Dear EDU WATCH readers,

We are pleased to bring you our regular EDU WATCH summary of educational news and events in Japan as well as elsewhere in the world.

First up, the local news on education:

Bullying cases exceed 140,000 in 1st half  see also: Figures show bullying rife in Japanese schools (News On Japan via Asahi — Nov 23)

144,000 cases of school bullying (Kyodo via Japan Times, Nov. 24, 2012)

“Bullying cases recognized by schools between April and September more than doubled to 144,054 from about 70,000 for all of the previous school year, according to the education ministry.

The total includes 278 serious cases that could have endangered the lives, or at least the physical safety, of students, the ministry said Thursday.

The figures cover elementary schools through high schools, as well as schools for students with special needs, and showed a sharp increase due to growing awareness of bullying in schools, the ministry said.

By prefecture, Kagoshima recorded the most bullying cases: 1 per 6 students. This was about 160 times greater than in Fukuoka, which had the lowest rate, at 1 case per 1,000 students…

The tally was compiled on the basis of reports sent as of Sept. 22 from prefectures across the country….

By school, about 88,000 cases of bullying were reported at elementary schools, roughly 43,000 cases at junior high schools, some 13,000 cases at high schools and about 600 cases at special schools for disabled students.”

Related:  Korean film on school bullying rings true in Japan (Oct. 14, 2012 Japan Times)

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Prospective university graduate hiring rises to 63%, 2nd year of gain (Nov. 27, 2012 Kyodo)

A total of 63.1 percent of university students due to graduate next spring had secured employment as of Oct. 1, up 3.2 percentage points from a year earlier and rising for the second year in a row to possibly signal a recovery from the low marked following the 2008 global financial crisis, a Japanese government survey showed Tuesday.

But the figure is still more than 6 percentage points lower than in 2007, with about 157,000 prospective graduates believed to be still without job offers, according to the joint survey by the education and labor ministries.

The survey is designed to estimate employment prospects for the around 425,000 students hoping to get jobs after graduating. It polled students at 62 universities chosen among higher learning institutions in the country.

[See also related: Update: University grad hiring up for second year, to 63% (Japan Times, Nov. 28, 2012) extract follows:

“Job offers at major firms have been rising. With the number of openings bottoming out at small to medium-size firms, there is more hiring appetite,” an official with the major employment service Recruit Holdings Co. said.

A survey by the private research company Recruit Work Institute shows that the number of job offers grew 3.6 percent from a year ago among companies with at least 5,000 employees and 2.2 percent among firms employing 1,000 to 4,999 people.

“Recruitment by small to medium-size firms will move into full swing. But the situation is unpredictable, with uncertainties surrounding the economic outlook,” a labor ministry official said.

A 23-year-old male senior studying economics at Chuo University said he has offers from four companies, including his first-choice firm.

“All my friends have secured job offers. I felt that job hunting was a lot easier than what I heard from my seniors,” he said.

But not everyone has had such a positive experience.

“I don’t feel myself that the percentage of students securing job offers has gone up,” said a 24-year-old graduate student at Nihon University who attended a job fair in Tokyo earlier this month. He said he had attended briefings with more than 20 companies but had yet to land an offer.

“Students at top schools are faring well, but those in the rest of the pack are struggling,” said an official in charge of job placement at a private university in Tokyo.

“The situation is tough due partly to the worsening of Sino-Japanese relations,” said an official with a steel-related small enterprise in Chiba Prefecture. “The priority for companies is to keep going rather than to hire new graduates.”

The percentage of high school students who had secured employment offers as of the end of September declined 0.5 percentage point to 41.0 percent from a year earlier, according to the government survey.

Job openings for high school graduates grew 13.3 percent to about 182,000.”]

Public libraries are thriving (Japan Times Nov 18)

“That Japanese public libraries are thriving may come as no surprise to anyone, but an education ministry report found that the number of books checked out by elementary school children from the 3,274 public libraries nationwide reached an average of 26 per child in fiscal 2010. That is up from 18.8 in 2007, a significant and commendable upswing to the highest level ever. The total number of books checked out by all people was also at a peak of 663.6 million books nationwide. …” Read the rest of the article here.

Daily Yomiuri runs a series taking a look at the Efforts being made by Japanese middle and high schools to integrate more global elements into their curriculums with the International Baccalaureat (IB) program

Mike Guest in his Daily Yomiuri article, “INDIRECTLY SPEAKING / Textbooks finally showing more of the world” writes:

” …  since textbooks and other teaching materials have developed a more global perspective, with U.S. standards and norms no longer dominant, I’ve noticed a welcome shift in student awareness of a world existing on an axis other than a U.S.-Japan (and maybe Chinese or British) one. This is welcome, as it is in accordance with the fact the majority of English speakers in the world are not Americans but in fact learners of English as a second language from myriad countries.

A recent decrease in the number of Japanese students studying in the United States has been said to be indicative of an increasing Japanese insularity among younger people. But as Japanese students increasingly see the world as multipolar my hope is that they shift their study abroad interests to other nations ridding themselves of the immediate association between the United States and “foreign countries.”

I have noted among my own students the gradual realization that the United States is just one country among many. This has precipitated a marked shift in interest, so that it is no longer unusual to find students keener on learning about, and experiencing life in, Indonesia, Thailand, Portugal or Sweden (to name some countries of particular interest mentioned by students recently).

The next step in English materials development that I would like to see is for the characters from various countries to be presented not as caricatures, amalgams of the various national stereotypes, but as personalities–a scenario in which the human, psychological model trumps the cultural representative motif….”

New universities are big business, needed or not (Nov 18, 2012 Japan Times) on why universities are courted by local governments and developers…

Japanese in U.S. colleges off 6.2% (Kyodo, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2012)

NEW YORK — The number of Japanese students enrolled in U.S. universities in the academic year that started in fall 2011 dropped 6.2 percent from a year earlier to 19,966, compared with around 194,000 Chinese students, up 23.1 percent, the Institute of International Education said Monday.
The figure for the Japanese students was down nearly 60 percent from the peak in the 1997-1998 academic year, and ranked seventh in the country-by-country enrollment ranking, while China remained at the top for the third consecutive year. Indian students came in second, followed by South Koreans and Saudi Arabians, according to the institute.

In the rankings of U.S. college students’ choice of overseas study destinations for the 2010-2011 academic year, Japan fell to 14th place from 11th a year earlier, partly because several study programs in Japan were canceled in the wake of the March 2011 disasters.

Next, Japan Times analyses why Japanese students are increasingly staying local…

Students staying in Japan (Japan Times, Nov. 18, 2012)
Japanese college students are studying abroad in fewer numbers than ever before. A new report from the nonprofit Institute of International Education in New York announced that a mere 19,900 Japanese students were enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2011-12. That is down 60 percent from the peak in 1997-98 when a total of 47,000 Japanese students studied in U.S. colleges and universities.
The 6.2 percent decrease from a year earlier is the seventh year-on-year drop, putting Japan after China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Taiwan (in first to sixth places) for students in U.S. schools.
China had 10 times as many students and India five times as many. Even South Korea far outnumbered Japan with 72,000 students in American universities.

The reasons why Japanese students no longer go abroad are many and complex. For most Japanese families, education is one of the major expenses and deeply affected by the economic downturn.

However, the report found that Vietnam, Mexico and Turkey, the next three countries in the ranking, are sending more and more students even while their economies suffer. Japanese perceptions of the economy may mean that many students and parents see studying abroad as an extravagance and indulgence rather than a high value and necessary undertaking.

The declining birthrate and the competition inside Japan also contributed to the lower numbers. Many Japanese universities are expanding international studies programs that are run mainly, or even exclusively, in English. Those programs are good ones, but the portion of students they enroll will not have the experience of living in a different culture and environment.

The most important reason for Japanese deciding to study at home, though, is surely increased competition for jobs. The recruiting and interview schedule of most Japanese companies has become more rigorous, exacting and time-consuming than ever before.

When students study abroad, they fall out of the usual rounds of explanation sessions, pre-interviews, “entry sheet” submission and interviews.

If Japanese companies were to allow interviews of students after graduation, rather than during their third and fourth year, many students would surely head overseas.

If companies asked for language skills, international experience and a global mindset as part of their requirements, the numbers studying abroad would skyrocket. Business employment practices directly affect the educational process. That system needs greater flexibility and a broader mindset so students can go abroad and not lose out on the chance to get a job.

Changing the system requires careful coordination from the government and companies, with fresh attitudes and new procedures, but change is urgently needed.

Meanwhile, as Japanese students job hunt at home, students from other countries are gaining the language skills, cross-cultural mentality and educational experiences they will need in the future.

Gregory Clark defends Education Minister Tanaka Makiko’s veto of the new universities proposal as the right move that would have helped address Japan’s university education crisis (Japan Times, Nov 28)

There is a crisis in Japanese tertiary education. Student numbers decline while the number of approved universities increases relentlessly — by almost 100 in the last 10 years. Some 45 percent of private universities cannot fill the student number quotas set by Education Ministry (MEXT); this year 18 of them could not even reach half their quota. In desperation many will accept almost anyone who applies, provided they have a pulse as the saying goes. Some have already gone bankrupt. More will follow…

In Japan, failing students goes against the communalistic ethic, and against the law to some extent. It also cuts university income.

So the bureaucrats end up degrading the entire education system here by approving yet another bunch of institutions seeking to provide four years of fairly shallow education to students who do not need it, who cannot handle it and who may not even want it. Even the elite universities suffer the contagion…..

Many of these two-year or newly minted four-year universities try to increase their appeal by emphasizing what is called international education, mainly in the form of increased English-language teaching. But ability to operate internationally cannot come from a few force-fed classes in basic English….advanced research today is almost impossible for people who cannot work fluently in English and understand Western systems. The same qualities are now needed for many other forms of international activity. Nakamura pointed out how the best Chinese and Korean students now reach these standards. Japanese students do not.

Instead of simply adding to the army of second-rate universities in Japan trying to survive by further dumbing down the system, Japan’s education bureaucrats should be trying to focus on the specialized education needed to bring graduates up to those top global levels urged by Nakamura-sensei. The recent emphasis on post-graduate studies here in Japan is not enough. Unless universities are drastically reformed it will simply add to the glut of unemployable M.A.s and Ph.D.s.

Arming students with the linguistic and academic abilities for advanced study abroad, as with many of those Chinese and Korean students, should be the first priority. Tanaka’s admittedly impromptu efforts to start to clean up the system deserved praise, not brickbats.”

Related: See “Tanaka Makiko’s Apology” (Shisaku blog discusses the meaning of a politician’s apology) / Tanaka neither sorry nor reflective over her about-face

Education ministry starts university establishment guideline review process (Japan Today, Nov 23, 2012)
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has conducted the first of a series of talks to review its guidelines for the establishment of new universities. The meetings come after the ministry’s shock refusal to grant official university status to three institutions which had already been given the green light by a ministry screening council and were already accepting enrolments. (Japan Today

Japanese universities in crisis – what they can learn from Europe (Japan Today, Nov 16, 2012)

Make Japanese universities more or less like sumo world  (Nov. 19, 2012 Japan Times)

One of the reasons why Japanese universities are weak in their international competitiveness is found in the uniquely Japanese way in which educational and research projects are undertaken at the postgraduate level. TAKAMITSU SAWA says he “would like to emphasize that Japanese postgraduate schools must deviate from the existing pattern that is so similar to the sumo world” and that,

“…any postgraduate institution should operate in such a way that a student who aspires to become a professional researcher receives a highly specialized education in a systematic manner, determines the theme of his or her doctorate or master’s dissertation after a series of trials and errors, seeks advice from an instructor deemed most appropriate for that particular theme, and completes the thesis with the help of that instructor.

In reality, however, any new student at a Japanese postgraduate school is assigned, willy-nilly, to a particular research group, just as a new professional sumo aspirant is assigned to a stable, and made totally dependent on the instructor, just as the wrestler is made obedient to the stablemaster, and given little opportunity of receiving high-level and broad education in specific fields.”

Nicolas Gattig writes a scathing piece for Japan Times ( Nov. 13, 2012) on the state of Japanese higher education, THE ZEIT GIST | Failing students: Japanese universities facing reckoning or reform

Click here to learn about Nishimachi International School scholarships

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Elsewhere in the world … the news on education:

Students from China add $5b to US economy (China Daily | Asia News Network, Nov 17, 2012)

Beijing (China Daily/ANN) – Booming Chinese-student enrollment in United States colleges and universities contributed nearly US$5 billion to the US economy in the 2011-12 academic year, an education expert estimated.
“The rise of China as a contributor to the economies of many US institutions mirrors the increasing influence of China in the global economy,” wrote Rahul Choudaha, director of research and advisory services at World Education Services in an e-mail to China Daily.
World Education Services is a New York-based nonprofit that specialises in international education and research.
“In 2003-04, there were 61,765 Chinese students enrolled in the US, contributing an estimated $1.4 billion to the economy. This ballooned to 194,029, contributing nearly $5 billion, in 2011-12,” Choudaha added.
The number of Chinese students enrolled in US institutions of higher education in 2011-12 increased from 157,558 to 194,029, or 23 per cent, over the previous year, a new report shows.
The Open Doors 2012 report, published on Tuesday by the Institute of International Education with support from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the US State Department, reveals that international students in US universities make a significant positive economic impact on the US.
The report also shows that nearly half of Chinese students favour business and engineering, which became the top two majors among Chinese students.
The Open Doors report said that 64 per cent of international students – and 82 per cent of undergraduates – rely primarily on personal and family funds to pay for their studies.
The number of Chinese students has greatly increased, particularly at the undergraduate level. Chinese student enrollments increased by 23 per cent in total and by 31 per cent at the undergraduate level.
The figure from the Ministry of Education in 2012 shows that nearly 340,000 Chinese students studied abroad in 2011, and nearly 320,000 of them were self-sponsored.
Research from the World Education Services in 2012 shows that Chinese students were more likely to be well-funded for their studies abroad compared with other international students.
The research also found that nearly 60 per cent of US-bound Chinese respondents were indexed high in terms of financial resources, as compared to the overall average of 49 per cent.

A gov. working paper out of Singapore on the societal costs of “The educational arms race: All for One, Loss for All” makes for an interesting read, with similar implications for the exam-oriented paperchase society in Japan.

Cambridge exam office sets up branch in Singapore (Yahoo! Newsroom, Nov 8, 2012)

International schools in Singapore will now be given more GCE exam support, with the opening of a new Cambridge Assessment Singapore (CAS) branch at Odeon Towers. CAS, working alongside Cambridge International Examinations, will become the regional hub to deliver increased support to international schools in Singapore and other schools in the Asia Pacific region. Cambridge International Examinations is the administrator for GCE ‘O’ and ‘A’-Level exams worldwide.

The new branch, built at a cost of S$7 million, will offer professional development programmes for teachers to educational leadership seminars for principals among other initiatives in line with the Cambridge curriculum. “What is new now is that we bring a new quality to the educational debate and we engage in issues that are very important and very topical in the Asia Pacific region. We engage people at a different level of debate so that it’s about pedagogy, classroom practices, … curriculum development,” Ben Schmidt, regional director for Asia Pacific. There are currently 28 international schools in Singapore, including ACS (International), Hwa Chong International, St Joseph’s International and Tanglin Trust School. They are among 2000 schools in the region offering Cambridge international qualifications.

The exam office will not support the majority of local schools in Singapore that already use the GCE O and A Level exams, as these are already supported under the government’s Ministry of Education.
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School leavers must ‘earn or learn’ (Guardian, Nov 20)

“…Coalition plans to make it more difficult for 18- to 21-year-olds to go straight on to benefits after school, and instead require them to work or study, are to be announced by the business secretary, Vince Cable.

He will hint at the new “earn or learn” plans, being discussed as a possible centrepiece of a new coalition agreement, in a speech to the Association of Colleges.

Government figures show 18.5% of boys aged 18 and 15.3% of girls are Neets – not in education, employment or training. The total is 115,000. The degree to which a benefit sanction would be included, and on what terms, is still up for discussion within the coalition, with Conservatives favouring a sanction.

Cable will say in his speech: “The issue is this: the government has a clear vision for 16- to 18-year-olds, where we are raising the participation age and increasing support for English and maths. But for young people over 18, the offer is much less clear. There’s generous educational support for some, while, for others, financial support through the benefits system can actually prevent them from learning.

“Ideally, we should be keeping this age group as far away from the benefits system as possible, unless there’s a really compelling need. For this group, we need a much simpler system, which supports and incentivises people to get the skills they need to secure sustainable employment, whether through higher education, further education or an apprenticeship, or through more bespoke interventions to help them acquire the employability skills that too many companies tell me are lacking.”

The new approach for 18- to 21-year-olds is being described as “earn or learn”, a term borrowed from Australia.

Cable will say that policy work is at an early stage but it is designed to address a gap in the government’s social mobility agenda. It has been reported that the coalition is divided on the extent to which trainees would be required to take up one of the options or lose some or all benefit.

Cable will also say it is his intention that 18-year-olds leaving school by the end of this parliament should consider an apprenticeship to be as rewarding and socially valuable as going to university.

He will say: “My ambition is that, by 2015, an 18-year-old leaving school and weighing up the choice of degree versus apprenticeship would do so without factoring in social stigma – seeing them as different but of equal value in terms of experience, job prospects, value for money and earnings potential.”…. Read more here.

Michael Gove’s curriculum attacked by expert who advised him (The Guardian, 12 June 2012)

“Michael Gove’s proposed reforms of the national curriculum have been attacked as “fatally flawed” by a member of the expert panel involved in drawing up the changes.

Andrew Pollard, an academic who was one of a team of four involved in the review, said the published proposals – which include officially mandated spelling lists – were so prescriptive they denied teachers the scope to exercise their professional judgment. He described Gove’s initial instructions to the head of the review team as “crude”.

Teachers will be presented with “extremely detailed” year-on-year specifications in English, maths and science that risk wrecking “breadth, balance and quality” in children’s school experience, and fail to acknowledge that children learn at different speeds, he said.

Pollard told the Guardian there were two key problems with the proposed changes.

“It is overly prescriptive in two ways. One is that it is extremely detailed, and the other is the emphasis on linearity – it implies that children learn ‘first this, then that’. Actually, people learn in a variety of different ways, and for that you need flexibility – for teachers to pick up on that and vary things accordingly. …

The proposals published this week include making a foreign language compulsory from the age of seven, as well as introducing more demanding programmes in maths and English.

For the first time, the government will set a list of words that all children must learn how to spell.

The reforms set detailed instructions about learning grammar, including teaching the use of speech marks and possessive pronouns by the end of year 4 of primary school, relative clauses by the end of year 5 and the use of the subjunctive by the end of year 6.

The reforms will be opened to consultation and are due to be introduced in September 2014….” Read more here.

Related earlier news:

The new curriculum: made to order? New questions are being asked about the framing of the planned primary curriculum …

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Meanwhile, James Harris a senior lecturer at the U. of Leeds defends what universities have already achieved and highlights the wealth of learning and teaching resources bridging the education gap in: What ‘more’ can universities do for Michael Gove and Alan Milburn? (excerpted below):

“Both universities and the private sector have developed bridging resources with considerable potential. JISC Content has digitisated a large number of educational resources mainly for university students. Jorum is a repository of free learning and teaching resources created by UK FE and HE institutions. Khan Academy delivers the basic building blocks of knowledge in a wide range of disciplines via short animated podcasts. MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) are generating huge interest from universities and learners. Curriki, a non profit online education community, enables teachers to create their own bespoke resources – as does the Guardian Teacher Network.

Universities also organise conferences where research specialists address A-level students and teachers. They act as consultants for exam boards and review syllabi. They work with local schools in disadvantaged areas and invite pupils to ‘taster’ lectures, summer schools, and other activities that demystify university for those, often the first in their families, to enter higher education. However, in the overwhelming majority of cases, academics and universities work locally, without much coordination and all too often without significant effect.

Universities could substantially and effectively contribute to the agendas set by Gove and Milburn by means of a common virtual platform which universities across the UK contribute to, and from which teachers and students across the UK can draw. There are several platforms available that would fulfil this need, such as the Excellence Gateway. Another that I am personally involved with and which I think could make a difference is JISC-funded the Faculties.

This site includes filmed lectures by academics on topics taken directly from the A-level curriculum. These free ‘stretch and challenge’ resources can be played on laptops, tablets and mobile phones, and bring the latest research into A-level classrooms not to prep students for the exam, but to inspire the sort of higher level thinking that Gove wants to see. And they keep teachers and examiners up-to-date with the research too.

Many of the films are specifically tailored to prepare students for the challenges of higher education. An entire section of the site is devoted to careers, so prospective students can see what opportunities an undergraduate degree opens for them. Students and teachers can also use the interactive discussion function associated with every podcast to engage with each another and the presenter.

The site addresses the Milburn report recommendations by providing a platform for universities to create ‘access’ resources and engage in outreach activities collectively instead of individually and nationally instead of locally. And by building a library of rigorous A-level study aids and access resources, universities can make a big difference by recording what they do already and by virtually engaging their audience too.

It may sound like another burden for universities but platforms such as this promise powerful impact from modest effort by taking advantage of simple technologies that students use every day. And there’s a sweetener. Universities cringe at the demands made of them at a time when they must focus on the new fee regime and the challenge of sustaining recruitment. But those universities that contribute resources to the Faculties can embed banners to draw attention to their programmes. There may be other ways for Gove and Milburn to achieve their goals, but as things stand, innovating trumps asking universities to ‘do more'”

Are Middle Class Parents Souring on College Education? (Education News, Nov 20, 2012)

“Faced with numerous financial concerns, a growing number of middle-class parents are souring on college, according to a new report released this week. The Merill Edge Report, which canvasses the views of adults falling in the middle income bracket and which is published twice every year, finds that while middle-class parents continue to contribute a large chunk to their children’s college expenses, four in ten have been expressed worries that the price of higher education is now too high to be affordable.

The fallout from the recent financial collapse and ongoing recession means that even families with reasonable financial resources now must give college-related costs a second look. This is especially important in light of the fact that a growing number of families who have dipped into their savings to help finance their children’s higher education have subsequently found themselves in a financial hole of their own.

The proportion of people over 60 who are holding a loan and are more than 90 days overdue has jumped to nearly 10% this year from 6% in 2005. There are also growing numbers of people holding federal loans who are getting their Social Security checks garnished for repayment. There were only 23,996 such garnishments recorded in 2001. This year, there were nearly 120,000.

The growing price that students are expected to pay for their college degree makes it doubly important for everyone to make sure that the school they choose and the major they select provides a good return on the investment made in the form of tuition. According to Daily Finance, students who are hoping that a degree will provide a boost in their career should focus on majors in the technology and computer science industry while staying away from those in the social services sector.

The five lowest-paying majors are nearly all in the social service sector, while computer sciences and engineering programs continue to churn out high-paid workers. A recent PayScale study listed the median mid-career pay for a Petroleum Engineering major at $163,000 and the median mid-career pay for a Social Work major at just $45,300. Of the 1,000+ parents polled by Merrill Edge, just over one-third plan on relying on scholarships and grants, and about one-in-four will ask their kids to chip in. Yet again, one of the simplest ways to save for college is still vastly underused — just 20 percent of families take advantage of education savings plans, according to the report.

Even those parents who regret the choices they made when saving for college for their first children aren’t likely to avoid similar blunders when thinking of paying for college for their subsequent kids. Merill Edge finds that nearly half of those polled wished that they had been more aggressive in their savings strategies, yet only 32% have actually taken their own advice and learned from their mistakes when putting aside money for younger children.” Read the entire article here.

Study Shows Parents Struggling to Save for College (Education News, Oct  13, 2011)   A recent study shows the real effect of the poor economy on parents’ ability to save for their children’s college education: “The study showed that 25% of U.S. households are contributing less toward their children’s college education — or have stopped saving entirely. 44% have not started saving at all. A meager 15 percent have reduced spending on other things to keep saving/paying for their children’s college educations.” Read more here.

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Strategic Data Project Report Shows Teacher Quality Matters (Nov 20 2012, Edu news) Excerpt follows:

“The Strategic Data Project has released the results of an extensive 6-year study that looked at the instructional quality and the environment surrounding around one third of the teachers working in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Among the conclusions published by the authors were that newer teachers are frequently assigned to teach underperforming students […]

The Strategic Data Project has released the results of an extensive 6-year study that looked at the instructional quality and the environment surrounding around one third of the teachers working in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Among the conclusions published by the authors were that newer teachers are frequently assigned to teach underperforming students more often than their more experienced peers, and that graduates of Teach for America typically have a greater impact on the academic success of their students than new teachers who haven’t gone through the program.

The Strategic Data Project, an organization affiliated with the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, has conducted similar studies before in more than 35 districts around the country. The researchers looked at “teacher recruitment, development and retention patterns,” not only in traditional public schools but also in national charter organizations. The data collection and analysis had been funded in large part by grants from the Gates Foundation.

LAUSD’s report, which was released Wednesday, could become a key resource as the district and United Teachers Los Angeles negotiate changes to teacher evaluations and other parts of the teachers’ contract.

The report shines a brighter light on how much of an impact an effective teacher can have on student achievement. Specifically, when measured by student standardized test scores, a teacher who is in the 75th percentile of instructional effectiveness in mathematics provided benefits equivalent to an additional 8 months of schooling over a student taught by a teacher who was at the bottom 25th percentile of effectiveness. …” Read more here.

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Follow the debate: “would the economy be better off without MBA students?”, see the pros and cons of an MBA education at the Economist with some comments excerpted below …

“The stock of the MBA may never been higher. Of the Fortune 500 companies some 200 are now run by a holder of the degree, far more than for any other qualification. Forty of these chief executives graduated from Harvard Business School alone. Below them are boardrooms stuffed with business-school graduates, replenished by fast-track leadership-development pools fed by a similar source.”– the moderator

“… a large number of (well-heeled, privileged) students had little or no work experience and seemed to be hiding from entering the work force by going to graduate school. Many who couldn’t get into law school went for MBAs as a second choice.

The result was a bunch of 2nd lieutenants with no work experience, no personnel experience and inflated views of their self-worth who were in influential positions in the management of companies. During my experience rising to management before starting my own business I’ve found that the MBA’s rarely get into the field where the real business is done.

In finance they’ve created fantastic capital constructions that have contributed little to the economy–or worse.

It seems that we’d be better off if everyone was BARRED from graduate business school until they have at least 8-10 years in real jobs and have learned the nitty-gritty about business.

While I was a national sales manager I had the experience of spending 60% of my time riding with salespeople in the construction industry. I found that when I came off the road and spent several weeks in the office I started “generating” letters and programs, etc, etc. ….after 6 weeks in the office it was a good “reality adjustment” to get back in the field–there I found in a day or two that at least half the BS I was creating was nonsense that was getting in the way of the people who were really doing the business for the company. The grandiose schemes of the accountants and MBAs were so far from reality and the needs of the company that it was scandalous.”– Guanologist

“Henry Mintzberg, a management guru most famous for his book “Managers Not MBAs”, does not agree. He says that MBA programmes teach the wrong things to the wrong people. Not only does this mean that companies are led by unsuitable people, but it also means that the right candidates—who have learned the craft of management through years of practise—are barred from leadership positions by an old boys’ network. This, he believes, holds the economy back.

Related readings: Can business be taught? | MBA diary: The best of times, the worst of times | Business school research: The physics envy problem

Technology Helps Non-Verbal Autistic Kids Communicate (Nov 15, Education News)

” as Ontario deals with a growing number of autism diagnoses, education officials hope that this “golden key” in the form of a popular digital gadget will unlock more than just the needs and wants of Beverly students. Figuring out how to connect with autistic students who are non-verbal is a huge challenge and many schools are now experimenting with technology to make that task easier.

Carroll, who with colleague Sabrina Tayebjee Morey recently won a Prime Minister’s teaching award, was part of a three-year project that put an iPod touch or iPad tablet in the hands of students at the Toronto public school. The groundbreaking research at Beverley found autistic students were able to achieve things seasoned educators — even the children’s parents — had no idea they were capable of, using no-cost to low-cost applications. Some students’ attention spans exceeded five minutes by the end of their research….

The benefits of the technology, however, come with a warning: the devices can open up lines of communication but may further isolate autistic children, who already struggle to socialize. Bridget Taylor, a researcher who founded the Alpine Learning Group, a private school for autistic children in New Jersey, says autistic children can become too focused on the devices.

“Kids are drawn to technology and . . . there could potentially be a reliance on it that’s not so beneficial in the long run,” says Taylor, who has worked with autistic youth for 25 years and uses tablets with her students.

Related: Watch the videoclip iPads ‘speak’ for non-verbal autistic kids (thestar.com)

Singapore reducing exam pressure on students (AFP news Nov 21), a summary of the article follows:

Singapore is doing away with its annual ritual of publishing the names of top scorers in national student examinations (primary and secondary) to reduce academic pressure on children but the move has drawn mixed reactions, press reports said Wednesday.
An education ministry spokesman told the Straits Times that the move was aimed at showing pupils and parents that academic performance was “just one aspect of a student’s overall development and progress.”
Like many East Asian societies, Singapore puts strong emphasis on education but a traditional obsession with test scores has been blamed for stressing out students and parents, as well as fostering memorisation instead of creative and critical thinking.
Academic pressure has also been blamed for suicides and psychological disorders among children in the region.

See related article: Singapore wants creativity not cramming (BBC news, 22 May 2012)

S. Korean parents turn to crime over school access (AFP News, Nov 6, 2012)

“South Korean prosecutors Tuesday charged 47 parents with forging documents to enrol their children in foreign-run schools to give them an edge in the country’s hyper-competitive education system. Among those indicted was a 37-year-old housewife, identified by her surname Kwon, who hired a broker in 2009 to create false British and Bulgarian passports, the prosecutors’ office in the western city of Incheon said. Foreigner-only schools in South Korea require at least one of their students’ parents to be a foreign citizen, and Kwon used the passports to gain admission for her daughter. She was also accused of faking a Guatemalan passport to transfer her daughter to another school. Kwon allegedly paid about 100 million won ($91,250) for the fake documents.

Access to foreigner-only schools is seen as hugely advantageous, because English is the medium of education in them and it provides a useful stepping stone to eventual overseas study. Students in education-obsessed South Korea begin learning English at the age of nine, and parents spend a small fortune on private cram schools to improve their fluency levels…” Read more here

Children in Taiwan should stop studying so hard  (The China Post, 21 Nov 2012) Excerpts follow on below:

“… as eight out of 10 third and fourth-graders in Taiwan join after-school arrangements, such as day care, tutoring or cram schools, every day.

According to Taipei-based Child Welfare League Foundation’s annual Survey of Elementary School Students’ After School Programmes, the number of respondents with after-school obligations increased by nearly 6 per cent last year, which is an even more worrisome trend.

Without a doubt, cramming is deeply embedded in Taiwan’s culture, where grades are considered essential for future professional success. Families have been hiring test-prep tutors in China for centuries, and modern-day Taiwan has taken this competition to new extremes as national exams can make you or break you.

The problem with keeping children at school for so long is that it is in fact pointless. Education experts suggest that you shouldn’t cram. It’s a lousy habit that is likely to see you drummed out of top schools thanks to bad marks. It’s indeed an ineffective study method, for a couple reasons.

To begin with, children aged between 8 and 9 already face a lot of stress from school-related work. Cramming is just adding more stress to it. As tempting as it is to press your children to study hard seven days a week, they can’t. Their brains can only handle a little at one time, and if you try to get too much in at once, most of it will just bounce off uselessly and be lost. In other words, children’s brains are like sponges that need to absorb what they’ve been given at school first, before you try to get in more at a cram school.

By cramming, you’re also denying their bodies what they need to perform adequately every day: sleep. If they stay up until late with their brain churning, their minds will not only work ineffectively at night, but also on the following day — the body wants to go to sleep so it will try to compensate the next day.

Even more worrisome, the Child Welfare League Foundation pointed out that the environment at many after-school programmes is not safe enough for children. Up to 26.8 per cent of the surveyed students cram at schools operated without a proper license, according to the same survey….”

Taiwan’s cram schools warm up in puppy-love tale (AP, Nov 9, 2012)

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Attending a full day of school then spending hours more in tutoring is a must in Taiwan, where students start ‘cram schools’ as early as elementary school so that they can better their exam results and get into a prestigious high school or college.
Director Hou Chi Jan knows it all too well.
He said he spent a copious amount of his adolescence on “Nanyang Street” – the Taipei street home to many cram schools. He has such vivid memories and imagination about the place, it became the backdrop to his new film, “When a Wolf Falls in Love with a Sheep.”
“I think that (Nanyang) street is a place where dreams are lost. In reality, there’s some sadness to it,” Hou explained. “I want to make a film about it, to give it some warmth. The story is about sweet young love and tells you whatever you lose, you’ll get it back in other ways.”
Kai Ko plays “Tung,” who goes to Nanyang Street to search for an ex-girlfriend who dumped him to go to cram school. He meets a quirky girl who loves drawing pictures of sheep on the test papers. He draws a picture of a wolf to begin a dialogue and later explores his feelings for the girl.
Coming off his successful first film, Ko said this character is someone who’s closer to his heart. “In private, he’s not stable, is insecure, don’t want to face whatever he needs to face, or he wants to get something done, but he’s unsure of himself. I think the inner self is more similar in this film,” he said…

Out of Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, Meet the ‘tutor kings and queens’ – features the celebrity tutors with their good looks, “sophisticated hair-dos and designer trappings” who are gaining star-idol status and making it rich, having attracted flocks of young fans to their tutoring classes. Article by the BBC news, 27 Nov, 2012

Tablets to aid Indian students (BBC news, 12 November 2012) India backs Aakash 2 tablet-based national education project…

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On kids’ health & safety and other parenting issues:

Find out about a remarkable life-changing but non-intrusive new device that helps stutterers at this Youtube videoclip.

Discrimination of working mothers persists in Japan(News On Japan via Denver Post — Nov 18)

To resume work after the birth of her first child, Terue Suzuki moved back to her family home on weekdays to get help with baby-care, leaving her husband in the house they shared.
“It was like a weekend marriage,” Suzuki, 45, who works at a Japanese telecommunications company, said of the arrangement that started 14 years ago. “I had a satisfying job and really wanted to go back to it. In Japanese society, when a woman chooses work instead of staying at home to look after her husband, she’s called a devil wife.”
Limited day care, peer pressure and job inflexibility mean Suzuki remains a minority in Japan, where 70 percent of women quit work with the birth of their first child, said Nana Oishi, a professor at Sophia University in Tokyo. That level compares with about a third in the United States, according to Goldman Sachs.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda’s government set a goal in July to boost the proportion of working women within eight years to spur an economy that has had two recessions since 2007. Increasing the number of employed women might bolster gross domestic product by as much as 15 percent, according to Goldman Sachs.

Related: Give bright young mothers a chance to contribute to society, flourish (Japan Times)

Many women of the “bubble generation” and earlier are now reaching retirement age without having generated a single yen for the economy in 40 years. They paid household expenses, pension premiums and health-care costs all out of their husband’s (vastly inflated) salaries. With shrinking salaries, part-time work, zero-bonus jobs and a plummeting birth rate, this is no longer feasible. How much larger would the pension pool be now if half the population had been allowed to work all these years?

While laws have changed to assist working mothers, they still reflect a deeply entrenched chauvinism. As reported in Hifumi Okunuki’s column, working women get six weeks of maternity leave before birth and up to eight weeks after, with the first 30 days back at worked protected from mandatory dismissal. This falls far short of many developed countries.

Furthermore, many companies still pressure women into leaving regardless of the law. So do many families, for whom a married woman’s place is still in the home.

This kind of Confucian segregation must end if Japan is to develop socially and economically. More women are graduating from top universities with advanced degrees in business, medicine, biotechnology and engineering. They often come better equipped with language skills in English, Chinese and Korean. More women are entering politics and their presence will affect change.

Gone are the days of the old boy network — graying septuagenarians whose only solution to changing demographics is to demand more babies.

It’s time to give the bright young women of Japan a greater stake and a larger say in the nation’s future — especially after they have also chosen to be mothers” — Craig Currie

How Not to Talk to Your Kids The inverse power of praise. (NY Times magazine)

“For a few decades, it’s been noted that a large percentage of all gifted students (those who score in the top 10 percent on aptitude tests) severely underestimate their own abilities. Those afflicted with this lack of perceived competence adopt lower standards for success and expect less of themselves. They underrate the importance of effort, and they overrate how much help they need from a parent.

When parents praise their children’s intelligence, they believe they are providing the solution to this problem. According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.

But a growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.” Read more here.

See also Giving a Child Permission to Be Miserable  NY Times parenting blog, November 15, 2012

[Real] Sugar water can help increase self-control, says study (Shine On – Tue, Nov 13, 2012)

If you’re struggling with self-control, a quick gargle of lemonade — made with real sugar — might boost your resolve, new research suggests.
Researchers from the University of Georgia recently published their findings in the journal Psychological Science.
Fifty-one students took part in the study, each perform forming two self-control-testing tasks.
“The first task, which previous research has shown to deplete self-control, was tediously crossing out all the Es on a page from a statistics book. Then, participants performed what is known as the Stroop task where they were asked to identify the colour of various words flashed on a screen, which spell out the names of other colours,” Forbes explains.

Before performing the Stroop test, half of the students rinsed their mouths with sugar-sweetened lemonade. The other half swished Splenda-sweetened lemonade. The researchers found that the students who rinsed with the sugary drink were faster at responding to the Stroop test than those who rinsed with the artificial sweetener.
Why the better performance? Researchers believe glucose — even when simply touching the tongue — triggers the brain’s motivational centres.
“Researchers used to think you had to drink the glucose and get it into your body to give you the energy to (have) self control,” says UGA psychology professor Leonard Martin, co-author of the study. “After this trial, it seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue. This, in turn, signals the motivational centres of the brain where our self-related goals are represented. These signals tell your body to pay attention.”

Martin adds that glucose doesn’t just boost energy levels, it boosts personal investment in current tasks.
“The glucose seems to be good at getting you to stop an automatic response such as reading the words in the Stroop task and to substitute the second harder one in its place such as saying the color the word is printed in,” he says. “It can enhance emotive investment and self-relevant goals.”.. Read the rest of the article here.

Or the actual study which is entitled “The Gargle Effect …

Also see: How you deal with stress is more important than your amount of stress … which is a hilarious study that classes people into two types – the Velcro and the Teflon types of people …those to whom stress sticks like velcro, and those to whom worries slide off like food off a non-stickpan! Which type are you?

Growing up in the country helps to prevent asthma (Nov 07, 2011 )
By Aarhus University

Children who grow up on a pig or dairy cattle farm have a natural vaccination against the form of work-related asthma from which farmers frequently suffer. This has now been proved for the first time ever by researchers from Aarhus University.

The study, which has been published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, demonstrates that the risk of developing the non-allergic form of asthma is reduced by almost fifty per cent if you are exposed to the kind of environment found on pig and dairy cattle farms when you are a child. On the other hand, the risk of work-related asthma is doubled if you grow up in an urban environment and become a farmer as an adult.

The researchers have been monitoring all the students of agricultural science in Denmark from two different year groups and for 15 years – a total of 2,000 students. And the process has been performed on a regular basis, which makes this study unique.

“We now know that children who grow up in this kind of agricultural environment are protected until the age of 20-25, and there are many indications that the effect lasts even longer than this,” explains Professor Torben Sigsgaard from the Institute of Environmental and Occupational Medicine at Aarhus University.

“The perspectives of this study mean that if we can identify the mechanism involved and then find out how to have an influence on it, we may be able to help a great number of people in all walks of life,” he says.

The study should be seen in the light of the fact that farmers in general have a greater risk of suffering from asthma and chronic bronchitis.

See article in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology

Kids’ Stuff has a downloadable funbook with games to teach your child about asthma and triggers. It’s important for your child to know what can be good or bad when it comes to asthma. Click here to Download the Funbook here.

Regrets of an Accomplished Child NYTimes, November 2, 2012 offers insights on nurturing children:

“… I’d like to share a lesson I learned only years later: the overtly accomplished child is often the less educated one. To be clear, what I call the accomplished child is a very different creature from the born or cultivated genius, and equally different from the aspiring superstar. With neither the superlative skill of the former nor the extraordinary efforts of the latter, the accomplished child does exactly what is expected of him. And nothing more.”

I loved this interview piece 7 creativity tips from a top mathematician (11/12/12 Huffington Post) between Hillary Harkness and mathematician-Steven Strogatz, which strikes a rich chord, when addressing creativity, about process; passion and meaning; flow and absorption; the need for space to muddle, doodle, play; and the need for investment of one’s time and energy; and the place for frustration, difficulty and tenacity. Mathematician Steven Strogatz,is also the author of the new book, The Joy of X.

Parents working on bilingualism will find a foray into Adam Beck’s colorful Bilingual Monkeys website a delight. Try out his pages chock full of ideas on raising bilingual children in this article at Japan “12 More Tips for Raising a Bilingual Child in Japan” and the earlier article at the same site, “16 Tips for Raising a Bilingual Child in Japan“…both articles appeared on Japan Today online.

Embracing Children for Who They Are” (Personal Health, Nov. 6 ), and the Letter The ‘Different Child‘ Nov 12, 2012 …response to the  article debate balancing the need to celebrate and accept the ‘different child’ as well as the proper place of influence and power to change the child.

Uploaded new resource page: Genetics vs. Culture: Which trumps over which in education?

Fukushima cancer risk said low (Kyodo, via Japan Times)

“There is a low risk that cancer rates will rise among nonnewborn residents near the Fukushima No. 1 power plant despite the triple-meltdown crisis that started last year, a preliminary report by the World Health Organization indicates.

The report, released Sunday, said the possibility that cancer risks will significantly rise among adults and children, excluding newborns, is low based on the statistics of actual cancer incidence. How complete those statistics are is unclear.

However, there are also data showing newborns in the town of Namie and the village of Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture could suffer from cancer, leukemia or other illnesses in the future.

The preliminary report is based on the assumption that the residents lived in the affected areas for four months after the nuclear crisis started and continued to eat local produce. In reality, most of the residents were evacuated…”

Cesium in trout 110 times over limit (Kyodo news via Japan Times, Nov. 18, 2012)

A mountain trout caught in the Niida River in Fukushima Prefecture contained 11,400 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram, more than 110 times above the government limit for food products, a survey by the Environment Ministry showed.

Presenting its findings Friday on cesium in fish and insects in rivers, lakes and sea in Fukushima, the ministry said it also detected 4,400 becquerels of radioactive cesium in a smallmouth bass and 3,000 becquerels in a catfish caught at the Mano Dam in Iitate.

The maximum threshold for food items is 100 becquerels per kilogram.

It is only the second time the ministry has conducted such a survey, after undertaking a study between December and this February. The first data were published in July.

“Like the previous survey, concentrations (of cesium) tended to be higher in rivers and lakes than in the sea. We want to grasp the extent of pollution by continuously conducting the survey,” a ministry official said.

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Wild mushrooms far from Fukushima show high levels of cesium (Asahi, November 21, 2012)

Wild mushrooms, a seasonal delicacy in many parts of Japan, have lost their magic.

Tourism industry officials and restaurant operators have been aghast to learn that wild mushrooms picked far from the site of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima Prefecture last year are showing high levels of radioactive cesium.

Last year, only wild mushrooms picked in Fukushima Prefecture were found to have cesium levels that exceeded legal standards.

This year, however, wild mushrooms from as far away as Aomori, Nagano and Shizuoka prefectures, all more than 200 kilometers from Fukushima, have been found to be contaminated with cesium. …

One reason for the increase in such restrictions this year is a lowering of the legal standard for cesium from 500 becquerels per kilogram to 100 becquerels.

As of Nov. 16, officials said 93 municipalities in 10 prefectures, including Fukushima, had a shipment restriction in place.

For five prefectures–Aomori, Saitama, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka–wild mushrooms constitute the only produce for which a shipment ban is in effect.

Cesium levels have also risen in various areas compared with last year.

According to tests requested by the central government, the highest levels recorded this year were 120 becquerels in Aomori Prefecture, up from only 60 becquerels last year; 2,100 becquerels in Nagano Prefecture (1,320 becquerels last year); and 3,000 becquerels in Tochigi Prefecture (134 becquerels last year).

Yasuyuki Muramatsu, a chemistry professor at Gakushuin University who specializes in radiation effects on ecology, said, “While the detailed mechanism is still unclear, mushrooms can more easily absorb cesium in comparison to plants because they are fungi.”

As for why cesium levels are higher this autumn, Muramatsu said, “There is the possibility that radioactive materials that were attached to the trunks and leaves of trees last year were washed away by the rain and entered the soil into which mushrooms extend their fungal filament.”

Muramatsu cautioned that some types of wild mushroom may have high cesium levels next year as well, which will require continued testing…”  Read more here.

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The muddy issue of cesium in a lake (Nov. 18, 2012 Japan Times)

Lake Kasumigaura in Ibaraki Prefecture is facing an environmental threat that has essentially turned it into a time bomb ticking away 60 km northeast of Tokyo.

News photo
Environmentally minded: Hiroshi Iijima, head of the Asaza Fund, says local and national authorities should work in tandem with citizens’ groups like his to investigate and deal with radiation contamination in and around Kasumigaura Lake.

Experts warn that Japan’s second largest lake with a surface area of 220 sq. km is quietly but steadfastly accumulating radioactive cesium released from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It’s no big surprise. The lake’s catchment area is huge, covering 2,200 sq. km across 24 municipalities in Ibaraki, Chiba and Tochigi prefectures. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the radiation that fell across some of the Tohoku region, and beyond, in the wake of the March 2011 nuclear disaster found its way into the area’s rivers and thus flowed into the lake. In addition to that, Lake Kasumigaura, which is the name given to three contiguous lakes (the largest is Lake Nishiura and the other two are called Kitaura and Sotonasakaura), is a closed lake with no outflow. That means incoming radioactive substances have nowhere else to go.

More disturbing than this, however, is that 20 months after the nuclear crisis, government agencies have shown no signs that they are trying to prevent the accumulation of cesium in the lake — which is not only rich with fishery resources but whose water is used for irrigation, industrial purposes, and even for consumption as drinking water for 960,000 people in Ibaraki Prefecture. Furthermore, no one knows how and by how much the problem has worsened over the months, except for one obvious thing: it hasn’t gone away.

Hiroshi Iijima, director general of the nonprofit organization Asaza Fund in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, has tried to alert the public to the situation for months. “What’s unique about Kasumigaura, as opposed to other lakes across the nation, is that it’s fed by numerous small rivers and streams, not only the 56 rivers running directly into the lake but also hundreds of tributaries,” Iijima told The Japan Times. “Also, the area is flat, meaning that the radioactive substances travel downstream very slowly; they will accumulate in the lake over a long period of time.”…

Radiation on the lake’s bottom has hit the local fisheries industry hard, however. Five species of fish, including eel, American catfish and carp have been banned from the market as samplings in those animals showed levels of cesium surpassing the government-set exposure limit of 100 Bq/kg. And while drinking water sourced from Kasumigaura is technically safe now, dry solids that are produced in the water sedimentation process contains cesium, according to the Ibaraki Prefectural Government.

Iijima from Asaza Fund says the government monitoring of radiation levels is far from satisfactory, as it only surveys one location per river. For its part, in cooperation with other citizens’ groups and a local food-delivery cooperative, his own group measured radiation levels at some 200 locations in March-April and again in October covering up to 20 locations in one river. The results have shown that, over the six-month period, radioactive substances are believed to have traveled downstream, as figures of cesium-134 and cesium-137 in upstream locations have gone down while those downstream have increased. The highest level of cesium contamination so far detected by the group’s volunteers is along the Onogawa River, which snakes through the cities of Ibaraki Prefecture and runs into Kasumigaura’s Lake Nishiura, where, close to the river banks in the city of Ushiku, 13,200 Bq/kg of cesium was detected in a sample of sludge in May.

“What we have found is that there are ‘hot spots’ in the rivers as well as on land,” Iijima said. “Measures should be taken to stop cesium from moving into the lake, because once it’s absorbed into the lake, it will be too hard to track and collect.”…

Both Hamada and Iijima maintain that the inevitable solution would be to release Kasumigaura’s cesium into the Pacific Ocean via the Tone River, which the lake feeds. But to do that would involve a change in the national government’s water management policy. The 250-meter-wide Hitachigawa Water Gate was built in 1963 at the southern end of Kasumigaura to store water and keep seawater out, thereby stopping salted water from damaging the area’s crops, preventing floods and securing enough water for the region’s industrial complexes. This might have worked while demands for industrial water were high —due to the booming economy of yesteryear — but it’s now out of date, Hamada says, adding that the water quality has greatly suffered over the years from the policy of closing the water gate into the lake.

“In our negotiations with the Ibaraki government, we have repeatedly asked that that the gate be opened (to keep cesium from being accumulated further),” said Hamada, who now serves as secretary general of the environmental nonprofit Kasumigaura Academy. “We pressed the prefectural government until it finally said it’ll keep monitoring the cesium levels and base their future decisions on the results of the monitoring. But it will be too late if we wait until the results come out.”

… institutions and individuals with a stake in the future of the lake, not just government agencies but people from the private sector and citizens’ groups like his, should band together to investigate and deal with the issue. A systematic and comprehensive monitoring of cesium movement along the rivers and across the lake would only be possible through such collaboration, he said.

Read the rest of the article here.

In our book nook:

“Carly’s Voice” by Carly Fleischmann, the remarkable story of a severely non-verbal autistic girl who finds a breakthrough to speak through the use of PC programs (Watch a videoclip trailer of her story here)

Temple Grandin’s book “Thinking in Pictures” comes up again and again on our forum as a recommendation.  Also useful would be the videoclip at TED TALKS: The World Needs All Sorts of Minds

Dr. Maté’s third book, Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers, examines parenting from the perspective of attachment theory to illuminate the crucial role parents must play in the upbringing of their children. This book was co-authored by Dr. Gordon Neufeld, a developmental and clinical psychologist.  We also recommend his other great book, “Scattered Minds” on the subject of ADD.

Introducing the irreverent, unconventional Ryokan is Kris Kosaka’s review of “SKY ABOVE, GREAT WIND: The Life and Poetry of Zen Master Ryokan“, by Kazuaki Tanahashi. Shambhala

Minor Soseki work gets first English translation  Paul MCCARTHY’s book review of “NOWAKI” by Natsume Soseki.

That’s it for now.

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe

“ Traditional colleges are on their way to extinction and it’s about time.

They are extortionate in their costs – and everyone knows it – given the technology we have today.”
— Mary Duffield

“ The interaction between the student, his professor and his peers is seminal to a quality education.

Online courses in subjects that don’t involve points of view may be acceptable

but most learning involves directed discussion best found in the classroom.”
— JOEL K.

“Don’t sweat over rejection. People who never get rejected usually aren’t aiming very high.”
— Tomian
In the Early Admissions Waiting Room, Fighting Off Jitters