Tag Archives: policy

Embracing International Students: Lowering Standards for the Almighty $$$

May 3, 2012

Dollar Sign in Space - Illustration

As we seek ways to attract international students to our college campuses, lowering our standards and accepting candidates solely to boost revenue and clout doesn’t seem to be a smart way of going about it. But, it is exactly what’s happening. As states cut back on subsidies, slashing budgets and tightening belts, our colleges and universities are feeling the strain and altering their screening of foreign applicants.

In a way, being admitted on the basis of having famous parents may not necessarily get one into a university, but having influential relatives as likely donors will give the student a leg up. At least, that’s what Douglas Christiansen, the dean of admissions at Vanderbilt University is quoted as saying in an April 17, 2012 piece “Colleges angle for influential foreign students like Bo Guagua” on Reuters. Where a family’s clout overseas was once not a factor in the screening of applications of international students, more and more U.S. institutions are feeling the pinch and slowly abandoning their purist admissions practices and considering to “think about screening foreign applicants for their capacity to help boost revenue and prestige,” is how Phillip Ballinger, Admissions Director at the University of Washington in Seattle puts it in the same article.

You may have heard of Bo Guagua, and his “party-boy” persona, and even following the recent headlines surrounding his parents who are accused of political corruption and even murder of an English businessman in China. (Children of China’s political elite are commonly referred to as “princelings,” a strange moniker for a country that did away with emperors and all things princely.) Despite what news articles have uncovered about this young man’s spotty and subpar academic record beginning with his secondary education at Harrow (a prestigious boarding school for boys in England which appears to have admitted him on the basis of a strong recommendation from the very English businessman, now deceased), to his stint at Oxford University, where he was suspended for a year for “poor academic performance,” the 24-year old Bo Guagua was admitted to Harvard University’s Kennedy School to pursue a Master’s. And, he was on a scholarship!

What happened to academic performance? Parents are breaking their backs to put their students in college-preparatory programs and paying for private tutors so their children will score high on SAT’s and get into top notch universities. They apply for student loans and take second mortgages on their home to be able to pay for their child’s college tuition. And while soon-to-be high school graduates double up and pack their schedules with extra-curricular activities to strengthen their college applications, there are those, like the young Bo Guagua, who simply jump to the front of the line because of family ties and financial resources.

There’s something wrong with this picture and as one who has been involved in international education for nearly 30 years, I know the answer lies in the proper vetting of the international student with a thorough and detailed verification and evaluation of his/her academic documents. This may sound like a self-serving statement, but it is true. As public universities here in the US are feeling the pinch and pressured to loosen their reins on screening foreign applications, more and more are looking at ways to exercise more flexibility and at times turn a blind eye on the importance of credential evaluation. Sadly, one of the first departments that appear on an institution’s chopping block at times of financial hardship tends to be the international student office. Yet, the institutions set out to aggressively recruit international students knowing that they are a guaranteed revenue generating source.

Fortunately, there are still some holdouts in the education market. Just yesterday I spoke with the director of the international admissions office of a local community college who was adamant about having the applications of potential foreign students screened before encouraging them to apply to his institution. He wanted to be sure that a) the institution the foreign applicant had attended in his/her home country was accredited; b) the academic documents were bona fide, and c) that the studies were equivalent to U.S. high school graduation and beyond with satisfactory and above average grades. At least he has the good sense to verify these students’ academic documents in advance. Let’s hope that more institutions see things his way.

In our quest to attract international students, enriching our campuses with diversity and multiculturalism, boosting revenues that help our local and regional economies, we can maintain the integrity of our academic institutions without compromising our standards. If a community college is capable of doing this and still remain an attractive destination for international students, other institutions can do it too.

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

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Dumbing Down of the Electorate: Idiocracy in the Making

March 15, 2012

privacybooths

I once saw a bumper sticker that read “Stupidity Should be Painful”. This was years ago and I still remember it. And agree with it too.

I don’t want to sound like an overeducated snob. But I believe that an electorate that turns solely to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh instead of reading and listening to a variety of news sources and books will be a dumb and irresponsible public. The fact that we live in times where access to information is at its best, there is no excuse to resort to the basest and lowest common denominator, one geared to generating ratings and advertising dollars rather than educating and enlightening it’s viewing and listening audience.

I’m now reading an interesting book by Stephen Greenblatt called The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. The book is about an Italian’s discovery, in Germany in the early 15th century, of an ancient Roman philosophical and epic poem by Lucretius called On The Nature of Things. Lucretius’ manuscript–De Rerum Natura—follows the writings of Epicurus, who told us to enjoy this life, that there was no afterlife, heaven, or eternal punishment in hell. The late Christopher Hitchens, in his book God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, often refers to Lucretius and his mentor Epicurus. The latter is now more associated with good living and fine dining than what the original ancient texts were about.

Returning to Greenblatt’s book The Swerve, I was appalled by how early Christians in monasteries erased centuries of learning from the Greek and Mesopotamian cultures. Often this was for a lack of vellum and papyrus, the materials on which the codices or scrolls were written. And, in a more sinister fashion, writing over the older texts—the layering is called a palimpsest—was a way of erasing history and learning so as to obliterate knowledge and promote credence to the early biblical manuscripts early Christian fathers were writing.

Later in the book, Greenblatt talks about how the magnificent, well-organized and scrupulously maintained Great Library in Alexandria, Egypt—then the capital city—was burned and pillaged, not by looters but by illiterate Huns and Christians who believed that the great citadel of learning was the repository of pagan texts. Hypatia, the great female mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and last head librarian of the library in Alexandria met a gruesome death at the hands of a Christian mob who flayed her body with broken shards of pots and shells. Her crime: being an educated woman who had the nerve to have taught other men! Once again, superstition and ignorance ruled the day, and the ancient wisdom—that the earth was round, not flat, geometry, astronomy, algebra, history, poetry, and literature—bequeathed to humanity by the ancient world—was destroyed.

You don’t, however, have to go far back in history to see this kind of ignorance. We see evidence of religious intolerance and superstition every day. I heard it on the news this morning, from a Republican from the south who said she felt it her Christian duty to get rid of a Muslim president. This woman stated: “I really don’t think that a nation that falls on Muslim leadership, potentially, is going to be a nation that’s going to survive.”

Another southerner erroneously stated that Obama shouldn’t have been elected because his father was Kenyan. In fact the Constitution says that only one parent has to be born here. Before making such nonsensical comments, one should know the facts, in this case the U.S. Constitution. Obama’s mother, herself a wonderful and fascinating woman—she was the cover story in a recent New York Times Sunday Magazine — was born in America’s heartland: Wichita, Kansas.

People around the world risk their lives to get the right to vote and to fair elections. Just look at recent elections in Congo or Senegal.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that “democracy is too important a matter to be left to the people”. When I hear such stupidity on the radio or read it in the newspaper, I’m inclined to agree.

It all takes me back again to what happened to the Great Library of Alexandria.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program KCRW 89.9 FM Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW (rhythm planet / KCRW)
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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Down the Rabbit Hole

December 15, 2011

Down the rabbit hole

“Alice came to a fork in the road. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. 

‘Where do you want to go?’ responded the Cheshire Cat.

’I don’t know,’ Alice answered. 

‘Then,’ said the Cat, ‘it doesn’t matter.”

–Lewis Carroll

Education has taken a nasty fall. In fact, if we do not commit to a serious dialogue with the intention of finding immediate solutions, we will never find our way back up. At the bottom of this hole are entire generations without focus or incentive. At the top of the pile are the latest young college graduates, without the necessary tools of creative and analytical thinking, nor the processes to come up with solutions and answers to the multitude of problems awaiting them. And we are working on the newest generation, insuring a continuation of more of the same. Why would we do this? How is this happening and is there anyone building a ladder to the surface? One system that is attempting to work through this conundrum is the German school system, although, even in this forward thinking system the cracks are beginning to appear.

In the U.S. people don’t like to pay taxes, even if that means their children receive an inferior education and grow up to be welfare recipients condemned to minimum wage jobs, if they can find them. Henceforth, our state-funded schools do not have adequate funds to support healthy education. Not to mention that higher education is no longer a choice, but a matter of privilege, and if you don’t have it, you borrow it. If we take a closer look at the Bank/Corporate-to-Students zero-sum game, we will find that it is a form of indentured servitude. Easy credit, and low and stagnant wages. The Banks/Corporations win by ensuring themselves a profitable return and a constant supply of worker-bees–– under educated and ill prepared to come up with alternatives to the situation. Our young people are forced into unproductive, creatively un-challenging, low-income jobs, barely able to make ends meet in order to pay back or risk failing into default.

Here in Germany, where I’m currently residing, education is public and placed strictly in the hands of each of its 16 “states.” Each state is responsible for and administers to primary, secondary, career training schools and much of higher education, and is free to create its own curricula. That means that most schools, colleges and universities are paid for with taxpayer money, with a few institutions of higher learning charging a nominal fee. Teachers are Federally-tenured and there is coordination between state and federal administrators, teaching and testing standards ensuring that education is relatively equal throughout the country. However, globalization has pretty much corporatized education, even in Germany. Corporations want school children in the work force as soon as possible in order to fill positions in a rapidly growing industrial-export economy. As a result, the system is implementing a reduction in the number of years attended below college, from 13 to 12 years. School begins at 7:30 a.m., ensuring that children can ride the bus or that parents can drop their children off at school, relieving traffic congestion for people on their way to work. Sounds somewhat sound, however many studies have recently turned up indicating that both students and teachers ability to cope with this early biorhythm has affected attention and learning. Hmmm.

Empowering teachers helps to ensure a productive and fulfilling classroom experience. The Corporatizing of education has eroded the primary teacher-to-student experience. Every child has different affinities, abilities and interests that affect the way they absorb and learn from the materials presented in any given curriculum. Adding to this are classrooms full of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic children, creating a situation, which makes it next to impossible for teachers to do their jobs and connect with students on a deeper level. In the U.S. a broad-spectrum curriculum has been imposed without acknowledging these factors, effectively devaluing the creative and critical thinking that might one day turn the tables on the corporate imperative of a “dumbed-down” work force, perfectly designed to turn a corporate profit.

Taking into consideration that not everyone will learn the same way, at the same rate, or has the desire to go to the same place with their accumulated knowledge, the biggest difference between schools in the U.S. and Germany is that of freedom of choice. The German constitution guarantees all citizens the right to fully develop their human potential, which includes the right to choose one’s occupation and to have access to the appropriate career training. It recognizes that if you are going to become a productive member of a multi-dimensional society, overlaying one educational model simply does not work. Therefore parents and students are given a choice early on. The system gives parents the possibility, based on aptitude, grades and interests by the end of the 4th grade, to select what type of secondary school the child should attend and has made this flexible as well, by allowing students to change their minds later on. This ability to choose continues by offering students based upon their interests, a dual-track job skills training program: a three year classroom instruction together with a paid internship (Berufsfachschule), as well as other options. To read more about the German education system see: The Educational System in Germany

The less money that goes towards education, the less time and resources teachers have to give students the attention and individual respect they deserve. We do not have to agree to the Bank/Corporate agenda dictating to our educational systems. If we are to climb out of the rabbit hole, and begin to take back our rights to choose our future and create our lives, we have to change teaching paradigms and instruct our children how to think creatively and problem solve with patience to persevere in the face of obstacles. A distracted and fractured mind is an all to easily malleable mind, and we’ll fast find ourselves in a complicit wonderland, wondering how we got there:

Mad Hatter: Would you like a little more tea?
Alice: Well, I haven’t had any yet, so I can’t very well take more.
March Hare: Ah, you mean you can’t very well take less. 
Mad Hatter: Yes. You can always take more than nothing.


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

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Education As We Know It: Time to Review, Revise & Upgrade

December 8, 2011

classroom

There’s been a great deal of talk lately about the value of education whether at the elementary, secondary or college level. People are starting to wonder whether a college degree is worth the tuition required to earn one. The education system as we know it is no longer working. Some education leaders think a complete overhaul of the entire system is overdue.

According to Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of education, creativity and innovation, the education paradigm needs to be changed ASAP. He sees today’s school-age children and college students as seriously doubting the purpose of education. They are hopeless and disenchanted. And for those considering a college education, many are beginning to question the value of their degree. They don’t feel that a degree offers any guarantees like it did in the past.

Sir Robinson has a point and it is cleverly illustrated in this video which shows that the current system of education was designed for a different time and age. It was conceived during the age of enlightenment, at a time where the concept of compulsory public education funded by taxation was novel and revolutionary. Prior to the 19th century there were no public schools as we know it. Only those from affluent families were able to afford education, albeit through private tutors.

Sir Robinson brings up another point which is that our educational system and even the physical design of its architecture is modeled on the “interest and image of industrialization.” He suggests that by stepping back and taking a look at our schools we can see that they are “designed to run like factory lines, ringing of bells, separate facilities, where we educate children by batches, by age group.” By dividing and isolating the students and judging them separately we are in fact separating them from their “natural learning” environment. Most great learning, according to Sir Robinson “occurs in groups through collaboration.”

He asks a very good question: why do we teach our children by age group? Since children of the same age group respond and perform differently to different subjects. What’s the logic behind this? Is it about conformity and standardization? Is the structure of our current education model compatible with the age of technology? Are we preparing our children with the skills and knowledge necessary to survive in today’s globally-interconnected economy? Are all these standardized tests really necessary? I wonder. What do you think?

The Frustrated Evaluator
www.acei1.com

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Is No Child Left Behind…threatening to leave our nation behind?

September 29, 2011

It has been ten years since the passing of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), but there has been little to no improvement in our country’s education standing amongst other industrialized nations in the world.

Last week, President Obama offered those states struggling under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) program’s strict requirements some flexibility which includes waivers from some rules, in particular the one which requires students to meet reading and math proficiency by 2014. But opponents of the NCLB don’t see this as a move in the positive direction. In fact they don’t see NCLB as having had any positive impact on the health of the U.S. educational system. The NCLB as a whole has become the platform from which all blame concerning our country’s educational system is cast onto the teachers. Since the implementation of NCLB, teachers have been at the receiving end of the criticism.

The No Child Left Behind Act, passed in 2001 and signed into law in January 2002. It requires all states to develop tests intended to measure and assess the basic skills given to all students in certain grades so that federal funding for public schools are granted to those states. All government-run schools are to annually administer a state-wide standardized test to all students. Students attending publicly-funded schools in poorer neighborhoods and districts are subject to the same standardized tests as those offered to students in publicly-funded schools in more affluent areas. The students’ scores on these standardized annual tests will determine the school’s effectiveness in its teaching techniques. Scoring low on these examinations has several consequences: students will not be promoted to the next class grade, or graduate from high school, or be denied to qualify for college scholarships. These students may also change schools, attend after-school programs, and receive tutoring. Teachers and administrators are also judged on the basis of the students’ scores whereby high student scores qualifies them for bonuses and low scores, which is more prevalent, results in termination or reassignment. Schools with low scores are also subject to be restructured as public charter, private schools or forced to close. In addition, adhering to the ancient ritual of “shaming,” a factor in NCLB schools with low scores will receive public scolding while the personnel of those with high scores will be publicly praised.

Fearing the punitive ramifications hovering over their heads, our teachers and administrators have become so preoccupied with these annual standardized tests that we are now beginning to hear unfortunate news of cheating on tests perpetrated at times by the teachers. So much attention is given to these standardized tests that teachers lose sight of the actual art of teaching and exploring the subjects of study. We can’t place the entire place for America’s sagging academic achievement with public schools. We have a culture that undervalues education.

Our country’s obsession with standardized testing is pushing us away from the true art of educating even our student teachers in becoming professionals in their field. In an interview on American Public Media’s Marketplace, N.Y.U professor Diane Ravitch said: “…more focus on standardized tests…is going to lead to more cheating scandals because when you put unusual pressure on people to get scores or be fired, there’ll be people who’ll feel desperate and who cheat.” At a time when we need more teachers, we are seeing a drop in the number of students pursuing master’s degrees in education.

Dr. Ravitch, who is the author of “The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education,” compares the American system with that of Finland, a country she recently visited which ranks either first or second in the world on the O.E.C.D. Program for International Student Assessment. The U.S. falls in the middle. She mentions that Finland doesn’t have standardized tests like NCLB but what they do have is a strong profession of educators by offering an even stronger and comprehensive five-year academic program to train their teachers. We lack the serious training needed to deal with all the challenges teachers face in today’s classrooms from children coming from different cultural backgrounds speaking many languages and with special needs.

If we want to succeed in today’s global market, we need to strengthen our teacher training programs, and allow their peers and superiors, as Dr. Ravitch calls them “master teachers” to judge the competency and effectiveness of teachers in the classrooms and not student scores on standardized tests. Instead, we’ve dropped the entrance standards to the teaching professional, so that now anyone can become a teacher without having completed a degree program dedicated to education and teaching methodology. If we’re looking for education reform, we can’t simply place the blame on the teachers.

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

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