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Travel the World and Teach English in Chiang Mai Thailand

Travel the World and Teach English in Chiang Mai Thailand | LanguageCorps Asia |

Travel the world and teach English in Chiang Mai Thailand.

Katherine Hardy and her partner Rob, both from the UK, jacked in their jobs in the civil service to travel the world and teach English. They slung a few things in a backpack and after seeing a few countries, they both ended up in Chiang Mai. But they’ve already got itchy feet.

Q: Katherine, welcome to the ajarn hot seat and firstly, a big thank you for all the other excellent contributions you've made to the ajarn website. OK let's get down to business, tell us a little about how you and your partner Rob met and how long you've actually been together?  A: We met back in the UK while both working for the government. We’ve been together about a year and a half now. We were friends first, but only together as a ‘couple’ for six months before we decided to leave the UK. Q: I think it's fair to say then that you and Rob are still in the relatively early stages of your relationship. So to pack up and head out East together must have been a massive decision? A: Before we got together we both had ideas in our heads about travelling, though admittedly to very different parts of the world. As it became apparent that our jobs were not secure we began to discuss travelling more and more.

When it started to get to crunch time and booking tickets, we decided that we wanted to stay together and travel together, so without much hesitation we booked a pair of one way tickets to Hong Kong and that was that.

Part of the reason behind us travelling was to be spontaneous and do something out of our comfort zone, so the thought of going together, after not having known each other that long, wasn’t really a concern. Q: So it's a tale of two kindred spirits, both disillusioned with life in the UK and looking for some great adventure. Have I just about nailed it there? A: Yes! We both worked under various departments of the UK Jobcentre, so we were all too aware of how hard things were becoming in the UK for people looking for work.

Neither of us had any real ties to the UK - no mortgage, no children, not even pets - and after years of desk jobs we both felt we needed an adventure and to see more of the world. The timing just seemed to fit perfectly.  
Q: You both 'bummed around SE Asia' for several months. Were you intent on looking for work or was it purely a holiday? Where did you actually stay on your travels and what were your thoughts on the various places?
A: Well we headed first to Hong Kong as I have a friend who teaches English in China and I wanted to visit her. We had a vague plan in our heads, with a Chinese and Vietnamese visa ready in our passports, so that began our journey.

From there we really just travelled along the usual routes but with no real destination in mind (again part of the ‘being spontaneous’ idea behind the whole adventure). We travelled from China, though Vietnam, into Cambodia and finally Lao.

Overall, we saw so many things that it’s hard to put into words. For us, our favourite country was without a doubt Cambodia - so much history, so many beautiful sights and very friendly people.

Realistically we always knew we would have to stop and start work at some stage. We had booked a one-way ticket after all and money was certainly not limitless. We had no real plan for ‘where’ or ‘when’ but we knew that teaching English would probably be our best bet.
Q: You ended up in Chiang Mai. It sounds like it was love at first sight? What's so special about the place for you? A:We ended up in Chiang Mai on a bit of a whim. Sat in a guesthouse somewhere in Lao, I decided that if we were going to teach English, our only real option was to do a TEFL course, both to prepare us for teaching and to hopefully help us to gain employment.

After a little internet research I found one in Chiang Mai that seemed to suit us both time-wise and what the course was offering. After a few exchanged emails, we headed to Chiang Mai and enrolled on the course, which was due to start in two weeks time.

We knew nothing of Thailand other than what the guide book said, but like most things over the last few months we just thought ‘why not’ and just packed our rucksacks and headed on.

Chiang Mai was definitely love at first sight. It’s a brilliant place to introduce yourself to Thailand. It still retains much of its Thai vibe while still having all the amenities you could ever need. The people really are so friendly and it just instantly became home.  Q: OK, so you your own admittance, your funds had started to run low so you looked for teaching work in Chiang Mai. Was that something you had planned on doing? A: It wasn’t planned, no. We had intended to travel around Thailand for a while after the TEFL course and before finding work, but a combination of lack of funds and the fact that we finished our course in October (prime hiring time for Thai schools) meant that we decided to stay put and find work Q: I presume that you had also done a little research and already knew that Chiang Mai wasn't perhaps the best choice in terms of well-paid teaching jobs? A: Hmmm, you presume wrong. We did no research into salaries in Thailand whatsoever. We simply relied on the information from our TEFL course - that Chiang Mai had a plethora of schools to apply to.

We wrongly believed that this would mean it would be easy to find work, when in reality it took a lot of ‘hitting the pavement’ before both Rob and I had secured jobs. We certainly don’t regret staying in Chiang Mai, but had timing and the money situation been different, I think we would have done more research and moved on. Q: Do you and Rob both work at the same school? If not, did you try and seek work at the same place? A: I was lucky enough to be offered a full-time job pretty quickly through a contact from our TEFL school. We never had the intention of working at the same school, but as we were both looking for the same type of jobs, we inevitably applied at many of the same schools.

Rob later found a part time job at another school, and we both worked for the same language school teaching private lessons. Q: I've always said that for employers, teacher couples are a good catch because they will support each other and you'll get decent loyalty from them. Have you generally found that Thai hirers, school owners or whatever have looked at you in a more positive light - purely because you are a young couple? A: At first, no, we never really advertised the fact that we were a couple and mostly conducted our job searches autonomously. Recently, since we have been looking for new jobs for the start of the new school year, I would say yes it has helped.

I have actually been offered a new job in Nakhon Si Thammarat, and once I told the employer there that I would be moving with my partner Rob, he set about trying to secure him a job too, first with another school and now within the same school.

I think it depends on the employer and his or her experiences with western teachers, as to whether they see teaching couples as a good bet or not. One school in Suart Thani I interviewed with seemed almost ‘put-off’ when I said I would be moving to Nakhon with a boyfriend, asking how long we had been together and implying the relationship might not last and that upon its disintegration I would be on the first flight home! I very sweetly told them this would not be the case, and was offered the job anyway.

Q: Do you and Rob share the same personality traits? You've both obviously got a sense of adventure but is one person more of a worrier, who's intent on keeping your feet firmly on the ground, whereas one of you is a bit more carefree perhaps? A: Hmmm, well… We obviously share a sense of adventure and we both set out on this experience with the same goals in mind - basically that there were no goals. We simply wanted to see some of the world, have a good time doing it, and not have to return to the UK anytime soon.

As to our personalities we probably are quite different. I’m certainly the organiser, to which Rob would say I am the worrier, but one of us has to gauge some sort of direction.

He’s very much suited to the Thai way of thinking. Don’t think too far ahead, let things happen, and to be honest it’s worked out for us so far. Q: I've got to ask this because in your 'cost of living' survey that you did for ajarn, you mentioned that you both share a studio apartment. So what happens when you 'fall out' or have words with each other? Does one of you have to go onto the balcony for a sulk? A: Ha ha, well lucky for us neither of us have particularly volatile tempers and we don’t really fall out. Yes, we both have our sulky moments, and the balcony is the perfect place for this, or the 5-minute walk to 7-11, but I think we both realise that we are out here together, we share a small flat, and that we really shouldn’t let the small things get to us. Maybe I’m adopting the Thai attitude more than I thought! Q: Would you be approaching the whole idea of teaching English in Thailand differently if you didn't have Rob alongside you? A: I think I would have approached this whole adventure differently without Rob, and I certainly don’t think I would be planning the next few years out here if I wasn’t here with him. It’s very hard to say. On my own I might have just travelled a bit and then returned home when the money ran out.
Q: You've already let me in on your future plans. That's to say you and Rob are planning a big move to Nakhon Si Thammarat. Chiang Mai to NST sounds like an unusual move. I don't know why; it just does. What made you choose a town at the other end of the country and a place that probably doesn't have the attractions and lifestyle that Chiang Mai has to offer?
A: As with everything that we have done over the last year, we're going on a a bit of a whim!

We knew that we wanted something different to Chiang Mai. While we love it here, we want a complete change of scenery and I in particular want to be nearer the beaches.

We know someone already teaching in Nakhon and he has told us that there is a great ex-pat teaching community there, which is very lacking in Chiang Mai, probably because there are just so many ‘farangs’ here.

I applied for a couple of jobs, was made an offer, and that was that. The drastic increase in salary is obviously a big incentive as well, along with much better benefits from the school and a lower cost of living. We’ve never even been to Southern Thailand, let alone Nakhon, so it’s a very exciting move for us.
Q: I'm sure you'll do well Katherine. I wish you both the very best of British luck. How long do you seriously think Thailand will be home?

A: Well I think realistically we shall stay in Thailand for the next 1-2 years. After that we may need to think about money more seriously and head for an Asian country that pays better.

Neither of us see ourselves back in the UK within the next 5 years, but who knows? We have no plan set in stone, only to continue teaching out here for as long as it’s fun and feasible.


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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Serious About a New Language? Begin With Lesson 1

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Serious About a New Language? Begin With Lesson 1 | LanguageCorps Asia |

Serious About a New Language? Begin With Lesson 1.

I’ve tried learning Italian through books, CDs, DVDs, tapes, and apps with phrase books and translation technology. Nothing stuck.

As a result, I’ve avoided much costlier alternatives that promise to deliver full language courses to mobile phones and tablets.

I shouldn’t have.

In two cases in particular, I found comprehensive language courses for mobile devices that are vastly better in quality than apps that offer a small piece of the language learning experience.

The courses are from Living Language and Rocket Languages, and if you’re serious about bilingualism they are absolutely worth considering.

Of the two, Living Language (free on Apple and Android) offers a more consistently good experience and the more generous trial terms. The French, Spanish, Italian, German, Chinese and Japanese apps include 11 introductory lessons, with another 35 lessons available for $20 on iPad and $15 on iPhone. On Android, the first three lessons are free, and languages include Spanish, French, German and Italian. The full app is $15.

The app’s full 46 lessons are included if you purchase the Living Language Platinum service, which, for $179, includes books, CDs, a personal online tutor and access to a online community, among other elements.

Rocket Languages is a similar Web-based service, and it has no dedicated app, but if you log on from a mobile device the experience is nearly identical to an app. Rocket Languages also offers instruction in Korean, Arabic, Hindi and American Sign Language.

The big difference is that you can’t use the service while outside of a Wi-Fi hot spot for any significant length of time, unless you can afford additional data charges. You can download audio files ahead of time to save at least a little on data charges.

Plus, if you have a spotty network connection, the pages will lag.

Rocket Languages offers free trial versions that include at least 10 of the more than 60 tutorials in the paid versions, which cost between $100 and $150.

Prospective students should start with Living Languages, whose lessons in Italian I found nothing short of delightful, even with a few small hiccups.

Regardless of the language you choose, the lessons include a range of surprising and engaging exercises and games that test and build knowledge.

The building blocks of each lesson are virtual flashcards that gracefully flip at your touch, to reveal the English translations of Italian words and phrases. Once you’ve mastered a card, you touch a button to indicate as much, and the app adjusts its exercises to account for your proficiency.

The most challenging of the games is Fill in the Blank, where users complete a sentence by typing the Italian word. The app offers hints, in the form of partly spelled words, to those who are stumped.

On the Sentence Builder page, you drag words from a menu to assemble the Italian version of a given sentence, while another game challenges users to tap the Italian phrase and its English analog as the phrases move about the page in bubbles.

The games are smartly designed. The Sentence Builder, for instance, includes enough variations on words to make users think carefully about their choices. And the app’s developers evidently obsessed over little elements, like the way the software responds to the touch. The typeface design and color scheme, too, are friendly to the eye.

Living Language keeps score each time you play a game, and if you score perfectly, a gold ribbon icon appears on that page. It’s a nice enticement, even if the system doesn’t always work as planned.

In the word-finder puzzle, for instance, you must identify Italian phrases in a grid. On two occasions, the Italian phrase for “good evening” (buona sera) did not exist in the grid, which was frustrating.

This is the kind of glitch that’s easy to forgive, though, since everything else works so well. I emerged from Lesson 1 with demonstrably improved knowledge and an eagerness to move onto the next one.

It took me about 45 minutes to complete the lesson, but since I knew a little of the language I got through it slightly faster than a true beginner might. If one assumes roughly one hour per lesson, the app’s 11 lessons offer a huge amount of value at no charge.


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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: How Do We Learn and Remember?

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: How Do We Learn and Remember? | LanguageCorps Asia |

How Do We Learn and Remember?

The mechanisms of learning and memory are at the essence of how the brain works.

One of the most fascinating and mysterious properties of the brain is its capacity to learn, or its ability to change in response to experience and to retain that knowledge throughout an organism’s lifetime. The ability to learn and to establish new memories is fundamental to our very existence; we rely on memory to engage in effective actions, to understand the words we read, to recognize the objects we see, to decode the auditory signals representing speech, and even to provide us with a personal identity and sense of self. Memory plays such as important and ubiquitous role that it is often taken for granted—the only time most people pay attention to their memory is when it fails, as too often happens through brain injury or disease.

Identifying the complex processes underlying learning, memory and brain plasticity is critical for understanding how the brain works, and remains one of the fundamental challenges facing the brain sciences. Although much has been learned about the neural basis of learning and memory over the years, it is becoming increasingly clear that further advances and insights can only be achieved through an interdisciplinary approach to the problem. Brown’s Brain Science Program (BSP) researchers are accomplishing this goal by examining the wide variety of phenomena associated with learning and memory at all levels of complexity, ranging from molecules, synapses, cells, neuronal ensembles, and neural systems, to the behavior of whole animals.

Molecular and Synaptic Mechanisms of Memory

Synapses are the connections between nerve cells, and they are also the major site of information exchange and storage in the brain. We now know that synapses can alter their effectiveness based on their activity, and that this phenomenon, known as synaptic plasticity, may be the fundamental basis of learning and memory. Researchers at Brown, including Professors Barry Connors, Anna Dunaevsky and Justin Fallon, are interested in how synapses are formed and maintained, and how they are modified by experience to store new information. In one major area of research these scientists are asking how ephemeral episodes of neural activity are transformed into long-lasting changes in synaptic strength. To persist, synaptic modifications require the synthesis of new proteins, many of which arise by the translation of mRNAs at synapses. Since synapses are far away from the cell body—where the mRNAs are made—the neuron must have means for sequestering the message at these remote locations and triggering their translation in response to synaptic activity. Professor Fallon and his students, for example, have discovered a novel molecular mechanism, called cytoplasmic polyadenylation, for the regulation of such local translation and are working to understand how this system functions in learning and memory. They are also studying whether this mechanism plays a role in the pathogenesis of Fragile X Syndrome, the most common form of inherited mental retardation. Finally, they are also investigating the molecular basis of synapse formation and elimination using the highly tractable nerve-muscle synapse.

Neural Systems of Memory

Researchers at Brown have long been interested in the intersection between brain functions and behavior, including understanding the neural basis of memory. Much of this research has focused on the structures composing a medial temporal lobe system that has been found to play a critical role in declarative memory functions in both rodents and primates, including humans. This research utilizes multidisciplinary approaches including neuroanatomical and neuronal recording studies. For example, by removing a brain structure in animal models, researchers are characterizing the ensuing defects in learning or memory, and thereby learn more about the region's functions. Such a study can then be advanced by recording neuronal activity in the intact structure in a behaving animal, to examine this area as animals learn new tasks. Professors Mayank Mehta and Rebecca Burwell study how new environments are learned in the hippocampus—a gateway for transforming sensations and thoughts into long-term memories. An understanding of the neural and cognitive substrates underlying memory and learning can be also be acquired through the investigation of memory and language disorders in humans, as Professors Sheila Blumstein, Katherine Demuth, William Heindel do in their labs. More recently, it has become possible to follow these same processes in humans using fMRI methods. This technique makes it possible to image not only the detailed structure of the living human brain, but to visualize changes in the brain’s blood flow that is a marker for brain activity. Professor Jerome Sanes uses this method to explore brain mechanisms that underlie motor skill learning. MRI, electrophysiological (i.e., EEG) and behavioral methods are also used by Professors Michael Tarr, Sheila Blumstein, and William Heindel to investigate the neural substrates underlying perceptual and semantic memory. The Brain Science Program’s MRI Research Facility has state-of-the-art MRI machines that will be expanding to include even more advanced imaging methods within the University’s new Life Sciences Building. The information gained by these studies should contribute to our understanding human memory and cognition, and may hold implications for persons with various memory disorders.

Computational and Mathematical Models of Memory

One of the distinguishing features of the Brain Sciences Program at Brown University is the unusually close and frequent interaction of brain theorists with bench experimentalists. Although the utility of theoretical arguments is well established in the physical sciences, with a few notable exceptions, the blending of theory and experiment in neuroscience has been challenging. Researchers at Brown have been at the forefront of developing theoretical models that have proved invaluable in elucidating the connections between molecular and cellular events mediating learning and memory. One of these projects, for example, that developed from a collaboration of Nobel Laureate Leon Cooper and Applied Mathematics/Neuroscience Professor Elie Bienenstock has led to a theory of synaptic plasticity (the BCM theory),which applied to a simple model of the visual cortex and the visual environment, explains how experience shapes the development of the visual system and determines its ultimate wiring pattern. The BCM theory has also sparked considerable experimental studies to show how synapses know when to increase or decrease their strength. The theoretical work on learning and memory has served to provide a deeper understanding of the physiology underlying learning and memory. Work in the laboratories of Professors James Anderson and Harel Shouval are examining the theoretical foundations of learning using simulations and models that incorporate artificial intelligence and statistics to develop adaptive machines that can take advantage of observations and examples in order to solve a variety of tasks that are achieved easily by human nervous systems, but poorly by computers.

The combined efforts of theoretical and experimental researchers in the Brain Science Program provide a unique approach to both understanding the nature of human learning and memory and the biological mechanisms that allow us to learn and remember.



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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Asian Students Pressured to Cheat on US College Applications

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Asian Students Pressured to Cheat on US College Applications | LanguageCorps Asia |

Asian Students Pressured to Cheat on US College Applications.

As American colleges remain the premier destination for the academic elite in Asia, many students are feeling pressured into resorting into drastic cheating measures to get their highly sought after places, writes Patrick Winn at the Global Post.

Depending on the degree of assistance, students and their families can expect to pay between $5,000 and $15,000 for ghostwritten essays in flawless English, fake awards, manipulated transcripts and even imposters to sit as the applicant for SAT exams, all arranged by college prep agencies.

According to a recent survey by Zinch China, as many as 90 percent of recommendation letters to foreign colleges are faked, 70 percent of college essays are ghostwritten and 50 percent of high school transcripts are falsified.

Tom Melcher, chairman of Zinch China says:

    “For the right price, the agent will either fabricate it or work with the school to get a different transcript issued.”

And it’s a lucrative business. For every admission into a top 10 or top 30 school, these agencies are set to receive bonuses between $3,000 and $10,000.

To put that into context, there are currently nearly 158,000 Chinese students are enrolled in US colleges at any given time, making up more than one in five foreign students studying in the country.

“International students are seen as a source of revenue … and the trend has exploded in the past two years,” said Dale Gough, international education director for AACRAO, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

While America has ceded manufacturing power and foreign influence to China, an American degree remains the gold standard of educational prestige, writes Winn.

    “The allure of America’s universities, and the pressure-cooker drive to succeed among Asia’s expanding upper class, will continue to propel Asian students into American schools.”

How can it be stopped? Many believe interviewing all Chinese students via online video chats, conducting spot tests in English, and hiring a mainland Chinese staffer in the college’s home office will help slow the trend down.

But Melcher believes that as long as the risks are low and the rewards are so high this culture of cheating will continue.

    “Frankly, I feel really bad for Chinese families who are trying to be honest,” he said.

“They’re driving 55 while everyone’s zooming past them. After a while, they throw up their hands and say, ‘Fine, I’ll speed up.’”


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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: The Global Search for Education Is Your Child an Innovator?

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: The Global Search for Education Is Your Child an Innovator? | LanguageCorps Asia |

The Global Search for Education: Is Your Child an Innovator?

“The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.” — President Barack Obama, January 25, 2011

Welcome to the Innovation Age.  Today’s world will reward the most innovative young people.  World leaders, business executives, educators, and policy makers have joined in the global debate on how we create the next generation of innovators.  Even parents are asking themselves the question: “Is my child an Innovator?”

How do you train an innovator?  Which schools are doing it better than others?  Are teachers equipped with the new skills required to educate students in this decade?  Are curricula incorporating the essential content that will help young people become more innovative?  Are parents playing their part so as to ensure their children can face tomorrow’s challenges and ultimately lead richer, fuller lives?

In his must read new book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (Scribner, April 17, 2012), Dr. Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, Harvard University, addresses these issues.  I had the pleasure of chatting with him about the most talked about subject in education today.

There seems to be a wide range of what constitutes innovation, and innovation can also be a matter of degree.  How do you define an innovator?

There are different kinds of innovation — incremental and disruptive — and so there are different degrees of the capacity to innovate.  Not everyone can create brilliant “disruptive” products — products that transform a market as Steve Jobs and Apple have done.  But many young people, given the right encouragement, can bring something extra to whatever they do — that spark of imagination and curiosity, which can lead to the creation of better products, services, and ideas.  At its simplest, an innovator is someone who is a creative problem solver.

How do you train an Innovator?

We are born curious.  We are born with imagination.  The first challenge is to ensure that these very human qualities are not schooled out of us, as Sir Ken Robinson says.  Beyond that, in my research, I identified five essential education and parenting practices that develop young people’s capacities to innovate:

1.  Learning to work collaboratively (innovation is a team sport!).

2.  Learning to understand problems from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

3.  Learning to take risks and learn from mistakes.

4.  Focusing on creating versus consuming.

5.  Reinforcing the intrinsic motivations of play, passion, and purpose versus the extrinsic carrots and sticks.

Information may be free but knowledge also includes understanding, problem solving, communication, and collaboration, none of which is free.  Many schools “teach” these aspects of human endeavor to some degree.  How much of this is relevant to your model for creating innovators?

Knowledge has become a commodity and is free, like air or water.  Knowledge is also changing and growing exponentially.  Based on the old premise of knowledge scarcity, the assumption is that it is the job of the teacher to transmit knowledge to students.  When only a few people had the knowledge, that model made some sense, but because knowledge has become a commodity, the world no longer cares what you know.  That is, there is no competitive advantage today to knowing more than the person sitting next to you.  The competitive advantage for someone going out into the world is what they can do with what they know. And this kind of learning needs to take place at all levels.  Right now it is more common in some elementary schools where students do projects.  The problem arises as students move up through school.  While there is a lot of professed interest in teaching the so-called 21st century skills you mentioned, which I wrote about extensively in The Global Achievement Gap, in fact most teachers feel compelled to teach to the tests for accountability purposes—and increasingly so as their jobs may depend on students getting good test scores.

Some examples you’ve seen in better schools to nurture this kind of learning?

In Creating Innovators, I profile schools and colleges that are doing an outstanding job of educating young people to become innovators.  In the better schools I visited (both high schools and colleges), in every single course, students have to produce real products for a real audience as a significant part of their academic experience.  In one high school I visited, every student is required to do a team-based service learning project: to go out into the community, research a problem and then figure out a way to solve it.  One student I interviewed was a part of a team that discovered there was a local food pantry that had a problem storing all of the food donated to it.  And so the team went back to school and used a computer assisted design program to design a new storage system for the pantry.  Then they returned and actually built it.  What students need is practice in applying their learning to new situations, not just in the classroom, but in the community. Another example at the college level is the Olin College of Engineering, which requires students to spend an entire year working in teams to solve a problem in a corporate setting.  It is what they call their Senior Capstone Project in Engineering.  These approaches demand a radically different approach to teaching.  Teaching students to apply what they have learned requires relinquishing a degree of teacher control, relying far less on textbooks, and encouraging students to take initiative and be responsible for their own learning. Teachers are no longer the experts; they must become coaches.  Many teachers find these transitions very hard to make.

Teachers follow the accepted process required to get kids into good colleges — the colleges their parents and the kids think they should go to.  Thoughts?

Things are changing more quickly than most people realize.  Three points:

1. The Advanced Placement curriculum is already radically transforming all AP tests, beginning with AP Biology this year and then AP US History next year.  They are moving towards students having to demonstrate that they can apply knowledge learned and not merely regurgitate it.  So AP tests, which are themselves considered a gold standard, are redefining what is “rigor” and students will need a different kind of teaching to do well on these new tests.

2. There are now 750 colleges and universities that do not require any kind of test scores for admission. Last year, Tufts University became the first in the country to encourage students to submit YouTube videos with their applications, and they were stunned at the quality of work that was produced and how much more they learned about their applicants.

3. If you look at the CEO’s of most major companies, the majority did not go to an Ivy League school for undergraduate.  What matters much more are what graduate school you go to and having had work-based internships where you have had to apply what you have learned.  Being preoccupied with getting kids into top colleges, I think, is misplaced.  Admission into “name brand” schools is more and more a matter of luck and no longer offers the competitive advantages it did 20 years ago.  The push to get all A’s distorts the purpose of school and distracts from acquiring the skills that will give kids a real competitive edge.

For my new book I interviewed Joel Podolny, Vice President of Human Resources at Apple, who has taught at Harvard, Stanford, and Yale, and he told me that to get into these kinds of schools you learn to play a game.  A game of getting perfect scores, building a resume, etc.  The problem is, if you have not learned how to collaborate, to take risks and learn from your mistakes, to create as opposed to consume — all the qualities that matter in the world of innovation — then companies like Apple will have no use for you.

To what extent is innovation capability a function of family and external influences?

These days, young people become innovators in spite of their schooling, rather than because of it.  In my research, I found both parenting and teaching practices that strengthen the capacity to innovate — emphasizing discovery-based play, limiting screen time, encouraging young people to find and pursue their passion, take risks and learn from mistakes, and instilling a sense of the importance of “giving back” — these were all things that parents and teachers of young innovators encouraged.

What overall rating do you give the US Public School system for training innovators?

A grade of F.  But it is not the teacher’s fault.  They are not encouraged to innovate, and there is no funding for educational R&D.  We must prepare teachers differently and develop lab schools for 21st century learning and teaching.  Mostly importantly, we need to begin using much better assessments, like the College and Work Readiness Assessment and the Collegiate Learning Assessment.  Assessment drives instruction, and having the wrong metric is worse than having none at all.  Multiple choice, computer-scored test results tell us nothing about the quality of teaching or students’ college, career, and citizenship readiness.  Every student should have a digital portfolio as a cumulative record of the development of his or her innovation skills.  Finally, instead of preaching that all students should be “college-ready,” we should instead establish the goal of all students being “innovation-ready.”  Young people don’t necessarily have to go to college to learn to innovate.  Nearly half of Finland’s high school students choose a career and technical education track, rather than an academic track, and Finland has a higher innovation standing than the US.



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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Corporations Seek Greater Role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Corporations Seek Greater Role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education | LanguageCorps Asia |

Corporations Seek Greater Role in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Education.

Corporations are stepping in to help solve the current education crisis before they’re left with nobody suitable to hire.

    A quarter of our children drop out of high school every year. Two-fifths of those who do graduate leave high school unprepared for college or career, while 57% (PDF) lack comprehension of even remedial math. Apparently the national disinterest in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) starts early, as over 61% (PDF) of middle schoolers would rather take out the garbage than do their math homework.

Growth in STEM jobs is currently rising three times faster than that of non-STEM jobs and the National Science Foundation estimates that over the next decade 80% of created jobs will require some mastery of STEM subjects.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has donated $100 million towards various educational causes and Intel has given $1 billion with several other firms also stepping up to the plate. Other companies, like Microsoft are increasingly doing more than just donating money, as welcome as that investment is in an underfunded and underappreciated sector, and are actively participating in social innovation projects.

Microsoft partners with NGOs around the world to help young people have the tools to close what it calls the ‘opportunity divide’. Microsoft’s Partners in Learning has so far sent $500 million to education systems globally helping teachers and students in 114 countries.

    “Our goal is to embrace the bigness of the challenge that government and society face in terms of transforming education in a holistic way,” says Vice President of Microsoft Worldwide Education Anthony Salcito. “It’s not just about technology. It’s about bringing innovation to schools. How do you personalize the education experience? How do you incorporate new modes of classroom design and curriculum, or think about assessment differently? How do you change a kid’s vision of his future?”

Microsoft helps education in direct and indirect ways. Their open source software platform allows people to create educational apps and tools for products like Kinect and Windows Phone, and allows talented students to stretch themselves and help their education system by doing so themselves. The Imagine Cup asks students to use technology to solve problems in the world. Partners in Learning challenges people to innovate within the school system itself and provides investment grants to help test and implement winning ideas.



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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Myths Americans Believe About Vietnam

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Myths Americans Believe About Vietnam | LanguageCorps Asia |

Myths Americans Believe About Vietnam.


1. Religion is not tolerated in Vietnam.


Quite the contrary! Sometimes I read stories on the web about religious persecution in Vietnam, but what I see here in Ho Chi Minh City is a very religious people, far more religious in general than Americans. People here will nearly all say they are either Catholic or Buddhist; it's hard to find anyone who would call themselves Agnostic or Atheistic- I haven't met one yet.


The Catholic Church is one of the biggest property owners in Ho Chi Minh City. There are huge, newly built churches everywhere. I can see a gimongous church being built in the distance from the window where I'm sitting right now. In the evenings and on Sundays there are crowds of people at all the churches, often spilling out into the street and adding to the traffic mayhem. The most popular tourist attraction in Saigon is a cathedral- the Notre-Dame Cathedral in District 1.


There are also Buddhist temples in every neighborhood; many of them are huge. Thich Nhat Hanh, the rock star of Buddhist monks who was living in exile in France for many years, recently returned to tour Vietnam with an entourage of over 300 monks.

Granted, there are conflicts between the Vietnamese government and some religious leaders who get involved in politics. I don't know the details of these conflicts but I'd venture to say they involve only a tiny minority of religious people. In the past, certainly there has been severe religious persecution in Vietnam, but things have changed a lot. The official government line is that religion is free and accessible to all, and I haven't seen anything different.


2. The Vietnamese hate Americans because of "The American War."


My own experience is only in the south, and it may be different in the north, but what I have experienced would actually be the opposite. Even when I first came to Vietnam as a tourist in 1996, I never heard or felt anything but tremendous love and respect for America and Americans.


To the Vietnamese, just like to people in developing countries everywhere, American is the promised land, the land of opportunity. Nearly every Vietnamese family has at least one member living in the USA, so America is the country that is taking care of their loved ones.


Unlike Americans, especially baby boomers, who will never get past the Vietnam war, the Vietnamese have gotten over it. The bulk of the Vietnamese population, it's own baby boom, is only in their mid-20's. Their parents have stories but most people are too young to remember the war.


Also consider Vietnamese history. Americans don't have much of a history, but the Vietnamese collective memory goes back 5000 years. The Chinese occupied Vietnam for 1000 years. France occupied Vietnam for 100 years. America was here for all of 30 years, merely a small blip in Vietnamese history. Contrary to Americans' sense of self-importance, the American episode isn't all that significant. (I don't know how accurate those figures are; those are the numbers that Vietnamese people will recite if you ask them.)


This is a topic that is big enough for it's own article, but suffice it to say that I've noticed far FAR more tension between the north and south of Vietnam and between local Vietnamese and overseas Vietnamese, than between Vietnamese and Americans. (My personal plea to Americans: get over it!)


3. They're all Communists.


I cringe when I hear Americans refer to the Vietnamese as "those commies," as if everyone was running around in blue suits. Vietnamese people are just like everyone else: most of them couldn't care less about politics. They just want a decent job, food on the table, and an iPhone. Most of them will bitch about their government if given a chance, just like Americans. The number of people who are actually in the Communist Party is a very tiny number, even smaller than the number of people in Vietnam's Cao Dai religion.


4. Vietnam doesn't have modern technology.


Out in the countryside, this is true. My wife's family just got electricity at their house a few months ago. They still don't have running water. But in the cities it's different. I'm typing on a computer that I bought here in Ho Chi Minh City, using a broadband connection that is just the same (as far as I can tell) as in America. My university classroom is wired with wifi and a projector; I have to tell my students to close their laptops and pay attention. I've heard there are some schools that have those touchscreen interactive projectors, but I haven't used one yet. I'd brag about my modern cell phone but I can't afford one. My students can, though, and I'm often envious of their gadgets. There are electronic gadgets or sale in my neighborhood computer store that I can't even identify.


I have a friend who works for the Vietnam office of a British architectural firm and he said their counterparts in England were worried that the Vietnamese staff might not be able to open the AutoCAD documents they sent, because surely the Vietnamese must be using some ancient version. In fact, because of the lax enforcement of copyright laws, the opposite was true. The Vietnam office had the latest version, whereas the British office only had an older version! Since all the latest software is practically free here in Vietnam, it's common for people to have $20,000 worth of software on their computers, if not more.


5. Vietnamese people are not "free."


What is freedom, anyway? The ability to do what you want, right? If you want to rock the boat politically in Vietnam, of course you're going to have a tough time, but citizens do rally against their government. And for big-business people, you're going to run into restrictions. But for the average person, like me for example, Vietnam feels much more "free" than America.


Here in Vietnam, it's all up to your local police guy. If he's happy then everything's okay. You want to open up a company in your house, maybe even a school? No problem, just pay your local official a (very) small sum and off you go. Try to do the same in the USA and you are screwed. Try to open a school or a restaurant in America and you'll be shut down if your stairway is an inch too narrow. In my experience, the average person is much more free in Vietnam to do what they want than in America.

Take a look at the traffic police. Here in Vietnam your traffic cop has no radio, no computer, many don't have guns. They can often be pacified with a hundred-thousand Dong ($6). In America an ordinary policeman has a fast car with a computer and is armed to the teeth. Disobey one small traffic law and instantly your entire criminal record is on their screen.


One of the tragedies of America that people don't talk about much is it's prison population: the USA has the highest incarceration rate in the world. It has less than 5% of the world's population but over 23% of the world's incarcerated people- four times the world average. America's prisons are full of men and women whose lives have been virtually ruined because of some small, victimless crime they committed. Is that freedom?


Obviously, the contrary to what I'm saying here could easily be argued. The government and police in Vietnam are basically the equivalent of the Mafia, and they do what they want, arbitrarily. But I'm talking about what your average person can and can't do, and especially just the way it feels to live here vs. the USA. One of the reasons I love living in Vietnam is that I feel much more "free" here than I do in America. You can argue the opposite all you want, but this is the way it feels to me- Vietnam: free. America: not free.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: How the Internet Will Change How We Learn

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: How the Internet Will Change How We Learn | LanguageCorps Asia |

How the Internet Will Change How We Learn.


In the 21st century, online learning will constitute 50% of all learning and education. The rapid rise of learning on the Internet will occur not because it is more convenient, cheaper, or faster, but because cognitive learning on the Internet is better than learning in-person. Of the growing number of experts seeing this development, Gerald Celente, author of the popular book Trends 2000, summarizes it most succinctly: “Interactive, on-line learning will revolutionize education. The education revolution will have as profound and as far-reaching an effect upon the world as the invention of printing. Not only will it affect where we learn; it also will influence how we learn and what we learn" (Celente, 1997, p. 249). Recent research reported in the Washington Post cites studies showing that online learning is equally as effective as learning in-person. And note that we state "cognitive learning," not all learning.


It is still very early in the development of online learning. But the outlines of the potential of online learning are already emerging. The best guide to the next century lies in history, and the in examples of technological transition from the nineteenth to the twentieth century. The automobile and tractor were the driving forces for the Industrial Age. The tractor eventually was demonstrated to not only cover more acres than a horse drawn plow, but to plow deeper (read: better) and thus increase productivity .


Some sectors of society clung to the horse drawn vehicle, of course. The military still had a cavalry in 1939 to confront Hitler’s tanks before the obvious mismatch was addressed (Davis, 1993). The tractor changed education for the 20th century as well. Prior to the tractor and automobile, one room schoolhouses were placed every six miles so that a child would only have to walk at most three miles to school. The one room schoolhouse necessitated one teacher and multiple grade levels in one room. With the automobile, people moved into towns, and even rural residents could take buses to school, thus causing school consolidation and the eventual all-but-extinction of the one room schoolhouse. In the State of Washington, for example, between 1935 and 1939 almost 20% of rural one room schoolhouses were closed (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1945).


And when online learning is combined with a more interactive and facilitative in-person learning, it will easily out perform today’s outmoded one-size-fits-all traditional lecture delivery system. "Digital media and Internet communications will transform learning practices," notes Peter J. Denning of George Mason University in his How We Will Learn (1996, page 2).


Here are a few of the effects of online learning that will occur in just a few years:

* The average class size for an online course will be 1,000 participants;
* The average cost of an online course will plummet to below $100 a course;
* There will be hundreds of thousands of topics from which learners can choose.

But perhaps the most devastating and revolutionary change will be how the Internet will change how we learn. Because as we enter the Information Age, the era of lifelong learning, the era of online learning, distance has nothing to do with "distance education." By this I mean that even when the teacher is in close proximity to the learners, the quality of the cognitive learning and teaching will be higher when the cognitive part of the learning is conducted over the Internet. Keoko University in Japan, for example, is already establishing online learning for its on-campus students (Eisenstodt, 1997).


In this article I will outline what we already know and can forecast about how the Internet and online learning will change how we learn. We know, for example, that the economic force driving life in the 21st century will be the microchip and the Internet, just as the automobile was the economic force for change in the 20th century. And we know that business will need its workers to learn more, more quickly, and at a lower cost, to remain competitive. We will show that these market forces will create the need and desirability for online learning.


How We Learn Today


For most of history the standard educational setting has been an instructor (or teacher, leader, presenter, or speaker) standing in front of a group of people. This is the most common learning design in society, whether it be for college credit classes, noncredit courses, training in business and industry, high school instruction, or even a Sunday School class.


Basically, 90% of all education has been "information transfer," the process of transferring information and knowledge from the teacher’s head into the heads of the learners. To do that, teachers have had to talk most of the time. And right up until today that mode of delivery has been the most effective, most efficient, most desirable way to learn.


But as educators we know that the traditional lecture is not the only way to learn. We as learners learn in many different ways, at different times, and from a variety of sources (Knowles, 1973). We also know that learning is not purely a cognitive process, but that it also involves the emotions and even the spirit (Apps, 1991).


The Internet is destroying the traditional educational delivery system of an instructor speaking, lecturing or teaching in front of one or more learners.


The whole discipline of self-directed learning, variously called adult learning or adult education, has shown that the traditional delivery system is only one way to learn. The Internet represents the biggest technological aid helping people to learn in 500 years, according to many educators (Thieme, 1996).


What the Internet is doing is to explode the traditional method of teaching into two parts-- cognitive learning, which can be accomplished better with online learning; and affective learning, which can be accomplished better in a small group discussion setting.

Why cognitive learning can be done better on the Internet

Cognitive learning includes facts, data, knowledge, mental skills-- what you can test. And information transfer and cognitive learning can be achieved faster, cheaper and better online.


There are several ways that online learning can be better than classroom learning, such as:

* A learner can learn during her or his peak learning time. My peak learning time is from 10 am to noon. My step-son’s peak learning time is between midnight and 3 am. He recently signed up for an Internet course and is looking for a couple more, because as he put it, "I have a lot of free time between midnight and 3 am." With traditional in-person classes, only some learners will be involved during their peak learning time. The rest will not fully benefit.
* A learner can learn at her or his own speed. With traditional classes, a learner has one chance to hear a concept, technique or piece of knowledge. With online learning, a learner can replay a portion of audio, reread a unit, review a video, and retest him or herself.
* A learner can focus on specific content areas. With traditional classes, each content area is covered and given the relative amount of emphasis and time that the teacher deems appropriate. But in a ten unit course, a given learner will not need to focus on each unit equally. For each of us, there will be some units we know already and some where we have little knowledge. With online learning, we as learners can focus more time, attention and energy on those units, modules or sections of the course where we need the most help and learning.
* A learner can test himself daily. With online learning, a learner can take quizzes and tests easily, instantly receiving the results and finding out how well she or he is doing in a course.
* A learner can interact more with the teacher. Contrary to common opinion today, online learning is more personal and more interactive than traditional classroom courses. In an online course, the instructor only has to create the information transfer part of the course-- lectures, graphics, text, video-- once. Once the course units or modules have been developed, there is need only for revisions later on. The instructor is then free to interact with participants in the course.


Learners will acquire the data and facts faster using the Internet. Officials at University Online Publishing, which has been involved in online learning more than most organizations, say that a typical 16-week college course, for example, can be cut to 8 weeks because students learn more quickly online.


Finally, technology has consistently proven to drive down costs. Recent reports indicate that education costs are growing at over 5% for 1998, well above the 3% average for all other sectors of the economy. With education costs in the traditional system soaring, technological innovations promise the ability to deliver an education more cheaply.


Downward pressure is already being exerted on prices by online courses. Officials at Regents College in Albany, NY, which collects data on 8,000 distance learning courses, say that prices are dropping already. One community college in Arizona, for example, offers online courses at just $32/credit hour for in-state residents, and $67/credit hour for out-of-state learners.


More Interaction Occurs with Online Learning


The heart and soul of an online course will not be the lecture, the delivery, the audio or video. Rather, it will be the interaction between the participants and the teacher, as well as the interaction among the participants themselves. This daily interaction among participants, for example, will form what John Hagel, author of Net Gain (1997), calls a "Virtual Community."


The next time you are in a class, count the number of questions asked of the teacher during a one-hour time period. Because of the instructor’s need to convey information, the time able to be devoted to questions is very short. In an online course, everyone can ask questions, as many questions as each learner wants or needs.

There is more discussion. In an online course, there is more discussion. If there is a group discussion with thirty people and six to eight people make comments, that is a successful discussion that will take up almost a whole hour. And almost everyone in the group will agree it was a lively. Now if you go into an asynchronous discussion forum on the Internet, and thirty people are there, and six to eight are making comments, you will conclude that the discussion is lagging.


The same number of comments on the Internet do not appear to be as lively a discussion as when delivered in person because the capability and capacity of the Internet is that every person can make comments—at the same time. A transcript of a typical online discussion would take hours to give verbally. Online, we can participate in discussions easily, absorbing more information in a much shorter time and engaging in more interaction, not less.


How the Internet Will Change In-person Learning


Because the Internet can deliver information more quickly, at a lower cost, whenever a learner wants, as often as a learner wants, and with more interaction and dialogue, the Internet will replace the traditional in-person classroom delivery system as the dominant mode of delivery for education and delivery. But the Internet will not replace in-person learning.


While we will spend 50% of our time learning online, we will spend the other 50% of our time learning in person. But in-person learning will also be radically different from what is most common today.

There will be almost no need for the traditional lecture. However, there will be a tremendous need for teachers to become facilitators of learning, understanding how we learn, and able to work with learners as individuals. "The sage on the stage will become the guide on the side" has already been coined.

Though part of learning is centered around content,

we as educators know that more of learning is dependent on the learner as an individual, a person. Learning is not just cognitive; it also involves the emotions and the spirit. It involves "unlearning." It involves what educator Jerold Apps calls "grieving the loss of old ideas."

The likely format for this kind of learning will be chairs in a circle, with a facilitator leading discussions, dialogues, role plays and more. And it is this kind of teaching and learning that we actually know very little about, because we as instructors have had so little time to engage in it.


The Internet certainly did not create facilitative learning. This kind of learning has been around for a long time and its value well established. But it’s use will grow exponentially because the Internet allows the cognitive information to be delivered faster, cheaper, better, thus allowing more time and resources to be devoted to facilitative in-person learning.


For now, the elementary school teacher comes closest to being the model for this new kind of in-person teaching. As a parent, I have experienced my son’s teachers being able to sit down and talk with me for thirty minutes or more about my son as a learner. Not about the class, not about content, but about my son’s learning. This is where the focus of in-person learning will be very shortly.

As online courses grow and change how we learn, some courses will involve almost all in-person learning and teaching. And some courses will involve almost all online learning. And probably the majority of courses will involve both online learning and in-person learning.


What an Online Course Will Look Like


A typical online course, or the online portion of course, will look like this.

* There will be hundreds of thousands of topics from which to choose. You will be able to take a course on "Mango trees," or "Adlai Stevenson (Democratic candidate for US President in 1952 and 1956)."
* Your online teacher will probably be the foremost authority and expert in the subject in the world.
* Because the foremost authority in the world is teaching the subject online, and because courses will be offered twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, there will be learners from all around the world.
* There will be an average of 1,000 learners in a course. This will occur for a number of reasons:
* There are one thousand people in the world who want to learn any given topic at any given time, even mango trees or Adlai Stevenson.
* Because people will want to learn from the foremost authority, there will be only 2-3 online courses for each topic.
* The cost of an online course will be extremely low, probably under $100, even for credit classes. This will occur because educational institutions can make more money on high volume and low prices than they can on low volume and high prices. It will occur also because the only way an educational institution can lose its market-share for a given course is because the course is priced higher than an alternative course.

The Forces Driving Online Learning

There are several forces that will turn this scenario for online learning into reality, and turn it into reality very quickly. They include:


Business. Business will be the biggest force. Business now understands that in order to remain competitive and profitable, it will need employees who are learning constantly. The only cost effective way for this to happen is with online learning.

So business will require its people to learn online, and it will look to recruit college graduates who can learn online. Colleges and universities will quickly adopt online learning because business will demand that capability from their graduates.

Youth. My children have never taken a computer course. And they never will. Because they are not just computer literate, they grew up in a digital culture. Young people want to learn online. They understand the future, because it is the world in which they must work and compete. Young students will choose online learning.

Competition. Just one college offering online courses at a low cost and recruiting high volume will force other educational institutions to do the same. In fact, many colleges are involved in online learning, and the cost of courses is declining steadily, according to an official at Regents College, which keeps a database of over 8,000 distance learning courses.




Online learning is rapidly becoming recognized as a valid learning delivery system. The number of part time students in higher education, to name just one educational system, now outnumbers full time students. The number of colleges offering online courses last year soared to over 1,000, and the number is growing. Online graduate programs and certificate programs have doubled over one year ago. Online learning has grown exponentially in the business sector, according to Elliot Masie of Saratoga Springs, NY, one of the foremost experts on online training in the workforce. Surveys by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) see online training replacing much of on-site training in the near future.


Online learning will do for society what the tractor did for food. A century ago food was expensive, in limited supply, and with very little variety. Today food is relatively cheap, in great supply in our society, and with tremendous variety. The Internet will do the same for education. More people will be able to learn more, for much less cost, and with a tremendous variety in choice of topics and subjects. It is something that societies of the past could only dream about. And it will come true for us in a very short time.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: An Adult Child With Autism

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: An Adult Child With Autism | LanguageCorps Asia |

Next Steps For An Adult Child With Autism.


This week began with World Autism Awareness Day, created five years ago by the group Autism Speaks as a locus for fund-raising and spreading the word. It comes at the start to National Autism Awareness Month, which was created by Congress back in the 1970s. In commemoration of both, Huffpost Parents is looking at autism through the eyes of parents all this week. Each day we will run an essay about a next stage of parenting a child with autism, starting with the moment of diagnosis, and going through school years, and teens, and entry into the adult world.


I don't know how to do this.

There's no book for taking the next step. No Fiske Guide to Colleges. No Barron's. When our son Jonathan was preparing to leave home for college, we had a whole shelf of books to guide our family.


There's no book for our autistic son Mickey, who is turning twenty. No U.S. News and World Report ranking best vocational opportunities; no handbook rating residential programs for developmentally disabled young adults. We're making it up as we go.

Graduation fever is spreading through Mickey's class. Parents and students are itching to leave the security - and the restriction -- of our public high school's self-contained life skills class. Most are opting to send their children to residential programs far away. I'm feeling coerced into making decisions I'm not ready to make; I roil with fear and uncertainty.


Petitioning the state for legal guardianship of our own child before he turned 18 was heartbreaking. Getting him Supplemental Security Income and entering the labyrinth of federal bureaucracy was nightmarish. But this step - preparing to leave high school, and the world of what the government promises every disabled child, a "free and appropriate public education," isn't just unnerving. It's terrifying.

Mickey too has caught the fever. He has been a twelfth grader for three years, and he is asking to leave. Loud and clear. "I'm not going back to high school next year. I don't want another yearbook. I'm graduating."


He has always loved his yearbooks, memorizing the name and face of every person in the building so that when he walks down the hall he can greet everyone by name. I have secretly ordered a yearbook for him. Just in case he changes his mind.

"Everyone is ready to go to college at a different time," my husband Marc and I tell him.

"I'm going to college!" he insists.

Does he even know what college means? He knows his brother and cousins have gone; he sees classmates leaving. He understands college is the step that comes after high school. "What do you think you do at college?" I ask him.

"I don't know."

"Do you go to class?" I persist.

"I. Don't. Know."

Does he think it consists of eating out, hanging with friends and watching televised sports in the student union, as we did when we visited Jonathan? Or perhaps he views it as extended sleep-away camp?

"Can we look at colleges this week, Dad?" he persists.

"Sure, Mick," Marc says. Later he tells me, "What do you think he's expecting to see?"

"I don't know that it's anything specific," I say. "I think this is his way of telling us he wants more freedom."

We say, "College." But it won't be. He's too cognitively challenged for that. "College" will be what we call whatever he does next.


Mickey is legally entitled to one more year. Parents of older children with disabilities advise us to keep him in school as long as we can. "Take whatever the public school system can still give you and hold them accountable," one advises us. Another warns us that once a child turns 21 and exits school, services for disabled adults are abysmal. "In school you're used to having people with master's degrees working with your kid," cautions another parent. "Once you leave school, you're getting people making $10 an hour."

"But they have high school degrees, right?" I ask.

She laughs ruefully. "If you're lucky."


Marc and I aren't ready to take off the training wheels yet. "Residential placement seems so permanent," Marc says. "Camp is one thing. Kids get really grubby there, but we always know we're going to pick him up and clean him up again. His voice cracks as he asks, "Would you pack a six year old off to boarding school?"


But Day Hab sounds like a dismal option. The programs are funded by Medicaid. I've heard parents describe it as "glorified babysitting." I think about the first special needs preschool class we ever visited. Seventeen years ago, and I can still see that impassive teacher who never left her chair or looked at us. How bored she'd looked. Is that what day hab offers? I picture a warehouse. Indifferent, untrained staff. Keep-busy activities. Coloring. Stringing beads. A room full of disabled adults, parked in front of a TV for hours.


Adolescence and the onset of epilepsy have made him emotionally labile. He can be belligerent when thwarted. Are these normal adolescent mood swings, or the harbinger of a seizure? We're never sure. Anger and irritability can occur hours or even days before one strikes, like the hissing whistle of a sky rocket before it explodes. We've learned how to manage him, knowing how quickly he can flare up and spin out to that angry place, and how difficult it is to reel him back. But the world isn't going to tiptoe around Mickey. It is he who must learn to control his temper.


To this end, we enlist the aid of the school psychologist. "Mickey is intelligent," he says. "He really has some insight into his behavior." It makes me teary. No one else at our public high school has ever said my child is intelligent.


Intelligent despite the terrible standardized test scores; despite profound language deficits that even now cause him to mix up his verb tenses or use scripted speech; despite three sedating anti-epileptic drugs that dull him down. We no longer question whether he is innately intelligent. We know he is. We hear it in the observations he makes, in the questions he asks, in the way he cuts to the emotional core of things. After the death of a great-aunt, he tells us, "I feel so sad. All our people are disappearing." When his class throws a party for him, he tells the teacher, "I feel loved."

And he is. Even when he isn't easy to be with, he is still lovable.

We have felt cushioned and cocooned by school the past sixteen years. We haven't always been happy - in fact we've been profoundly angry at times. But being in school has meant that we've known where he is every day, and that he is safe.

And that's the crux of our fears. We can't keep him safe anymore. We know our son needs to be stretched and challenged. But the world isn't safe. How will we protect him, when we are no longer there to absorb the blows?


Does Mickey realize that he will never be able to go out into the world unattended? Never ride a bus or train alone? He will never drive a car; epilepsy has seen to that. Living with seizures is like living with the threat of terrorism. You have to stay vigilant, because you could be struck anywhere, any time. A seizure leaves him so profoundly disoriented that he will walk into oncoming traffic. More than once I've cradled him in my arms after one of those episodes, only to have him ask me, "When are my parents coming to pick me up?"


Other parents look forward to their empty nests, to reconnecting as a couple. We have micromanaged every hour of Mickey's life for nearly 20 years. How do we ever shut off our dependency on his dependency?

Will we feel free? Or unmoored?


Then we get lucky. A space suddenly opens at an autism school half an hour from home that has a transition program. They will take him for his last year of formal schooling. They want him immediately. They will work on cooking. Laundry. Emailing. Office skills. Money management. Travel training. Our school district will bus him there. We describe it to Jonathan.


"Is this a marriage of convenience?" Jonathan asks.

"This is a good place," Marc assures him. "And it buys us breathing room."

We cross our collective fingers. Mickey glows when we tell him he has done so well at high school that he is graduating into a program that helps kids get ready for college. We make the switch.
After his first week in the new program, Mickey writes Marc an email.



Dear dad

Yesterday I went to gym and do volleyball. Then I went for a walk.
Then I worked on the computer. I feel great about my new class




When a baby is born, someone cuts the umbilical cord for you. How can we possibly loosen the thousands of threads that bind him to us? It's an endless unraveling, this process of letting go.


But we must. And we will figure out what comes next. We will do this just as we have done everything else these past twenty years. Pulling together as a family.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Do Students Know Enough Smart Learning Strategies?

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Do Students Know Enough Smart Learning Strategies? | LanguageCorps Asia |

Do Students Know Enough Smart Learning Strategies?


What’s the key to effective learning? One intriguing body of research suggests a rather gnomic answer: It’s not just what you know. It’s what you know about what you know.

To put it in more straightforward terms, anytime a student learns, he or she has to bring in two kinds of prior knowledge: knowledge about the subject at hand (say, mathematics or history) and knowledge about how learning works. Parents and educators are pretty good at imparting the first kind of knowledge. We’re comfortable talking about concrete information: names, dates, numbers, facts. But the guidance we offer on the act of learning itself—the “metacognitive” aspects of learning—is more hit-or-miss, and it shows.


Research has found that students vary widely in what they know about how to learn, according to a team of educational researchers from Australia writing in this month’s issue of the journal Instructional Science. Most striking, low-achieving students show “substantial deficits” in their awareness of the cognitive and metacognitive strategies that lead to effective learning—suggesting that these students’ struggles may be due in part to a gap in their knowledge about how learning works.


Teaching students good learning strategies would ensure that they know how to acquire new knowledge, which leads to improved learning outcomes, writes lead author Helen Askell-Williams of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. And studies bear this out. Askell-Williams cites as one example a recent finding by PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment, which administers academic proficiency tests to students around the globe, and place American students in the mediocre middle. “Students who use appropriate strategies to understand and remember what they read, such as underlining important parts of the texts or discussing what they read with other people, perform at least 73 points higher in the PISA assessment—that is, one full proficiency level or nearly two full school years—than students who use these strategies the least,” the PISA report reads.

In their own study, Askell-Williams and her coauthors took as their subjects 1,388 Australian high school students. They first administered an assessment to find out how much the students knew about cognitive and metacognitive learning strategies—and found that their familiarity with these tactics was “less than optimal.”

Students can assess their own awareness by asking themselves which of the following learning strategies they regularly use (the response to each item is ideally “yes”):


* I draw pictures or diagrams to help me understand this subject.
* I make up questions that I try to answer about this subject.
* When I am learning something new in this subject, I think back to what I already know about it.
* I discuss what I am doing in this subject with others.
* I practice things over and over until I know them well in this subject,
* I think about my thinking, to check if I understand the ideas in this subject.
* When I don’t understand something in this subject I go back over it again.
* I make a note of things that I don’t understand very well in this subject, so that I can follow them up.
* When I have finished an activity in this subject I look back to see how well I did.
* I organize my time to manage my learning in this subject.
* I make plans for how to do the activities in this subject.


Askell-Williams and her colleagues found that those students who used fewer of these strategies reported more difficulty coping with their schoolwork. For the second part of their study, they designed a series of proactive questions for teachers to drop into the lesson on a “just-in-time” basis—at the moments when students could use the prompting most.


These questions, too, can be adopted by any parent or educator to make sure that children know not just what is to be learned, but how.


* What is the topic for today’s lesson?
* What will be important ideas in today’s lesson?
* What do you already know about this topic?
* What can you relate this to?
* What will you do to remember the key ideas?
* Is there anything about this topic you don’t understand, or are not clear about?




Phoebe Lee's comment, April 30, 2012 9:13 AM
Really helpful to my students and me :)
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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: How We Learn a Skill - The Journey from Novice to Master

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: How We Learn a Skill - The Journey from Novice to Master | LanguageCorps Asia |

How We Learn a Skill: The Journey from Novice to Master.


Whether you’re an educator or a student, manager or new employee, knowledge of the four stages of skill mastery can help you know where you are in your craft, and how far you’ve got to go


It’s decided, this year’s the year. You’re going to learn to play an instrument. After all, haven’t you always wanted to be the one with the guitar around the campfire–jamming out Stairway to Heaven in front of a crowd of wide-eyed campers? Or maybe you’ve always liked the idea of playing the piano, and occasionally visualize yourself as that rambunctious cowboy banging away at the keys in a smoky saloon.

Whatever skill you hope to develop, learning something new takes practice, practice. And yes, more practice. And whether it’s learning to play the guitar, the piano or how to manage people, there are four stages one must journey through in skill development–The final being “The Master”–someone who’s unconsciously competent. That is, their craft comes naturally to them. They don’t have to think about. Snap. It just happens.


The Novice

But, as we all know (and wish were not true sometimes), mastering a craft doesn’t happen overnight. Look at “overnight successes” for example. Upon closer examination there are typically year’s and year’s worth of hard work, mistakes, and failures lurking behind the scenes of their so-called success. Indeed, before learning any skill, we must begin naïve. This is called The Novice stage. As can be seen on the graph, a learner in this stage is both low on consciousness and low on competency. Having never been exposed to something before, he or she is “unconsciously incompetent.” Essentially, they don’t know what they don’t know. It is a stage of ignorance. With little or no knowledge of the skill as well as the awareness of the requirements for mastery, if you’re here, you’re not aware of what you’re required to do and you don’t know how to do it. As a teacher or a trainer, these students can be spotted immediately. They are enthusiastic and eager to learn.


The Apprentice

As you’re exposed to new concepts and skills, you start to realize your personal limitations. Sure you’ve picked a few things up, but you’re still all thumbs. You’re committed though, and you stick with it, and in doing so progress into The Apprentice stage. At this point you’re starting to admit your own incompetence and are becoming “consciously incompetent.” You’ve got a little more respect now for Axl Rose’s guitar solo in November Rain. On the graph, you can see that while your competence is still low, your consciousness is increasing. And while you still don’t quite know what you’re doing, you at least know what you don’t know. An experienced mentor may see the student frustrated at this stage though. The student may wonder if they will ever ‘get it.’ Directed learning is paramount here. And flexible training plans are a must. Tips, tricks and success stories should be shared as well, and one-on-ones, encouragement and emotional support should be in abundance.


The Journeyman

It is in the stage of The Journeyman where the real work begins. In this stage: ‘Practice (most definitely) makes perfect.’ This stage is all about perspiration–the physical and mental struggle on the road to mastery. The profound concentration and focus will cause mental and physical exhaustion. So while it a time of great practice, it is requires great patience. Also known as “good days and bad days,” a cyclical pattern of ‘failure’ and ‘success’ may emerge. But progress is being made. And you are beginning to see the fruits of your labor. On the graph, one can see that both consciousness and competency is rising. From a teacher’s perspective, it’s best if learning sessions are fun in this stage. And practice schedules should have variety built in.


The Master

With any skill, technique or craft, the ultimate goal is to achieve a point where you are “unconsciously competent.” A natural. One could say a “genius.” In essence: it is the stage of The Master. You can spot ‘Masters’ right away. They pick up the guitar and it’s automatic. And not only is it effortless, often there’s no thought to it at all. Seen on the graph, this person is both high in consciousness and high on competence. They get it. Ask this person to play blindfolded, they can. Dare them to play on one foot, they will. When you’ve reached this stage in skill development, you’re a bona fide virtuoso. But it takes time. And while some skills in academic or business contexts can takes a few months, or weeks even, pure mastery of a complex skill can take much longer.


10,000 Hours

How long does it actually take to become a master or genius at something? Author Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers: The Story of Success,” cites work from expertise researchers on this matter and shows that there’s a consistent number every time. Whether its non-fiction writing, or wakeboarding, according to these researchers, you need to have practiced for 10,000 hours, or roughly ten years, to become a genius at something. Gladwell writes that every great composer practiced for at least 10 years before they wrote their master work. And he shows that while Mozart was composing at 11, his work wasn’t all that good at that age. He actually didn’t produce anything truly ‘masterful’ until he was about 23-years-old–approximately 10 years after beginning.


In many ways, this law of 10,000 hours is appealing. It means ‘success’ isn’t necessarily genetic, socioeconomic or generational. In addition, it’s not necessarily where you came from or who know. But quite simply how many hours you’ve logged in your craft. It’s reminiscent of the story of a woman who approached a famous violinist after he had performed one of his many magnificent concerts. Upon making her way to the violinist, the woman said, “Sir, I would give my life to play like you play.” The violinist replied, “Ma’am. I did.”


Van Gogh’s and Emerson’s

As we’re all aware, there’s a difference between theory and direct experience. Reading a book on engines and working underneath the hood of a car in your uncle’s garage for a week are different experiences. That’s why apprenticeships exist today. In fact, Vincent Van Gogh apprenticed with an art dealer before he became an artist. Plato was Socrates’ student. And Ralph Waldo Emerson took Thoreau under his wing early on. It’s highly likely that if you’ve mastered something, you’ve spent time with someone who had already done so. Vocational schools are coming back into vogue now for this very reason. We’ve been so academically driven for so long. But the reality is: do we really need to be able to understand calculus in order to repair an auto engine?


The Road to Mastery

So if you’re a Master, are you one for life? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Once you’ve reached mastery, you’ve got to keep practicing to stay sharp. Without regular practice, the slip from Master to Journeyman is all too easy. Teachers would be wise to prevent slippage by providing refreshers. Fundamentally, it’s important to remember that we all learn by doing. A famous quote by Confucius, says, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Research agrees, and shows that we retain in memory “10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we hear and see, 70% of what we say, 90% of what we say and do.” So, go ahead and dust off that guitar. Sign up for a piano lesson. Mastery awaits.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: China Wealth Exodus Underestimated

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: China Wealth Exodus Underestimated | LanguageCorps Asia |

China 'wealth exodus' underestimated.

The scale of the exodus of wealth from China caused by investor immigration is much larger than previous estimated, according to China Daily's interviews with emigration agents and experts.

Last month, Legal Evening News, a Beijing metropolis daily, said 10 billion yuan ($1.57 billion) has found its way abroad annually since 2009.

The figure was based on the investor emigration requirement and the number of investor emigrants publicized by the governments of the United States, Canada and Australia. Investor emigrants to those three countries are believed to account for 80 percent of the total number of Chinese emigres.

However, emigration agents said the figure underestimates the real scale. That's because many people will transfer more money to their new 'home' countries once they've obtained permanent residency.

"Usually they will at least buy a house after they get residency," said Cai Hong, a manager with emigration consulting company HHL Overseas Immigration & Education.

"And they usually make a one-off payment,"Ma said, referring to the fact the emigrants have no need to resort to a mortgage.

Considering the average price of a house in the major cities of the United States, Canada and Australia - the countries where Chinese investor emigrants are most likely to settle - and the fact that around 80 percent of them will buy a house, an estimated 10.3 billion yuan finds its way into the property markets of the three countries per annum.

Adding in the money invested to secure permanent residency, which China Daily estimates to be 21.49 billion yuan, and the estimation that the three countries account for 80 percent of the emigrant population, the total wealth exodus could reach at least 39.75 billion yuan a year.

The Canada case

For its safety, relatively short waiting time to obtain permanent residency and good returns on investment, Canada has always been the premier choice for wealthy Chinese looking to obtain permanent residency through investment, emigration agents said.

Prior to 2010, a foreigner simply had to invest C$400,000 ($405,600) and prove net assets of C$800,000 to apply for permanent residency. However, in 2010, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the country's immigration authority, doubled the threshold to limit the explosion in applications. Demand has been so strong that Canada imposed a cap of 700 applications per annum, starting on July 1, 2011. That quota was quickly filled, with 697 of the 700 applications coming from China.

The cap put a brake on the fever. The number of successful applicants from the Chinese mainland dropped from around 2,000 in 2010 to 697 in 2011, according to figures from the Canadian immigration authority.

However, potential immigrant investors quickly found another point of entry through Quebec's investor immigrant program. Since last July when the federal government's door closed, the Quebec program has seen the initiation of 200 applications from Chinese people every month.

"We expect the federal government's program to reopen this year and another 2,000 Chinese investors will get permanent residency," said Ma Yuan, an emigration expert with J & P Star Consulting Co Ltd, a Beijing-based emigration consultancy.

She said the Canadian program is particular favored by Chinese investors for its safety. Unlike the US program, which requires investment before permanent residency is granted, applicants to Canada invest their funds only after permanent residency is approved. The C$800,000 seed capital is returned to the applicants five years after residency is granted.

Applicants can even invest just C$220,000 and obtain a loan of C$580,000 from Canadian banks to bridge the gap. The C$220,000 will be transferred to the bank that issued the loan as interest five years later.

By comparison, the United States' investor immigrant program, the EB-5 program, despite its lower initial threshold (the minimum investment requirement is $500,000), does not guarantee against a loss of investment, which means that applicants might lose their seed capital and still not obtain permanent residency.

Another reason that people favor Canada is the country's welfare system.

"Most of the investor immigrants go to Canada for their kids' education," Cai said. The country offers free pre-college education for permanent residents, and their children can enjoy a college education at less than one-third of the tuition fee paid by international students pay.

Relatively cheaper house prices are another attraction. A detached house usually costs from C$500,000 to CS$600,000 in Vancouver, and C$400,000 to CS$500,000 in Toronto, much cheaper than in Beijing or Shanghai.

Based on the assumption that 80 percent of the 2,000 investor immigrants would buy a house at an average price of C$500,000, Canada's investor immigrant program alone could draw C$2.4 billion from China.

US a top destination

Despite its risks, the US investor immigration program remains a popular choice for wealthy Chinese.

A total of 2,969 Chinese people applied for the EB-5 visa in the fiscal year 2011, accounting for three-fourths of total applicants, according to figures released by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Although many are still awaiting a decision, 934 permanent residencies have been granted.

The US is the top emigration destination, followed by Canada, Singapore and Europe, according to a joint survey by Bank of China Ltd and the Hurun Report last year. The report found that 60 percent of about 960,000 Chinese with assets of more than 10 million yuan were either thinking about emigrating or taking steps to do so.

Australia, another popular destination, requires foreigners to apply for a provisional visa before applying for permanent residency four years later. There are various visa types under the "Business Skills visas" system, which allows overseas investors, senior executives and entrepreneurial talents to settle in Australia by developing businesses in the country.

For example, the 890/892 visa allows provisional visa holders to obtain residency if they have had an ownership interest in a business in Australia for at least two years, with significant personal and business asset turnover.

Applicants for the "Business Skills visas" from China totaled more than 9,000 last year, nine times the number from South Korea, the second-largest group, according to the Australian immigration authority.

Kevin Stanley, executive director of global real estate consultancy CBRE Group Inc, said it has seen very strong interest from Chinese individuals looking to buy apartments, predominantly for family use and particularly in connection with children studying in Australia.

Chris Bevan, a real estate agent in Melbourne, said that his recent sales to buyers from Shanghai ranged from two bedroom apartments priced at A$300,000 ($314,000) to a luxury beachfront home for A$18 million.

Strong demand from Chinese buyers has already pushed up real estate price worldwide. Investors from the Chinese mainland account for between 20 and 40 percent of foreign property investors in Vancouver, Toronto, London and Singapore, according to a report from the real-estate consultancy Colliers International on Feb 28. In Vancouver, the property price has been pushed 9 percent higher in the last year, because of Chinese investors.


People in industries related to the boom, such as the property market and emigration advisory services, have welcomed the trend. Bevan said that Chinese and other foreign investors have helped Australia continue to grow in a market that has seen an international downturn in the last 12 months.

Local residents interviewed by China Daily approved of the development.

John Harper, a town planner in Melbourne, said the total number of Chinese immigrants contributing to population growth in the city was somewhere between 3 to 4 percent.

"I doubt that figure would create a significant impact on house prices," he said.

"You never hear about New Zealand or British immigrants pushing up housing prices. These two groups make up about 30 percent of people moving to Australia, or three times the number of Chinese, I guess," he said.

"I don't really mind the 'influx' of Chinese going for permanent residency. I think there are guidelines and controls overseen by the Australian government," said Jeremy Lam, a financial analyst in Australia. "And these rules and regulations are gradually becoming more and more stringent over time."

But back in China, the news of the wealth exodus has sparked mixed sentiment.

"Nobody in the world can ever stop China's property speculators," according to a sarcastic post from one netizen on the micro blog Sina Weibo.

Some netizens have blamed the domestic cap on property sales imposed by the Chinese government for the overseas purchasing spree.

Chinese experts warn that talent is flowing out with wealth, which is a more worrying trend.

"If this trend continues it will not only hurt the Chinese economy in the long run, but also prevent it from building an 'olive-shaped' society with a large middle class, because a great proportion of the emigrants are middle-class professionals," said Zhang Monan, an economic researcher with the State Information Center.



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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Dance Training Helps Rural Chinese Children's Development

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Dance Training Helps Rural Chinese Children's Development | LanguageCorps Asia |

Dance training helps rural Chinese children's development.


Rural students rarely get access to dance training, due to lack of teachers and facilities. But in a rural school in Tongling County of Anhui Province, children are chasing their dancing dream thanks to a "Rural Dance Classroom" recently set up there. It is hoped that dance training can give the rural children a chance for greater overall development.


The Shun'an Town Central Elementary School of Tongling County is one of several rural schools in Anhui province that have created a "dance training classroom". Students here are rehearsing their newly learned routine, a dance piece with the theme of the Chinese classic "Three Character Primer". Yin Zi, whose parents are working away from home, hopes she can give them a surprise when they come back.

Yin Zi, student, said, "I will study hard, and when my parents come back home I can present my beautiful dance to them."


Like Yin, all the students here are experiencing the enjoyment of dance.


Cui Kelin, student, said, "I like to dance. And I will learn dance here as long as I can."

This school is among the first batch of Chinese rural schools to set up the "dance training classroom", a project aimed at improving art education among rural students. The China Dancers' Association and the Literature and Arts Association of Anhui province along with the local government have joined forces to put the initiative into practice.


Jiang Jianxin, principal of Shun'an Town Elementary School, said, "We will use this opportunity to improve our facilities and train our teachers, to give our students a better environment to develop comprehensively."


The Dance Training Classroom has also been set up in two mountainous villages in Tongling County.


Wu Xiaohe, director of Dancers Assoc. of Tongling, said, "We will train more rural teachers to let more rural students receive dance training."


Initiated by the China Dancers' Association, the rural dance training project also includes 15 dance pieces that are suitable to children's physical and psychological traits.





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Vietnam and Cambodia - Land of the Dragon

Vietnam and Cambodia - Land of the Dragon | LanguageCorps Asia |

Vietnam and Cambodia - Land of the Dragon.

"I can't say what made me fall in love with Vietnam... (and Cambodia)... that everything is so intense... The colours, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the...rain in London. They say whatever you're looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that's the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat....You could be forgiven for thinking there was no war." These were the words of Thomas Fowler from the film, "The Quiet American," which so accurately sums up Vietnam. It is a land that captures the very essence of your soul and takes you on an unforgettable journey through the land of the dragon.

Ancient mythology tells us that the people of Vietnam are descendants of the Dragon Lord Lạc Long Qun and the Immortal Fairy u Cơ. They produced 100 children, 50 of whom lived with their mother in the mountains and the other 50, with their father in the sea. So steeped in mythology is the land of Vietnam that each area is shrouded in some story of mythological formation.

Landing in Hanoi, capital of Vietnam and home to about 3.7 million people and 1.2 million motor bikes, is like landing in the heart of a giant mosquito that never sleeps. Endless streams of bikes pass you by each day, with many families of 4 heading off on their daily chores. Farmers from surrounding areas meet at the "morning market at 03h00 and by 07h00 have cleared up and gone. At night, entire streets are transformed into night markets which trade until late in the evening. Unlike its sister city, Saigon, Hanoi has narrow streets and still retains some of its old city charm. The old quarter, often known as the "36 streets," dates back over 2000 years. The area was once home to numerous craft guilds which created work areas. When the streets were eventually named, each street was named after the craft sold along that street and so today, if you need shoes, you head for Hang Guay, and for jewellery, Hang Bac.

Leaving the bustle of the city behind and traveling northwards towards the sea, highway 5 takes you to a world Heritage site, and the tail of the "descending dragon." Halong Bay is an endless canvas of 1969 limestone islands, 989 of which have been named. Many of these islands are home to numerous caves, some of which can be visited on foot and others in the pleasant tranquility of a kayak.

According to local legend, Halong Bay was created by a family of dragons, sent by the gods to help protect the Vietnamese from Chinese invaders. The dragons spat out pears and jade stones which soon turned to a myriad of islands protecting the people from the invaders. Today, these very same islands provide a safe home to many small floating villages, the inhabitants of whom survive off the 200 species of fish and 450 different species of mollusks that the waters provide.

Far south of Halong Bay is the picturesque small historical town of Hoi An, where the "The Quiet American," was partially filmed. Between the 15th to 19th centuries the town served as one of South-East Asia's most important trading ports for spices and silk and today is still a traders paradise. Cars are banned and the narrow cobbled streets are lined with old buildings, temples, pagoda's and endless shops selling hand made trousers for $15, evening dresses for $25 and three-piece suits for $40. In the heart of the town is the Ving Hung Hotel, which served as the dressing room for Michael Caine during filming. Today, tourists jostle to book into the same room which overlooks the narrow bustling lantern lit streets below, which come alive during the festival of the full moon.

From the quiet tranquility of Hoi An, a short flight takes you in the belly of the dragon, Saigon or the modern day, Ho Chi Minh City. Inhabited by 8 million people and 4 million motor bikes it pulsates 24 hours a day. Traveling through the vast tarred streets with towering modern hotels and malls, it is hard to believe that the city started out as a small fishing village in an area that was originally swampland, but when heading out into the neighbouring areas the tranquility of forgotten days soon prevails. Endless rice paddies line the myriad of roads that spread out from the city. Framers work the land,

harvesting rice in the blazing heat. Old carts are pulled by weary horses. Rubber trees are methodically planted in rows, their sticky sap slowly seeping into wooden bowls for collection.

Driving back in time, one arrives at the area of Cu Chi, whose 121km hand-dug underground tunnels became famous as a battleground of the Vietnam War. The forested area is littered with B52 bomb craters and the endless spattering of gun fire can be heard from the firing range. Some of the tunnels are open to tourists to experience for a brief period, what life in the tunnels must have been like. In the blistering heat of the day, 7 of us descended into the dark abyss below us. The tunnels are narrow, dark, airless and in places slope down and narrow so one has to belly crawl. 40m was all it took for me to realize that as a non-sufferer of claustrophobia, another 20m would surely have converted me. Lack of air. Stifling heat. For the Viet Cong, life in the tunnels was difficult. Sometimes, during periods of heavy bombing from American troops, the Viet Cong would be forced to remain underground for many days at a time. Malaria and sickness were rampant and accounted for the second largest cause of death after battle wounds.

As horrific as life in the tunnels must have been, it is the images of the war weapons and traps set by the Viet Cong for the Americans that will remain in my memory for a life time, but as one local guide said, when your way of life is under attack, you will do all in your power to protect it.

South of Saigon lies the feet and arms of the dragon, whose claws spread out to form the massive expanse of the Mekong Delta. The area, also known as Nine River Dragon Delta, drains an area of over 790 000 km2. The Mekong is the 12th-longest river in the world, and runs all the way from the Tibetan Plateau through China, Burma, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, into Vietnam and finally into the south china sea.

With such an expanse of water it is not surprising to find that the residents of the Mekong area are river people. Where Hanoi's streets come alive with early morning markets, the tributaries of the Mekong erupt into a chattering wash tub as hundreds of boats navigate the narrow channels laden with hands of bananas, grapefruit, jackfruit, spinach, fish and every kind of vegetable imaginable. Trade takes place under the shade of Vietnamese hats while hotel and restaurant owners on the shore line yell instructions across the water of their daily needs. About 20 minutes up the Mekong we headed along a narrow tributary to encounter life up river. Locals wade about in the waters catching fish. Children cycle and play along narrow sidewalks dodging chickens and dogs. Mothers sit at the waters edge washing clothes while the men potter about fixing their boats. Farmers live on combination fish and rice farms, generating an average of $35 a month, while small family businesses survive making rice cakes, rice paper and potent rice wine.

Leaving the peace and tranquility of the Mekong, our next stop was neighbouring Cambodia, lying at the back of the dragon. Like Vietnam, the history of Cambodia is marred with foreign invasions, international political intervention and internal conflicts. The pinnacle of Cambodia's history arose during the rulership of the Khymer Kings between about 800 - 1400AD. It was during this period that Khmer kings built the most extensive concentration of religious temples in the world - the Angkor temple complex - and hundreds of surrounding temples.

Then in 1431 the Thais plundered the area and the complex of Angkor was abandoned. For almost 200 years the forces of nature invaded the temples. Fig trees took up residence on temple walls and slowly engulfed the buildings. Moss adorned the intricate carvings and aerial roots flowed to the floor.

Today, the complex of temples is a World Heritage site. Many of the Hindu statues have been removed and replaced with sculptures of Buddha and numerous renovations are underway. Time seems to have stood leaving an imprint of mystique. I lost my heart to the temples of Cambodia.

I cannot say what made me fall in love with Vietnam and Cambodia. Perhaps it was the ever smiling faces of the people, the sheer simplicity of life or the vast green rice fields; the smell of the rain or the sounds of children splashing about kicking a home crafted soccer ball. Perhaps it was the excitement with which vendors haggle over prices or the intense respect shown by children to their elders. Whatever the reason, they left an indelible imprint on my heart and a yearning to return, in my soul.



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TEFL Teacher Trainers at Chiang Mai University Thailand

TEFL Teacher Trainers at Chiang Mai University Thailand | LanguageCorps Asia |
TEFL Teacher Trainers at Chiang Mai University Thailand. 
Let’s have a natter with not one but two female TEFL course instructors. Both Robyn and Emma are teacher trainers at Chiang Mai University. It’s not often I get to chat with two young ladies so rest assured I’ll be making this last as long as possible.   Q A very warm welcome Robyn and Emma to the ajarn hot seat. Can I start with you first Emma? Tell us a little about yourself in terms of where you are from, how long you've been in Thailand and what you've done in the past. You know - the usual stuff   A I am from the UK, Manchester more specifically for 13 years prior to coming to Thailand. I studied Environmental Science at University there and went on to do a PhD in Agro-arachnology (using spiders for pest control in crops). My PhD was unfunded and as a result I began to teach at the University to fund my studies. By the time I had completed my studies I was teaching almost full time, and teaching the degree that I originally did. Anyway, to cut a long story short, things began to change at work and I decided to take a leap into something that had been on my mind for a number of years - teaching English in Thailand. I moved here in August 2010 and began teaching at CMU about 2 weeks after arriving.   Q And what about you Robyn?   A I studied theater and French in university and put the two together for my first job with a bi-lingual theater company that toured the USA performing and bringing the French language to life for middle and high school students. After a few years of working as an actor in New York I got into teaching, first with volunteer work and then made it my full time job. I went back to school and earned a master’s degree in intercultural communication. I wanted to try teaching outside of the US so I did some research and chose Thailand. I moved here in February 2010 and was working at CMU by April.   Q Emma, I noted that you have a passion for spiders on your website profile. Apart from already being a recognised arachnology expert, you're currently writing a book on the spiders of northern Thailand. How did this unusual obsession begin and secondly, why did no one tell me there were dangerous spiders in Northern Thailand?   A Haha, the reaction I get from people when I tell them about this ranges from terror to confusion, for me it is normal. As I said earlier my PhD was in spiders and I have been researching them ever since. My most recent work was in Belize working on the Mexican Redrump tarantula. This involved micro-chipping them to try and work out something about their ecology as they were caught and sold for the pet trade, almost resulting in extinction.
Now I want to provide a book of the most common spiders in this area and some information about them - such as that most of them are not dangerous. I would also like to provide education about the spiders in the area and try to change the attitude of those who still kill and eat tarantulas.   Q Robyn, it says in your description that in your free time you enjoy nothing more than relaxing by the pool with a smoothie. I presume that that's 'smoothie' as in 'blended fruit drink' as opposed to a rather oily foreigner whose intentions are dubious. Is there anything else you like to do when you are away from the teacher training room?   A Oh, Phil. I’m really talking about fruit! The best fruit in the world is found right here in Chiang Mai. There is nothing more relaxing than a fresh mango smoothie, a good book, a pristine swimming pool and sunshine! Chiang Mai is also a good town for live music, with restaurants and bars featuring music most nights of the week. I like exploring the markets and blogging about what I find there. When we have a week between TEFL courses, I usually plan a trip out of town to visit somewhere new. There are many lovely small towns, great national parks, caves, hot springs, all just a bus ride away.   Q OK, let's talk about TEFL training courses. Do both of you teach the same course? Do you teach alternate courses? Does one take over when the other one needs a lie-down? How does it work?   A Robyn: There is no time for a lie-down! We work as a team. Before each course starts we make a color-coded chart showing who will be teaching what input sessions and which nights we will be observing the teaching practice. We like to change the topics that we teach to keep things fresh. Of course, if something comes up or someone gets sick, we are there to cover. Luckily this doesn’t happen often!

Emma: We certainly do work as a team and I think we are very lucky in that we think in the same way about a lot of things. We also believe that we both have different skills and experiences so to have us jointly running the courses ensures the students get the best, most well rounded experience we can give them.   Q Let's look at the anatomy of the typical TEFL course. If you take into consideration the current course you are teaching or if not, the last course you did, how many participants did you have and what was the ratio of young to more mature, male to female, native speaker to non-native speaker, etc?   A Robyn: Our last course had six trainees. Five men, one woman. Four native speakers, two non-native. We had three more mature trainees and three young people.

Emma: We tend to get a real mix of people as Robyn has said.   Q I'm always interested in this question if I get to meet with a group of TEFL course participants and I'm not exactly sure why - how many participants planned to stay on and teach in Thailand and how many intended to move on and ply their trade in another country?   A Robyn: This always surprises me – many of our trainees say that they want to stay in Chiang Mai and teach here. Then something comes up and they leave the country. Of course, quite a few do stick around since Chiang Mai is a great place to live, but a surprising number do not pursue teaching in Thailand at all.

Emma: I agree with Robyn, this always surprises me. But in reality if you are considering teaching English as a Foreign Language then learning to do that in a foreign country is by far the best way to experience the reality of it. Even if you were not planning to stay why wouldn’t you come to Thailand, it’s beautiful here.   Q I'm proud to say it but Thailand is almost becoming the centre for TEFL course training in Asia. It's certainly a competitive business. Why do you think so many choose to take their TEFL course here?   A Robyn: One reason is the cost of living. Most people who are doing a TEFL have quit a full-time job or haven’t started working yet. A little research into the cost of an apartment, food, transport, etc. will show that savings from the West can go quite far in Thailand.

Emma: I think Thailand attracts people for numerous reasons. The cost of living, the different pace of life compared to most western countries, the climate, the people and the ease of living here. Thailand has it all, and more   Q From my limited experience, one of the more 'harrowing' parts of a TEFL course is when an inexperienced trainee has to stand in front of a group of students for the first time. How do you best prepare the teacher for this 'ordeal'?   A Robyn: We don’t! No, just kidding. Honestly, I think that the less time a new teacher has to worry about what they are going to do, the better. I’ve watched nerves build up for a whole day about a 10 minute lesson and I decided to find a way to minimize that. So, our trainees get up on day one. At about 3:30pm we announce that teaching practice starts today and each trainee will lead a 10 minute “getting to know you” warmer or game. This method seems to work well for most trainees.

Emma: I think this is a hard one because although many trainees have either given presentations or similar things, but this is very different. As Robyn said we ease them in with a very short activity that they have to teach. This seems to give them a bit of a confidence booster and it seems to work well.   Q Have you ever had a teacher who has absolutely been unable to get through it and run out of the door in tears?   A Robyn: Thankfully, I can honestly say that we have never had tears! Maybe we’re doing something wrong??

Emma: No, as of yet this has not happened. Maybe we are doing something right!   Q TEFL courses are often said to be so intensive that there is little time for entertainment. Do you actively discourage participants from going out and burning the midnight oil?   A Robyn: I don’t discourage anyone from going out, but I do encourage them to prepare their lessons and do their homework!

Emma: I actively encourage students to take one whole day off at the weekend. If they feel that they can burn the candle at both ends then that is their choice, sadly I am no longer able to do that and still function properly the next day.   Q In general, which part of a TEFL course do participants like and dislike the most?   A Robyn: I think most trainees find the teaching practice sessions to be the most rewarding time spent on the course. Thai students are wonderful, fun and enthusiastic students and I’ve watched trainees form really nice relationships with the students over four weeks. I think English grammar is the least popular part of the course. We try not to spend too much time teaching the grammar itself, but teaching methods for teaching the grammar, if that makes sense.

Emma: I totally agree with Robyn about the grammar. Students find this daunting and many do not remember being taught it themselves. But I believe that we give them the tools to teach it. As for liking, well their trainers of course (only kidding), I think they enjoy the real experience they get with us.   Q How do you handle a situation when you have a course participant who is clearly going to be difficult? Perhaps he or she is a bit of a know-all or a show off or they're just being a pain. I'm sure you get them from time to time?   A Robyn: Sure, of course, you will run into difficult people in every industry, including TEFL. As a teacher, I think it’s important to treat every student with courtesy and respect, no matter how difficult they are.

Emma: This is something that we would deal with as a team to ensure that the other TEFL students are not affected by it. We also try to make our teaching sessions interactive and student centered so it is possible to make sure all students get to input into sessions, rather than allowing anyone to dominate.   Q As a TEFL course trainer, what's the most satisfying thing about the job for you?   A Robyn: I get really excited when I see students excited about learning. When a trainee is able to inspire their students, it makes me feel warm and fuzzy. To see trainees really taking on the role of teacher and succeeding is an awesome feeling.

Emma: The most satisfying thing is probably seeing the penny drop on some of the more difficult teaching tasks and watch the trainees grow and develop. It is also extremely rewarding when you see ex-students out and about being teachers and loving it.   Q I presume that you both really love working and living in Chiang Mai and for sure it's one amazing city. What do love about the place most of all? Secondly, what do you think makes teachers want to work there when the teacher salaries are lower than say Bangkok?
A Robyn: You know, it’s tough to compare the cities based solely on salary. Chiang Mai is much less expensive than Bangkok, so you don’t need to make a high salary to live here quite comfortably. There is always work for a motivated teacher and many teachers are able to save quite a bit of money. The thing that drew me to Chiang Mai was the people. Most are very open and helpful and willing to share their culture. It’s a small city with small city values. Coming from New York, I find it really charming.  

Emma: I think that Chiang Mai has that big city, little city thing going on – what I mean is there is everything you could want here at your finger tips but it does not feel like a big city as it is not dominated by high rise buildings. I also think that the climate up here is preferable to many westerners, especially the cooler winter months. I also fully believe that quality of life here is higher than in Bangkok, despite the lower wages. It is easy to live well on little here and still have an amazing time. Further to this is the people, they are very friendly, welcoming warm and helpful.


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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: ESL EFL Teaching Jobs in Thailand Jobs in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: ESL EFL Teaching Jobs in Thailand Jobs in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya | LanguageCorps Asia |

ESL / EFL Teaching Jobs in Thailand  Jobs in Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai, Pattaya.

Look for teaching English jobs in Thailand at:

Get a TEFL / TESOL certificate in Pattaya and work in Pattaya, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai or other places around Thailand or Asia Teaching English as an ESL or EFL teacher.

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Technology Making an Impact Both at Home and at School

Technology Making an Impact Both at Home and at School | LanguageCorps Asia |

Technology Making an Impact Both at Home and at School.

Technology is playing an ever greater role in the lives in UK children, The Daily Telegraph reports. A survey of 2,000 homes by the toy company LeapFrog found that kids are spending an average of 58 minutes during the day using digital gadgets in their homes.

    Seventy per cent of children regularly play with their parents’ laptop or computer; while 16 per cent of children aged 10 and under, own their own computer.

    Nearly a fifth of parents claim their children know more about modern devices than they do and take to them more naturally.

Nearly half of those polled reported that they use technology as a means of bringing their families together. A futurologist Dr. Ian Pearson says that the penetration of new technologies like the iPad into the home, also leads to greater acceptance of its use by kids. Parents are responding to the same trends by being more welcoming of the emerging technology and more willing to bring it into their homes.

This acceptance comes at a time when digital devices are also making an impact in the classroom.

    “Over the next 10 years it is likely that we will see learning on tablets in the classroom as commonplace, with Kindles often replacing books and learning gadgets being the materials of choice in the home. Video visors will even be commonly used for learning activities. However, traditional books will still have a place.”

The recent innovations in digital publishing, means that more schools, both in the UK and the US are now gradually introducing the tablets into the classroom. Schools in Fort Bend, Indiana, are now equipping most of their students with iPads as part of the iAchieve program. The iPads will be replacing traditional textbooks and, in addition to reducing bulk, will also provide interactive learning opportunities.

More and more school districts in the U.S. are even using technology to bring classrooms directly into the home, via the introduction or expansion of online-only schools. States like Louisiana and Iowa, for example, have recently announced plans to greatly increase the enrollment in their online schools in the coming years.



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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: United States And Indonesia Partnering for Higher Education

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United States And Indonesia Partnering for Higher Education.

Nearly a year after the Obama administration set a priority of improving higher education exchanges with Indonesia, the U.S. is increasing its ‘commitment to cultural diplomacy’, writes Sara Schonhardt at Voice of America.

As part of the outreach, the administration aims to double the number of Indonesian students studying in the U.S., which officials say will help the U.S. economy and improve relations with the rapidly developing Muslim-majority nation.

Last June, to support university partnerships and student exchange programs, the Obama administration earmarked $165 million over five years. This would support subjects such as agriculture, business and information technology.

The U.S. is continuing to reach out to fast-growing economies like Indonesia and Vietnam as potential new markets for U.S. goods and services. International students injected nearly $19 billion into the U.S. economy last year, and Indonesia’s rising middle class could open new opportunities for U.S. universities to bring in more tuition dollars.

The U.S. says, in an attempt to improve understanding between the two countries, it also wants to send more American students to Indonesia. U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia Scot Marciel said student exchanges create a “personal basis for better relations.”

But to entice more Indonesians to American schools, Marciel said the U.S. must research and market better:

    “We have to do a much better job of A, marketing our universities, which are the best in the world; and B, changing this terrible perception that you can’t get a student visa. So I’m literally almost out on the streets grabbing people as they walk by saying, ‘hey, we’ll give you a visa if you go study in America.’”

The number of Indonesians studying in the U.S. has fallen steadily over the last decade because the Asian financial crisis curtailed some families’ resources to send their kids to study in America. Visa issues also contributed to the drop in numbers, and it is still to rebound fully. Fewer than 7,000 Indonesians studied in the United States in 2010, down about eight percent from 2009.

With improvements in universities in Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, more Indonesians are choosing to study at cheaper options closer to home.

There is, however, the undeniable lure of quality: the U.S. is  home to many of the world’s most prestigious universities and research institutions. Many Indonesians who have studied abroad say the combination of strong academics and unique life experience from study in the United States is invaluable.

American officials say that improving educational opportunity is crucial to the economic growth and political stability of a key ally, writes Karin Fischer at the Chronicle.

“We can’t change the rainfall”, says Cameron R. Hume, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia. “But we can change people. We can improve opportunity for a generation of young people”.

For Education Minister Mohammad Nur, the exchange is a part of enhanced cultural diplomacy that will help develop Indonesia and strengthen bilateral friendship, writes Schonhardt.

    “There is a lot of history behind Indonesia’s relationship with America, he said. That is why it needs to be strengthened. But Indonesia also wants to strengthen ties with Europe and other countries that can give it new insights.”

Some students, at the education fair, said it does not matter which country they study in, as long as they can afford it. Others said they want to experience life in the United States, as long as there are good scholarship opportunities, writes Schonhardt.



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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: The Global Search for Education A Life of Learning

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The Global Search for Education: A Life of Learning.


Professor Sir David Watson (MA University of Cambridge, PhD University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Higher Education and Principal of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford, England. Sir David began his career as an intellectual historian. He has contributed widely to developments in UK higher education. He chaired the UK’s Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning, and co-authored its report, Learning Through Life. He was knighted in 1998 for services to higher education. In 2009, he received the Times Higher Education Lifetime Achievement Award. I had the opportunity to get Sir David’s views on higher education and a life of learning.


What kind of education system will permit a country to have the human skills needed to compete globally?


It seems to me that the key requirement of a modern society is a fluid, accessible and responsive system of tertiary and lifelong learning. Foundations in compulsory education are clearly essential, and universal access to primary education has been correctly identified as a United Nations Millennium goal. However, there is now global recognition that full participation in modern life requires continuing education.

In 2008-2009, I was privileged to chair a Commission on the Future of Lifelong Learning in the UK. In our report, Learning Through Life, we began from the premise that “the right to learn is a human right, connected with personal growth and emancipation, prosperity, group and community solidarity, as well as global responsibility.” More recently, the third annual Emerging Markets Symposium at Green Templeton College (in January 2012) identified tertiary education as both a “condition of sustained and equitable economic growth” and a vital element in creating the conditions for a satisfactory and responsible national life.


What are your views about standardized tests and the university admissions process?


I am not an expert on testing in schools. I am a believer in self-study and benchmarking, from a variety of perspectives, ranging from the needs of individual learners and those who support them (including their families) to the institutions in and through which they study. Sensible, nuanced understanding of how I (and we) are doing is a vital element of any attempt to “manage the future” in personal or institutional terms.


Meanwhile, around the world, qualifications for university entrance vary in type and demand. We have established in the UK that where and how such qualifications are earned can disguise both achievement and potential. If this is not fully appreciated, a kind of brittle, meritocratic discourse can hinder the role of higher education in assisting social mobility and advancing social justice.


As a consequence, I have real concerns about the “moral panics” that surround university admissions. In the UK we talk about “widening participation” as if it is the same as so-called “fair access,” and vice versa. The two are logically separable phenomena. The first – getting more students qualified and to the starting gate – is a big problem in both developed and developing societies. The second – where they choose to apply, and are admitted – is a comparatively tiny problem. Merging the two can also lead to empirically weak and socially patronizing conclusions. Well-qualified students with disadvantaged backgrounds who choose non-standard routes through the system are often making rational and life-enhancing decisions.


Is there sufficient focus on critical thinking in today’s education system?


What makes higher education special is its facilitation of conversations between more and less experienced learners. A degree of independence and self-confidence is vital. In this context I see a number of encouraging things.


The public discourse is heavily dominated at present by a perception (whether welcomed or deprecated) of student instrumentalism. What counts is “employability” (even more than “employment”) and whether or not students are prepared for it. Meanwhile, students themselves confound expectation further: by returning to the liberal arts, by returning to volunteering (even while they simultaneously have to work much more frequently for money than their predecessors), and by reviving student-led political activism (all around the world).


What can be done to better address the emotional and intellectual potential of the individual?


I am currently working on a project about “transformation claims” made by and for higher education. I am intrigued by how varied these claims have been over the long history of the higher education enterprise, but also by how strong and determined they invariably are. Essentially my argument is that such claims represent a moving combination of recurrent themes, nearly all present at the creation of the modern university, and liable individually to wax or wane according to mainly (but not exclusively) external influences.


Most of the claims about the purposes and achievements of higher education are irreducibly individualistic: it will change your life, through conversion or confirmation of faith, by improving your character, by giving you marketable “abilities,” by making you a better member of the community, or simply “capable” of operating more effectively in the contemporary world. All of these qualities scale up, of course, but in differing ways.


First of all, the historical perspective is important. Almost all higher education institutions were founded, and invested in by particular communities and their representatives to serve social purposes. Success in higher education has, of course always represented a private good and normally a “positional” advantage. However, it has also always incorporated and resonated with the concept of “public good.”


Secondly, a trap to avoid is that of cultural specificity. In the course of a recent global investigation, set out in our book The Engaged University, my colleagues and I found strong evidence of universities in the South and East doing more with less than those in the relatively privileged North and West (Routledge, 2011). I perceive a stronger sense of societal pull (over institutional push) in terms of the universities in that part of the world. Too often European (including British) and North American universities can rest on their laurels, and think that they can achieve their goals just by “being there.”

From a broader perspective does your country’s definition of educational excellence take into account the quality of life of individuals and of society?


The evidence is strong from the UK that those members of society who have had a positive experience of post-compulsory education live healthier, happier and more democratically tolerant lives.


Above all, as we argued in Learning Through Life, a successful learning life-course improves your chances of taking control of your destiny.


What needs to be done to increase students’ knowledge and understanding of other countries and cultures?


Nearly all university campuses are now “global.” Probably most important is the fact that the university campuses in the UK (and I suspect in some other countries) are ahead of the wider community in demonstrating ethnic, cultural and national diversity. In the UK at present, a majority of Higher Education Institutions now has students from over one hundred countries and several have a majority who are bi-lingual. Paul Ramsden, former head of the Higher Education Academy in the UK, has spoken about “intercultural fluency” as a “central goal of every higher education curriculum.” Universities taking up this challenge will often find that they are following – not leading – their student bodies.


Does higher education (in Martha Nussbaum’s ringing phrase) “cultivate humanity”? The simple answer has to be that it can; that it doesn’t necessarily do; and that there are other honorable ways of achieving the same end. It is, however, I believe, generally good at this important job.



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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Advices for Foreigners Working in China

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Advices for Foreigners Working in China | LanguageCorps Asia |

Advices for Foreigners Working in China.


China now attracts millions of people from all over the world. The experience of working in China will be memorable. But are you clear about the China work situation, the type of job, the workplace and the salary? The following will give a detailed information of them.


China now attracts millions of people from all over the world. The experience of working in China will be memorable. But are you clear about the China work situation, the type of job, the workplace and the salary? The following will give a detailed information of them.


Type of Job for Foreigners in China
Currently, most foreigners in demand in China are English teachers, and these offers are mostly provided by schools. Schools are classified into public schools and private schools. A few private schools promise a high salary in advertisements, however, after having worked there you may find out that a few private schools couldn't arrange a Z or F visa for you to work in China, and it would be difficult to get the entire salary they promised before, for reasons that they don't take in enough students or the quality of you classes is not good enough. And of course, it is illegal to wok in China without a Z or F visa, while in public school, there is a Foreign Affairs Office that will assist you in your work and daily life, provide better accomodation for foreign experts, and the salary is paid entirely according to the contract.


City to Work for Foreigners in China
It seems that most foreigners are only familiar with several big cities in China, like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and focus on jobs in these cities. As a result, there are more applicants and competition there, which leads to a relatively lower salary because of the much higher living cost than that in other cities.


Salary for Foreigners in China
It seems that most foreigners are only familiar with several big cities in China, like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and focus on jobs in these cities. As a result, there are more applicants and competition there, which leads to a relatively lower salary because of the much higher living cost than that in other cities.

If you don't have any special reasons to work in big cities, it would be a better choice to work in a relatively smaller city, where the salary is almost the same as that in big cities but the living cost is much lower, and what's more, the scenery is usually more beautiful and the local people are more friendly.


Time of Job Hunting in China
Compared with other positions, foreign teacher is a little bit special. The best time to find teaching work in China is in September, when the schools return, or in February, just after the winter holiday, although there are thousands of short summer school placements from June to September. And meanwhile, other positions have no special requirement.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Why Foreigners Stay in China

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Why Foreigners Stay in China?


"IT was Beijing's wealth of opportunity that made me want to come here to work," says Mao Yihui, a bespectacled, round-faced, close-cropped Italian, fluent in Chinese. Mao currently works as English editor on a website in Beijing. He loves music, and in his spare time gets together with five friends from Australia, Canada and Italy to play in the band they have formed, "Big Aeroplane," in which he is drummer. They mainly perform in Sanlitun bars, and are sometimes invited to play at embassies. To him, life in Beijing becomes daily more colorful. He says, "The development of bands here is closely related to the diversity of performance venues. As regards progressive music, Italy lags far behind China."


Alain, from France, became fascinated by Chinese culture on his first sight of Chinese calligraphy. He left his motherland for Shanghai, and found work as a teacher at a French language training center. He is satisfied with his decision, because living in China, he can enjoy full-scale interaction with Chinese culture.


Nowadays, foreigners living and working in China are commonplace in cosmopolitan cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. If so desired, one may take language classes from a foreign teacher, eat dishes cooked by foreign chefs, be ministered to by a foreign beauty therapist at a beauty salon, or enjoy being entertained by foreign performance artists. Exotic stage acts and imported technologies all have, to varying degrees, an influence on Chinese life. Local people no longer have the impression that foreigners working in China are solely senior managers or specialists in foreign-funded enterprises.


Many of the foreigners in China today have come in search of opportunities for a new life. The country's economic achievements and brilliant prospects, and the vitality of everyday life, all combine to give them ample reason to stay here.


According to statistics, more than 60,000 foreigners have obtained work permits in China, and the actual number of foreign employees is much larger. Most foreign workers are hired directly by Chinese companies, and work in the fields of management, marketing, production, finance, catering and education. They come from more than 90 countries and regions, including Japan, the United States, the Republic of Korea, Germany, and Singapore, and are concentrated in larger cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Since China's entry into the WTO, even more foreigners are expected to come to work in China.




Inside a Boeing 767 fuselage, air stewardesses cordially ask passengers to fasten their seatbelts. Suddenly, the plane begins to shudder violently, and the lights flicker on and off. The cabin is chaos, rent with passengers' shrieks and cries of terror. At this time, air stewardesses guide passengers out through the emergency exit. Finally, two stewardesses rapidly check the entire cabin, and after making sure that no passengers remain, slide down the emergency chute carrying first-aid boxes. This is the "emergency exit" maneuver -- a training program for 12 Japanese air stewardesses employed by Air China.


In 2001, Air China employed 12 stewardesses from Japan, which caused quite a stir. People did not understand this. Chinese stewardesses are fine, why spend more on hiring foreigners?


The far-sighted managers of Air China do not see it this way. Li Fujian, chief of Air China's Labor and Personnel Department, spoke of a questionnaire survey conducted on Sino-Japanese flights. Results showed that Air China operates 40 Sino-Japanese flights every day, and that 60 percent of passengers are Japanese, most of them senior citizens who speak English poorly and have difficulty communicating with air stewardesses. The Japanese people lay great store by the social etiquette with which Chinese stewardesses are not familiar. In the survey, 52 percent of respondents expressed their preference for Japanese stewardesses, which is why Air China took this decision. It resulted in fierce airline competition, and it is reported that since its employment of Japanese air stewardesses, Air China's flight occupancy has increased appreciably.


Air China has made known its intention to employ more foreign stewardesses, when the time is ripe, to enhance its service and bring it to an international level. This move is also expected to promote professionalism in Chinese stewardesses.

Increases in the number of foreign employees reflect China's efforts to be in line with international norms in terms of knowledge, human resources, policy-making, concepts, service, and products. When planning their future development, certain Chinese organizations and enterprises solicit international talents, so as to waste no time in getting into international gear, as only then can they hold their ground in the face of fierce competition. This is undoubtedly a current trend.


Efforts made by foreign employees to enhance exchanges between China and the outside world have also had beneficial results. This is manifest in the person of Bora Milutinovic, Croatian coach to the Chinese National Soccer Team. Probably the most famous employee from abroad, he has brought joy to the Chinese people, especially Chinese soccer fans, and made great contributions to Chinese sports in general.

Alain, chief Framatome representative in China, has worked in China for more than a decade. With his help, the Shanghai No.1 Machinery Tools Factory uses Framatome technologies to manufacture nuclear power plant equipment. These products have earned a high evaluation from the French Supervisory Committee of Science and Technology, and are listed as a WTO recommended product. Lu Huayong, an American, and former tennis professional, has been superintendent of the Heineken Shanghai Open since 1997. He took full advantage of his contacts within tennis circles and knowledge of the game to make the Open a lively, vibrant event. The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) gave the Heineken Shanghai Open a top rating.

Several domestic insurance companies have invested sizable sums of money in the hiring of foreign employees and advisers. The China Ping'an Insurance Company went so far as to invite the vice-president of a famous American company to join the company, and China Pacific Insurance has no intention of being left behind in this regard. Wang Guoliang, chairman of the China Pacific board of directors, announced that recruitment of Chinese and foreign talents would be one of the main measures taken to promote the long-term development of his company, and has worked out related policies.


The above facts show that Chinese enterprises are now out to solicit talents from abroad, and that competition for the "best in the West" has begun.



Makoto Endo, a Japanese professor in his late 50s, is planning to introduce senior technical personnel from Japan to work in China. The Japan-China Technological and Intellectual Transfer Center, which he represents, has signed a letter of intent with the China Specialists Economic and Technological Advisory Center, under the Chinese Ministry of Personnel. The Sino-Japan Human Resources Development Center, a joint venture, was established in August 2001.


The center stipulates that Japanese technical personnel introduced into China must spend two to five years here. The first batch of 500 Japanese personnel has already arrived and started work in China.


Although China has an abundant labor force, technical workers at the production forefront are not fully versed in all the necessary skills, hence the call for foreign technical personnel. According to statistics, of China's 70 million technical workers, only 5 percent hold senior technical qualifications, and the structure of technical workers is that of a pyramid. This is in direct contrast with developed countries, where those holding senior technical titles make up nearly 40 percent of the technical workforce. According to experts, China's low manufacturing standard is attributable not to the level of its engineers, but to that of its workers.


In 2001, the China International Talents Market, supported by the China State Foreign Experts Bureau, and established by the China Association for the International Exchange of Talents, commenced operation. This is the first entity of its kind in China.

According to responsible market officials, service targets are at an international level, and include the introduction of talents from abroad. This is a permanent intermediary organ and a channel through which to invite foreign experts, and to send personnel abroad to undergo training. The market is currently taking full advantage of support from the State Foreign Experts Bureau, and its main business is locating and inviting foreign experts, such as scientific and technological specialists, university lecturers etc., to work in China. On receiving requests from domestic units, the market mechanism is activated. Apart from local channels of communication, the market also has a website providing information to talents abroad.


Shanghai, which has a concentration of excellent talents from all over the country, is advancing towards cosmopolitan status. Building a mechanism through which to solicit international talents appropriate to its future cosmopolitan level is high on the agenda of its human resource objectives. It has recently been reported that in 2005, Shanghai will be prominent in Asia for talent recruitment, and that in 2015, an international talent-soliciting framework will begin to take shape.


Chen Yanhua, an official with the Foreigners Employment Department of the Beijing Municipal Labor and Social Security Bureau, says that after China's entry into the WTO, the international and domestic talents markets will link up, and that the Chinese employment market will open still wider to foreigners. This means that legal restrictions on foreigners working in China will relax. Foreign employees will include not only technical personnel, but also managers, all of whom will be welcome with open arms. Measures to attract foreign talents are also to be adopted. For instance, China recently began to issue "green cards," which permit entry to China without a visa, to foreign technical personnel, investors and entrepreneurs. The Chinese government is also to provide more services, and to designate specific departments that will provide information and intermediary services to foreigners. All this will promote China's economic development and enhance its competitive power within the international market.


What Have Foreign Employees Brought to China?


Many foreigners regard China as a good place to work. The monthly income of certain high-ranking managerial personnel in some transnational companies is as high as US$ 100,000, and the income tax they pay is therefore considerable.


But the influence of foreign employees is not limited merely to their tax contributions. Dong Keyong, a professor at the Labor and Personnel School of the People's University of China, says that it is fine for domestic companies to employ foreigners in certain key positions, but that they should not go too far in this regard. Various countries take measures to protect their own labor force, and exert strict control over the employment of foreigners. In the current Chinese labor market, supply greatly exceeds demand, so efforts must be made to train Chinese employees.


There are, however, also scholars who think that foreign employees are a testimony to China's increased overall strength. Following developments in the Chinese economy, this phenomenon is likely to continue. The scope of the Chinese employment market is huge, and accepting a calculated number of foreign workers should present no problem. If Chinese employees do not take full advantage of their employment opportunities, or work to full capacity in their positions, then they can blame none but themselves if they lose their jobs.


This is the view of Meng Xiancang, director of the Employment Department of the Beijing Municipal Labor and Social Security Bureau. He says that 16,000 foreigners and 5,000 compatriots from Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao have obtained work permits in Beijing, and that 85 percent of them are intermediate or senior managers and specialists. Taking into consideration Beijing's population of 10 million, they should pose no threat to the employment prospects of Beijing inhabitants.


Opinions vary, but one thing is certain -- that China's employment system is undergoing transformation in multiple directions. The increase in the number of foreign employees in catering, hotel management, culture and entertainment, and IT constitutes both a boost and a challenge to China's economic development. Foreign employees also help in communications with the rest of the world, and can tell of the changes that have taken place in China. Following China's entry into the WTO, effectively regulating the entry of foreign employees, and rapidly enhancing the competitive potential of domestic talents is a number one priority.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: China Is Still The Best Place To Find A Job

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: China Is Still The Best Place To Find A Job | LanguageCorps Asia |

China Is Still The Best Place To Find A Job.


I said way back in December that expats are better off looking for a job in China than they would be back in their home lands. That obviously still holds true as the Huffington Post has just written an article titled Young Americans Going To China For Jobs.


Finding Jobs In China


The article cites the case of Mikala Reasbeck, who could only find a part time job after graduating from college in Boston (counting pills in a chemist at $7 an hour). What did she do? She went to Beijing, knowing that she’d have a better chance of finding a good job in China than she would in the US.


After one week looking for work, she had a full time job teaching English.


That won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s lived in China – there are TEFL jobs (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) everywhere in China. What may come as a slight surprise is the salary she managed to get: 14,000 to 16,000 yuan per month. That’s pretty good for a TEFL position. There are definitely such jobs around, but it’s at the higher end of the market.


Mikala has a degree in writing, literature and publishing, but is not a qualified teacher so I’d say she’s been lucky. I’ve had a similar salary and I’m not qualified teacher either, but then I was teaching ICT. I’d been in the computer industry for 13 years when I got the job, including time spent as a trainer.


Mikala’s not alone – the article reports that many young foreigners, faced with bleak prospects in their own countries, are going to China to look for work. Although many are finding jobs such as teaching English, there’s a growing number who are finding professional positions in their favoured industry.

Getting A Visa


One interesting thing that the article pointed out was that China was preferred as a destination over some other countries, such as Russia and the EU, because it was easier to get a visa to work in China:


Employers need government permission to hire foreigners, but authorities promise an answer within 15 working days, compared with a wait of months or longer that might be required in some other countries.


The article does mention that visa restrictions were tightened ahead of the Beijing 2008 Olympics and while it doesn’t say whether they’ve subsequently been relaxed, it does say that there were more people holding a visa at the end of 2008 than there was at the end of 2007:


Some 217,000 foreigners held work permits at the end of 2008, up from 210,000 a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Thousands more use temporary business visas and go abroad regularly to renew them


That would indicate that visa restrictions have been relaxed.


As it also says, there are many more people who do not have an official work permit (ie Z visa). It’s been that way for years. I don’t know of a foreigner in China who hasn’t worked on business visa (F visa) or even a tourist visa (L visa) at one point or another.

There are always issues related to visas when you have a job in China.


Many companies will give you an F visa to start with, then try to switch you over to a Z visa when you’re there. Sometimes it can be done, sometimes you have leave the country and re-enter (hands up all those who’ve had an unexpected holiday in Hong Kong!).


Last time I checked (2007), the rules were that you had to leave the country to change from an F visa to a Z visa. Of course rules change and local authorities sometime seem to be able to bend them (if the company is asking them in the right way).

Do You Need To Speak Chinese?


I don’t speak Chinese (well only a little), but I’ve never had any problems getting a job in China!


In my experience, Chinese language ability is not required for TEFL positions. I’m sure it would be seen as an added bonus, but 99% of people teaching in China either have very limited Chinese language abilities, or none at all. What they do know is usually only what they’ve picked up while they’ve been living in China – they couldn’t speak Chinese when they first arrived.


Of course, getting a professional job in China may be different, but there are possibilities for people who don’t speak Chinese. The article says:


While many jobs require at least a smattering of Chinese, some employers that need other skills are hiring people who do not speak the language.


It cites CEO, Grant Yu, who has said he may employ people who cannot speak Chinese if they have other skills:


I don’t believe language is the biggest obstacle in communication, as long as he or she has a strong learning ability.


It also mentions Feng Li, a partner in a private fund that invests in the mining industry, who is planning to recruit foreign employees to read legal documents and communicate with clients abroad.


Of course, the vast majority of professional job vacancies that I’ve seen do state that Mandarin is required, so I’m unsure how many professional vacancies there are that really don’t require Chinese language skills. It wouldn’t hurt to learn Chinese!

Shaun Rein, managing director of China Market Research Group, said that there is more competition for foreigners seeking employment in China, from the well educated, English-speaking Chinese youth of today:


You have a lot of Chinese from top universities who are making $500-$600 a month. Making a case that you are much better than they are is very hard.


In response to the issues of not speaking Chinese and the competition from Chinese graduates, I’ll come back to what I said in my December post:


If you have specialist expertise, you’ll be in demand.


China is still a great place to find a job.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: An English Teacher’s Day in Phnom Penh Cambodia

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: An English Teacher’s Day in Phnom Penh Cambodia | LanguageCorps Asia |

An English teacher’s day in Phnom Penh Cambodia.


My aunt and uncle have a rule about complaining: you only get one whinge per day.

So, if you stub your toe before you even get out of bed in the morning, you can have yourself a little cry, but that’s it. You’re done for the day. Even if you then leave your house, fall down the stairs, cross the street and get hit by a child riding a bicycle, miss the bus to work because you were too busy yelling at the child, get fired because you’ve been late too many times, drink heavily for the rest of the day and fall up the stairs going home, and stub your toe getting back into bed.
You have to pick just one.
My whinge today is teaching.
I know, I know, all teachers complain about teaching. The kids are brats, there are so many papers to grade, the administration is always all up in yo’ grill, blah blah blah. You know what I have to say to that? They speak English!
To make matters worse, it is a cultural habit here to always respond with a nod when asked a question. Do you know where this address is? Nods yes. Do you have change for a five? Nods yes. Can I steal your tuk tuk? Nods yes.
I never get a response with the I-don’t-understand expression when I ask them to point to mom in the picture. It’s just a nod—I hear the words coming out of your mouth—which makes me count to ten and do breathing exercises frequently so I don’t shake the children violently and cry myself to sleep at night.
Now you can add in the teacher complaints of dealing with crying six-year-olds, that one kid who won’t ever shut up, and their unbelievable ability to cheat on everything.
If it weren’t for my schedule, I think I’d lose my mind.
6:30 am: Wake up. Or at least move my body from the sleeping position to standing. Actually waking up happens around 8 am.
7:00 am: After yawning, showering, yawning, and getting dressed I make an egg sandwich and have a little rest. (Yes mom, I take my vitamin every day).
7:20 am: Go to the street where my moto driver is waving and saying good morning. He’s great. Every morning he takes me to Modern International School and every afternoon he takes me home. I pay him $8 a week. You can bet he’ll be getting a good Christmas present.
8:00 am: Finally awake in time for my first class. 24 kindergarteners. We’re studying from a book called Number Magic. They all already know how to count to 1,000 and magic is frowned upon here, so I’d say it’s an effective learning device.
9:00 am: Same grade, different class. Except I’m pretty sure every one of these kids could be diagnosed with ADHD. At no point is everyone sitting in a seat—they are like whack-a-mole, one sits down and another one gets up to wander—and by Thursday I lose my voice from telling them to sit down and do their work.
10:00 am: 31 preschoolers. One teacher’s assistant. And a kid who I can only politely describe as an ass hole. He’s smarter than the other kids and about four years older, so he flies through his work and begins his next task of terrorizing the teacher.
He started this new routine of putting on his backpack midway through class and pretending to leave, saying, “Bye Teachaa.” He throws me his shittiest smile and waltzes toward the door. The TA yells something in Khmer about breaking his knee caps and then he runs back to his desk to sulk.
11:00 am: Hop on the moto and close my eyes for the fifteen minute ride home. I close them partly because of exhaustion and partly because this is peak traffic time and I’d have an anxiety attack if I watched all of the accidents we narrowly avoided.
11:15 am – 5:00 pm is my saving grace period. I usually eat lunch, go for a run around the Royal Palace or do yoga at home, write a little, catch up on reading, eat dinner, and walk to ELT—the university where I teach night classes.
5:25 pm: I have my oldest class of 6B students, which is the equivalent to seniors in high school. I love teaching this class because they’re almost fluent and really funny.
This past Friday our topic was gossiping and rumors so we played telephone to show how rumors spread and change. It got them practicing listening and speaking, and they cracked up when the rumors I started were about someone in the class liking someone else.
6:30 pm: Last class of the night and it’s high school freshman. They think they’re all that and a bag of chips. But they’re smart. And they love pop culture, so I get to hear about how amazing Justin Bieber is every day. I’ll admit it, though, they’re pretty good kids.
7:30 pm: Walk home and make dinner.
8:30 pm: Do a little lesson planning for the next day.
9:30 pm: Check emails and Facebook
10:00 pm: Get ready for bed and read (I’m as nerdy as they come).
10:30 pm: Lights out.


Alright, so I guess this vent session made me realize how easy I have it. I only work five hours a day—that’s 25 hours a week for all you mathmagicians out there—and I still make enough to pay rent, save a little, eat well, have a couple adult beverages with friends, and get a weekly $4 pedicure/massage.
As we say here daily, “Only in Cambodia.”




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Learning a Second Language When and Why

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Learning a Second Language When and Why | LanguageCorps Asia |

Learning a Second Language When and Why.


Can studying a second language in elementary school boost student achievement in other academic areas? Numerous studies suggest that this may be the case. Yet even though NCLB identifies foreign language as a core subject, only about a fourth of U.S. public elementary schools report teaching foreign languages, and most of these schools provide only introductory courses. Fewer than half of all U.S. high school students are studying a foreign language. Meanwhile, administration of a National Assessment for Educational Progress test for foreign language has been put on hold.


In short, "much of the decision-making regarding foreign language study is made at the local level," reports the National Association of State Boards of Education. As districts review their foreign language policies, they may wish to consider research indicating the multiple benefits of learning a second language-and starting in the early grades.

Benefits of an early start. In the U.S., most students who study a foreign language begin at age 14 or later. But linguistic studies show that children who begin learning a second language before adolescence exhibit more native-like pronunciation and are more likely to become fluent speakers.


On examining the research in 2005, education research analyst Janice Stewart found that foreign language study, "especially when introduced in the early elementary school years," is associated with three additional benefits of "increased cognitive skills, higher achievement in other academic areas, and higher standardized test scores." For example:


Cognitive gains. Wilburn Robinson (1992) reviewed 144 research studies conducted over three decades on the relationship between early second language learning and cognitive ability. He concluded that early experience with two language systems seems to leave children with "a mental flexibility, a superiority in concept formation, and a more diversified set of mental abilities."

Stay Informed American Council on the Teaching of Foreign National Security Language Teacher-to-Teacher


Achievement in other academic areas. A study by Armstrong and Rogers (1997) examined the relationship between foreign language education and the basic skills of elementary school students. A group of third-grade students given three 30-minute Spanish language lessons per week performed as well as or better than a control group (given no second-language instruction) on academic achievement tests and "showed statistically significant gains in their Metropolitan Achievement Test scores in the areas of math and language after only one semester of study."


Higher standardized test scores. When Thomas Cooper examined data from 23 high schools in the Southeast in 1987, he found that students who took a foreign language in high school scored significantly higher on the verbal scale of the Scholastic Aptitude Test. Those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who studied a foreign language performed "basically just as well as their more fortunate peers."


Closing arguments. Additional reasons for foreign language study include global economic competition and national security. "While only 44 percent of our high school students are studying any foreign language, learning a second or even a third foreign language is compulsory for students in the European Union, China, Thailand, and many other countries," Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings remarked in January 2006.


The National Center for Education Statistics reports that most U.S. high school students enrolled in a foreign language are studying Spanish (69 percent) or French (18 percent). Less than 1 percent is studying Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean-languages the U.S. government classifies as critical to national security.




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LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Where Teachers Are Replaceable Widgets, Education Suffers

LanguageCorps Asia - TEFL / TESOL Teaching English: Where Teachers Are Replaceable Widgets, Education Suffers | LanguageCorps Asia |

Where Teachers Are Replaceable Widgets, Education Suffers.


We have become convinced that in our nation's struggling urban schools, teachers and would-be education reformers are battling through a hurricane that shows no signs of abating. We call this hurricane "churn."


Churn is a remarkable instability among school personnel that makes it nearly impossible to build a professional community or develop long-term relationships with students. It happens when teachers are treated like interchangeable parts who can be moved around cavalierly to plug a hole in a school schedule. It happens when administrators repeatedly order teachers to switch to a different grade, teach a different subject, or move to a different school.


We recently tried to test an idea for improving the middle school science curriculum through a multiyear randomized controlled trial in a big-city public school system. But the constant stream of teachers leaving the classes we were studying made it nearly impossible to get reliable results. After just one year, 42 percent of the teachers in 92 schools who began participating in our study had left it to take other positions within and outside the schools. The instability was about the same in both the intervention group...




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