Report Cards from Around the World: Staffordshire, England

November 20, 2009

For the next several weeks, we’ll look at report cards from around the world.

~ A Spot of Tea ~

~ 6th Stop ~ England ~

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You may be familiar with the Staffordshire Bull Terrier, but do you know where they were originally bred? Staffordshire, a county in the West Midlands region of England, has a little over a million residents living in 2 cities and about 6 towns. Known for its porcelain and cathedrals (and a rock formation called The Roaches), Staffordshire has its fair share of tourists. In terms of education, the county has a handful of independent schools and two major universities Keele University and Staffordshire University.

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Report Card Basics

  • Type of School: Independent Local School
  • Academic Year: 1999 – 2000
  • Class: 3rd Year (8th year of education)

Here’s the report card! The blue numbers highlight a few interesting aspects of the report and the numbers correspond to notes below the image.

1. 14 Years Old in… Year 3

The top of this report card reads. “Third Year Progress Card,” which would indicate elementary school to an American. However, in England, the Year 3 can mean the third year of secondary school, which is 8th Grade in the U.S.

2. A Letters & Numbers Report Card

Unlike some 7 to 11 page report cards we’ve seen so far, this report card consists of just 1 page of (mostly) letters and numbers. While the card contains much less comment space than the Australian report cards, the grading system is much more flexible than India’s card of exam scores. The focus of this report is student’s measurable performance and effort.

3. A is for Excellent!

Unlike the U.S., the British system does not have a grade point average (GPA) system, which correlates to the letter grade. The letter system in this report card seems more flexible (and some would argue more subjective) than a number based on 100, for instance an 88 percent (which is a B+ in the U.S.). Not that American students have anything to complain about; British students will sit for Board Exams, which can be very competitive and strictly scored. Note that the effort grade—based on a 5-point system—receives as much space and importance as the performance grade.

4. I’m Giving You an A… I mean a B… How about an A/B?

Another example of the flexibility of this reporting system is the use of an A/B. In many American schools (especially where the grading system is computerized, and every box needs to be filled.

5. Classes ~ E, H, G, F, RE… Take A Guess!

On this report card, the course names are abbreviated to a letter or two… so the students better know what classes they are taking, so they can tell their parents. Here’s my best guess as to what all the abbreviations stand for:

E – English

H – History

G – Geography

F Foreign Language

RE – Religious Education

M – Math

P­ – Physics

C – Chemistry

B – Biology

We’ll see how close I got… UPDATE ~ All the classes are correct!

See Report Card from: Zomba, Malawi; Sydney, Australia, week 1;    Sydney, Australia, week 2;   Dalhousie, India; Kathmandu, Nepal;    Soro, Denmark

Report card analysis to look forward to: Palestine, Canada, Mexico and more!

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Expat Life Down The Road, Pt. 2

September 3, 2009

Last week, in Part 1 of this article, I introduced four recent college graduates who lived abroad for part of their upbringing and went to college in the U.S. Now we’ll find out in what ways their time abroad shaped who they are today. I want to offer a big thank you to Alex, Andres, Brittany, and Jessie!

Perhaps not surprisingly, one of the things that the four interviewees all blame on their time abroad was what Andres refers to as his “jet setter” traits (Brittany calls it “the traveler that’s still within me”). Jessie explains, “I think travel is a bug that infects early, and those who have the privilege to travel at a young age tend to dedicate much of the rest of their life to fitting in as much travel as possible.” Early travel exposes children to new sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and types of people. Alex says that he has “no qualms about getting around a new major city” and suggests that part of this is related to the fact that his eyes have been opened to various types of music, art, food, and the like (“I can order comfortably off of pretty much any kind of menu”).

Alex explains another thing that makes travel easier now: “Living abroad and going to an international school shrinks the world. I feel that I know at least someone in every major city in the world”. The fact is that the turnover rate for new students in international schools is incredibly quick. Andres points out that this has its downsides too, as it is hard to see friends leave. He acknowledges, however, that this contributes to an openness that students have and a willingness to make new friends quickly.

The recent graduates all spoke about issues of diversity, open-mindedness, racism, and the like. Brittany ties her open-mindedness to the people she met abroad: “You are forced to embrace others and yourself because the differences are so obvious, and at the same time trivial”. Alex seconds this notion: “I went to school with a very diverse group of students from all races and religions. I grew up truly color blind to the world, which puts me in a unique position”. Andres says that this definitely made him different from his American college classmates. He says that growing up, he wasn’t truly aware of racism. “I had never really thought about racism as an issue until the first week of [college] when we had a Cultural Diversity Workshop… It was just a completely different concept to me.”

Academically, too, these four found themselves to have had a different background during their time abroad. Brittany says that “in Jakarta, there was such an emphasis put on learning for the sake of learning, instead of learning for the sake of getting a good score on your SATs or getting into a good college”. They all mentioned the high quality of teachers during their time abroad—teachers who really were passionate about teaching. Jessie offers her reflections about one way that the French teachers and teaching system set them apart from those in America:

“[The American School in Paris] was one of the first places where I really learned to push myself academically: not to settle for adequate work (which, unfortunately, I noticed was very easy to do once I got stateside), but to strive for better. The French grading system is out of 20, but 12 or better is considered a score to be proud of. NO ONE gets a 20. 16 or 17 would be a phenomenal grade. Meanwhile I got back to America where you can earn a 107 on a test if you do extra credit—how is that pushing students? Obviously, this is something of a personal preference, but I really feel like instilling in students the idea that you can always do better is such a great way to encourage hard work (and then, of course, providing them with the resources and support necessary to realize that hard work).”


Handling Repatriation ~ Ideas for TCKs

August 28, 2009

Today, Boston College had an orientation specifically for Third Culture Kids (TCKs). Expatriate kids are finally getting the attention they deserve! I was delighted to give the key-note address. I presented some findings from my research on TCKs, which explores the factors that affect psychological well-being, but also some personal stories and some food for thought.

I’d like to share a few of the take-home points. These do not come from research or statistical analysis, but are ideas that I have been thinking about for a while.

Treat repatriation like an assignment ~ What would happen?Coming Home?

Third Culture Kids are great at adapting, except, it seems, when it comes to repatriation. Psychologists, sociologists and anthropologists all suggest that the heavy expectations of going “home”—only to find a place does not feel like home—can make repatriation very hard. I’ve often wondered if TCKs would fare better if they treated repatriation more like an assignment, even if only as a mental tool to deal with difficult situations. Maybe it would be easier to use the adaptation skills they learned on previous assignments to deal with the move. If a TCK expects Americans to be “foreign,” would it be as difficult to make friends? Of course, all the issues would not disappear (i.e. people might still wonder why he or she is using “lift” instead of “elevator”), but maybe a TCK would not mind quite as much.

National and Communal Identity ~ A Matter of Perspective

There are two aspects of identity that I’d like to highlight: nationality (in the sense of national identity) and a sense of belonging (communal identity). Obviously the two concepts overlap; nationalistic people are probably more likely to feel a sense of belonging to their country. For instance, during the last election, I was proud to be an American and felt a strong sense of community with Americans living in Canada. However, national and communal identity CAN be mutually exclusive.

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Third Culture Kids may have a strained relationship with their national identity; I’ve interviewed TCKs who express feeling especially American while abroad, only to feel completely foreign in the United States. Some continue to call themselves American and really believe so, while others only call themselves American only because “it’s the easiest answer that raises the fewest questions.” Sometimes it helps to take a different perspective on national identity—some of the interviewees refer to themselves as TCKs or Global Nomads, or simply say, “I’m nationally challenged… because Americans seem to like the ‘challenged.’” They have a positive view of their background that takes into account their international experiences. A TCK’s national identity may take time to develop, and that’s okay! Chances are, their sense of national identity will be a much deeper one than most.

Regardless of their national sense of identity, TCKs can still feel a sense of belonging in their community through their religious beliefs, leisure activities or sports clubs. In this high-tech age, courtesy of Facebook and DIY websites, there are even online TCK communities. (In the past, finding a TCK community was especially difficult; after repatriation, TCKs spread out and often become invisible, or “hidden immigrants”). Finding a community, a group of people with a shared interest, can help a TCK settle in and give them a support network. The point is not to connect with other Americans or non-Americans, but to connect. At the end of the day, we are all people.

Seeking help

TCKs might need extra support, and this is nothing to be ashamed of. By the time a TCK is 19, she or he will have had more than a lifetime of experiences to absorb and process. It’s not going to be easy. More and more, counselors and advisors are becoming aware of TCK issues. TCKs should not be afraid to use counseling services offered at universities and colleges to help deal with any issues they may face.

Every person takes a unique journey… You might as well enjoy yours!

TCKs have amazing opportunities to experience the world, traveling, understanding new cultures and gaining different viewpoints, but all that can be hard to remember during difficult times. Take time to remind yourself of the good times you’ve had abroad and the benefits you’ve reaped from living a global life.

~ A special thank you to Laura Saylor and Boston College for inviting me to speak! ~