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11/03/2014

Haunted by the Red Ink

I remember opening my books as a young child, waiting anxiously to see how well I had performed in my classwork or tests. Often the anxiety resulted in 'favorable outcomes' but there were moments that didn't turn out so well- These moments haunted me for a very long time well past those daunting years. Those dreaded moments were the sight of 'The Red Ink'. Dreaded and despised by many-a-pupil in my time.


The Red Ink
The red ink signifies teachers' written remarks. Back then, it was an indication that there was something wrong with one's work. If it wasn't a tick in a copy book or written with blue or black coloured pen on a report card, it often indicated a problem. A problem that was usually written in RED COLOURED PEN. 
It didn't come as a surprise when I became a teacher many years later, that I loathed using the 'red pen' in grading students' work. I mostly choose a blue pen or bright and legible coloured pens that were more friendly to the eyes. I soon discovered that it was never really about the colour of the pen, but the remarks that came along with it, which was either discouraging or downright disheartening.

 Rita F. Pierson once graded a student who scored 2 out of 20, with a '+2' and a big smile. "Is this an F?", the student asked. Yes, she replied. "Why did you put a smiley face?", he asks again. "Because you're on the roll, you got 2 right, you didn't miss them all" she replied. She went farther to ask him if he would do better after revision to which he answered a big YES! (Seems strange from a teacher right?)
It isn't out of fact, that the kid  in question had performed way below average, but it was Rita's hope to inspire this child to do better which turned out to be the case and frankly a lot easier.

Teachers’ comments on students’ work should be made to help them understand the strengths and weaknesses of their work, and to make clear how their work has or has not achieved the goals and standards set in the class. It is not to suppress the feelings (or the creative mind) of the student but to serve as a remedial process. A process that should guide students to be interested in finding solutions to mistakes and/or improving on their specific skills. It should even build relationships between the learner and teacher.

Todays teachers should champion the course of guiding the future of the students. Their remarks could either inspire or discourage a learner's spirit. The spirit of inquiry and discovery continues to be the driving force of the world's socio-economic advancements and teachers play a pivotal role in the entire process. 

All Learning is understanding relationships - George Washington Carver

I believe that a good student-teacher relationship has crucial, positive and long-lasting implications for students' academic and social development. Students learn better when they have good relationships with their teachers......teachers they like.

See teachers tips for writing good remarks here.

10/03/2014

In Pictures: Global Money Week - Financial Literacy for Children and Youth

The celebration of Global Money Week takes place every year during the second week of March. This initiative is coordinated by the Child and Youth Finance International Secretariat and in conjunction with 'AJAPA WORLD' group in Nigeria.

Here are the line of events marking the celebration.

AJAPAWORLD GLOBAL MONEY WEEK

10th March - 17th
9am - 10am: Press Conference at SIAO
11am - 1pm: Money March from Freedom Park to Marina with public schools

MARCH 11TH TUESDAY
10am – 11am: Visit to Banks
 1pm - 2:30pm: Visit to School

MARCH 12TH WEDNESDAY
9am -11am: Visit to Supermarket and Panel takes place at Ajapaworld Studio

MARCH 13TH THURSDAY
8am - 9:30am: Visit to School - Corona
12pm - 1:30pm: Visit to School - Edidot 2:30pm - 3:30pm: Visit to School - Dowen College

MARCH 14TH FRIDAY
TBD: Monopoly Tournament at School

MARCH 16TH SUNDAY
2pm- 2:30pm: Radio discussion about children and money

MARCH 17TH MONDAY
All Day: Pledge Balloons all over Nigeria (Social media campaign)


Rhoda, Akin and Jimi
Akin Braithwaite of Ajapa World
The celebrations of 2014 will take place between 10 March and 17 March 2014. During this week various worldwide activities will be held to engage children, youth and their communities to learn how money works, including saving, creating livelihoods, gaining employment, and becoming an entrepreneur. The week brings the world one step closer to ensuring that every child will have access to financial services, financial awareness through education, a reliable source of income, and the the understanding of the need to save. Aiding the next generation to be confident, responsible and skilled economic citizens. Every year, during the second week of March, young people around the globe talk, play, create, sing, read, discuss and learn about saving, money, changing economic systems and building a strong financial base.

08/03/2014

Infographic: Why female education is absolutely necessary!

United Nations Global Monitoring Report

World Women's Day 2014


Yes, it is our day! The world will be celebrating women and girls today. Issues to be discussed will include gender gaps in education and labour. 

Be a part of this day by promoting the discourse.

06/03/2014

Celebrate International Women's Day 2014

The International Women's Day 2014 will be celebrated on the 8th of March ( 2 days away). Women and men around the world will be participating in activities that would raise issues in advancement of women and girls courses.

One of the main issues to be raised will be the education of the girl child. At least one in five adolescent girls around the world is denied an education by the daily realities of poverty, conflict and discrimination. Missing out on school can mark the end of a girl having any choice over her own future. 

Please join in this celebration. Support the education of girls in any measure you can. Here are some ideas on what to do. Make it simple.
Discuss with your friends and colleagues on its relevance. Talk about ways you can help. You may organise a bake sale and give proceeds to a girl around your neighbourhood or community in support of their education. Organise group meetings to seek support for consistency and most importantly, keep the message alive by spreading the word.


14/02/2014

LOVE! Happy Valentine's Day!

It is a known fact that St. Valentine's Day is on the 14th of February every year and the theme of this celebration centers on 'love'. Luckily, it's a few days before my birthday and so I get to receive gifts early, feeling loved even more so at this season of sharing love.           
                                   
Many are of the opinion that Valentine's Day is just another day that should not be given any more accolades than necessary because love should be celebrated daily. I do agree with the position that we should endeavour to make the expression of love a lifestyle ritual. However,  I understand that human beings have always done better with a bit of reminders.
I believe that the celebration of love on this special day is more of an advantage than disadvantage to the world especially among families, friendships and humanitarian causes.                    
What bigger reason could there be than for the world to be unified for any cause other than the giving of love.
'Love', a phenomena that captures hearts beyond biases, sentiments, religions, customs and beliefs. Read a brief history of St. Valentine's Day here.  


Today, share and give love. Educators around the world are united on reaching one goal - which is to instill in students the love for lifelong learning. We equally understand that learning could not be permanent if it excluded sharing love.

How to share  Love.
Consider using a time when the whole family is together to share why you love one another. Give each member of your family the opportunity to share a few reasons why they love each member of the family. This makes for great conversation at the dinner table!

Hug often. The old saying that "actions speak louder than words" could not be truer when it comes to showing love and affection. Fortunately, there are endless ways we, as parents, relatives and caregivers show our love every day. In the process, we are strengthening the bond we have with children and promoting their sense of self and confidence.

Help a child through school. Find a kid in your neighbourhood whose life you could change. Support their education in any measure you can. You would be contributing to reducing the number of over 10 million out-of-school children in Nigeria.

So give love... 

04/02/2014

Revealing The Global Learning Crisis

At least 250 million of the world's 650 million primary school age children are unable to read, write or do basic mathematics, according to a report commissioned by the U.N. education agency.
The report found that 130 million are in primary school but have not achieved the minimum benchmarks for learning, and almost 120 million have spent little or no time in a classroom including 57 million youngsters who are not attending school.
The independent research team that wrote the report for UNESCO, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, calculated that the cost of 250 million children around the world not learning translates to a loss for governments of around $129 billion annually.
UNESCO's U.N. representative Vibeke Jensen said this global "learning crisis" is mainly caused by a lack of well-trained teachers, especially in impoverished areas.
"While more children are in school, it's been at the cost of quality," she said at a news conference launching the report. "The issue now is to put the focus on quality."
In a third of countries analyzed by the team, less than 75 percent of the primary school teachers had been trained to meet national standards.
"Teachers have the future of this generation in their hands," UNESCO's Director-General Irina Bokova said in a statement. "We need 5.2 million teachers to be recruited by 2015, and we need to work harder to support them in providing children with their right to a universal, free and quality education."
The report said that ensuring an equal, quality education can increase a country's gross domestic product per capita by 23 percent over 40 years.
Interesting stats! I wrote about the need for more teachers during the 2013 World's Teacher's Day. See post here

One thing we can do as concerned stakeholders is to get active about getting kids into school and talking about their education with any chance we get in any local community forum. 
We can also get involved, and play our own role in whatever measure by contributing and or supporting public primary education initiatives and programmes. There is strength in talking about these issues in every relevant (even any) forum and opportunity we get. This builds up the momentum that (combined with our ideas and suggestions already lurking), will add vent to the collective clamoring for the refurbishment, modernization and ultimate reformation of our Teacher Colleges. Our country will progressively advance, as we educate the minds and enable the spirits of our people. Poverty and illiteracy will be reduced with a better education system. From the UN report above, it is clear that the Economies are directly affected by education- it impedes Gross Domestic Product output. 

Encourage a Teacher, Train a Teacher, Support Teacher Education!

30/01/2014

What Our Math Teachers Didn't Do For Us

I don't!
I was preparing for an exam at work and a colleague looked into the book I was reading. She asked if I could work out all the statistical calculations I was looking at. I laughed quite hard and answered with an emphatic 'Yes' to her question to which she replied, "I truly do not know what I did in Math throughout my High School days because that subject was always alien to me! MY BEST FRIEND AND I HAD NO CLUE! I HATED MY MATH TEACHERS!" 

I have noticed among many circles that there is a general phobia for Mathematics. This phobia by the way is called Arithmophobia. Even though I escaped it (the phobia) for many reasons which include the fact that I always thought Math was easier than the rest; I now understand the reasons why most of us in our adolescence ticked off the 'dreaded Math'. OUR TEACHERS DID THIS TO US.

The teachers are not to be blamed entirely because most of them were not properly trained to gain the skill of using the best approaches to deliver enjoyable Math lessons to students. Many of them stumbled into the profession as a means of livelihood. The structure of the education system did not give room for innovation and new ideas among many other reasons.
However, a good teacher's reaction to a student who is struggling with Math should never be synonymous to those of SOME of 'our' Math teachers back in the days. I know a Math teacher who once declared in class that Math was meant for only genuises!! Some of their methods contributed largely in students 'hating' the subject even at benchmark examination periods.


I don't think so!
Lisa Medoff, a teacher in human biology and the School of Education at Stanford University, shares these insights from her article “Getting Beyond ‘I Hate Math!’” in the September 2013 issue of Educational Leadership about teaching to adolescent students. 


It’s incredibly important that educators incorporate adolescents’ needs for Autonomy, Belonging, and Competence into many aspects of school, from classroom structure to curriculum and assignments. These needs are not unique to adolescents, but they become particularly salient with the physical, social, and cognitive changes teens go through during this time. It’s very important that math teachers keep these three needs in mind; adolescents often use their performance in math to judge their intelligence and ability to succeed in school.

As adolescents pursue Autonomy, they begin to separate from and question adults. They may ask why they need to take math and when they’ll use what they are learning. Take students’ questions seriously. Explore them while guiding students to ask questions politely. Offer students a choice of assignments when possible, such as allowing them to do the regular textbook homework set, write an explanation of how to do the problems, or post a video of themselves explaining a concept.

Belonging to a group is comforting for all of us, but is especially important for adolescents, who are solidifying their identities and feel unsure of themselves. As long as teens can do so productively, let them do some classwork in friendship groups. Assign homework or tests that allow kids to work together. Hands-on math activities that give each group member a specific role boost both learning and sense of belonging and reduce the anxiety often associated with demonstrating a math problem in front of an entire class. Make sure each individual student feels she or he is a vital part of the classroom who would be missed if absent. Help students use math to do service projects for the community so they feel they have an important contribution to make.

Competence is definitely something many adolescents don’t feel, especially in math. Seek out activities and assessments that expand beyond traditional textbook problems and tests, such as projects where students can continue to work on and improve their skills, rather than compete against others for test scores. When tests are necessary, emphasize mastery over grades, allow for test corrections or retakes, and use math content to help students improve study skills and figure out how they learn best.

Math teachers must give love so as to get love in return. It makes the entire learning process easier for the teacher and student. So, if you know any Math teachers out there, give them these tips to remind them of how adolescents will embrace Math. 
We were all born to do Math! So says our natural instincts!


19/01/2014

Great Insights on How Our Kids Learn

Happy New Year dear Learning Craft readers! It is my first blog of the year and I am excited about the programs and projects we will be undertaking this year. I promise to keep you informed and 'edu-tained' all through the year. The Learning Craft is bringing new and interactive fora to you and I am certain that you would love the process every step of the way. So much work is in the pipelines to ensure a fully packed year. I am starting off the year by taking you into the workings of the brain. Most parents and caregivers expect so much from their kids and when kids don't seem to match up, they get frustrated. Here is an article that educates us about how our kids learn. It is my hope that you gain insight on how your child learns and begin the year by applying these insights accordingly to help your child learn in full capacity; thereby leading them to ultimately love the process of learning.



Children develop skills the way builders build a house. They start with the foundation. What gets built on that foundation at different stages of development determines what the house looks like and how to get from room to room. Here are eight key things to know about how kids learn and build on different skills.

Building the Brain’s Wiring System
Each brain cell (neuron) looks a bit like a baby tree. As babies take in information about the world, their neurons branch out and create connections with each other. Called neural pathways, these connections are like an electrical wiring system. Each neuron can have multiple connections to other neurons.

The “wires” don’t touch. Instead, they pass information at the gaps between neurons—the “electrical boxes” known as synapses. Brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) help power the system to get these messages through.

How Neural Pathways Work
Each neural pathway is a circuit. When electricity goes through a circuit, it powers a response. For example, when you flip a light switch, a light comes on. Some brain circuits, like the ones for breathing and circulation, are already developed at birth.

Other circuits are “activity-dependent.” They need input to work, and the more input they get, the better they work. That input is more complex than just flipping a light switch. It comes from all the experiences kids have. Sounds, sights, tastes, smells, the way things feel and emotions all help the brain to release neurotransmitters and power those circuits.

Pruning the Pathways
The neural pathways that are used more often get stronger. Circuits that are not used weaken and disappear over time through a process known as “pruning.” That’s okay—young children have more circuits than they need. Pruning happens all the way through childhood and adolescence. That means kids’ brains are flexible enough to work continuously to build new circuits and refine commonly used neural pathways. This is known as “plasticity.”

The Power of Plasticity
Plasticity is especially important for kids who have learning and attention issues. Their brains process information differently and don’t always use brain chemicals effectively. These brain differences make it harder to create or strengthen some neural pathways. Intervention to teach kids alternative ways to process information takes advantage of plasticity. It helps neurons build new pathways. The information may have to take a detour and take a little longer to get where it needs to go, but it can still get there.

Learning Through the Senses
Kids don’t have to think about developing neural pathways. It happens naturally as they explore and learn about the world. Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget came up with a famous theory about how children develop cognitive or thinking skills. The first stage is when babies use their senses—sight, sound, touch, taste and smell—to start to make connections. They taste, shake and throw objects. They also start to roll and reach for things and, eventually, crawl and walk.

All of these activities help build neural pathways that control things like movement, vision and language development. For example, babies keep making sounds that get them attention they need. They keep putting things that taste good into their mouths, and they keep moving to places they want to see. As they do these things, the brain strengthens those circuits and helps make the activities easier.

Learning Through Language
Between ages 2 and 7 years, language development takes off as kids learn more words, use more complex sentences and even read a little. This is a critical time to provide children with a language-rich environment because the more words and ideas they’re exposed to, the more neural pathways they’ll develop.

Kids can now use objects to play more imaginatively. For example, you might see your child use a big stick as a horse or turn a box into a rocket ship. Social skills develop slowly at this age because kids aren’t ready to understand logic, reasoning and other people’s perspectives. They often have difficulty putting themselves in other people’s shoes and can be critical of other children’s choices and behavior.

Learning Through Logic
From 7 years old to about middle school, kids start thinking more logically. During this stage, kids are more able to make connections between things. They become “detectives” who are able to see clues and put them together. Socially, kids develop the ability to take turns, put themselves in other people’s shoes and understand that actions have consequences. The circuits that process emotion and feelings strengthen and mature. In this stage, adults can support children by helping them reflect on things like cause and effect.

Learning Through Reasoning
In their teens, kids start thinking more abstractly and with more complexity. They consider the “what ifs” of situations to figure out possible outcomes. In terms of school, this means they’re able to do more complicated math and understand characters and plots in deeper ways when they read.

Socially, these new skills help them see that other people’s reactions are sometimes based on different perspectives and experiences. Physically, it means they’re able to put different types of skills together to do more complicated things like driving. The wiring system of the brain becomes more intricate, with circuits intertwining with other circuits to allow all of those skills to work together.


Amanda Morin is an education and parenting writer who uses her experience as an early interventionist and teacher to inform her writing. Her work appears on many parenting websites and she is the author of two books, including The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education

23/11/2013

Un-graduating the graduates


No matter how Nigerians would prefer to view the pressing economic hardships faced by millions of her citizens, while a few live in lavishness; everyone will get to feel the pulse of the nation's heartbeat if the education sector is not taken by the bull. Whether we choose to arrest the education sector or not, a state of emergency must be declared in the sector for any economic gains to be achieved.

Read this:

Most people strive to get into the numerous colleges and universities in the hopes of obtaining a college degree. They say that the key to a successful career or life, in general, is a quality education. Attaining a higher education is a ticket to a bright future. But are the students prepared for the real world? After graduation, the next step is to look for a job. New graduates are normally eager to put into practice what they have learned in school. However, life outside the walls of a college or university is different. Adapting to a new environment is important. Knowledge, skills and the ability to adapt to a work environment is necessary to survive the real world.

When students enroll themselves in college, they expect to have all the knowledge and skills a higher education can give them. They have a right not only to be educated but also to prepare them to work. It is the duty of the educational institutions to teach and train their students so that they may maximize their potentials fully. Colleges and universities normally focus on the knowledge and skills of students but fail to prepare them to a life after graduation. Recent studies show that they play an integral role in honing students to be globally competitive. Employers recognize the role of colleges and universities in preparing students for the real world. They agree that to succeed in today's global economy and to prepare a student after graduation, colleges and universities must improve on the following: communication skills, critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills, application of knowledge and skills in real-world settings, complex problem solving and analysis, ethical decision making and teamwork, among others. Employers also agree that higher educational institutions should be doing more to provide a learning environment and skills relevant to the workplace.

Times are changing. As people embrace new innovations and technologies, higher educational institutions must also learn how to keep up. The future of not only their students but also of the economy lies on their hands in preparing students for a globally competitive workforce. Colleges and universities need to focus on three areas to prepare their students for the real world.

First, improve classrooms. Classrooms equipped with the latest technology necessary for the students' training will enable the students to acquaint themselves with the same technology they might be using once they begin to work.

Second, teachers and professors must be qualified and proficient in the subjects or skills they are about to teach. A teacher who knows nothing about a subject cannot effectively teach students. They must employ professionals known for their expertise.

Third, curriculum must keep up with the changing times. It has to constantly change depending on what is relevant in the workplace. It must include all the knowledge, skills and training necessary to produce students who are highly competitive and ready to be part of the workforce. It must provide the students an opportunity to experience real-life work settings while being enrolled. Internships can also be included so students have a firsthand experience on how it is to work. Students must also be required to show mastery of the skills they have studied before graduating. It is not enough that they graduate. They must be highly-skilled graduates. Students must be prepared for a life beyond their classrooms. This is possible if higher educational institutions continuously change and upgrade their classrooms, hire professors known for their expertise and a curriculum that adapts to the changing technologies. A nation's future depends on the quality of workers it produces. Workers who are once students well-equipped with knowledge and skills and ready to take on the challenges of the world.

teach-nology.com

27/10/2013

The Dangers of Over-praising your Child


It is good for parents to praise their children but unhealthy and dangerous when they make it a point of duty to copiously praise every of their children’s effort regardless of how well or good that effort or ability is. Some parents are guilty of over praising, even when their children have done nothing praise-worthy, and this has both short and long term effects on the children. There is no harm in praising your children as often as can. There are several advantages in doing that which includes:
  1. Boosting self esteem.
  2. Improving character formation.
  3. Encouraging them to do better.
  4. Motivating children to learn.
  5. Stretches persistence and boosts resilience.
However, too much praise on the other hand has negative effects as several research has shown. A lot of new research has shown that too much praise decreases children’s self esteem, motivation, effort, and achievement among others. The following are some of the research findings:

Lowers grades: Research findings by the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology showed that the wrong kind of praise can backfire by causing lowers grades.
  
Reduces children’s effort: The Colombia University and Stanford University research showed it reduces children’s effort because getting praised for so little effort could make them unwilling to go the extra mile. 

Triggers shame and lowers self-worth:  The University of Netherlands says it triggers shame and lowers self-worth. Praising kids-especially those with lower self-esteem-for their personal qualities (“You’re such a great person!”) rather than their efforts may make kids feel more ashamed if they fail at a task which in turn reduces their self-esteem..

Excessive or unwarranted praise does not typically boost confidence for children. Children are denied opportunities to learn real knowledge, skills and humility. Children miss out on the power of authentic praise to encourage and inform their efforts. Children can develop an inflated sense of competency and importance regarding their personal contributions. Children are less likely to develop an honest assessment of their own work. 

These dangers do less for the three core skills to be looked for in a well adjusted child - Good Character, Competency and Capacity.

20/10/2013

Youngest Microsoft Certified Nigerian - Jomiloju


THE DISCOURSE in conjunction with The Learning Craft this week celebrates 9 year old Jomiloju Tunde Oladipo who few weeks ago became the youngest pupil to obtain a Microsoft certified professional,and is now a Microsoft office specialist in word 2010.

He will be in the studio live at Classic FM, Lagos Nigeria on the 20th of October, 2013 with his parents with Curriculum Specialist Rhoda Odigboh {me} in attendance as well. I will be asking him interesting questions every listener would want to hear.

This a Classic FM/Discourse initiative to promote the young towards building a better Nigeria.We invite all parents to encourage their kids to please tune in alongside to participate in this edition of The Discourse with Jimi Disu. It promises to be insightful, informative and 'edu-taining'!

07/10/2013

God Made Teachers!


Another year has come again for teachers around the world to be recognized and celebrated. As an educator myself, I have had the privilege of working with so many wonderful teachers. Teachers who would skip a much needed cup of tea/coffee to recuperate before getting back to their classes; but stop to attend to the 'endless speaking' child. Teachers, who no matter the circumstances are always sensitive to the needs of every child they encounter. I dare to say that Teachers are the greatest of people with the greatest of minds!


The slogan for this year's celebration is 'A Call For Teachers'.

This year, UNESCO's work on quality teachers for global citizenship and cultural diversity is celebrated. 
According to UNESCO, teachers develop learners' abilities to build a sustainable future with citizens who are able to take action in their own communities and contribute to global challenges.


If there is a list of countries in dire need of teachers, Nigeria would be at the top of that list. Our number of out-of-school children is very high making the teacher-student ratio absolutely incommensurate and difficult.  There are many calls to get Nigeria's education system back in order, but the hard truth remains that we will not be successful at this quest without taking strong measures to hire, train and retrain a whole lot more of teachers to man the present and future classrooms.  How can this be done?

  • building a strong regulatory framework within the education sector upon which measures will be taken to ensure that policies have no loopholes,  and are followed through and through. The framework must be able to detect any incompetent activity within the sector. 
  • establishing lasting institutions within the regulatory framework
  • building many more teacher colleges
  • revamping the teaching profession ( by making it relatively lucrative)

Nigerian children need a new breed of perceptive, informative and resourceful teachers. Teachers who will safeguard Nigeria's future by equipping our populace with basic numeracy/literacy skills and global citizenship skills as they infuse our wide cultural diversity. Students in turn become self-reliant, and better equipped to take action for themselves and their communities. 

Teachers' Day appreciates teaching and the people who have opted for this profession. 

To all teachers in the world.......HAPPY TEACHERS' DAY!!!!!

God Made Teachers 

God understood our thirst for 
Knowledge, 
And Our Need To Be Led
5th from the left.....with some great teachers I know
By someone wiser;
He needed a heart of compassion,
Of encouragement, and patience;
Someone who would accept
The Challenge Regardless Of The
Opposition;
Someone who could see potential
And believe in the best in others . . .
So he made teachers
- Author Unknown

28/09/2013

The secret to the world's best education system - FINLAND

What are Finland's strengths? Education in Finland is a system with no tuition fees and with fully subsidised meals served to students. The present Finnish education system consists of daycare programs (for babies and toddlers) and a one-year "pre-school" (or kindergarten for six-year-olds); a nine-year compulsory basic comprehensive school(starting at age seven and ending at the age of fifteen); post-compulsory secondary general academic and vocational education; higher education (University and Polytechnic); and adult (lifelong, continuing) education. 

So, here are some pointers that have helped the 'Finns' achieve their educational feat.
  1. Finland does not give their kids standardized tests.
  2. Individual schools have curriculum autonomy; individual teachers have classroom autonomy.
  3. It is not mandatory to give students grades until they are in the 8th grade.
  4. All teachers are required to have a master's degree.
  5. Finland does not have a culture of negative accountability for their teachers. According to Partanen, "bad" teachers receive more professional development; they are not threatened with being fired.
  6. Finland has a culture of collaboration between schools, not competition. Most schools, according to Partanen, perform at the same level, so there is no status in attending a particular facility.
  7. Finland has no private schools.
  8. Education emphasis is "equal opportunity to all."They value equality over excellence.
  9. A much higher percentage of Finland's educational budget goes directly into the classroom than it does in the US, as administrators make approximately the same salary as teachers. This also makes Finland's education more affordable than it is in the US.
  10. Finnish culture values childhood independence; one example: children mostly get themselves to school on their own, by walking or bicycling, etc. Helicopter parenting isn't really in their vocabulary.
  11. Finnish schools don't assign homework, because it is assumed that mastery is attained in the classroom.
  12. Finnish schools have sports, but no sports teams. Competition is not valued.
  13. The focus is on the individual child. If a child is falling behind, the highly trained teaching staff recognizes this need and immediately creates a plan to address the child's individual needs. Likewise, if a child is soaring ahead and bored, the staff is trained and prepared to appropriately address this as well.
  14. Compulsory school in Finland doesn't begin until children are 7 years old.
What can we learn from Finland? Two things stand out for me; the higher qualification required to be a teacher at any level and the fact that this phenomenon is driven by government-owned schools. I have always spoken for non-profit schooling as a platform for driving real change and development in the country!  

Please tell us what you think.

08/09/2013

Helping The Shy Child




I have been researching on ways to help shy children become less withdrawn and function easier in school. Educators are often faced with a subtle or strong inability of shy children to express their feelings, thoughts, and opinion; which also tends to affect their grades and relationships among other students. 
I am especially interested in ways to help them cope well in school as this goes a long way to making the individual a well adjusted person. I found this piece, brilliantly written by Leah Davies that will help many parents and teachers to handle their shy child in more successful ways. Read and use accordingly.




The Shy Child
By Leah Davies, M.Ed.

Shyness is often misunderstood because it is not one emotion, but a mixture of fear, tension, apprehension and/or embarrassment. Shy children seem to lack confidence and are self-conscious especially in new surroundings or when they are the center of attention. Changes in the environment and school pressures are also factors that affect a child's demeanor. Symptoms of shyness may include gaze aversion, a soft tone of voice, and/or hesitant or trembling speech. It is noteworthy that shyness is not necessarily a negative attribute. Many shy children exhibit an ability to please and think for themselves. Being reserved can also be a worthy personality trait. It is when shyness is severe that educators need to be concerned.

Heredity, culture, and environment can each play a role in a child's shyness. If a child's family tends to be aloof and sequestered, there is a likelihood that the child will be somewhat inhibited. In addition, if the adults in a child's life constantly call attention to what others think of the child or allow him or her little autonomy, shyness may result.

The problem with a child being extremely shy is that he or she may be perceived by peers as unfriendly and disinterested. Children may avoid playing with a shy child, thus hampering his or her social development and increasing the chances of a child having low self-esteem. With few friendship or communication skills, shy children may become lonely and depressed, which can interfere with reaching their full potential. Educators can assist children, whose shyness interferes with their social development and learning, by helping them relate comfortably with others. If no assistance is provided, shyness may worsen.

It should be noted that the process of socialization takes time. In order to feel safe, shy children often stand back and watch an activity. They begin the socialization process by observing and listening to the interactions of others. When they feel comfortable they move closer. Later, they may speak to a teacher or peer, and after time begin to relate to other children.

What can educators do to facilitate the development of a shy child's social skills?

1. Create a caring relationship with the child by attempting to understand his or her thoughts, fears and other emotions. Reassure the child that all children feel inhibited at times.

2. Since a shy student may become more self-conscious when confronted with a loud voice, speak softly and clearly. Be prepared to wait patiently for a reply to a question because the child may need time to respond.

3. Be accepting of a shy child's reticence to participate. Allow the child time to adjust to a situation. This will increase his or her sense of security and self-confidence.

4. Refrain from forcing a child to participate in group activities. Instead, provide nonthreatening ways for the child to interact with peers. Sometimes pairing a quiet child with an extroverted child can produce a positive learning experience for both students.

5. Notice and comment on a child's strengths including qualities such as kindness and athletic or academic ability. If you feel the attention will embarrass the child make the compliment in private.

6. Help the child see that everyone makes mistakes and that no one is perfect. Encourage him or her to keep trying by emphasizing that making an effort is what you consider important.

7. If you label a child as "shy," your description may become a permanent characteristic of the child. Instead, say something like, "Everyone is different. Melissa is a thinker. She watches and learns about what's happening before participating."

8. Teach specific social skills through various means including role playing, and/or using dolls or puppets. Have the children practice:

  • Holding their heads up, smiling and making eye contact when they are speaking. Say, "If you look at me while you are talking, I will be able to hear what you have to say."
  • Greeting a peer with enthusiasm. For example, have the children say things like, "Hi, my name is Tommy! What's your name?"
  • Beginning a conversation by saying, "What school did you go to last year?" or "What do you like to play?"
  • Listening, smiling, and enjoying social interactions. Have them smile and say things such as, "It's fun to play this game with you!"
  • Making simple conversation about school work, sports, or television shows. Comments the children may make are: "I like reading too." "What sport do you like?" or "What's your favorite TV show?"
  • Being good listeners and not interrupting.


9. Meet with the parent or guardian. Ask the parent to reinforce the social skills listed above. Encourage the parent to help the child do things for him or herself. Brainstorm ways to increase positive peer interactions for the child so that he or she can become more outgoing and independent. Stress that the parent should not label their child "shy" or call the shyness a "problem." Instead, have the parent call the child a "thinker." Help the parent recognize that every child is different and that it's okay for a child to take time before responding or participating.

If the above measures are unsuccessful and extreme shyness and/or anxiety persist, refer the child for additional professional help.

All these are sure to help you and your child. :D

11/08/2013

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube - Useful for teachers and students in secondary and higher education

Many Nigerian schools are yet to adopt the type of thinking required by the Internet era. There still exists the thinking that originated in the old idea of learning to learn. A thinking which is now stale whether we choose to believe, accept and adopt it or not. The list is long - facilities such as the interactive whiteboards, computers or tablets as instructional materials; or the use of social media for high school students such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,  Instagram etc which all serve as effective communication tool are mostly absent in the teaching-learning process.

Did you know that about 96 percent of students with internet access report using social networking technologies, and that three in five (59 percent) use these tools to talk about educational topics online? Maybe not as much in Nigeria because our access to the Internet is still growing.

Social media has revolutionised many industries, but perhaps its impact on the classroom, and the education system as a whole is the most striking. Whether it’s through the use of private social groups, Facebook Pages, classroom Twitter profiles, embracing these social networking is showing that, if used correctly, these platforms can have a positive impact on grades.

There are three main social media powerhouses that provide encouraging learning opportunities and they are Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. These trilogy stand out amongst others because of their applicability. 

Facebook:  ideas are spread, opinions are voiced, and arguments are had. References from links found on other social media sites, as well as your own documents, can be posted openly for classroom discussions.

Twitter: students in a project who have a Twitter account will follow and/or create group pages on Twitter related to the subject of interest. Ideas are spread, important links are posted, research results and open discussions are diagnosed.

Youtube:  You can find very educational information there. I have found many teaching/learning ideas on YouTube channels; I have viewed and shared many videos with my kids on fun ways to learn multiplication tables. There are loads of teaching ideas on any topic that comes to mind...algebra, geometry, reading comprehension, drama etc.

I hope teachers can begin to use these platforms to spread knowledge with their students as it not only promises to be fun and interactive, above all, it incites the use of the social media for fantastic learning opportunities. It is probably easier to get our students to do their assignments on it as they may spend ample time there. Students can now begin to use and view them as mediums for academic and society-oriented  courses.

Teachers should give social media assignments in their classes or create a Facebook group for an entire class.  Let us bring the classroom together on social media and enjoy the beauty of the changing landscapes it is brings to their world.


07/08/2013

Cramming - A popular curse of education in Nigeria


In education, cramming is the practice of working intensively to absorb large volumes of information and facts in short amounts of time. It is usually done by students in preparation for upcoming tests or exams, especially at the last minute. Educators discourage the use if cramming because the hurried coverage of material often results in poor long-term retention of material and leads to mediocrity. Rote learning is

I feel it is very important for students to memorize some math facts such as multiplication tables in younger children. The issue that often arises here is the method applied in the teaching process. I know it’s very important for primary school children to learn math facts and spelling words so that when they get older, they can easily pass through tests which often helps in building confidence. However, memorization or cramming does not have to come just by pure recitations which does not allow for critical thinking and in depth understanding.  For example, multiplication tables can be learnt using templates of  classic nursery rhymes and even rap songs. Spellings should be taught using visual aids because the brain is known to absorb what is seen often easier.

 Cramming is becoming quite common among students at the primary, secondary and post-secondary level and I consider it a negative study technique. The pressure to perform well in the classroom often results in the cramming method of studying and Students are often forced to cram after improper time utilization or in efforts to understand information shortly before being tested. Improper time management is usually the cause for last-minute cramming sessions, and many study techniques have been developed to help students succeed instead of cramming. Active learning and critical thinking are great methods which emphasize the retention of material and facts through the use of class discussions, study groups and individual thinking.

For a long time, cramming or memorization has been used and is still used in many classrooms but they now belong in the past. Teaching students what to think instead of how to think keeps generations at a higher level of ignorance which seems to be apparent in our society these days. If children are made to think through active participation, they develop conceptual and analytical skills needed to help them excel in secondary and post secondary school.

“We forget those things if they’re just learned for the sake of the test.”
Neurologist Judy Willis of Edutopia goes even further saying that over-emphasis on rote memorization over-stresses the brain and detours our thinking away from the ‘rational, prefrontal cortex’ where higher-order thinking occurs.

We need to re-strategize our teaching methods. Technology is fast creeping in on us and we have to go with the tide. Two key strategies: ACTIVE LEARNING AND CRITICAL THINKING





02/08/2013

Let's blame ASUU --- university teachers

I worry when we lose track of our needs, redirect blame and seemingly continue to chase shadows. Upon whose shoulders should the task of ensuring our students are in school? Remuneration of teachers is as important as the teaching - learning process because their because their basic requirements must be secure. But that is not all!

In the 2009 Agreement, the government promised to provide fund for revitalising public universities; provide assistance to state universities; establish a Nigerian University Pension Commission, NUPEMCO, and progressively increase the annual budgetary allocation to education to 26 per cent between 2009 and 2020.

Government also promised to pay earned allowances, transfer federal government landed property to universities and to set up research equipment provision to laboratories and classrooms, the government has failed to keep its promises.

Why do some lay the blame on the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)? Why don't we demand accountability and discipline from our government once and for all? An agreement should not be breached abruptly!

Nigeria is fast becoming a euphoric state. There is increasingly a flagrant excessive interest in 'celebri-talk' and less 'real-talk' (I guess it keeps the people happy which I am not opposed to). However, we have real problems in our education system which as a people, we must work in agreement to tackle! Let's sign a petition that will end the ASUU Strike! Sign a petition to improve our schools, to get our children back to school and to implement our good policies on education! Together, we can save the future of this country; just by our relentless demand for the improvement of the quality of education in Nigeria. No nation can rise OR has risen above the level of their education.

We have been called the 'proverbial land of no tomorrow'.....sad!  Education helps to eliminate poverty and in return, we are handed a sure tomorrow.

Education is preparation for life. Education is life itself ~ John Dewey