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Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 18; May 9, 2012

1. THE PLAYING FIELD

Indian school shift. O and A Levels on the rise.

2. ABROAD PERSPECTIVES

Plans to revive India’s ancient international university.

3. OVER THE COUNTER

Australia continues to scare international students.

4. GLOBE TIPPING

City transport tips for business travelers.

****

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – Indian school shift. O and A Levels on the rise.

The long-standing tradition of Class 12 Indian board exams to graduate from Indian high schools is changing – especially for many students targeting study abroad.

This year, the number of Indian student entries for Cambridge IGCSE and International A Level qualifications rose to over 27,000. That’s 20% more than in 2011.

Cambridge IGCSE (commonly known as O Levels) is one of the world’s most popular international qualifications for students between the age of 14 and 16 years, while Cambridge International A Levels are typically used by 16 to 19 year olds as a final stepping stone to university. Today, more than 9,000 schools in 160 countries take part in the programs.

Recruiters who have been coming to India for a decade will notice the significant change. O and A Levels were once unheard of in almost all secondary education circles. Today, they are catching a wave of attention and an attraction among parents in the upper economic classes of Indian society.

There are already almost 300 Cambridge schools in India, with the most popular core subjects being Math, Physics, and Chemistry (Engineering is the program of choice for wealthy Indian families sending children to university abroad). Indian states with the largest growth since 2011 include a surge in interest for Cambridge IGCSE in Madhya Pradesh (247%), Rajasthan (145%), and Punjab (112%). Meanwhile, Cambridge A Level numbers grew by 50% in Gujarat, 30% in Kerala, and 24% in Karnataka.

Sources: “India sees 20% rise in students taking Cambridge qualifications”. Business Standard, May 3, 2012. http://business-standard.com/india/news/india-sees-20-rise-in-students-taking-cambridge-qualifications/473268/
& “India sees steep rise in students taking Cambridge qualifications”. India Education Diary, May 2, 2012.

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Plans to revive India’s ancient international university.

A group of Chinese architecture students, currently on exchange at the National University of Singapore (NUS), have drawn up a master plan for the revival of the ancient Nalanda University, located in the Indian state of Bihar. During its original functional period – dating from fifth century CE to 1197 CE – Nalanda attracted students from all over East Asia and China… and the hope is that it can soon do so once again.

The architecture students, along with researchers, academics and diplomats, met earlier this month to discuss the new plan. Highlights of their vision include heavy emphasis on incorporating elements of local culture, environment, and ecology into the new campus, while at the same time aiming to attract students from around the world. The modern building concept incorporates a local farming project to be situated on 150 of the site’s 180 hectares, in order to make the school self-sufficient in food supplies. The idea is to continue the university’s ancient tradition of involving the surrounding communities in supplying food to campus residents.

The Chinese students developing the plan had the opportunity to visit the original Nalanda ruins as well as the site for the new university earlier this year, when they were guided by top Singaporean architect, Professor Tay Kheng Soon. Although their plan is technically just part of their study program, the students hope to continue to be part of the university’s revival.

“We will present the draft plan to the Nalanda University directors later this year and hope to participate in the final competition for Nalanda campus master plan,” says the group’s student leader, Ms Ng Si Jia.

If all goes well, the new Nalanda University will be open to international students as early as 2013. Currently, the estimated cost for the reconstruction of the university is $1 billion – an amount being largely sponsored by the nations of Singapore, India, China, and Japan.

Source: “Singapore students prepare master plan for Nalanda University”. The Hindu Business Line, May 1, 2012. www.thehindubusinessline.com/industry-and-economy/government-and-policy/article3374046.ece?ref=wl_industry-and-economy

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Australia continues to scare international students.

First it was assaults on Indians which scared away tens of thousands of visa students from south Asia. Now Australia’s lucrative Chinese student market may be in jeopardy.

Last month’s violent gang assault against two Chinese students on a Sydney passenger train captured global media attention and has re-ignited concerns over the safety of international students in Australia. It’s also caused a social media storm in China.

The attack, which included robbery and racist taunts, led to emergency talks at Sydney’s Chinese consulate general, and according to the president of the Council for International Students, Arfa Noor, the incident is causing serious shockwaves.

”When there is a racial attack on students, the issue becomes bigger than just an
international student safety concern,” she said. ”It is something that the larger community needs to address … steps need to be taken to address the rising level of unease among the student community in Sydney.”

Shortly after the incident, one of the victims, a Chinese Masters student at the University of Technology, posted his reactions online. A translation from the student’s blog reads as follows:

“A gang of hooligans attacked us. Our noses are fractured and our bodies are covered in blood. My friend’s cheekbone was crushed. They attacked us with glass and burnt us with lit cigarettes. My face is burnt and totally disfigured! Worst of all, I really hated their racist comments.”

The posts have since spread across the internet, with more than 10,000 re-posts and
other Chinese students expressing their disgust. The incident is also said to have made headlines in China’s mainstream media, including the Shanghai Daily and Sina.

Sources: “Concerns for safety of Illawarra’s Chinese students”. Illawarra Mercury,
April 26, 2012. http://www.illawarramercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/
concerns-for-safety-of-illawarras-chinese-students/2534422.aspx

& “Assault on students sparks online fury”. Knox Weekly, April 25, 2012. http://
www.knoxweekly.com.au/news/national/national/general/assault-on-students-
sparks-online-fury/2533546.aspx

& “Chinese students fear Sydney’. Yahoo!7, April 24, 2012. http://
au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/newshome/13513195/chinese-students-fear-sydney/

4) GLOBE TIPPING – City transport tips for business travelers.

For most business travelers, choice of city transport generally involves three different factors – safety, convenience, and cost. Personal preference obviously weighs in to the equation as well, but to help you decide between taxis, mass transit, or rental cars on your next business trip, here are a few thoughts:

Public Transportation

Although public transit (metros, buses, trams) is certainly your best bet for saving money – and can certainly help in navigating any delays caused by bad weather! – it’s not such a great option if you have multiple bags or are fighting jet lag. It can also be time consuming, explains Frommers.com editor Jason Clampet. In order to estimate public transport time and costs in the US, Clampet recommends checking out PublicTransportation.org, Hopstop.com, or APTA.org, while for those travelling internationally, the AllSubway HD app (available for iPad, iPhone, or iTunes) offers more than 100 mass-transit maps from around the world.

The best time to avoid public transport? If you’ve got heavy luggage, are rushed (ie: don’t have extra time to figure out a new system), or if you’re exhausted.

Taxis

Taxis are generally a good idea when you need to look your best, are pressed for time, are travelling late at night and/or are concerned about your safety. Particularly if you are in a hot or rainy climate, taxis can certainly be a big help in putting your best foot forward.

Taxis are generally very helpful if you don’t know where the location is (sure, the odd time they may take you for a joy ride to add to the meter), and taxis also mean no parking hassles if you going by car.

If you’re concerned about the (typically higher) cost of taxi fare, check out WorldTaxiMeter.com for different rates around the world, or if you’re scared of running into traffic jams, check out Traffic.com for real-time updates on your smartphone or computer before you hop in.

Rental Cars

If your meetings are scattered and/or you desire a bit of extra freedom, it’s probably worth it to consider renting a vehicle. That is, assuming price is not too big an issue – as parking and gas alone could cost up to $100 a day, depending on what city you’re in (and that’s on top of the price of the car!). To help in getting around, you might want to also consider either renting a car with a GPS, or buying your own GPS device to take with you – which, depending on how often you travel unknown roads, could save you money (and certainly time) in the long run.

Source: “Business Travel Tips: City Transportation”. Travelchannel.com, http://www.travelchannel.com/interests/business/articles/business-travel-tips-city-transportation

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