued to march and cried out for freedom. Many were arrested, jailed, and even lost their lives.

I left Iran in August 1978 at the precipice of a popular Revolution, which morphed into the Islamic Revolution, which then overthrew the Shah and ended the country’s 2500 years of monarchical dynasties. In those heady days of the Revolution, Iranian men and women from all walks of life had poured into the streets carrying anti-Shah banners and calling for freedom. I was a freshman at the University of San Diego as the Revolution unfolded in Iran and watched the events as a spectator would in the nosebleed section of a giant stadium. And I’m still watching from the sidelines from my perch in Southern California.

In today’s Islamic Republic of Iran, women are asking for freedoms which Iran’s theocratic government is finding difficult to address. It appears that when it comes to higher education, women account for nearly 60 percent of the total enrollment at Iranian universities. In addition, the increasing number of educated females with a global awareness of social issues (thanks to satellite television, the internet, and inexpensive foreign travel), has also made it difficult for these women to find husbands they consider compatible. At the same time, divorces in Iran have increased by 135 percent, pushing into the forefront a dramatic rise in numbers of women who are choosing to remain single.

According to an article I recently read in the NY Times: “Politicians and clerics are warning that an entire generation is growing up with values that are anathema to the traditional ones upheld by the state.” A leading ayatollah, Kazem Saddighi, said the following in a recent sermon: “Young people who are not married are nude, as marriage is like divine clothes to cover them.” But with more women earning higher salaries by virtue of holding university degrees and the continued rise in divorce rates, remaining single, renting an apartment and living alone and not with one’s family, is beginning to be seen as a mark of success. Interestingly, the young women embarking on a life of singlehood and pursuing careers have the support of their parents.

The Iran I grew up in was not against women. In fact, women were able to attain higher education, study abroad, hold positions in government and business, marry and raise families, or remain single. In fact, I remember a popular TV series called “Talagh” (=Divorce), which dealt with stories of marriages falling apart and the drama around it. What is interesting in today’s Iran is that it is the Iranian women, pushed into second or third class ranking as having less worth than a man per Islamic doctrine, subjected to strict dress codes and social restrictions, are the ones who are fanning the flames of change. Education, especially access to higher education, has been the Islamic regime’s goal from its early days. What the framers of the Islamic Revolution had not accounted for is this sudden increase in a very highly educated and outspoken female population. This super irony isn’t lost on me.

In the words of one thirty-something Iranian female quoted in the NYT article: “Society has no option but to accept us…I hope the state will follow.” I certainly hope so. It would be foolish otherwise.

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

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