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Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 14; April 13, 2011

The Playing Field

Assuring quality in Malaysia.

Abroad Perspectives

Indians leaving home, earlier and younger.

Over The Counter

In Asia, the race is on!

Globe Tipping

Travel Video Basics: Part II

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Assuring Quality in Malaysia

The Malaysian government is narrowing its focus on assuring top quality of higher education in the country. So much so, that, from 2009 to 2010 alone, the nation’s Higher Education Ministry cancelled the setting up of 59 private colleges, and deregistered 28 others.

According to Deputy minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, these institutions – all private colleges, rather than universities or branches of foreign universities – were deemed unable to provide quality services, including programs, facilities, and/or management and teaching staff.

Still left in the country, however, are 485 private higher learning institutes, including a number of branches of foreign universities. As of January 31 this year, Saifuddin says there were over 540,000 students registered with the ministry.

In addition to assuring the quality of institutions in the country, the ministry is also concentrating on awarding large amounts of research funding under its Fundamental Research Grant Scheme. Last year, 224 research projects at 22 different private universities, university colleges, and branches of foreign universities were awarded funds – and this year, the number of projects is up to 254.

Source: “BERNAMA – Parliament: Ministry Cancels 59 Private Colleges, Deregisters 28”., April 4, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Indians leaving home, earlier and younger.

In India, times are changing. While the number of students heading overseas for university degrees has been steadily increasing over the past decade, students are now making the move at younger ages than ever before.

Seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen year olds, fresh out of their Class XII (or grade 12 equivalent) exams, are heading straight overseas – with the US, UK, Australia, Canada, and now Singapore being some of the favourite destinations.

According to Piyush Aggarwal, director of the India-based Abroad Education Consultants (ABE), there are 15 to 20% more undergraduate student applications for foreign courses each year. It’s the result, he says, of a number of factors, including the fierce competition for spots at India’s few good professional institutes, and the fact that disposable incomes (and abilities to secure educational bank loans) are on the rise.

“The most important factor,” agrees Shakuntala Rao, a State University of New York communications professor, “is the emergence of a wealthy Indian middle class which can now afford to send their children abroad for education.”

In addition to growing financial ability, many parents (and students) are also keen on the flexibility found at foreign schools.

“It’s been a real shift from what was once a decided domination of Indian graduate students going abroad,” says Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. “The bigger challenge in attracting this group however, is that they need more care, more hand-holding and more in-person counselling than ever – students AND their parents!”

Source: “18 and away”. Times of India, March 26, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – In Asia, the race is on!

Other than the obvious factor of “being Asian nations”, what do Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, and Taiwan all have in common? … They’ve all declared plans of becoming major higher education “hubs” in the near future.

They’re setting up new facilities, opening their doors to branch campuses of top foreign institutions, and initiating policies specially designed to attract more foreign students, researchers and faculty – all in the hopes of beating out their neighbours and developing as knowledge economies. It seems everyone is trying to get on board. Even the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has recently declared intentions of becoming an Asian higher education hub!

Some countries, such as Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea have distinct advantages over the rest of the competition. In addition to a decade-long head start, during which Malaysia in particular attracted scores of new students from the Middle East after post-9/11 US visa regulations were tightened, these ‘fore-runner’ countries have already managed to attract various branches of reputable foreign institutions onto their soils. Facing such obvious advances, the new entrants must undertake the daunting feat of playing catch-up. For less developed competitors, such as Vietnam, it’s sure to be a difficult battle. But the potential to reap a chunk of the “internationalisation dividends” is just too attractive to ignore.

One of the boldest bids for gaining international popularity as a “higher education hub” has been presented by Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Higher Education. Calling his country “a paradise”, Ministry secretary Sunil Nawaratne recently announced their expectations to set up 10 world-class foreign university campuses in the coming years, offering interested institutions land subsidies, tax rebates, and tax-free imports for building materials and equipment. In addition, he says restrictions will be eased for enrolling foreign students in state universities – all with the aim of hosting 100,000 overseas scholars by 2020.

Still, for latecomers such as Sri Lanka – competing against many more established countries – the biggest dilemma is simple. As program coordinator from the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Cameron Richards, points out: “How many regional hubs can you have?”

Source: “ASIA: Countries vying to become education hubs.” University World News, March 20, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Travel Video Basics: Part II

Whether you’re shooting for work purposes, for family and friends back home, or just to preserve memories for yourself, creating a quality video takes more than just hitting the little red button. Continued from last week, here are a couple more tips to help take your travel videos to the next level.

Following the action. Action is the major element that sets video apart from still photography. So to maximize on this ability, pay attention to what’s moving in your video. If you have a lot of action in the background (such as a crowded market), any object in the foreground that you want to focus on needs to be well lit, colourful, and audible to keep the viewer’s attention. Also, if you plan to ‘follow’ any action – such as a character in a play – try to avoid any jerky camera movements. The easiest thing to do is to use a tripod, and try to keep the object in the centre of the frame as it moves.

Alternatively, if you or a colleague plans to edit together a shorter piece after your filming is complete, try to allow moving objects to shift completely in and out of the frame when possible (ie: entering from one side, crossing over, and exiting on the other side), to allow for cleaner, more natural-looking edits.

Keep an ear on the sound. Sound is tricky, and it’s also the hardest thing to fix or ‘fake’ in the editing process. Although in person, you can easily hear your friend or subject’s voice against the crowded market background, your video camera does not have the ability to naturally cancel out or dim such ‘secondary noise’ – and instead, the person’s voice is overwhelmed. There are a number of ways to avoid this. First being the simplest: to move your subject to a less noisy area. If this isn’t an option, you can also consider recording a voice-over later on – instead of having your subject speaking on-camera, you or they can choose words to lay over the images during the editing process later on.

If you really do need the person speaking ‘on-camera’ (such as in an interview situation), you can also try a different microphone – using either a unidirectional or shotgun microphone (mounted on the camera but aimed directly towards the person speaking), a ‘stick mic’ (attached to your camera but held in the hand of your subject), or a wireless mic (which come in smaller, “lavalier” sizes, allowing you to pin them directly onto your subject’s clothing, or in larger hand-held versions – but with either option, there are no wires attaching your camera to the [easily tripped] person speaking).

Source: “4 Tips for Shooting Better Travel Videos”. Traveller’s Notebook, March 5, 2008.


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