How to defend yourself against misleading statistics in the news | Sanne Blauw | deconstraction

Number is an incredible tool that makes us decide, judge and act according to the given evidence with no assumptions. However, not all these statistical numbers are reliable and this is our personal matter believe them or not. Sanne Blauw is a journalist who has a PhD degree in econometrics and is extremely passionate about numbers. Moreover, she had a working experience at the OECD and the University Council. Her talk was dedicated to reveal the misled statistics which everybody encounters with. She provided 5 types of misinforming statistics:
Firstly, the good looking graph
Not all good looking graphs might be presented right. As an example, Sanne introduced the graph of the Planned Parenthood which is non-profit organization providing reproductive health services. This graph was reported by the republican of Congressman as showing negative indicators. However, the presented data was not right as this graph was based by two different scales. Putting these patterns at the same scale would change the situation completely. The rate of cancer-screening and preventive services was decreasing but the abortion rate had hardly removed.misleading-statistic-planned-parenthood

planned-parenthoood-right-scale

Retrieved from https://www.datapine.com
Second, the polluted poll
The headline from the New York Times was presented: “1 in 4 women experience Sex Assault on Campus”. It means almost 25 % of female students face with the cases of sexual assaults. However, the problem with this was that only 20 % of women were involved and the term of sexual assault was not clarified. Consequently, there were non-representative sample of women who interpreted the sexual assault in their own way. That is why it is also a kind of statistical lie. It is always important to see how the data was collected.
Third, the overconfident decimal point
GDP is a great indicator to show the countries` economic stability. According to the reporter this number usually varied as it is so complicated and time-consuming to calculate. Additionally, a huge range of components make GDP considerably difficult to measure. As a result, we cannot fully rely on this total value of country`s economic prosperity.
Forth, the non-spectacular statistics
Before taking some numbers for granted, it is essential to pay attention for details. Therefore, additional context or details might turn more considerable numbers into less ones. The case of bowel cancer risk is considered there. Headline in the Dutch News reported that: “People who eat processed meat daily have a 20 times higher risk of getting bowel cancer”. Sanne emphasized that according to the data there is only 4,4 % chance of getting bowel cancer in the USA. If you eat daily about one hot-dog still this number will increase slightly to 5,2%. However, the chance of NOT getting cancer is significantly greater. So, putting numbers in a context is essential as well.
Fifth, The cocky correlation
Some the same things happen at the same that is why researches assume they are connected with each other somehow. The reported introduced the graph of the increased number of brain tumors from 80s to 90s. The researchers assumed that this increase is due to the invention of artificial sugar at this period. But the reason lied simply on the invention of MRI scanners which contributed to the revealing of more numbers of brain tumors. The speaker described this case as the most dangerous distorted statistic.
Overall, the author raised great ideas and observations worth to spread. During the presentation she was confident and organized. From the very beginning she used a couple of techniques to involve the audience as asking questions, saying jokes and famous statements, as well as proving her personal background information. While making reports people sometimes did not examine the data correctly. From the presented topic we as students can learn to be very careful with numbers despite the original sources and providers. However, some points of her presentation are taken from other internet resources that is why we cannot assume that they are her own ideas. Her speech is seemed dedicated mainly to raise people`s awareness of misinform statistics around us.

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Discrimination of Kazakh language in Kazakhstani television

According to a program “Rukhani zhangyru”(MoES, 2017), state language is a main key of national consciousness in other words it is very important to increase the status of Kazakh language in context of globalization and avoid losing language, identity, culture and patriotism. TV’s role in increasing the status of Kazakh language in Kazakhstan is vital, because among other media it is “more prestigious, influential and strong one”. However, there is lack of Kazakh TV programs on our state channels because of dependence on Russian television. Here, I am going to discuss about the issue of hindrance of Kazakh language in television world through articles in mass media, which touch the question.

Ұлттық идея. Ұлттық мақсат-мүдде. Бәрін орындайтын тіл… Тіл – тарихи дәстүрлерді болашаққа жеткізуші тетік. … Бүгінгі ТД БАҚ-тың ең беделдісі, әрі өтімдісі, ең өткір ақпарат құралы, әрі солай болып қала береді. ТД өнері жалпыұлттық, мемлекеттік мәселені шешетін – өте құдретті қару. Алайда отандық арналарда тіл тазалығы ақсап тұр, басты себеп, қазақ ТД орыс тіліне тәуелді.

National idea. National purpose and interest. All of these are implemented by language… Language is a mean, which brings historical traditions to the future… Today’s TV is the most prestigious, influential and strong mean of information and it will continue. TV’s art is a mighty weapon, which can solve all-Kazakhstani and state problems. However, language purity is crippling in state channels, main cause is that Kazakhstani TV depends on Russian language.

(The State language development institute, 26 April 2017; a quote from Uldai Ibaidullyeva, a journalist; Kazakh – italics, English Plain)

Ibaidullayeva shows two sides of the TV’s impact on language use. On the one hand, it might cause language loss, because it influences strongly the usage among citizens today, which leads to the loss in the future. On the other hand, it can be a key to resolve problems on the whole Kazakhstan territory. She also mentions that Kazakh language is discriminated because of reliance on Russian language. Here we should notice that growth of Kazakh status in all spheres is an important issue and her focus on media, especially TV should be taken into account. Another author – Myrzan Kenzhebai – agrees with the power of TV:

Необходимо казахизировать отечественные телеканалы. Потому что телевидение – самое сильное и опасное оружие ХХІ века.

There is a need to kazakhisate national channels, because television is the most powerful and dangerous weapon of XXI century.

(NewsTimes, 8 September 2017; a quote from Myrzan Kenzhebai, poet, cultural figure of RK; Russian – italics, English – plain)

Another author highlights real statistics, which show the same trend as above:

С повышением процентного соотношения казахский семей, повышение рейтингов казахскоязычных программ, казалось бы, должно стать закономерным явлением. Но, согласно итогам исследований за январь и февраль 2012г. частота смотрения телеканалов на казахском языке сократилось еще больше!?

Along with an increase of percental proportion of Kazakh families, it seems that a growth of ratings of Kazakhs-speaking programs must be natural phenomenon. However, according to results of the investigation in January and February in 2012, frequency of watching television channels in Kazakh language deteriorated more than bedore!?

(Internews Kazakhstan, 27 March 2012; a quote from Karlyga Ibragimova, a journalist; Russian –italics, English – plain)

It is a general picture of Kazakh-speaking channels in 2012 from the view of Ibragimova, who bases on Gullup Media survey’s results. Despite number of Kazakh has risen, proportion of watching TV channels in Kazakh language decreased. It is not an understandable fact, because situation must be opposite. Author cannot propose a cause of the consequence. She just show the statistics and point out that Kazakhstani programs are not as popular as Russian ones:

Показатели программ на казахском языке намного отстают от показателей программ на русском языке. Это можно понять, сравнив не то чтобы месячные или недельные, а однодневные процентные показатели новостей. Например, по итогам однодневного исследования Gallup Media рейтинг новостей Национального телеканала «Қазақстан» — 1,8%. Даже те же новости КТК, но на казахском языке — 3,9%. Выпуск «Информбюро» на казахском языке 31-канала — 7,8%; А выпуск новостей на «1-канал Евразия» в передаче «Время» собрал самое большое количество зрителей — 23,7%… У утренней программы «Таңшолпан» рейтинг всего лишь — 2,9%. А «Доброе утро» на «1-канала Евразия» дает все 22,3%.

Indexes of programs in Kazakh language lag behind indicators of programs in Russian. It can be understood when we compare not monthly or weekly indexes, it is clearly seen from daily indicators of news. For example, according to daily investigation of news on National channel by Gallup Media Ratings, results are following: “Kazakhstan” – 1,8%; news in Kazakh on “KTK” – 3,9%; news release of “Informburo” in Kazakh of “31st channel” – 7,8%; but news release of “Vremya” on “1st channel Eurasia” attracts the largest quantity of viewers – 23,7%… Rating of morning program “Tansholpan” only – 2,9%; but “Dobroe utro” on “1st channel Eurasia” – 22,3%.

(Internews Kazakhstan, 27 March 2012; a quote from Karlyga Ibragimova, a journalist; Russian –italics, English – plain)

Author would like to emphasize that Russian news, culture and TV shows are more interesting and attracting rather than Kazakh ones. According to above-mentioned statistics, approximately quarter of citizens in Kazakhstan watch “Vremya”, in other words Russian events, which broadcast in Russian, has top position in Kazakhstan. The most interesting Kazakh news in Kazakh language covers only 7.8% of Kazakhstani citizens. Author demonstrates her disappointment about unpopularity of Kazakh programs in comparison with Russian in Kazakhstan territory.

I would like to mention that none of the authors of the articles found out causes of such kind of trend, but they proposed some solutions of the problem. For example:

… Вместо этого нужно показывать новости и передачи, в которых обсуждались бы проблемы казахской государственности, земельных отношений и другие серьезные темы, заставляющие задуматься казахскую молодежь.

Instead of this, we should show news and programs ,which discuss issues of Kazakh government, land relationship and other serious topics, which make Kazakh youth think.

(NewsTimes, 8 September 2017; a quote from Myrzan Kenzhebai, poet, cultural figure of RK; Russian – italics, English – plain)

 

… Көрерменге үлгі боларлық кейіпкері бар хабарлар көргісі келеді…

… Spectators would like to watch programs about characters, who can be paradigm…

(The State language development institute, 26 April 2017; a quote from Uldai Ibaidullyeva, a journalist; Kazakh – italics, English Plain)

Extracts above shows that there is a shortage of appropriate programs in Kazakh language, which can attract Kazakhstani youth. It does not mean that TV organizations ought to design funny and exciting programs. It explains that it is important to create programs, which raise modern important questions among Kazakhstani citizens. In my opinion, it is not right, because we should recognize the reason of the “disease”, before offering of the “treatment”. Otherwise, treatment is likely not to work.

To sum up, I would like to emphasize that the above-mentioned extracts demonstrate results of collision of two ideological discourses (Hult & Pietikäinen, 2014). First, it is consequence of previous “Soviet ideological” discourse. It has affected the Kazakhstani citizens’ language choice, because most people are interested in opting Russian language in any form (speaking, listening, watching etc.). Second is “Kazakhisation ideological discourse”, which is current strategy of the country. Despite our government is implementing many programs and initiatives in order to rise Kazakh status in globalized Kazakhstani context. These two ideologies influences each other, however, if the government focus on reasons of such kind of problems, we can develop the situation and Kazakhisation ideological discourse can be alive in pluralist discourse (De Jong , 2011, p. 249), which can be result of trilingual education.

 

Reference:

De Jong, E. (2011). Foundations of Multilingualism in Education: From Principles to Practice. Philadelphia, PA: Caslon Publishing.

Ibaidullyeva, U. Teledidar tili nege shorkak? [Why is there a lack of Kazakh]. (2017, April). Retrieved from

https://mtdi.kz/new/audarma/id/105/q/1

Ibragimova, K. Kogda my perestanem prikryvatsya reitingami i nacnem zashishat interesy kazakhskih zritelei? [When do we stop to hide behind ratings and start to protact interest of Kazakh spectators?]. (2012, March). Retrieved from

http://www.internews.kz/newsitem/27-03-2012/18059

Kenzhebai, M. Sem obyazatelnyh shagov kazakhisazii ot deyatelya kultury RK [Seven mandatory steps of kazakhisation from cultural figure of RK]. (2017, September). Retrieved from

https://newtimes.kz/obshchestvo/item/58583-sem-obyazatelnykh-shagov-kazakhizatsii-ot-deyatelya-kultury-rk

 

Public intellectuals & the future of information, Erica Stone (Deconstruction)

In her TED talk, Erica Stone raises the issue of public access to academic researches that are done due to public money but distributed privately. She suggests that the research papers should be freely available to the public not only in its original version, but also it should be “translated” into the language that is understandable to masses. This process, according to the speaker, can be accomplished through republication of research papers in open-access journals and in popular media.
Stone critically explains the current research publication systems. According to her, once scholars write and peer review an academic paper on the research findings (that is done due to public or private money), they publish it in academic journals. Then, for-profit companies resell it to universities and libraries through journals as well as database subscriptions (e.g. we can access to those databases because NU library purchased subscriptions). Stone highlights this moment saying: “if the public is funding academics’ research, but then we have to pay again to access the results, it’s like we’re paying for it twice”. Although it might sound very simplistic explanation, indeed, it is a reasonable argument. What is the point of public funding if it is not freely available to the public at the end? So, there should be a payback process, as the speaker says, instead of feeding a monster.
Although this issue tends to be solved through some open-access databases such as Google Scholar, the speaker claims that simply giving the research report cannot be complete access to the public. She suggests that research results should be translated into popular language through mass media so people could understand and implement it in a real life. Also, according to the speaker, this would allow to people to recognize university’s identity based on researches that they conducted rather than only knowing them by degree programs or football teams that they have. Though I agree that most research reports are unavailable to the public in terms of clarity (easily understandable) and popularity, I assume that very important researches that really matter get spread anyway. On the other hand, again, who knows, maybe there are countless number of useful researches that we are not even aware of or understand.
The speech is convincing and clearly explain what she advocates. She effectively gives examples from her own experiences and statistical information. Up to know, I have read several articles that raise the same issue and suggest almost the same solutions. However, although it highlights only expected outcomes of her claim but not possible negative consequences, this speech is more concrete, much more optimistic and solution-centered rather than empty critiques.

Every kid needs a champion (Deconstruction)

As a teacher, I am aware that teaching profession is not the easiest. Although working with children might be delineated as funny and amusing, sometimes it might have its difficulties as well. However, if teacher and student understand each other, the process is likely to be successful. In her TED Talks speech, educator Rita Pierson, who has worked in this field for more than 40 years, raises the issue of the relationship between teachers and students. She uses expressions of famous Americans and shares her personal experience in order to explicate the importance of the relationship to be successful in teaching and learning.

In the beginning, the speaker provides examples from the words of James Comer that states “no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship” and George Washington Carver’s opinion, which is “all learning is an understanding relationship” in order to underpin her claim. Personally, I found these statements pertinent, since they highlight the significance of relationship in a learning process.

What I like the most from her speaking are the words “kids don’t learn from people they don’t like”, which she said to her colleague, who considers she doesn’t have to like children. I think I like it because I have had such situation in my personal experience. As a schoolgirl, I didn’t use to like Physics and didn’t have that passion to study it as had it for the Chemistry. After watching Rita Pierson’s video, I understood that the matter was in my Physics teacher. She was too critical and sometimes rude. On the contrary, the teacher of Chemistry was friendly and tried to build a relationship, which made me be interested in her class. That is why I can state that I completely agree with the speaker that relationship is far more important than it seems. The statement she said to her colleague might seem as an assumption, but not for me, since I have encountered the same situation myself.

Moreover, the speaker espouses the Stephen Covey’s idea, which states that simple things are also important in building a relationship. She doesn’t just emphasize this idea is right, she also practices it in her own experience. It can be seen from the example when she apologized for her wrong teaching to students. As a result, students didn’t judge their teacher, but they just were sympathetic in relation to her. Here we can see that simple thing like apologizing plays a significant role in creating the relationship between students and their teacher.

Building a relationship is also beneficial in teaching students who are academically deficient. Teachers can motivate their students to study not by telling them off for their bad results or marks, but by encouraging them for their minute success. It is also one of the situations that Rita Pierson has had in her experience and considers to be advantageous. I agree with the speaker that it isn’t possible to like all your students, but teachers are just actors and actresses and they establish a relationship in order to direct them to the right way. So, they become a champion to their students, who will always support them.

Image result for every kid needs a champion

Photo credits to: Every-child-deserves-a-champion-.jpg

I was impressed by the speech of Rita, since it was compelling. I consider it is because almost all examples are from her personal experience. I highly appreciate her passion for what she is doing. It is not just teaching, it is also having a valuable human connection, which is the relationship.

Development of immersion education in Kazakhstan

Nowadays, the network of immersion education programs is becoming popular in most European countries. Historically, the first immersion education program was implemented in Canada in 1965, for Anglophone speakers who were taught French as a medium of instruction in elementary schools (Cummins, 1998). Introducing immersion education programs in most cases have benefits for people who will able to speak in a foreign language which leads to being bilingual or even multilingual become a full-fledged member in modern society, where speaking in several languages leads to building a successful career.

Over the last two decades, Kazakstani educational system has changed, when the idea of trinity of languages was presented by our president in 2007 (as cited in Irsaliyev et al., 2017), the first pilot schools began to implement trilingual education policy in three languages. As NIS schools are central schools which are translating the experience of implementing new school curriculum by teaching subjects experience into other state schools.

Introducing immersion education is not spread in all schools in Kazakhstan, because of the few studies in this area.  But, there are some pioneers in implementing immersion education in school education. There are NIS Kokshetau and Taldykorgan. Children from grade 1 not competent in Kazakh attend early immersion program in these schools, where they are taught Kazakh. The other two languages such as Russian is implemented as a second language (L2) for 2-grade children from the second term, while English is studied from 3 grade (Irsaliyev et al., 2017). In addition, 9-grade students are taught Kazakh in late immersion program which is implemented in Bilim-Innovation-Lyceums (BIL). Moreover, 46 % of the school curriculum is taught in Kazakh by “groups with The Russian language of instruction” (Irsaliyev et al., 2017, p. 135-136). The advantage of having proficiency in foreign languages, especially English might provide students an opportunity to take part in the international studies such as PISA, TIMSS and conduct academic research at international level.

However, during the implementation of immersion program, some challenges might appear. For instance, the school curriculum should be updated to correspond with the modern requirements of multilingual education.  It is still a lack of training courses for teachers and producing modern teaching materials both for teachers and students. The new methodology of teaching ought to be adopted and the curriculum should be updated to correspond with the requirements of the immersion education.

To sum up, the development of immersion education programs are new for Kazakhstan, but the first implementation of them in NIS and BIL, I hope it will have a positive attitude and help to improve proficiency in several foreign languages of students. On the other hand, in Kazakhstani context immersion education is required to do some research to find out the best way of implementing language immersion in all Kazakhstani schools in the future.

References

Cummins, J. (1998). Immersion education for the millennium: What have we learned from 30 years of research on second language immersion?  In M. R. Childs & R. M. Bostwick (Eds.) Learning through two languages: Research and practice. Second Katoh Gakuen International Symposium on Immersion and Bilingual Education. (pp. 34-47). Katoh Gakuen, Japan. Retrieved from http://carla.umn.edu/cobaltt/modules/strategies/immersion2000.html

Irsaliyev, S., Karabassova, L., Mukhametzhanova, A., Adil, A., Bekova, M., & Nurlanov, Y. (2017). Teaching in three languages: International experience and recommendations for Kazakhstan. Astana: JSC “Information-Analytic Center”.

 

 

 

6 Problems with our School System (deconstruction)

The video is prepared by Next School which promotes upgraded educational curriculum under the highly innovative Big Picture Learning framework. The video explores some major problems that current educational system encounters in most parts of the world. The creators are claiming that current traditional educational system is outdated and needs to be refreshed. Although this video is mostly about an Indian and American school type, I try to connect it with Kazakhstani context. Let’s see if their arguments coincide with our situation.

The main argument of the video is that the real world is rapidly changing whereas, school system remains the same and not changed in hundreds of years. They claim that children are not prepared to real-life situations as schools have been established in an Industrial Age and have that mentality. Unfortunately, the writers do not provide an exact context within the video, that is why I investigated it myself and found that it was about India and U.S. However, if to contrast their claim with Kazakhstani situation, it exactly underlines our current situation. For instance, three months of summer holidays were designed in early 1930 to create a labor term which was a part of industrialization. According to the People’s Commissariat for Education of USSR, it ended in 1980. But, interesting to note that three months of summer holidays still exist in Kazakhstan up to these days.  Here, I was convinced that traditional school system is a legacy of an Industrial Age.

The next argument provided by the creators of Next School is the lack of autonomy and excess of control among children. They claim that “Industrial Age values lack of autonomy” and “every minute of a child’s life is tightly controlled”. Here, if to compare the situation with Kazakhstan, I completely agree that today there is a deficiency in autonomy among children, teachers and even principals. I speculate it to be a reminder of the Soviet times. Although I accept it as an aftermath of that times, I truly value the past education. But, education should coincide with the demands and globalization, not history.  It is true that every minute at school is controlled as 7 lessons per a day and 40 minutes’ lessons with 5 minutes of break. The child’s control, however, a subject that can be negotiated by their parents and teachers, and to treat it as a consequence of an Industrial Age without good pieces of evidence might be an assumption.

The other problems with the traditional school system are “memorization” and “extremely standardized system”. Firstly, the authors argue that children memorize not having a chance to perform what they have learned as they forget about it after an exam. They support authentic learning type where children will be able to apply what they have learned in a real world. Again, I was convinced with their idea of changing memorization with authentic learning strategy, but they should have provided some examples. As from the personal experience, we used to memorize a lot at school and even university. By saying ““extremely standardized system” the scholars mean that every child receives the same materials to study. They claim that children’s abilities are different and should be treated so. It might be true that kids have different capacity and potential in performing school task, but I think it might be more convincing if the scholars used more concrete examples in dealing with such issues.

Overall, the video was designed for all stakeholders in the field of education starting from children to policymakers. Although some arguments needed to be supported by good pieces of evidence, I was convinced that our Kazakhstani education system needs to be updated and reformed.  But, one thing that they did not mention is that change in education is mostly top-down process unless it is a private educational organization.  I would suggest providing more concrete examples of solving these issues.

What do you think of this video?

Reference

Next School. (2016). 6 Problems with our School System.[Video file]. Retrieved from

 

Rita Pierson: Every kid needs a champion. (deconstruction)

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Rita Pierson is a professional educator who brings a special energy to her job and a desire to get to know her students, to show how much they matter and to support them in their growth. Rita teaches for 40 years following in the footsteps of her grandmother and both parents that is why she had a chance to look at educational reform from three different perspectives. In her ted talk, she explicates that every single child deserves the champion in her or his teacher’s face.

The speaker begins her speech with the reasons for dropping out that we already know – poverty, low attendance or negative peer influences. However, supporting by the statements of two famous Americans, she claims that one of the almost forgotten things at schools is the significance of human connection between teachers and children. She gave one example of her colleague who said: “They do not pay me to like the kids. They pay me to teach the lesson and the kids should learn it. I should teach it, they should learn it. Case closed”. I liked Rita’s answer to her statement: “…kids do not learn from people they don’t like”. Actually, it is a completely true thing. From my primary school experience, I always modeled my favorite Math teacher on behavior, dressing and way of talking. As I liked her, primarily I tried to complete home tasks given by her and amusedly went to her classes. I enjoyed everything about her. Eventually, I have completed Math school course with an excellent mark because I was keen on Math and knew almost everything about it. In my opinion, the reason for that was my inspiring teacher. So I can conclude that good teacher’s attitude towards children and vice versa reflects children’s learning.

Seeking first to understand in order to be understood and apologizing are the next point of Rita’s claim about good relationships between teachers and children. Most children read their teachers like a book. They see teacher’s intentions and desire to teach beyond skin and bone. In her speech, she gives one more example of her own, which explicates the mistake she did with Math lesson. She taught the whole lesson wrong. However, next day she made an apology to children and they said: “That is okay… You were so excited, we just let you go”. It is so wonderful. Her children understood her and could not even interrupt because of her teaching handicraft. Children did the reflection towards her, maybe because she did the same or because of her enthusiastic teaching process. Also, she showed her inspiring teaching skills giving an example of the class with low academic achievements and her meticulous attitude towards the class. She tries not only to evaluate the student’s work but to encourage them to get higher mark by showing that they deserve better.

Rita’s speech impressed me with demonstrating sincere affection to children without any exceptions. I remember from psychology lessons that the first rule for all teachers is to love them. Without love, it is impossible to teach efficiently. She knows her staff well; and I hope it will fill with enthusiasm other educators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is more important for university students: knowledge or a diploma?

Image result for What is more important for university students: knowledge or a diploma?

Do you remember the exhilarating moment when you were reading a letter from the university with the decision of the admission committee? Reading an answer not even suspecting whether you were accepted or not was probably breathtaking and unforgettable for you! For me definitely, it was both when I was enrolled and when I failed.

For some people it is vital to enter the university the year they apply, otherwise, they commit a suicide or fall into depression. For others being enrolled at the university is the one and only goal, they do not put the educational interests in the forefront. In other words, most of such students do not worry about further years in the university and the opportunities they could take; they are not interested in learning new things, investigating research or becoming more educated. They just need a “magic” piece of paper that is called a diploma which as they think can guarantee them a good job! Unfortunately, such conviction leads to bribery, corruption in the higher education organizations.

Image result for university corruption

Students are not the only participants of corruption that takes place in higher education, but they are usually the ones that are judged only after teachers and administration of the university, in spite of the fact that sometimes they turn to be corruption initiators themselves. It should be noted that in reality, namely, the students are the ones who lose the most from the corruption both financially and academically (professionally). Students who bribe do not care a lot about the specialty they are going to study and sometimes even do not know what their major is because their future diploma is their priority goal. So they bribe from the first days. They give money for having better grades, they give money for having a better transcript, and they give money even for their thesis to be written! But why do students act so? It seems that they mis-prioritize or they still think that their future depends on their diploma, yes, on that very “magic” piece of paper. Unfortunately or fortunately, times, when a diploma was highly important, has gone, and now people are given good job places, not due to their diplomas, but due to their knowledge, professionalism and productive work, and it is high time to understand this.

Luckily, there is another part of really smart students, whose aim is not just entering the university, but more – getting a good education, mastering necessary skills for a future career, investigating a research on the problems they are seriously interested in, and obtaining a clear vision of their chosen profession. The last group of young people gives a great hope in eradicating corruption in higher education organizations, and in a bright future!

What is your opinion on this issue? What is more important for university students: knowledge or a diploma? And why?

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…

Sex education in Kazakhstan: Disturbing reality

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In Kazakhstan the question of sexual and reproductive litteracy among teenagers is a burning, but constantly ingnored matter. In 2016 “4254 babies were born to fifteen- and sixteen-year-old girls” (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018, p. 1). Yet, these numbers do not fully represent the real picture: the reports on unregistered cases of birth, abortion and baby abandonment are regularly cropping up along with increase in the rate of sexually transmitted infections among teenagers (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). These depressing figures might be a consequence of sex and reproduction topic being under taboo due to various cultural and religious reasons (it is shameful to discuss such topics). Although the government has made attempts to educate teenagers on sexual and reproductive health by creating laws and introducing pilot sexuality education course in several colleges, the situation is still aggrevating and requires urgent measures.

Several legislative steps were taken to solve the issue of sexual and reproductive illiteracy. These steps included the adoption of  the Concept of Moral and Sexual Education in 2001, the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Children’s Rights in 2002, the Law on Reproductive Rights of Citizens and Guarantees of Their Implementation in 2004, healthcase development programms “Salamatty Kazakhstan 2011–2015” and “Densaulyk 2016–2020”, the Concept of the State Youth Policy in 2013 (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). Event though all these initiatives acknowledged the problem of  sexual and reproductive illiteracy to some degree, prevailing majority of them did not provoke any particular actions that would change the situation. For instance, medical centers continue breaking “the principles of privacy and anonymity” and do not provide medical help to teenagers younger than 18  (when it comes to “sensitive” issues) unless they are accompanied by a parent (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018, p. 6). This makes teenagers avoid medical assisstance out of mistrust and fear and struggle alone in case of physical and mental health issues. Thus, teenagers resort to searching information on sexual and reproductive health on Internet where information is not always reliable (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). More to this, great number of drugstores still refuse to sell contraceptions to teenagers which might be one of the reasons for high teenage birth rate (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018).

Another initiative proposed by  local authorities was introduction of pilot sexual and reproductive literacy courses called “Valeologiya” in several colleges and even schools. This proposal was supported by both students and parents since they were unsure about correct way of approching the taboo topic. Although teenagers were able to discuss certain topics related to sexual and reproductive health, training was unsystematic and teaching was not  monitored (Soros-Kazakhstan Fund, 2018). Moreover, the course demonstrated stereotyped thinking about genders and contributed to victim-building (Soros-Kazakhstan Fund, 2018). For instance, during the lessons, in role plays of sexual abuse mostly girls were positioned as victims (as though boys are never sexually abused) and were taught that the outcome of the situation depended solely on girls behaviour. It puts great amount of pressure and responsibility on girls: if a teenage girl is sexually harrassed or gets pregnant, that is her fault (logic which is supported by many people). In other words, even if the course has created chances for youth to learn about sexual and reproductive health, it still requires serious changes.

My point of view on this matter is that we need to take considerable steps towards educating youth about this taboo topic. Now, when some teenagers are persecuted by “uyat” (shame), they are not able to deal with the issues that have arosen because of sexual and reproductive illiteracy. Now, when teenage birth rate and abortion is increasing, especially in the southern part of Kazakhstan, and newborn babies are thrown away by frightened teenagers, we stay silent and blind (CAP Fellows Paper 200, 2018). It is high time for us to take the issue into serious consideration. I do think that teeangers have to be aware of situation and get reliable information from adults about sexual and reproductive health. Opponents of such view might say that it will pollute pure minds of young generation. However, teenagers do know about sex (thanks to Internet), and we have to make sure that this knowledge does not harm them.

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Who do you think is responsible for teaching teenagers about sexual and reproductive health?

Reference:

CAP Fellows Paper 200. (2018). Overcoming a Taboo: Normalizing Sexuality Education in Kazakhstan. Washington, DC: Kabatova, K. Retrieved from http://centralasiaprogram.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Kabatova-CAP-Fellows-Paper-January-2018.pdf

Soros-Kazakhstan Fund. (2018). Половое просвещение в системе школьного образование Республики Казахстан: Учить нельзя, молчать? Almaty: Kabatova, K., & Marinin, S. Retrieved from http://ru.soros.kz/uploads/user_68/2018_03_04__03_49_24___87.pdf