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Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Volume 11, Issue 25; June 27, 2012

1. THE PLAYING FIELD

O Levels get an “A” for successful growth.

2. ABROAD PERSPECTIVES

Calls to scrap Zimbabwe’s presidential scholarship scheme.

3. OVER THE COUNTER

Thousands of Vietnamese graduates left in limbo.

4. GLOBE TIPPING

Wanna get bumped?

1) THE PLAYING FIELD – O Levels get an “A” for successful growth.

In the past few months, media outlets around the world have reported a steep rise in the number of students taking their Cambridge qualifications – with two of the newest countries to report on the trend being Malaysia and South Africa.

Cambridge’s IGCSE – commonly known as O Levels, and an exam that is recognized by leading universities and employers worldwide – has quickly become the world’s most popular international academic qualification for 14 to 16 year olds. Currently more than 9,000 schools in 160 countries make up the Cambridge learning community.

According to new reports, both Malaysia and South Africa host more than 100 such schools each, with student numbers steadily increasing. This year, for example, schools in Malaysia had over 54,000 entries for the Cambridge IGCSE and Cambridge International A Levels – a 10% rise since 2011 – and in South Africa the growth was even more impressive, with the number of students growing to 16,000 – 21% up from last year.

University of Cambridge International Examinations managers in both countries attribute this rapid growth to the fact that schools around the world are becoming more and more aware of the value of their approach, as well as “the importance of an international education in today’s global economy”.

“The Cambridge Curriculum is balanced and well-designed,” agrees at least on principal, Allen van Blerk, from South Africa’s St Charles College in Pietermaritzburg. “It sets out to prepare students to excel in their tertiary studies and demands an independent work ethic. This is a huge advantage for our students. I constantly hear reports from past students that they are among the few who are managing well at University. This is the best feedback a Principal can receive.”

Sources: “More students take up Cambridge papers”. New Straits Times, June 21, 2012. http://www.nst.com.my/latest/more-students-take-up-cambridge-papers-1.96724#
& “South Africa Sees Steep Rise in Students Taking Cambridge Qualifications”. AfricanBrains, June 21, 2012. http://africanbrains.net/2012/06/21/south-africa-sees-steep-rise-in-students-taking-cambridge-qualifications/

2) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – Calls to scrap Zimbabwe’s presidential scholarship scheme.

Members of the Zimbabwean parliament are calling for its government to scrap a controversial scholarship program – accusing it of drawing millions of dollars yet only benefitting foreign institutions and prejudicing thousands of local students.

Founded in 1995, Mugabe’s Presidential Scholarship Program has for years funded young Zimbabweans to study at foreign universities. South African institutions have featured particularly strongly in the scheme, including Fort Hare – where Mugabe himself was once a student. Yet according to the country’s Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, the program is little more than a sentimental initiative of Mugabe himself, and for years, it has been accused of favouring the children of his own supporters and political party’s (Zanu-PF) officials.

“It is a fund created for sentimental reasons to take students to Fort Hare,” Biti explains. “The president wanted us to fund it to the tune of $54 million yet it’s private, just like the Reagan Foundation and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation.” If the president wants to continue to fund the program, Biti says he should do it out of his own pocket.

According to one government MP, Fani Munengami, the current amount being paid to foreign universities is closer to around US$40 million – money which leaves the country at the expense of Zimbabwe’s own heavily under-funded colleges and universities. Part of the MPs’ push for the scholarship program to be scrapped now, is to re-direct the funds towards supporting the country’s own tertiary institutions.

This isn’t the first call for the scholarship to be cut. Last year, Biti – who is also secretary general of Zanu-PF’s rival political party, the Movement for Democratic Change – successfully put a freeze on state funding of the scholarship program. In a February 14th campaign by the Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu), the finance minister’s move was hailed by the students as the perfect “Valentine’s present” for them.

The scheme, the union declared, had “been transformed into a preserve of a few sons and daughters of Zanu-PF officials and war veterans who are rewarded for their loyalty to Mugabe”.

“In a nation where the majority of students have been forced to defer or drop out of studies due to failure to pay tuition fees,” the union said it could not make sense of “government funding of a few international students drawing huge funds at the expense of the majority at home.”

Mugabe, who has presided over Zimbabwe since 1987, is accused of numerous human rights abuses, and is named by Amnesty International as one of the ten worst dictators in the world.

Sources: “Scrap presidential scholarship, say MPs”. The Standard, June 11, 2012. http://www.thestandard.co.zw/local/35865-scrap-presidential-scholarship-say-mps.html
& “ZIMBABWE: State cuts funding of Mugabe scholarships”. University World News, February 27, 2011. http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20110225230322316

3) OVER THE COUNTER – Thousands of Vietnamese graduates left in limbo.

Following an extensive government inspection, the Viet Nam National University in Ha Noi has been accused of violating regulations on international training co-operation programs – leaving the BA and MBA degrees of more than 2000 graduates in jeopardy.

The inspection, which looked into the university’s programs between 2006 and 2012, included special focus on the institution’s partner schools, as well as their income-and-expenditure activities during this timeframe. Files relating to financial transactions between a number of the schools were sent to police for further investigation.

According to the official inspectors, 16 of the 20 partnership programs currently running between Viet Nam National University and foreign universities are operating without documents to prove the foreign partners’ legal entity, while 11 of the university’s MBA programs were found to have allowed candidates to graduate without writing or defending a graduation thesis. Meanwhile, other programs are accused of admitting students without appropriate entrance exams (which are required by the country’s Ministry of Education and Training) – including BA programs run in partnership with the US-based Griggs University.

As a result, the inspectors proposed that the Government not recognize the BA and MBA degrees of more than 2,000 students who graduated under the university’s international training co-operation programs.

According to the university’s deputy director Vu Minh Giang, the institution has yet to receive any official notification regarding the claims – information which is, however, being reported widely by the nation’s mass media. Nevertheless, he has already stated his disagreement with any such announcement.

“According to foreign university regulations, students do not need to take entrance exams, so it is ridiculous if Vietnamese regulations on education and training are applied to international training co-operation programs,” he said, urging that other differences, such as varying international MBA degree requirements, should also be acknowledged – not penalized. He warns that if the government starts banning such international regulations now, who knows where they will stop.

“Thousands of Vietnamese people study at international universities now, so I wonder which international university degrees will be recognised and how.”

Source: “Hundreds of uni degrees in doubt”. VietNam News, June 21, 2012. http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/social-issues/226419/hundreds-of-uni-degrees-in-doubt.html

4) GLOBE TIPPING – Wanna get bumped?

You’re waiting at the gate for your flight, when an announcement is made – they’re looking for volunteers to be bumped from your overbooked flight. You cringe, try to avoid making eye contact with the airline representatives, and cross your fingers you won’t be forced to give up your seat. … Unfortunately, most of us have been there.

But as one travel blogger, Scott Ford from PackaBagandGo.com, points out – there are some great upsides of being bumped. In fact, he offers to be bumped the moment the gate agent arrives – announcement or not. Why? Ford managed to turn travel vouchers earned for ‘giving up his seat’ into 52 trips in 2011 alone.

While not every traveler has the flexibility to be bumped from every flight, some of the airline incentives for doing so can certainly be worth the extra wait – from a couple hundred dollars for waiting an extra hour, to food vouchers, hotel stays, free future travel miles, lounge access, and even as much as $1000 dollars if you agree to hold out for the next overseas departure option. Of course, each airline handles bumps different, they generally provide the incentives in a voucher form – most of which are to be used up sometime within the next year. If this is the case, just be sure to check the fine print for any restrictions, expiries, or blackout dates before you agree.

Sound like something you might like to do? Ford has a list of tips for any traveller looking to be bumped:
- Be flexible.
- Always book as many connections as possible to increase the chance of an overbooked flight.
- Research which flights are likely to be full and oversold by checking seat maps online.
- Check for weather delays that may result in cancellations (followed by overbooked flights).
- Always arrive at the airport at least one and a half hours before your flight.
- Be first to arrive at the ticket counter, and ask to be bumped if the flight is oversold.
- Use carry-on bags only, or at least pack a change of clothing in your carry-on so you won’t need your luggage as soon as you arrive.
- Stay cool and calm, so you are more likely to be chosen even if there are other volunteers.

Also, peak travel days – such as early weekday morning flights, Friday afternoons, Sunday evenings, or any holiday periods – are more likely to be oversold, so if you’re looking to get bumped, try to book during one of these times.

Source: “Eleven Travel Tips to Snag a Free Airline Flight”. Fox Business, June 5, 2012. http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2012/06/05/11-travel-tips-to-snag-free-airline-flight/

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