Blockbuster Documentary on Education in the USA

September 24, 2010

Film: Waiting for “Superman”

Director: Davis Guggenheim (famous for “An Inconvenient Truth”)

Synopsis: follow 5 families on a quest for “a better education”

World premiere: Sundance Film Festival (January) where it won “Audience Award for Documentaries”

Premieres in NYC: TODAY (24th September)

Warning: critics say the film leaves viewers with a sense of despair (the educational equivalent of global warming maybe?).

Read more here!


Top 10 Bizzare College Courses

August 30, 2010

ListVerse.com takes a look at the top ten most bizarre college courses. What a fascinating list!

Here are some highlights:

  • The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie at Occidental College
  • Stupidity at Occidental College
  • The Joy of Garbage at Santa Clara University
  • Zombies at University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa
  • The Phallus at Occidental College

To learn more about these courses (for instance, the assigned readings) and to see the rest of the list, see the rest of the article!

What Do We Think?

Silliness aside, these course offerings illustrate a value that is central to the American educational system; US universities and colleges teach students to how to learn and analyze. Many of these skills can be acquired regardless of the content of the course… for instance, in The Joy of Garbage, professor Virginia Matzek teaches students to “do research and learn to work with data.” Students must analyze the difference between garbage, discard and waste. While the content for the course is garbage, the skills are priceless!

Compare this approach to systems which focus on memorization; an educational system that values information retention would never offer a class on garbage, zombies or the phallus, as the specific information learned would be relatively useless (except probably as dinner-table conversation starters… well maybe not even that!)


Planning to Study Abroad?

August 18, 2010

See full article in Inside Higher Ed

The U.S. Department of Education would like to set new rules to make it more difficult for students to receive federal financial aid in order to attend institutions outside the US. It seems most of the rules are in regards to foreign medical schools (for instance, there may be an increased minimum score of 75 % on US medical licensing exam to be even eligible for aid), however there may be more stringent reporting requirements for U.S. institutions as well.

The impetus seems to be decreasing federal funding in smart ways, but of course, this is easier said than done!


New School: Twitter Style

August 10, 2010

Name of School: Alta Vista

Created By: Abdur Chowdhury, scientist at Twitter

For: Chowdhury’s daughter, who likes science

School’s Twitter Account: twitter.com/altavistaschool

Focus: Math, science and art

Location: San Francisco

Size: 2 classrooms, K and 1st grade, of 10-12 students

Opening Date: September 7, 2010

Price Tag: $20,000 a year


A-levels or IB?

August 4, 2010

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Even in public schools, students around the world have to decide between educational systems. For instance, state institutions in the UK (and the US) are now offering the International Baccalaureate (IB); in fact, over 63% of the IB schools in the UK are state funded schools. Well, which one is better? At School Choice International, we believe each system has its benefits and it really depends on the particular student.

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Listen to a student and experts discuss the pros and cons, as well as the type of pupil best suited to each program.

~ Woman’s Hour on BBC looks at this important issue ~

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Here are some of the topics:

A-Levels

  • Standard: Most students in the UK take the A-Levels
  • Specialized Study: A-level students narrow their academic focus quite early
  • UK Focused: Like most state programs, the A-Levels tends to be focused on British topics, for instance British literature and economics
  • Curriculum 2000: The current A-levels have changed to 4 modules, so it is not the same program the parents took

International Baccalaureate

  • A Liberal Arts Approach: IB students must take a broad range of subjects, allowing students to keep options open
  • World Perspective: Students must study world literature, foreign languages, global economics
  • Strong Work Ethic: In order complete this challenging program, students have to develop strong study skills
  • Privileged and Academic Elite: The IB program is no longer only for the financially privileged or the academically elite

Summer: A Time for Fun Learning

July 19, 2010

Summer is here… and the school year is around the corner!

Parents with young children are thinking about ways to entertain their little bundles of energy. Readers of this blog already know the importance of summer learning; kids who are not engaged during the summer fall behind academically. We also know that, while technology plays an important part in education today, unsupervised use of the computer at home negatively affects test scores at school.

The kids have to be engaged, but not on the computer (unless it’s supervised and timed), and we all know, the TV is out! What do parents do???

Here are some helpful suggestions  from Kid Source Online

Make a HISTORY TIME LINE — Record history at home. Stretch a roll of shelf paper along the floor. Use a ruler to make a line about three feet long. (Use a separate sheet for each child.) Ask your children to fill in the important dates in their own lives, starting with their birth. Those familiar with U.S. history can fill in major dates since the founding of our country. Display these finished time lines in a special place for all to see.

Create PICTURE STORIES — Develop imagination and creativity. Have your children select four or five pictures from magazines and newspapers, and put them together to tell a story. Ask your children to number the pictures — 1,2,3, etc. First, ask them to tell the story with the pictures in numerical order. For variety, have your children rearrange the pictures and tell a new story using this different arrangement.

More ideas from Suite 101

  • Plant a garden or start a compost – Learn about planning, measuring, botany and about the environment.
  • Bake and cook together – Learn about fractions and nutrition.
  • Build something out of wood (table, butterfly house or sculpture) – Teaches planning, designing, measuring and building.
  • Child planned trip – Make a trip or outing educational by having the child plan the itinerary, budget and route.
  • Make a scrapbook or journal of an outing (whether it is a day or week) – Teaches observation and record keeping in different mediums.
  • Educational websites – Limit computer time, and encourage sites that engage the mind.

Enjoy your summer!


Going Local… in India

July 14, 2010

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This American family sent their daughter to a local school in India… hear more about their experiences, including some very funny stories!

See a previous post on the same family.