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Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 15; April 20, 2011

The Playing Field

Upping the levels.

Abroad Perspectives

Across Pennsylvania, new ways to do international programs.

Over The Counter

South Korea’s private tutoring industry – old friend, now turned foe.

Globe Tipping

Travel Translations.

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Upping the levels.

One American university is taking its language requirements to a new level. No, it’s not upping its English entrance requirements – instead, it’s proposing that all students must complete a minimum of at least four semesters of foreign language study. And, if the revisions are passed, students will have to begin their chosen foreign language courses during their first year at the university.

Located in North Carolina, Elon University has held some form of foreign language requirements since 2005. Taking into account increased international globalization, school officials believe foreign language skills are important to help their students to learn about other cultures and find their role in the ‘new world workforce’.

“The reality is that most Americans whose native language is English don’t know any language other than English,” explains Scott Windham, Elon’s associate professor of German. “Elon students can distinguish themselves by learning another language, as long as they do so with seriousness and commitment.”

Although the school does not believe its current minimum requirement of two semesters of language study is enough for students to claim any real fluency, officials hope that these new proposed revisions will help students achieve levels of proficiency high enough to be useful in “real-world” settings.

Another influence on Elon’s foreign language increases are the Phi Beta Kappa requirements – as around 60% of the other Phi Beta Kappa institutions have higher foreign language core requirements than Elon does, including College of William and Mary, Trinity College, University of Richmond, and Wake Forest University.

Source: “Faculty express doubt about current foreign language requirements, propose increase”. The Pendulum, April 12, 2011.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Across Pennsylvania, new ways to do international programs.

A network of American universities has found a new way of offering internationally focused academic programs. Starting next year, fourteen universities under the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education will offer students the opportunity to major in Arabic language and culture. Although each university is unlikely to be able to attract enough students to host such a program on their own, by joining together, each campus only needs two or three students.

Using teaching faculty from the California University of Pennsylvania campus, the courses will be taught through a mixture of web and campus-based courses.

“Working together and recognizing the expertise of the multiple universities often provides better opportunities for students than any one single university,” explains Jim Moran, the State System’s vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

But the Pennsylvania system is not alone in offering these mixed web and campus-based courses. Soon, East Stroudsburg University will announce a major in Chinese, and Kutztown University one in German – with other fields expected to follow. But for Pennsylvania, Arabic seemed the best choice.

With Arabic interpreters in high demand by federal government agencies, and large Arab-American communities already existing within the U.S., interest in learning about the Arabic language and culture is steadily growing. Especially with encouragement from Arab-American parents.

“[P]arents encourage their children to learn the language because perhaps they are traveling back home and working in a business area, they want their kids to be able to communicate in their home country, be literate and, say, be able to read the newspaper,” says Odeese Khalil, the man responsible for developing the online Arabic courses.

And with growing numbers of Arabic students looking to study abroad themselves, the extra bonus of such programs is that schools with Arabic courses and cultural interest are likely to appear as even more attractive destinations.

Source: “14 state-owned universities will soon offer Arabic online”., April 12, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – South Korea’s private tutoring industry – old friend, now turned foe.

Regularly ranking in the top five for international math and reading tests, with less than a 4% high school dropout rate, and a highly impressive 56% college completion rate among young adults, South Korea’s education system appears to earn its spot as one of the best in the world. … But it seems that such a reputation comes at a high cost.

In South Korea, the pressure for students to succeed – in classes, tests, and college entrance exams – is extreme. So extreme, in fact, that the average family spends nearly 20% of its income on after-class private tutoring, according to the think tank Hyundai Research Institute. These sessions, many taking place till well past midnight, include English tutoring, accelerated math classes, and college exam prep – and countrywide, residents poured around $19 billion into such courses in 2009 alone. That’s more than half the entire sum spent on public education in the country, and around three times more than is spent on private tutoring in the US, where, according to research firm EduVentures, the same industry is worth only five to seven billion dollars.

But these private “cram schools” are now facing an extreme crackdown.

Aiming to restore confidence in the country’s public education system, as well as relieve the financial and emotional burdens put on families, President Lee Myung-bak has ordered a crackdown on the whole tutoring industry. Looking particularly for any tutors who charge too much or work students past the newly introduced 10 pm cram-school curfew, government officers are keeping a fierce lookout on after-hour study haunts with names like Kid’s College and Math Camp. In order to help enforce the regulations, a Ministry of Education watchdog centre is even offering cash rewards for tipsters who call in such abuses. … They are measures that seem to be working.

After years of attempted regulations (including an outright ban in the 1980s), the government is finally seeing a slight dip in national cram-school spending. And by funding admissions officers at top universities and training them in a U.S.-style process to also consider talents, creativity and independent learning, the hope is for a long-term shift away from the country’s test-dominated college admissions system. And additionally, a lapse in the country’s current educational intensity – which is not only being blamed for mass student exoduses to foreign schools and universities, but also a high suicide rate and plummeting birth rates, as prospective parents start to weigh in the costs of educating children.

Source: “S. Korea tries to wrest control from booming private tutoring industry”. The Washington Post, April 3, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Travel Translations.

Whether trying to figure out your shirt size in the UK, order something actually identifiable in China, or calculate the different between inches, metres, and miles, here is a collection of measurement apps for you!

For Currency, there are dozens of free conversion apps out there – but one stands out above the rest. With more than 190 different currencies, the ability to adjust to specific transaction types (ie: credit card versus carsh), up-to-date interbank market rates, and available for Android, BlackBerry, iPad or iPhone, the free Oanda app is a definite must-have.

For Languages, it’s a little trickier – as one slight translation mishap can result in some of the most serious travel mix-ups. Luckily, iTranslate – basically a digital phrase book – is there to save the day. Also amazingly free, this app includes 52 languages and translates at lightning fast speeds. Although it does require internet access, you can always store key phrases for future wireless-free reference. Android, iPad, and iPhone friendly.

For Clothing, sizes can be tricky, as they differ not only between countries, but also between brands. Luckily, the brand new Convert Clothes app (available for Android, iPad, and iPhone) is now available. Matching your North American size of clothes, shoes, pants, or bras to your size in eight other countries, this free app helps take the guesswork out of sizing.

For All Your Other Travel Needs, try out the conversion master, Convertbot. With one spin of a wheel you can choose from 22 different categories – including time, speed, even data download size – and the app instantly converts your entered amount into your chosen measurement. Available for iPad and iPhone for the super-low price of $2.

Source: “4 Foreign Exchange Apps You Need”. , March 25, 2011.


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