Education first!

_68703870_68703869 On 12 July, Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani teenager spoke to a room full of dignitaries from around the world at the United Nations headquarters in New York. One could see the admiration and pride on each face present in that room. The speech was thoughtful and thought provoking. During a dinner-table conversation, where I was present, the night after her speech Malala was discussed with fervor, and a question, pertinent in its own rights, was asked: what has Malala done? Apart from being shot in the head and almost dying, what has she done concretely to be spoken about so much?

Malala started writing a diary for the BBC’s Urdu service in late 2008. In her entries, she narrated her life as a school girl against the backdrop of the war ridden region of Pakistan’s Swat valley. Under the pen name Gul Makai, Malala wrote how she’s scared of going to school and sad that her school might not re-open after the winter holidays because the Taliban had announced a ban on girls’ education in the region. Once her identity was revealed she became a star in her country and worldwide. She was seen and heard by thousands, speaking of her passion for education and for human welfare. This is when she was pronounced to be in the Taliban hit list and then on 9 October 2012, while coming home from school, she was shot in the head.

While writing a diary in itself is not necessarily an “accomplishment” but sometimes, as the world has seen time and again, the pages of a journal can be more informative than any history book in the library, can inspire generations to act against atrocities and give hope to many living in despair.

When a certain Anne Frank related her life to her “Dear diary”, little did she know that her work would later be considered as one of the most important commentaries on the German occupation and how it affected human lives.

Malala’s, similarly, was a voice which remains often unheard. As BBC editor Jon Williams rightly says “Often in conflicts, news coverage focuses on bombing and killings. The stories of those caught up in violence are lost”[1].  In her journal Malala voiced all those whose lives were disrupted due to the ongoing conflicts. The fact that education was taking a beating, that children in the Swat valley are exactly like those everywhere around the world, eager to learn and have a good time in school, came to life in her words. Her diary represented the anxiety of all those children who were barred from going to school against their wish but also the hope that one day things Will become normal!

These voices are needed to be heard and these lives lived, through the words of someone who has the courage to speak when no one would so that the world wakes up and takes note and act.

During her speech in the UN headquarters, Malala said:

“We realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. (…) Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”[2]

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Staying safe while studying abroad

egypt_june_protests_7_2013_7_1In the wake of the recent murder of Andrew Pochter, an American student interning in Alexandria, Egypt, risks of studying abroad have come under the spotlight.

Today, when it comes to choosing a location for gaining an international experience, students go beyond the traditional borders of the West and sometimes do not hesitate to venture into unstable territories. Pochter chose Middle East despite its political turmoil.  He was not new to the region having already spent a year in Morocco after graduating from high school and like other students, local or international, had actively taken part in the protests on the streets of Morocco during the 2010-2011 Arab uprising.

But when you are a foreign student is it advised to take part in such demonstrations? There’s no doubt that students have always played a significant role in political upheavals and in reforming the society but they still remain the most vulnerable targets as well, especially in a foreign land.

Following the Turkey unrest in the beginning of June that forced a group of MBA students from George Washington University who finished a one-week residency in Ankara to move, the Bloomberg Businessweek published an article on how to remain safe while studying abroad. It was written in consultation with John Rendeiro Jr., vice president for global security and intelligence at International SOS, a Singapore-based company hired to provide medical, security, and evacuation services for student groups and others traveling far from home.

Here’s what one should keep in mind while in a troubled foreign country (taken from the Bloomberg Businessweek article):

Don’t Get Involved: The temptation, especially for students, is to want to be at the center of the action, but that’s usually a big mistake. “It’s a really bad policy to get involved in demonstrations in a foreign country. You could be injured, or you can come to the attention of police,” Rendeiro says. “It doesn’t pay to get involved when there’s a chance that things can get violent.”

Prepare: Know the location of your hotel and how to get there, and make sure you have reliable transportation. Know who to call in the event of emergencies—for students traveling abroad as part of a study group, this will probably be the program director or faculty member they’re traveling with. Keep all your documentation in a secure location. If you take medication, take enough for the entire trip, make sure you have the necessary clearance to get it into the country, and have a way to resupply once you arrive. Carry only the cash and valuables you absolutely need.

Register with your country Consulate: In the event of a large-scale emergency, registering at your country Embassy ensures that your government knows your whereabouts and how to contact you. It also allows you to receive updates on travel warnings, travel alerts, and other information.

Stay alert: Rendeiro suggests monitoring the local news media for demonstrations and other hot spots, and steering clear of those locations. “If you find yourself in the vicinity of a protest, don’t take pictures, and get away from that area as quickly as possible,” he advises.

Call the Embassy: If you find yourself in a real jam—you’re in police custody or have a serious medical problem or injury—call your country Embassy, which can help locate medical assistance or legal representation. You should also contact your group’s program director or faculty leader, as well as the security provider for the trip, if there is one.

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Another article on MOOC

Touted by many as being the future of higher education, moocs or “massive open online courses” have a lot going for them. They are patronized by Harvard, MIT and Stanford gurus and have essayists and columnists defending them in the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. The arguments for, at least some of them, do hold ground. A mooc does allow students from around the globe easy access to “quality education” irrespective of geographical borders or time zones. If someone in rural India profits from taking an MIT mooc sitting in his small town cyber café and if the mention of MIT on his CV improves his chances of climbing up the social ladder by getting a good job, where’s the problem? If he took say a computer programming course, then probably none. But what happens in case of a mooc in Humanities or in Literature, for that matter? One of the main concerns regarding moocs seems to be that they are “elitist” and do not take into account different contexts and cultural backgrounds of students like classroom teaching does.

A videotaped lecture on French poetry will certainly not have the same flavor as that given in a classroom full of students. The complexities of an Indian student interpreting Baudelaire in a classroom while questioning, getting answers, discussing with classmates and the teacher and getting enriched by the entire experience will of course be missing when it comes to taking a mooc on French poetry even if it has discussion forums with the highest reactivity.

The recent open letter from San Jose State University’s philosophy department refusing to adopt an edX (the non-profit mooc provider founded jointly by Harvard and MIT) mooc on Justice read:

“what kind of message are we sending our students if we tell them that they should best learn what justice is by listening to the reflections of the largely white student population from a privileged institution like Harvard? Our very diverse students gain far more when their own experience is central to the course and when they are learning from our own very diverse faculty, who bring their varied perspectives to the content of courses that bear on social justice.”

But does this mean that taking a mooc is bad altogether? As some mooc advocates say “there are far more students than professors in higher education, and the system is supposed to be set up for the aspirants, not the academics”[1], it would be interesting to read more articles or comments written by students. A recent study conducted by the University of Edinburg throws light on “choices, motivations and nationality of participants in its six moocs”.

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Off to Europe for an International MBA

MBA_logo_europe1A recent article in the New York Times put light on the advantages of getting a Masters in Business Administration from Europe – a topic worth talking about in our blog.

Although the concept of MBA is considered to be typically American, statistics show that Europe is slowly but steadily becoming the destination of choice for many non-European students. The reasons are manifold.

One of the first things a student considers when applying to a Business School, apart from its reputation (we’ll come to the reputation part later), is the cost involved. In this section, Europe scores big. Most of the prestigious schools in Europe offer cheaper options than their counterparts across the Atlantic. Take for instance IE Business School in Madrid, Spain. Tuitions for the International MBA here is € 59,900 ($ 78,000), a considerable sum no doubt but much lesser than that practiced in most US Business Schools. One of the reasons for the lower fees is the short duration of the European MBAs – one year compared to two in the United States. The shorter duration reduces living costs as well. And with Europe revamping its international student recruitment strategies[1], things can only get better.

As for the reputation of the European B-Schools, we don’t need to go far to look for references. The big names like INSEAD (France), Rotterdam School of Management (the Netherlands) or IE Business School (Spain) appear proudly in the top 50 of the Financial Times’ 2013 Global MBA Ranking list.

Another reason for choosing Europe to do your MBA is the obvious international perspective of the programs. More than 80% of the student composition in most European Business Schools is made up of international students who come from widely different cultures and backgrounds. Most schools offer intensive local language classes to offer you the opportunity to become bi-lingual at the end of your tenure.

So, if you are thinking of delving into the MBA world this year, Europe can be a wise choice… to get the coveted degree while soaking in the famous European ambiance.

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Learning for All: The World Bank Infographic

World Bank- Education v3 At the turn of the new millennium, the UN launched a vast campaign whose goal was to create a world with better living conditions. The campaign resulted in the conception of eight Millennium Development Goals. Universal primary education is one of them. I have always been interested in higher education but it goes without saying that “learning for all” is the first step to attain higher education. That’s why the World Bank’s Learning for All Infographic caught my attention and I wanted to share it with you.

The first thing that strikes me in the infographic is the gap between the number of children who are not able to read or write (250 million) and the number of children without access to primary education (61 million). What this means is that the education infrastructures catering to these 250 million children are not efficient enough. It’s thus essential to work not only on access to education but also on the quality of education provided.

The next important thing is the most affected areas. It’s no surprise that Sub-Saharan Africa, with half of its child population out of school, is the most affected region of the world. Africa is the future battleground for education. The continent still lacks in infrastructures, even when it comes to secondary education. But before dealing with higher education, importance must be given to learning for all.

Once realized, universal primary education will help achieve other objectives like gender equality, women’s empowerment or decrease in infant mortality. These objectives are linked to each other as education allows future mothers to take proper preventive measures. Education is also instrumental in liberating women from patriarchal domination. Moreover, the infographic shows that education is a source of economic growth. Development in education infrastructure should not depend on economic growth. It should rather be the driving force behind evolution. An improvement in educational performances can thus increase a country’s economic growth by 2 %. Likewise, education is also a key factor in reducing poverty. The World Bank thus shows that it’s through education that we can come out of obscurantism.

The last part of the infographic shows the efforts of developing countries like India and particularly the initiatives taken by the poor nations, more and more affected by the problems of education. In Ethiopia, in Bangladesh or in Nigeria, Government initiatives are encouraging girls’ education even at the secondary level. These countries now consider this issue a priority and realize the importance of an educated population in the development of a nation. The most striking initiative is that taken by Haiti which, while being the poorest country in the Americas (149th country on the Human Development Index) allows free primary education to 772,000 children.

Universal education, an everyday fact in developing countries, is far from being a reality elsewhere and it’s reassuring to see that more and more countries are becoming conscious of the fact that tomorrow’s growth depends on the education of the present population. But there’s still a long way to go, with 61 million children without access to education and inadequate education infrastructures in most of the developing world.

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World Map of Social Networks 2012

Here is an interesting graphic comparison of the social networks most used in each country. Even more interesting to see how usage has changed in only 3 years. Whereas in 2009 some countries were still using local social networks such as Orkut in Brazil, by 2012 all but Russia and China have made the switch to Facebook.

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The campus as a part of the brand

In an increasingly standardized , competitive and international market, higher education institutions must differentiate. In order to do this, the brand plays an important role. Formerly the privileged field of large private companies,  in recent years the brand has also become the key for schools and universities who wish to secure their future and to shine in the world.

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