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Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Volume 10, Issue 7, February 23, 2011

The Playing Field

INDYA TOFEL. Can yu beleive the test resluts?

Abroad Perspectives

Exodus from Egypt. Students cross the border to Israel.

Over The Counter

Reaching Canadian standards. Would any Indian agents be left?

Globe Tipping

Some Haggling How-Tos

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – INDYA TOFEL. Can yu beleive the test resluts?

Fraud and TOEFL, once commonplace among test takers and results in China, cheating is now permeating the American-based English language test results in India. Foreign embassies and high commission visa offices in India are now looking with a very suspicious eye upon TOEFL results. In many cases TOEFL results are being discarded as unreliable and fraudulent. Most common are the wide range of inconsistencies in a student visa applicant’s poor English grades in schooling or mediocre English-language abilities, from the submitted allegedly high TOEFL test scores.

In contrast, the British/Australian IELTS exam is perceived with more integrity and verified relatively easily, and the word is out that IELTS is preferred among visa officers.

Twenty years ago TOEFL was the ‘test of record’ in South Asia for students going abroad to an English-language university. Ten years ago IELTS made a huge dent in TOEFL’s command of the market. Today, the American exam trails badly, and now it is well back in not just test takers, but perhaps more significantly, in perceived integrity.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Exodus from Egypt. Students cross the border to Israel.

While some students stayed put, some fled to their homelands, and others yet joined in with the protests in Cairo, it seems that for a handful of American scholars, a transfer to Israeli universities appeared the best option of escape from Egypt’s recent unrest.

Welcoming 12 students from the American University in Cairo is the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, while another five American students (who had planned to do a student exchange in Cairo) are now attending the University of Haifa’s International School.

Particularly grateful is Princeton University, who enrolled two of its students into the Hebrew University’s Rothberg International School, “where the students can continue to study Arabic and Middle East issues at this important time in the region,” says Nancy Kanach, Princeton’s International Programs director. As for Rothberg, Provost Mimi Ajzenstadt says it was an easy decision to host the displaced American students.

“When the universities asked us to assist their students, we did not hesitate,” she says. “The various courses taught by top academics of The Hebrew University will enable the students to put their personal experience in Egypt and in Israel within a broader academic framework.”

Meanwhile, at the University of Haifa, Elon University students find themselves in a surprise ‘early edition’ of the universities’ student exchange program – an agreement between the two universities which, ironically, was officially signed only weeks ago, and scheduled to begin this October.

“Our families were most worried of all and they urged us to get out of Egypt as quickly as possible,” says one of the five Elon University students Kate Donovan. “At first there were options like Lebanon or Jordan, but when they heard that Israel was an option they preferred we come here.”

Regardless of the eventual outcome of the events in Egypt, all students from the South Carolinian Elon University will complete their exchange studies in Haifa.

Sources: “Foreign students abandon Egypt for Israel”. Ynet News, February 15, 2011.,7340,L-4029001,00.html
& “Israel hosts students forced to flee Egypt”. Israel 21C, February 16, 2011.

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Reaching Canadian standards. Would any Indian agents be left ?

Fraud abroad, continues to worry many Indian students and families. The recent media sensation of hundreds of Indian students at California’s Tri-Valley University being held by US authorities over suspicions of participating in a visa scam at the fake institution, has brought plenty of attention to the need to be wary of Indian education agents (who abetted the scheme).

The recently formed Canada India Education Council (CIEC), has announced plans to launch its iCARE program – an agent certification process that will identify and ensure legitimate agents for Indian students to approach.

“Call me a skeptic,” says Mel Broitman, Director of the Canadian University Application Centre. “There are so few education agents in India working with integrity, if this proposed certification process does the job properly, there would be almost no one left to work with !”

Broitman adds that such a certification could let colleges and universities off the hook for working with crooks.

“I’ve seen who’s been ‘certified’ by British, Australian and American bodies. They have thieves on their lists of legitimate agencies. The problem is simple. Misrepresentation across South Asia in the industry is endemic. The only way to combat it takes real effort and money, and few institutions are willing to make that commitment.”

Source: “TVU effect: Canada to launch icare for Indians”. Hindustan Times, February 16, 2011.

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Some Haggling How-Tos

A way of life in many parts of the world – especially the Middle East, Africa, and Asia – the art of haggling can often be overwhelming to visitors unused to the custom. But beyond confidence, patience, perseverance, and perhaps a bit of humour (all prerequisites), there are also a number of more solid tactics that can be employed to help out even the most inexperienced of hagglers in such travel scenarios.

First of all, remember the two golden rules: One, try to find out the local price and/or what the item is actually worth. Such pieces of information might be obtained from hotel desk staff, tour guides (unless said guide is taking you to a ‘friend’s shop’ or has a motive to benefit from you paying more, that is), or locals you might meet along the way. And two, always ask for a discount. If you have a ‘reason’ for the discount (buying in multiple, discovering a flaw in the item, bringing up a comparison price at another shop, etc), even better. But you don’t need to have an excuse to be able to ask for a discount.

In many countries, street-side money changers are often the most prominent form of currency trade options. But particularly in areas where the exchange rates fluctuate on a regular basis, it’s worth checking the day’s rate before you head off to the street changers – who are known to sometimes make up rates or use older, more favourable rates to those unsuspecting enough to fall for it. So beyond knowing the correct rate of the day, you might also want to try bargaining better rates if you are changing larger amounts of money, have bigger denominations or newer bills, etc – this is sometimes an option. Or, if you can’t check the rates (no internet, etc), it might be best to just wait to make your way to an ATM – where you’ll be sure to get the official rate. Even though it may not be the absolute ‘best’ rate possible, you also won’t be getting ripped off.

Be careful of scams. For example, product ‘testing’ on an item other than the specific one you want to buy (“real” wool, “real” diamonds, etc – there may be only one real one in the bunch, specifically brought out just for this purpose). Also, beware any items that could easily be replaced or mistaken for fakes (for example, sometimes “real painted brass” can look like “real gold”, and hollow carvings can pass for solid wood), as well as anything that comes in a wide range of quality levels, even among those that are all ‘genuine’ (such as pearls). If you don’t know enough about what you’re looking at to tell the real from the false, and you’re considering dropping a larger sum of money to get it, you might want to head to a reliable (and permanent) store, rather than a street stall.

And finally, if you are with a tour guide, take advantage of their purchasing power! Again, unless there’s a specific reason for them to benefit from a high cost, they can often be useful in obtaining items for reasonable prices (being a local), or in such undertakings as obtaining changes of room or improved service at a hotel (being regular customers, they’re bound to have far more bargaining power than you will, as a single passing traveler).

Source: “Travel advice: how to haggle on holiday”. Telegraph, November 7, 2008.


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