Here is our wrap this week on the news on educational matters in Japan:
Japan’s Soma named among world’s 23 distinguished women chemists (Mainichi, Jun 17)
The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry has named Japan’s Yoshie Soma, 69, as one of the 23 most distinguished women in chemistry and chemical engineering, the Chemical Society of Japan said Thursday.
Soma, special adviser to the president of Kobe University, is known for her research on the use of copper carbonyl catalyst in organic synthesis and recycling of carbon dioxide. She graduated from Kobe University in 1965 and currently lives in Osaka Prefecture. Read more here…
Yokohama checks school lunches for radiation (NHK, Jun 16)
Yokohama City, along with several Tokyo municipalities, has begun radiation testing of vegetables for school lunches.
The city started the tests on Thursday in response to parents’ concerns about whether food served in school is safe for their children, given the widespread fallout from the Fukushima plant. The city also plans to release the test results on its website. A city official says all food purchased by the city is safe for children, but that it decided to conduct the tests to reassure parents.
Overhaul of science, tech policy in offing (Japan Times, Jun 17)
A draft 2011 white paper (annual science and technology report to be adopted at a Cabinet meeting and submitted to the Diet in mid-July), MEXT raises questions about the way in which information about the March 11 natural disasters and subsequent nuclear disaster. The paper also urges researchers, engineers and policymakers to candidly review the nation’s science and technology policies, referring to “instances in which existing achievements of science and technology could not be fully utilized”. The draft also notes that data should be shared among experts within and outside Japan and makes calls for improved risk communication by regulators and experts to offer scientifically verified information in a comprehensible manner.
Govt to set point system for foreigners (Yomiuri, Jun 14)
The government will introduce a point system by the end of the year to give preferential treatment–such as easing the conditions for permanent residency–to non-Japanese with advanced expertise who want to come to Japan, according to a government source.
The government is likely to award points to non-Japanese who meet certain criteria concerning their educational background, work experience and annual income. …
According to a rough draft by the Justice Ministry, the point system is expected to cover foreigners working in the fields of academic research, advanced expertise and technology and business management.
“”It’s our last whiteboard meeting today,” said a teacher to a class of fourth-graders at a primary school in Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, in March.”Those of you who play the role of the facilitator [in each group], please support the other members so they can do their best,” the teacher, Naoki Iwase of Horigane Primary School, said. “This experience will be useful to all of you from now on because you can use it no matter what kind of team you belong to.”At a whiteboard meeting, students rule. And they make the most of a whiteboard. The subject for the day of my visit was students’ personal problems. The class was divided into groups, each of which has a facilitator who uses a whiteboard to write down the opinions of group members during the discussion. Every opinion is written down. The facilitator then groups similar opinions by circling them to make it easier to find a solution. Students take turns playing the facilitator of the respective groups.Because the students have worked with this method for three months, they know how to ask questions that will elicit opinions from others, Iwase said. …
Such whiteboard meetings have become widespread thanks to the efforts of Seiko Chon, who heads an Osaka-based group that holds training seminars for would-be facilitators for meetings, conferences and training sessions. The facilitator visualizes the process of a discussion by using black, red and blue felt pens to write down on a whiteboard opinions and ideas given during different stages of the discussion: Brainstorming the subject, narrowing the discussion to determine the core of the problem and then finding a solution. Companies and schools have taken up this idea because such meetings make it easy to solve problems and reach agreement.Iwase, 40, said he recognized some years ago that many students were finding it difficult to get involved with others. Because he felt that teachers’ efforts alone could not motivate students to do this, he sought useful ideas outside school, such as conference methods used in companies, and started holding classes that encouraged exchanges between students. The whiteboard meeting is just one of the methods he uses.
For example, in a discussion of literature in Iwase’s class, students read the same section from a book before class and discuss it in a group. During the third term of the school year, they had finished reading a Japanese translation of “The Bridge to Terabithia,” which was about 150 pages long. Then they brought their questions and opinions to class and a had a lively discussion that lasted for about 30 minutes. Even those students who don’t like to read become more confident in finishing a long novel.And during a writing class, which Iwase calls “An author’s hour,” one “author” writes a story on a free subject, which he or she reads aloud from the “author’s chair” to the class. The students then write “fan mail” to the author.All these activities create an atmosphere in which the students feel comfortable in actively taking part in classes, Iwase said.The students also keep school journals every day. Iwase said many of the entries are written with other students in mind, such as “Today’s class was nice because everyone could give an opinion.” ” Read the entire article here
Chiba man faces prosecutors over female student’s slaying (Japan Times, Jun 15)A 24-year-old man was turned over to prosecutors Tuesday in connection with the slaying of a 19-year-old female student whose corpse was found over the weekend near a forest road in Kisarazu, Chiba Prefecture, police said. Honda allegedly dumped the body of Kana Kikuchi, a resident of Ichikawa and a second-year student at Chiba University of Commerce, sometime between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, the police said. Read more here…
High school girls host radio program (Yomiuri, Jun.14)
Technology: Reopened Miraikan back to the future(Japan Times, Jun 15)
Through the museum’s new “Tsunagari”‘ (meaning “Interconnection”) project, Miraikan is emphasizing the “connectivity” theme and has unveiled three new exhibits (excerpts follow):
One of them is the upgraded “Geo-Cosmos” on the third floor, a giant, globe-like display that uses high-resolution Organic LED screens, considered the successor to the common LED versions currently used around the world. Mori explained, as he lit up the display on June 3, that the new type of LED is 10 times clearer than the previous kind.
Glowing beautifully in the darkness, the Geo-Cosmos, which is 6 meters in diameter — about one-two-millionth the size of the actual Earth — looks very much like the image we are so used to of our planet as seen from space. On its screens, content acquired from scientists and research institutes from around the world is displayed. During the preview, one of the videos shown explained how tsunami waves spread from Tohoku to the rest of the world within minutes of the March 11 earthquake.
The second new exhibit is “Geo-Scope,” which has 13 table-mounted touchscreens, on which visitors can access various Earth-observation data. The content includes seasonal changes in ecology, climate change and the predicted future-image of the Earth. Visitors can mix and choose various different data to display, which can result in interesting discoveries. For example, by combining the data of bluefin tuna migration and ocean temperatures, you can tell that the fish travels in parts of the ocean with seawater temperatures of around 15 degrees centigrade.
The third new feature of the Tsunagari project, called “Geo-Palette,” is actually online. At geopalette.jp/, anyone can draw from various world statistics — from cancer rates to uranium reserves to newspaper circulation figures — to create their own map. Notably, the museum has opted to go with the AuthaGraph world map, instead of the conventional two-dimensional world map that uses the Mercator projection — which distorts the size of the areas closest to the North and South poles dramatically. AuthaGraph, however, invented by architect Hajime Narukawa, is able to frame all land and sea in a rectangle while maintaining area ratios correctly. Users of this interface can also change the center of the map freely, and can interact with other users by making their maps public.
JET coordinator finds Iwate spirit contagious (Japan Times, Jun 15)
Principal’s poetic plea captures students’ hearts (Japan Times, Jun 15)
The message by Kenji Watanabe, head of the private Rikkyo Niiza Junior and Senior High School in Niiza, Saitama Prefecture, received considerable publicity after it was posted on the school’s website and spread via social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
His strong, positive words and compassion for others has struck a chord.
Watanabe, who took up his post at the all-boys school in August, stresses the wonder and beauty of life, but also calls on them to realize how privileged most of them are: many will automatically go on to St. Paul’s University, which is affiliated with the high school.
The message was intended as a commencement speech for a ceremony that had been scheduled for March 14. It was posted on the school website later in the month after the event was cancelled because of fears of postquake blackouts triggered by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
LIFE IN JAPAN Sacred Heart school using 3-D material to stimulate students (Excerpted below)
“… the International School of the Sacred Heart in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, has embraced the concept of using three-dimensional teaching materials and started using such images in its science classes in April. “We’re the first international school in Australasia to have teaching materials using 3-D software,” said Mary Hisaoka, the school’s admissions and development coordinator.
The total cost of buying the 3-D software from U.K.-based Amazing Interactives, as well as 3-D glasses to view the images, was covered by donations from parents, said Hisaoka.
James Griffiths, the head of the school’s science department who introduced the software, says he believes it has a good educational effect on the students, as it “grabs their interest right from the start, and gives them a stronger understanding of what they’re learning.”
The 3-D images are used only for about 10 minutes per class, because “if used too often, it would lose its appeal,” he said.
One afternoon in May, 3-D images were used in a ninth-grade biology class to review the human respiratory system to prepare students for the final exam. When quizzed about the images, the enthusiastic students rushed to answer questions…”
The ruling Democratic Party of Japan and the two major opposition parties have basically agreed to boost financial support for households with children under the age of 3, as some such households would otherwise see their after-tax income decline once the current child-rearing allowance program is abolished in favor of an older system.
The DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito agreed last month to abolish the child-rearing allowance program. The government plans to reintroduce a previous allowance system for children in October.
The three parties are now holding working-level talks to finalize the details. They are aiming toward giving from 13,000 yen to 15,000 yen per month to households with children under the age of 3, sources close to the parties said. Households with children aged from 3 through middle school age would receive 10,000 yen a month, the sources said.
The idea to give households with children under the age of 3 a higher sum was prompted by the loss of certain tax deductions for dependents aged up to 15. This is likely to result in lower after-tax income for households with children under 3 once the older allowance system replaces the current one.
The income tax deduction for dependents in this age group ceased in January, while the residential tax deduction will no longer be available from June 2012. When the old allowance system is revived, therefore, households with children aged under 3 will see their net income decline from what they received when they were eligible for the current child-rearing allowances up through fiscal 2009.
Under the current child-rearing allowance system, all households are eligible for a monthly payment of 13,000 yen per child, regardless of their income.
Both the LDP and Komeito agreed in May to provide households with children up to the age of 15 with a monthly child allowance of 10,000 yen–with an income ceiling for eligibility–and to abolish the present child-rearing allowance system by September.
However, it was later found that 10,000 yen a month would mean lower after-tax income for households with children under 3 and a yearly income from 3 million yen to 8 million yen.
For instance, households with an annual income of 5 million yen to 8 million yen would lose up to 8,625 yen in monthly net income in fiscal 2012, or more than 100,000 yen over the entire fiscal year.
To correct this situation, former Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Chikara Sakaguchi proposed giving a monthly allowance of 15,000 yen to households with children under the age of 3. Sakaguchi is a member of Komeito.
If the idea is realized, households with a yearly income of up to 5 million yen and with children under the age of 3 will see their net annual income increase through fiscal 2012. Households whose annual income is from 5 million yen to 8 million yen would see a smaller decline.
During talks with Sakaguchi on Thursday, DPJ Secretary General Katsuya Okada agreed to boost the allowance for households with children aged under 3. Both the LDP and Komeito are said to agree, in principle, with Sakaguchi’s proposal.
Yet some within the DPJ leadership are calling for the child allowance for households with children aged under 3 to be set at 13,000 yen a month, and for households with children aged 3 and older to receive 10,000 yen.
Advocates of this position want to get as much money as possible for post-disaster reconstruction efforts out of the 2.7 trillion yen allocated for child allowances for fiscal 2011, but nevertheless do not want to establish an income ceiling.
Discussions among the three parties may have rough going in the days ahead over exactly how much the additional sum should be.
In its bill to implement the child allowances for fiscal 2011, the DPJ originally planned to add 7,000 yen on top of the uniform 13,000 yen for households with children aged under 3. Its intention was to lessen the financial burden for households adversely affected by the revival of the previous allowance system, but the DPJ withdrew the bill as it met with resistance from opposition parties.
Instead, the ruling party enacted a law to extend the present provision of 13,000 yen a month through September.
Elsewhere in the world, the news on education:
Tiny town recruits students worldwide (NY Times, Jun 12)
About a very small public school in upstate NY that actively recruits international high school exchange students.
Preschool benefits last into adulthood, study says A new study claims that the things kids learn in pre-school can last well into adulthood.
Atheist Clegg looks at Catholic school for sons (Telegraph, Jun 16 Excerpts follow)
UK working class pupils condemned to educational failure (Telegraph, Jun 16)
We must help students reach college (Education Week)
Dr Gadget: Breakthroughs in e-learning (Straits Times, 6 Mar)
This article takes a look at the e-learning module developed from scratch with obstetricians and gynaecologists from Imperial College London that helps students understand complex processes difficult to describe in real life. Such technology will play a big role in helping medical students at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine here to learn, with applications ranging from treating virtual patients to working at a hospital in the popular 3-D virtual world Second Life. E-learning at the school is far more sophisticated than simply reproducing lecture material online … it features clinical skills simulations, game-based learning and interactive study modules that supplement traditional learning in the lecture theatre or hospital. .. Excerpts follow:
“What is crucial is that education material is delivered in ways that engage our population of young people, who are incredibly visually sophisticated,” he[Dr Martin Lupton] said. …
Students can communicate with professors and other colleagues online and procedures have to be followed through as though in the real world. …
Students also each have an “e-portfolio” whcih allows them to track their progress, record clinical experiences and contact patients. They can even access this on their iPhones by downloading the application.” – end of excerpt.
The medical school, an autonomous school of NTU jointly managed by NTU and Imperial College London, saw Imperial developing and delivering a course overseas for the first time. The programme is expected to be highly competitive as it offers participants the opportunity to be exposed to the research environments in two highly advanced universities in Singapore and UK. Synergistic combination of research resources, such as world-class talent and cutting-edge research facilities, is expected to draw the best students and faculties to the programme. The press release excerpt follows:
“At the opening ceremony, Professor Martyn Partridge, Senior Vice Dean of the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, thanked staff across the College who are already contributing to the success of the new medical school, for example through considering the academic support the trainee doctors will need, from library facilities to e-learning tools.
Speaking of his vision for the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Professor Partridge said: “The ethos is to produce the sort of doctors that you and I would like to have caring for us. In our teaching we must maintain the scientific basis of medicine and ensure that patients are at the centre of all care.”
Singapore’s High Commissioner Michael Eng Cheng Teo said the project had prompted deep interest in Singapore and highlighted the ambition of the new school to deliver the highest standards of education: “High quality is a hallmark of what we do in Singapore and in our third medical school we hope to achieve just that.” Congratulating the partners on the collaboration, he said: “It’s not easy to bring two universities and two cultures together but if anyone can do it, Imperial and NTU can.”
In early January, NTU announced that the Lee Foundation had made a gift of 150 million Singaporean dollars to the new Singapore medical school with half of the sum going directly to needy students. Thanks to the Singapore government’s pledge to provide enhanced matching to endowed donations, NTU will receive a gift amounting to $400 million. In recognition of the gift, the new medical school has been named the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, after Tan Sri Dato Lee Kong Chian who founded the Lee Foundation in 1952.”
Where does informal learning fit in? (MindShift|How We Learn) This article addresses these questions: With so much rich information for learners available and accessible on the Internet — everything from how to play the guitar to applications of the Pythagorean Theorem — how can the formal education system leverage all this within schools? How do you engage learners best? Since over 90 percent of research is done in formal environments, how do you measure engagement? How does this kind of informal, out-in-the-world learning connect to formal learning in schools?
Math Educators See the Right Angles for Digital Tools (EducationWeek)
31 Of My Favorite Digital Storytelling Sites (iLearnTechnology.com)
Here are 31 digital storytelling sites that you would want to check
App replaces messy frog dissections (Straits Times Excerpt follows)
“STUDENTS in some schools are using Apple iPads instead of textbooks and paper in class.
They tap on the screen of the computer tablet to answer a question sent out from the teacher’s device via the eClicker application, or app in short. And when they need to take notes, the PaperDesk app lets them do so electronically. To keep track of their assignments and tests, they click on the myHomework app.
…students in two Secondary 1 and Secondary 3 classes use school-issued 32GB Wi-Fi enabled iPads in class.
Over at Tampines Secondary, one Secondary 1 class is on the pilot project. Seven in 10 students in the class of 41 have opted to buy the 16GB Wi-Fi enabled model; the rest have borrowed the tablets from the school.
Teachers at both schools specify the apps to be used for lessons and the students buy them from Apple’s app store. So far, each has bought about 30 apps, costing about $40 in all.
Both schools have chosen the iPad over regular laptops and tablet compters chiefly for its long battery life – 10 hours compared with about four hours on other machines – and for its interactive touchscreen, which makes learning content come alive.
Nanyang Girls’ High biology students use an app called Frog Dissection which offers realistic graphics with pop-up screens labelling the various internal organs – but none of the mess.
The iPad also facilitates collaborative work.
Apps such as Popplet are ideal for brainstorming – they let team members see one another’s ideas as they are generated and entered into a common workspace.
Even students yet to use the iPad in class are using apps for the iPad, iPhone or iPad Touch, such as iCalculus and Science@VL, on their own to enhance their learning.
Teachers are also using apps that help them, mark attendance and keep records of co-curricular activity.
As Nanyang Girls’ High dean of curriculum Seah-Tay Hui Yong put it: “We can’t have 21st century kids taught by 20th century teachers in 19th century classrooms.” – end of excerpt.
2-year old prodigy learns everything from iPhone (Straits Times)
A 2-YEAR-OLD has reportedly memorised a massive amount of information from his parents’ iPhone, including all the 44 US presidents in order.
Rockford Ramirez from California is able to name all American states and capitals and all the countries in the world, the Daily Mail reported. His reading skill is also way above his peers.
The secret of the genius child was iPhone, according to his parents. They said that the mobile phone has accelerated his thirst for knowledge.
The child first started using the iPhone at the age of 18 months. Since then, by using various apps, Rockford has learnt about different topics like history and geography.
See related news: More parents using smartphones to entertain kids This trend has raised concerns that young children may be missing out on their social and motor development because of too much technology in their environment. According to a recent study conducted by Internet company AVG, 19 percent of children aged two to five are smart enough to use a smartphone, but only nine percent of the same age group can tie their shoelaces…
Museum offers ‘augmented reality’ experience The Asian Civilisation Museum in Singapore is introducing a new iPhone application that combines augmented reality and location-based gaming in conjunction with its upcoming Terracotta Warriors exhibition.
The application, developed by Magma Studios, will enable visitors who are also iPhone users to see exhibits come alive on their phones, which can help engage visitors on a more personal level.
“Technology has redefined how we interact and learn today, especially among the younger generation. As a museum, we also want to connect with our visitors in their terms, and this iPhone app allows us to offer them a novel multi-sensory experience, available only at our museum,” T. Sundraraj, ACM deputy director of programmes and audience development, told members of the media present at the preview event on Wednesday.
NTU taps into a potential sunrise industry (Nano News)
With its strengths in sustainability research, NTU will work with Austrian researchers and industry to see how sustainable energy can be used to boost energy efficiency of buildings. To address the problem of tapping solar thermal energy in tropical environments, NTU researchers are partnering SOLID ASIA, one of the world’s leading company in the field of large-scale solar thermal plants, to optimise these systems for use in countries like Singapore.
The Centre of Excellence in Solar Thermal to be jointly established by NTU and SOLID ASIA will conduct research to develop advanced thermal materials and systems which can harness solar thermal energy more effectively.
The centre is likely to be set up in the upcoming CleanTech Park, adjacent to the NTU campus, with expected funding of up to S$2 million from industry partners and government agencies.
Liberal arts college can blossom in S’pore: PM (Straits Times) The new Yale-NUS College is expected to provide high-calibre students with an additional option to pursue a liberal arts education, comparable to what a student can get in Yale. With its broad-based, multi-disciplinary education, smaller classes and intense residential experience, the college aims to nurture graduates who can think deeply, analyse issues from first principles, generate new insights, communicate well and make connections across different domains of knowledge. The S’pore PM said the college would provide a boost the spirit of inquiry and critical thinking and its graduates would be valuable for Singapore in a more complex and interconnected world.
This week’s recommended blogs:
Japan Higher Education Outlook Blog: http://japanheo.blogspot.com/ A blog with original content but also featuring links and excerpts to many sources of information on Higher Education in Japan
UPSIDE Learning Blog: http://www.upsidelearning.com/blog/ This is an interesting blog from a company that specializes in creating unique solutions that help improve performance through better learning. The blog’s articles explore many social and mobile learning products that address learning performance goals and needs, and that create solutions that range from simple presentations to complex simulations and games.
Next up, here are our news updates on the Fukushima nuclear crisis:
Leak source identified at Fukushima Daiichi pant (NHK, Jun 17) TEPCO is now replacing a damaged air ventilation valve that company officials had discovered to have been damaged. They concluded that contaminated water inside the cesium removal device had escaped through the air valve, resulting in the leak. They also discovered that a water valve in another container was closed. It plans to resume the test run as soon as possible and start full-scale operation of the decontamination system within Friday as initially planned.
TEPCO account of first 5 days TEPCO has compiled a 50-page document detailing what happened at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant during the first 5 days after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami triggered the nuclear accident, centering on reactors 1, 2 and 3, as well as TEPCO’s responses.
Spent-fuel pool never dried up, U.S. admits (Japan Times, Jun 17) Water used to cool spent fuel at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant did not dry up, as earlier feared, U.S. regulators said Wednesday, in a reversal of a claim that pitted U.S. officials against Japan in the days after the March 11 calamity.
Mutant rabbits, nuclear meltdowns and nuclear tourism (Japan Times Jun 12) This article notes what news is stirring and riling up the public sentiment as well as the bright spots on the retail market.
Balloons useful photographing disaster-hit areas (Japan Times, Jun 15)
Despite crisis, nuclear to remain core energy source: Kaieda (Japan Times, Jun 15)
A couple from Yamanashi Prefecture who run an aerial photography service company are taking images of disaster-hit Tohoku areas from the sky using camera-equipped balloons, to give people a clearer picture of the devastation of March 11.
On Radiation, Health & Safety matters:
Kansai mulls own nuke nightmare vulnerability (Japan Times, Jun 17) The crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has heightened concern in the Kansai region, where 15 atomic reactors are located less than 55 km from Japan’s largest freshwater lake, a source of water for millions of people in Kyoto and Osaka.
Since a series of accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March, the ministry has been making daily announcements of radiation levels.
The science ministry has decided to measure radiation levels at a height of one meter nationwide with a portable radiation detector.
Tokyo ups radiation checks to 100 sites (Japan Times, Jun 16) The Tokyo Metropolitan Government kicks off a weeklong program to measure radiation levels in the air at 100 locations, instead of just relying on one central monitoring site since the Fukushima nuclear crisis erupted in March. | Tokyo to measure radiation at 100 locations (NHK, Jun 16)
Contaminated tea found at 5 more plants (NHK, Jun 15)|
Japan begins quarantine inspection for E.coli (NHK, Jun 15) | Most raw-meat eateries unsanitary / Survey finds 52% of restaurants in violation of meat-handling safety rules (Yomiuri, Jun.16) | Cheap meat, MRSA and deadly greed (The Independent) In the United States, Latin America, and Asia, animals being farmed for meat and milk are being automatically given antibiotics in their food all day – irrespective of whether they are healthy or sick. … The animals in these factory farms can become reservoirs of stronger superbugs. Sometimes it spreads to us through contamination of raw meat, but more often it filters out through workers who have contact with the animals. Dutch pig farmers are 760 times more likely to be carrying pig-MRSA than the rest of the population. This story ends eventually with the death of antibiotics – and routine operations becoming deadly once more.
See also related article: Death wish routine use of vital antibiotics on farms threatens human health (Jun 17, Independent) | New invention to zap super-bugs dead (HealthXchange.com – scroll down to bottom of page)
Fearing radiation, family quits Japan (Japan Times, Jun 14)
Quake-proof building makers prepare for bigger shock (Japan Times, Jun 17) | Related link: Japan’s mega-quake struck in small zone of fault: Study
1 in 4 high schoolers drink soda every day (USAToday)