Today’s EDU WATCH blog brings you some surprising news on the educational scene …

Tokyo U. is ranked no. 8 in the Times Higher Education world rankings on university institutions based on world reputation … after  Harvard, MIT, Cambridge, CA-Berkeley, Stanford, Oxford and Princeton…and beating Yale to boot. Seven of the top ten are American institutions. See World’s best universities ranked by ‘reputation’ (BBC News, 10 Mar)

Crisis forces 169 schools to close (Japan Times, May 17)
A total of 169 public schools in Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures have been forced to temporarily relocate or close in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami due to damaged facilities and radiation fears, local officials said Monday.

About 85 percent of the affected schools, or 145 of the total, have been able to restart lessons by borrowing classrooms at other schools or utilizing facilities at schools that had closed down before the disaster, according to regional board of education officials.

The remaining 24 schools have been shut in Fukushima Prefecture, where the government has designated no-entry zones centering on a 20-km radius from the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex. Area students had to transfer to other schools in their current respective evacuation zones.

Some schools with large student populations have had to split up to conduct lessons at several campuses. Other, smaller schools have had to share one location. With many facilities being flooded with students to double or even triple the normal capacity, places like gymnasiums and music rooms are now being used as classrooms, teachers said.

In the city of Fukushima, most schools are conducting their physical education classes indoors amid concerns about radioactive substances in the air and soil, municipal education board officials said.

Disaster areas need teachers / Even with govt help, prefectures still need over 100 replacements (Yomiuri, May 17)

On education elsewhere in the world:

A Fortune-teller’s Prophecy: Princeton vs. Dartmouth (New York Times, May 11) A refreshing insider take from the applicant’s perspective

Online Degrees Come of Age in Asia (New York Times May 15)  New options are proliferating on a continent that is thirsting for knowledge workers and where geographic constraints can often be daunting…

Is College Worth It? Answers From Presidents and the Public (May 15) …The results of two surveys say, “Fifty-seven percent of those questioned in the survey of members of the public said “the higher education system in the United States fails to provide students with good value for the money they and their families spend, ” according to the report. Moreover, three-quarters say “college is too expensive for most Americans to afford.”

See also related: 65% of college presidents think students should pay for their own education (The Lookout, May 16)

Are Adults Hurting Young Children by Pushing Them to Achieve? (New York Times. May 16)

Fast-Tracking to Kindergarten? (New York Times May 14)

Enrichment programs like Kumon are gaining from, and generating, parental anxiety about what kind of preparation children need — and whether parents themselves have what it takes to provide it Related: Motherlode Blog: Pushing Kids in Public and Private (May 16, 2011)

LSE to consider £8,000 fee after academics’ vote  (BBC News, May 11) LSE is to be the first elite university to consider charging £8,000 pounds in response to the LSE student’s union’s campaign to charge lower fees. All the English research-intensive universities in the Russell and 1994 Groups have so far opted for £9,000

A New Measure for Classroom Quality (New York Times, Apr 30) A new guage for teacher quality – how much the teacher actually teaches …

India: The next university superpower? (BBC News, Mar 2) India is making a “great leap forward” in its higher education spending  — the current five year plan central budget is 9 times that of previous five years.

The Default Major: Skating through B-School (New York Times, May 13)

Going to Harvard from your own bedroom (Mar 31, BBC)

Instead of music or movies, Apple’s iTunes U provides a download service for lectures and resources from universities around the world. Top universities from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard in the US to Oxford and Cambridge in the UK have been making their materials available, with no charge to the user.

In other news:

Back-up cooling systems at Fukushima failed 

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has admitted that the reactors’ back-up cooling systems failed to function after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami.

Tokyo Electric Power Company on Monday revealed the plant’s operation records for the period following the disaster on March 11th.

An emergency condenser system at the Number 1 reactor functioned for less than 10 minutes after the earthquake. The failure lasted for 3 hours.

The utility suspects that workers manually shut down the system as pressure inside the reactor became so low that they were afraid of damage.

Another type of back-up cooling system at the No. 1 and 2 reactors lost power when the tsunami engulfed batteries.

TEPCO is still analyzing the data to assess the failure’s impact on fuel rods.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 0
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The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it will start transferring highly radioactive water from the No.3 reactor building to a temporary storage facility as early as Tuesday.Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, estimates that there is about 22,000 tons of highly radioactive water in the reactor’s turbine building and in a connecting tunnel.The utility says the water in the basement of the turbine building was about 1.4 meters high as of Monday morning, a rise of more than 20 centimeters over the past 2 weeks. Part of the water leaked into the sea last week.TEPCO says it will move about 4,000 tons of the contaminated water to the waste processing facility. The pace of the transfer will be 10 tons per hour.

Tepco prepares to start pumping tainted water from No. 3 (Japan Times, May 17)

Highly radioactive water flooding the Fukushima power plant’s No. 3 reactor will be transferred to a waste-disposal facility to prevent it from tainting the environment
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Radioactive cesium detected in tea leaves (NHK News)

What the NHK print copy doesn’t show is the documentary that was broadcast along with the TV news story that  tempers the bad news somewhat, the documentary showed that the tea leave farmers have taken it upon themselves to cull the contaminated crop. The affected farmers being very concerned have been conducting all sorts of tests and experiments themselves, to see how much cesium is taken up by the plant from the roots and from the results have concluded that the plant doesn’t take up much cesium from its roots at all…(future crop implications). Because tea leaves are pretty much like spinach — the tea leaf’s concentration in potassium is high, it normally absorbs a lot of nutrition and cesium readily from the leaves.  The news also explained that the affected areas were highland areas that “caught” the downwind as the cesium dispersal settled on the slopes in the way in one of the hydrogen explosion events). Tea farmers’ efforts to cull this year’s crops and all notwithstanding … this is truly sad news for the tea industry. The NHK news story follows…

Radioactive material above designated safety limits has been detected in tea leaves harvested in 5 municipalities in Kanagawa Prefecture, neighboring Tokyo.

The prefectural government checked samples of leaves harvested in 15 municipalities in the region.

Officials say that samples from 5 of those were found to contain unsafe levels of radioactive cesium.

They say 780 becquerels of cesium were detected in tea leaves in Odawara City, 740 becquerels in Kiyokawa Village, 680 becquerels in Yugawara Town, 670 becquerels in Aikawa Town and 530 becquerels in Manazuru Town.

The Kanagawa prefectural government has asked the affected municipalities and the local farmers’ cooperative to voluntarily halt shipments for the time being.

It says it will repeat the tests in these towns and villages when tea leaves are harvested next month.

The survey comes after 570 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram — exceeding the provisional state limit of 500 — were detected in products from Minami Ashigara City on May 9th.

Friday, May 13, 2011

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Dutch architect making a difference (May 17, Japan Times) Van der Linden and PA International will take part in the project to build a community house in Iwate for children, seniors free of charge, and they will be supported by Jin Sasaki of Arup Japan, a company of construction engineers, consultants and technical specialists. They plan to work with the World Health Organization, UNICEF Japan and the U.N. Development Program to build a community house for both children and elderly people in the town. Originally, they thought of building a home just for the children. After talking with the local authorities in Yamada and finding out that the local home for the elderly was destroyed by the tsunami, they changed their plan and decided to design the facility so it would serve the needs of senior citizens as well.

According to Japan Tourism Agency, 39,000 Americans left Japan within a week after 3.11.
28,000 Americans have come (back) to Japan within the next 4 weeks.
For May (this month), the number of American tourists coming to Japan is expected 100% as the same number as last year. (China, South Korea returnees are 70-80% or so).
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