Saturday, March 3, 2012

From around the interwebs...

Links to fings wot interest me, innit.

Australian students lagging behind Asian students: report
The crucial difference is that teachers in East Asian countries enjoy higher status than their Australian colleagues, he said. "This is an importance difference, and it is the crucial difference between effective teaching and learning in Australia and these systems. In these systems teacher status is high - not because they work hard, not because it is a stressful job, but because it is considered a true profession where the complexities of diagnosing each student's learning and shaping teaching to ensure that each student's learning continually improves is recognised. Resources are put into it so teachers have the time and resources available to engage in improving teaching.

A tiger education: no pain, no gain
If Asia is our focus, then may I – as a first generation Australian-born Chinese (ABC) – humbly suggest that a wholesale cultural shift in our attitude towards education must take place. If we are to seriously compete with Asia, we must adopt an Asian academic culture of intense competition: a tiger education. A tiger education is not content with merely doing well but demands that we do better. It does not stop to celebrate the 90 per cent, but asks what happened to the missing 10 per cent. It pushes us to compete with the very best and demands whatever it takes to improve. Close enough is never good enough. Where the Australian approach to education is almost all carrot, Asian parents prefer to wield the bamboo stick (literally).

Why don't students learn Indonesian?
But, says Hill, Indonesia still has an image problem. Enrolment in Bahasa fell during the late 1990s Asian financial crisis, when students realised that fewer jobs would be available at multinationals in Jakarta until the economy recovered. Interest never really recovered, in part because more recent discussion of Indonesia focused on violence in East Timor and on terrorism, such as the bombing of Bali in 2002.
“There’s a whole raft of employment opportunities that are opening up but many kids in schools are yet to be made aware of that because much of the image of Indonesia is… hanging over from the 1990s, rather than [an image of] the post-Suharto democratising economy that’s projected to be one of the world’s largest,” says Hill.

7 worst international aid ideas
The benefit of involving celebrities in aid work is often that it works to focus the attention of their fans and the media machine more generally on understanding, for however brief a moment, something that is happening somewhere in the world. Out of that can come the kind of empathy and activism that makes things like the Save Darfur campaign possible.
The celebrity’s contribution, though, hinges on whether they can successfully translate attention on them into attention to the issues. When a humanitarian issue becomes a platform for pushing an energy drink on the back of people’s suffering, we should be ashamed.

DNA helps to flesh out Otzi's past
Since Otzi's mummified body was found 20 years ago, speculation about his lifestyle, how he died and even his sexuality have flourished in German, Austrian and Italian newspapers. One rumour was that semen had been found in his anal canal, prompting headlines about his supposed homosexuality. But Graefen set the record straight.
"This comes from the fact that seeds have been found in his intestine. The words for plant seeds and semen are actually the same in German," she laughs. "People still to this day think this urban legend is true. But this is nothing more than a translation fault."

French football quotes of the year 2011
“Montpellier champions of France? If I was Marseille, Paris, Lyon, Lille or Rennes, I’d stab myself in the arse with a sausage! What an embarrassment it would be for them.”
- Montpellier president Louis Nicollin delves into his bottomless bag of weird and wonderful metaphors to express how he’d feel if his side were to win the league.

3 comments:

  1. Interesting articles, ES (and BTW, sorry for the late comments on an old post)

    I read the one on "Tiger Parenting," since it's a topic of great interest to me.

    Westerners have indeed become way too lenient, indulgent, and frankly, lazy. I would eagerly welcome a new academic/intellectually oriented mainstream culture within certain white Western countries. The virtues of hard work and competition seem to have faded in much of the West, owing to decades of affluence and liberalism.

    (of course, there are white countries like Finland that do indeed value education, so I use "white Western country" loosely here)

    At the same time, I think the West needs to develop its own method for ensuring academic excellence. I don't think copying and pasting the Asian tiger parent model would do much good for the majority of Westerners, because, let's face it, that's just not going to happen. Whites are not going to become like Asians overnight.

    Besides, there are ways to promote academic excellence without being a stereotypical tiger parent. One only needs to look at Ashkenazi Jews and the incredible success they've achieved, and as several Jewish commenters have noted, Jewish education focuses more on debate and inquiry, and less on strictness and obedience.

    Even among non-Jewish whites, you have many parents who push their kids to succeed educationally without acting like stereotypical tiger parents, instead encouraging intellectual inquiry, debate, and analysis.

    Without wanting to get into this whole "whites invented everything" debate again, perhaps there's a reason why the latest innovation takes place primarily in the West, and not, say, China. One only needs to look to China to see the limits of this "tiger education" approach. Creativity and indigenous innovation in China is almost unheard of, which is why they have to continue relying on intellectual property theft and the ideas of the West.

    So yes, the West needs to man up, work harder, and value education more. But I don't think they should throw the baby out with the bathwater. This pure Tiger approach has its shortcomings.

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  2. It also needs to be noted that when accounting for the success of many diaspora Asian groups (be they East Asian or South Asian) in the West, one must factor in the role selective immigration plays.

    Take Indian Americans (both immigrants and American born) in the United States, for example. They are often regarded as an extremely educated, successful model minority group. They value education more than even Korean Americans (at least according to surveys), who are as Tiger as they come. They tend to get good jobs as doctors, engineers, etc.

    But they are hardly representative of India's population as a whole, where around a third of the population is illiterate, the vast majority live in abject poverty, and where India's educational system is horrible, churning out graduates with little practical skills.

    Ditto for many other legal Asian immigrants (although their countries of origin are much better than India).

    As someone who goes to a majority Asian university, I can tell you with certainty that Asian kids are not hitting the books 24/7 by a longshot. They play video games, procrastinate, slack off, party, hang out, etc, and yet still succeed. Why? Many of them come from very privileged families, have a lot of support, and as a result of being the children of brain drain immigrants, tend to be smart.

    So again, just to be clear, I agree that the West needs to start being more competitive and serious about academics, but I don't think we should be implementing what China and India do with regards to their educational systems, as some American educational bureaucrats would have us do.

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    Replies
    1. "perhaps there's a reason why the latest innovation takes place primarily in the West, and not, say, China. One only needs to look to China to see the limits of this "tiger education" approach. Creativity and indigenous innovation in China is almost unheard of, which is why they have to continue relying on intellectual property theft and the ideas of the West."

      What about Japan? I'm not sure they can be accused of lacking creativity and innovation. And China was once (long ago) far ahead of the rest of the world in those departments. It may well be again. Korea is also doing big things in these areas too.
      I think what holds China back is that they are only just emerging from a period in their history where individuality and innovation were completely suppressed. Tiger-style parenting may have a little to do with it, but Korean and Japanese cultures are also very tigerish and it doesn't seem to be harming their creativity. Korea and Japan have been more free and for a longer period; that to me is the major difference.

      "As someone who goes to a majority Asian university, I can tell you with certainty that Asian kids are not hitting the books 24/7 by a longshot. They play video games, procrastinate, slack off, party, hang out, etc, and yet still succeed. Why? Many of them come from very privileged families, have a lot of support, and as a result of being the children of brain drain immigrants, tend to be smart."

      I also think that by the time they get to university, they have had a lifetime of studiousness behind them, which they can draw upon. Once you have built up a base of knowledge and study skills, it's easier to do what's required, I guess. But with students from any background, the ones who study hardest are not always the smartest, and vice versa. Some of those studying 24/7 may not be as gifted as the ones who are partying yet still succeeding.
      The "very privileged families" they come from... were they always that way? A lot of wealthy 2nd or 3rd generation Asians have parents or grandparents who started from very humble beginnings.

      Selective immigration certainly plays a role, but I think cultural factors are equally if not more significant. The Vietnamese father who works in a menial factory job probably has far greater dreams for his kids than the white or black fathers who work alongside him.

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