All posts by justbota

About justbota

A student of Graduate School of Education at Nazarbayev University.

Pragnya Suma: Education. The change it needs. (Deconstruction)

I have encountered prodigious number of videos on outdated education presented by people from various countries and background: from a secondary school student to Bill Gates. We can see this problem from different perspectives and that is great! They provide examples based on true stories and, indeed, they imbue us but not the government or policymakers because everything remains the same. The only thing entire talks lack of is the real strategy to ameliorate the existing education. Pragnya Suma’s talk on changes education needs is one of the mentioned examples but what attracted me is…with the whole respect to this Indian educationalist, I even do not know why it merited my attention.

Miss Suma starts her speech with the difference between “being educated” and “acting educated”. The difference is that the first refers to attending school and degrees people receive, whereas the latter one is about successful application of knowledge in life. I think there is nothing new because it is becoming more like a cliché. And her example of watering a plant to make it grow just espouses it.

Continuing to discuss on education system failure, Pragnya Suma draws on the situation depicting her travelling by train. In short, a mother and a son were sitting next to her and they had a conversation about people working in the field they saw in the window. The boy started to ask what they were doing and the mother responded that people were harvesting rice. Then the boy replied “Don’t we just get it in supermarket, why are they getting it from here?” Miss Suma alleges that in this story the system failed, not the boy. However, I refute her statement because I would expect that kind of answer from a five-year-old child because she mentioned his age in the beginning. Why does not she think about his life experience and that he probably did not attain school at that time? How does he know where rice really comes from if he has not encountered it beyond the supermarket? Moreover, she herself seems not to know where rice comes from if she says “whatever it is coming from”.

The following example is the picture of an article named “Enjoying Childhood”. What the audience can learn from it is that she wrote it in Hindu in 2009, and “children must experience certain things rather than just learning them with books”. Which things is she talking about? Why did she decide to put it as an example? I have no clue because the example is vague and it is hard to read from what is being showed on the screen. But it is not obscure like the next one.

She moves on to the topic of “processing the entire what am I driving it, what is the entire top driving it”. Any ideas which process? There is a slide “Let’s Process it!” with five stages from learning to success on the screen. No doubt, without this visual aid we could not understand what process she is talking about. You would say, may be it is language barrier problem but there is no barrier to call spade a spade. Personally, these types of examples are not enough mature for me.

Next, she delineates self-learning. As an example, she talks about notifications came to her phone once in the morning. One of them was about 21 things people doing wrong. She admits that 15 of them she has been doing wrong. The picture of bottle of juice with the nozzle upwards is being showed on the screen and the speaker tells that she always pours juice with the nozzle downwards. As a result, juice is splashed. This time she applied the use of those five stages to education mentioned above. Firstly, she learned about the right way of pouring juice, even she is not passionate about opening bottles every day. Secondly, she is still educated. Thirdly, she will apply this knowledge and be successful for the entire life. This example seems very useful and simple to be fitted into the process of successful learning Miss Suma has presented earlier.

The final example the speaker provides is the photo of Lego blocks used to teach fractions in Math. It is an excellent way to make students passionate through colorful blocks which have clear vision of fractions. I even pressed pause to look at every detail in the picture and wondered why we were not taught that way in the 5th grade. This example also fosters students’ involvement and interest towards Math.

To sum up, I guess I have answered why I watched this talk till the end. I wanted to see where the first examples would lead us to. Frankly, I have not found anything new in this video but I would say that the video is worth to watch due to the last couple of examples. Everybody speaks about upgrading education but there is no result. However, despite top-down policy in education, every day teachers make their lessons interesting and involve their students into the learning process. But it is not the final destination…

Everything Happens for a Reason

 

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Have you ever heard about John Farndon? If you answer “no”, it is ok, because mine had been the same. Please, don’t google him, just continue reading.

Here is the story.

It was a sullen morning in Semey and usual beginning of working day at NIS until the school administration started to worry and fuss. We learned that it was all about Rollan Seisenbayev,  and his visit to NIS Semey. In case if you do not know him, he is a famous Kazakh writer and the founder of the Abai House in London. Later, when I was called and informed that Mr. Seisenbayev was with a foreigner. You might think that I used to be a VIP at NIS that people call me and inform about school’s important guests. You are right! Just joking. The reason for that call was that they needed a translator. You see, it coincided that the school’s official translator was busy with documents at that time, so she was not available. Even if I was not a VIP, the school administration loved to have me as a translator for various events.

Frankly, just like everyone else, I am so nervous to do oral translation because there is no preparation and you have no clue what to be ready for. Fortunately, Rollan Seisenbayev’s visit was dedicated to his new book. Thus, it made me more relaxed and I calmed down. I thought it would come in very handy if I search some information about Mr. Rollan. So I did.

I recognized Mr. Seysenbayev at once: a man in suit and with a serious face. Next to him I saw his assistant. And the third person with the striped scarf, dressed in a very casual way was John Farndon.

The event was very formal. I completed my mission of the translator for Mr. Farndon. Feeling my nervousness or it was his nature, he was extremely friendly and laughed every time he did not hear what I said (he has some problems with hearing).

During the short conversations we had, he told about one of his books (he has hundreds of them) called “Do You Think You’re Clever?” which contains questions, asked when students have interviews to enter the flagship universities like Oxford or Cambridge. That’s why they are called “oxbridge” questions. For instance, “How would you measure the weight of your own head?” for Medicine students or “Smith sees Jones walking towards a cliff. Smith knows Jones is blind but doesn’t like him, so allows him to walk off the edge. Is this murder? for Law students. It is really interesting to read the answers for such questions and then to remain surprised for the whole day. What I could do is to tell him briefly about the great Shakarim (we were passing by his portrait) and my studies in South Korea.

Mr. John asked me to give my contact information and after a cup of tea with the school principal, our guests left the school. Only after searching more about my new friend from London, I realized what a great and famous person he was. An internationally known author, a playwright, composer, and songwriter. He has translated dozens of Russian, Uzbek, and Kazakh books in English, considering he does not know any of these languages. Why don’t we know about such extraordinary people who introduce our culture abroad?

What happened several weeks after is that I received an email from Mr. Farndon to assist to translate Anatoly Kucherena‘s book “Time of the Octopus” about Edward Snowden from Russian into English.  I agreed and after about four months I completed my part of translation. I should admit it is not easy and very responsible work! Finally, in January, 2017 I could see my name next to his in the book and Amazon website! Of course, it is not about my name being written somewhere, but the opportunity to be helpful and contribute to something highly valuable. It is still one of the best things happened so far.

What did I do in several hours to impress John Farndon? An ordinary teacher from a very little-known city in Kazakhstan. I still don’t know, but now I realize that every encounter in our lives is for a reason.

P.S. Now you can google John Farndon.

 

So, do you think you are clever? If so, do you have any options to answer the questions above? Joke, again. But, if you can, go ahead:) And if you answer, I can share the answers given in the book.

Have you had such encounters that influenced your career or changed you and your life? 

 

References:

Farndon, J. (2009). Do you think you’re clever: The oxbridge questions. London: Icon Books.

Painting by Leonardo da Vinci. “The Creation of Adam”.

Education Killer

OMERTA

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD one of the main abbreviations we have been encountered from the very beginning of our MA programme in Multilingual Education. “Educational Context and Reform in Kazakhstan” is one of those courses we were introduced to recommendations for further developments in education prescribed by OECD. Additionally, while writing one of my assignments on PISA, I “met” OECD again. The deed is that OECD sponsors the Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA). The latter was also one of the issues we talked about with our professors. Interestingly, we almost never discussed the “dark” sides of OECD or PISA until yesterday I found the letter written to Dr. Schleicher, the director of PISA.

83 academics from all around the world expressed deep concern of PISA test and came up with some suggestions for the next round of assessment. In their words, countries after the results had been announced started to overhaul their education systems in order to elevate the rankings. Based on quantitative data, countries are racing for the best rankings. Finland’s sudden decline from the top describes that standardised testing system is imperfect but it still is labeling students, teachers, and administrators as well. Given recommendations assisst countries to climb the rankings and those required changes need time more than three years (PISA cycle)! Additionally, PISA narrows the area of measurable education features such as moral, physical, and artistic development. “Why PISA provides less autonomy for teachers and harms children around the globe?” – this question is seen between the lines in the letter. It does not even consider socio-economic inequality taking place among the countries. Moreover, member countries pay taxes – millions of dollars. We do not exactly know how many millions…

What can I say about all the mentioned concerns of professors? These educated people are practicing teaching and research on education. They know more than those from economic development organisation. Nobody would not pay attention if the academics’ number was about 5 or 10. But 83! It means something. How PISA measures students’ ability to apply their knowledge to solve real-life problems with a pen and paper? I do not know, do you?

The Reading Crisis: Why Poor Children Fall Behind?

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An African-American social reformer and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who lived in the XIX century, said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” After escaping from slavery in Maryland he became a national leader and a dazzling orator. At that period, slavery and education were incompatible. When he was twelve, his master’s wife taught him the alphabet and he learned to read from white children in the neighborhood. He later said in his autobiography book that “literacy would encourage slaves to desire freedom.”

Two centuries have passed from time when slavery was flourishing but we still have its latent qualities in the world community. Millions of people are slaves of political games in the world arena. Struggling in the cruel adults’ world, children suffer from poverty, hunger, diseases and there is no chance for them to be literate. Hence, the majority of children from low-income families have problems in reading, writing, and language as the result of not attending school (Chall, 1990).

Maria Montessory (1964) and other researchers were interested in the gap between children from low-income families and those who were from more advantaged homes. One of the results of surveys and research on children’s reading and vocabulary development reflected the direct correlation with the professional, educational, and economic status of the children’s parents (Chall, 1990). Consequently, children from low-income families did worse than children from middle-class families. In 1986 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) showed that same gap for reading scores (Chall, 1990). For instance, in the United States, 17 year-old disadvantaged students were at about the same level as advantaged urban students at age 13 (Aplebee et al., 1988). The most significant fact is that during five national assessments made by NAEP from 1971 to 1986 the gaps in reading comprehension become greater with increasing age. 2015 results provided by NAEP note that 18,700 twelfth-grade students’ scores in reading assessment are comparable to all previous reading assessments dating back to 1992. Additionally, NAEP illustrates that only 49% of twelfth-grade students’ parents graduated from college, 18% did not finish high school, 24% graduated from high school, and 36% of parents have some education after high school (2015 NAEP results). Decades after, we can see that home background still has an influence on reading comprehension of students. This is only America’s case and imagine what has been occuring around the world.

To sum up, I would like people to think about the advantages of having smart technologies and all the achievements they are proud of and their role in the world where the majority of people are still slaves of illiteracy and poverty. The same as the issue that people do not have money to provide water to arid regions on the Earth but they have money to seek for water on Mars. No child should be behind of education in spite of his skin color or family status because it is they who will find water on Mars.

 

References

Aplebee, A. N., Langer, J., & Mullis, V. (1987). Learning to be literate in America: Reading, writing and reasoning. Champaign, III: The Center for the Study of Reading and The National Academy of Education.

Chall, J. (1990). The reading crisis: Why poor children fall behind. England: Harvard University Press.

NAEP, (2015). National results overview. Retrieved from https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/reading_math_g12_2015/#reading

Are the Pets Bilingual?

My mother unconsciously gave me a clue for the topic to write about. Today I was talking to her on the phone and before quitting our conversation she said it was so great that there was “someone” at home to talk to. You have probably guessed from the title of the post that it is something to do with pets. And you are absolutely right! Hence, “someone” in the first sentence stands for my cat Azur.

Let`s think about the way pets around the world understand their owners’ languages. It does not matter if you are from Australia or Kazakhstan, you talk to your pets and whether it is in English or Kazakh, you will get respond either through actions or sounds. However, it is the case of using one language but what if the owner is bilingual? We always refer bilingualism to humans only. Is it possible that non-human species possess cognitive capacity to perceive more than one language to understand?

I have encountered an interesting post written by Sean Roberts, a PhD student of Linguistics from Edinburgh. In his post there are patterns and background of his MA which is Artificial Intelligence and Linguistics. The whole post is about broad and narrow senses of the “Faculty of Language” – FLB and FLN recpetively. FLB is related to  features that both humans and animals possess, whereas FLN refers to capacities which are involved in language alone. The post’s idea is about our perception of bilingualism. Roberts claims that bilingualism is the product of social interaction and whether non-human species have capacities for bilingualism in the broad sense.

So, Sean refers to Hauser Chomsky Fitch (2002) to divide bilingualism into two types. Firstly, in the narrow sense bilingualism refers to ability to learn several human languages. As you can see, it is relatable to human beings only. Secondly, in the broader sense bilingualism is understood as “the general capacity to acquire more than one signaling system.” This capacity may be shared with animals. Usually animals communicate for survival interests’ sake: food, predators, and mating but humans can go beyond this need. However, Roberts takes stance on the possibility that bilingualism comes from cultural interaction with people. Many cognitive capacities are involved for linguistic communication but basically it is all about memory, found both in humans and animals. According to Fabbro (2014), animals keep dangerous and pleasant experiences in their memories, thus they are able to avoid the former and recall the latter. This what I have found interesting in the Roberts’s post. Obviously, that further studies to find more for bilingual behaviour in animals are required.

From my own experience with Azur (my cat), firstly, he comes when we call him by his name. The most funniest thing is that when I say “Azur?” he replies with “Hm?” (like “what do you want from me?”)

Secondly, I can claim that he understands both Kazakh and Russian, since we speak two languages at home. He recognizes the names of the objects and the commands. For instance, when I ask in Kazakh “Доп қайда?” (Where is the ball?) he goes to look for it under the sofa in the living room or under the fridge in the kitchen (the constant locations of the ball after he finishes playing with it). The same result can follow the same phrase in Russian. The phrase “let’s go” in Kazakh (“жүр”) and Russian (“пойдем”) makes him to go after me to the kitchen for the new portion of tasty treats. In my opinion, I am not the only one who witnesses the pets’ ability to identify a language or two. May be more than two?

 

References

Roberts, S. (2010). Bilingualism as a preadaptation for language. Retrieved from http://theadventuresofauck.blogspot.com/2010/05/bilingualism-as-preadaptation-for.html

Fabbro, F. (2014). The neurolinguistics of bilingualism: an introduction. Hove, East Sussex: Psychology Press.