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Refugees, TIMSS, happiness, and miscellany

13 March 2017

If it’s springtime, it’s time for spring cleaning–or at least the spring cleaning of my inbox of interesting happenings in global education.

The word of the 2016-17 school year in global education is refugees. UNICEF reports that 28 million children around the world are displaced, including 10 million refugees and 1 million seeking asylum. And there is considerable effort, including that by Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousefzai, going into the question of how to educate them.

First, we have to get them to school. In Syria, 187,000 children are not going to school. Think about what a difference that will make on the long-term future of the country. Thirty thousand Syrian are university-age refugees in Turkey; some go to college, most don’t. Here’s an article from The Atlantic about their plight.

One country that is welcoming the refugees is Canada. Here’s a story about an elementary school in Ottawa where 110 of the 288 students are Syrian refugees. Germany meanwhile has about 400,000 refugee children in its schools. Greece has about 18,000 refugee students in its schools.

In London, a university has figured out that refugees make excellent tutors of languages like Arabic, Swahili and Korean. The Guardian offers teachers five ways to help migrants adjust to your classroom and school. While not applicable only to migrant students and refugees, The U. S. Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development offers 10 ways to help students overcome barriers.

For a global perspective, former British prime minister Gordon Brown says about 250 million children around the world are unable to go to school, and 600 million go to school, but learn little due to a variety of factors. Investing in education for these children is the primary means to change the world for the better, he says. Unfortunately, according to UNESCO, the goal for all children in the world to have at least a primary education has been pushed back 12 years to 2042.

What’s a Global Citizenshipe post without a mention of international tests and a roll call of what is happening in those countries that could be appropriated elsewhere?  We often focus on PISA, but here’s an article on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)–topped by Singapore.

Singapore is encouraging, funding and developing alternative learning spaces, like outdoor classrooms.

New Zealand does a good job by not focusing on standards. They have standards, to be sure, but the schools–even the rural ones–don’t let them get in the way of makerspaces. That said, the biggest problem in New Zealand education is finding enough teachers.

In China, another usually high scorer on PISA and TIMSS, some schools are trying to focus more on critical thinking than the rote memorization that does well on standardized tests.

Speaking of PISA, while it tells us how students are doing around the world, what tells us how the students think they’re doing? Here’s a short article by a researcher who asked that question and got an interesting answer: “[T]hose who attended highly stratified, segregated schools were most likely to think only they were to blame for their failure. Conversely, students in less stratified, socioeconomically integrated, schools tended to attribute their academics to a range of factors within their control (effort, talent) and beyond their control (teachers, bad luck).”

Meanwhile in India, the reading curriculum is expanding to include more recent authors like J. K. Rowling and Malala Yousefzai. India was also the site in November of the World Robot Olympiad, won by two students from Taiwan. Samsung is donating 10,000 solar lamps to girls in India so that they can work on their studies at night, when many areas lack adequate electricity.

The focus on encouraging girls in education is a long-standing worldwide initiative. IREX, which administers the Teachers for Global Classrooms program that inspired this blog, has a wonderful resource on providing supporting teaching environments for boys and girls.

A Norwegian university completed a study that shows children who do regular, moderate to vigorous exercise are less likely to come down with depression as teens. Here are some ideas for incorporating movement in your classroom.

In Dubai, there’s a growing focus on teaching empathy and encouraging well-being and happiness. United Arab Emirates, by the way, is one of the few countries to have elevated happiness to a cabinet-level position; read this story from the Los Angeles Times about the UAE Minister of Happiness. Here’s another innovation they’re trying in the UAE: licensing teachers.

Here’s a British educator who thinks emotional well-being should be part of the test results schools must report. The Irish agree.

More about Ireland: The government has several plans for changing education in that country, including making computer science an exam-level subject.

An Australian teacher shows us all how to start the school year.

A Michigan middle-school science teacher found a way to get his students to act locally and think globally.

Minecraft is not just an addictive game. This article reports that 75,000 teachers are using it for lesson. And here’s a teacher in Brazil using Pokemon Go for teaching.

Speaking of games, here’s an article from Edutopia on how to incorporate games into your teaching.

With all this going on, let’s not lose sight of the second of the “three R’s”: writing. Here’s a study about how little writing is done in middle schools, and how to incorporate more across the curriculum.


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