Meet Murphey: The dog helping international students learn maths

“Research has shown that a school dog can impact positively on learning and behaviour”

My beautiful cockapoo, Murphy McGrath, comes to work with me once a week to help look after and settle the international students in Learning Support. 

As he is a ‘Learning Dog’, he takes three roles during the day: meet and greet the children as they arrive for their one to one support lessons for maths, provide dog-grooming as an extracurricular activity for the children which they love to help out with, and to sit with the school counsellor, Laura Denmead, as he is a good listener and will create a calming and positive environment, making it easier for the children to talk about their problems.

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Key challenges when teaching in countries with limited opportunity

“The bureaucracy could be paralysing, resources were minimal, and teachers received little support from the system”

As an international educator, I’m sure you don’t need to be told how culture, environment and infrastructure often shape the education systems of the countries that we work in. The external forces that affect a countries education structure are vast, varying from historical biases through to physical geography and the accessibility of resources.

My time in Guyana, South America highlighted this point. There were countless issues that Guyana’s schools faced. The bureaucracy could be paralysing, resources were minimal, and teachers received little support from the system despite organising extracurricular events and buying equipment using their own salaries.

However, the greatest challenge was the innate lack of opportunity within the country’s education system. This limited opportunity was a driver of many problems I faced during my time as a teacher and this quick post cover a few of the most common that you may encounter yourself.

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Implementing the Augar report would help democratise education

“While the Augar report may be flawed, it does make some really important recommendations”

The Augar report was overdue. Not since 1963 had the Government ordered an examination into further and higher education. And while not all of Augar’s recommendations have been universally welcomed, the report does propose measures that aim to democratise education and transform access to learning for all adults.

Beyond the headline recommendations of lowering student fees and extending the period in which graduates repay them, the Augar’s report should be admired for offering a holistic approach to the challenges in adult education and exploring alternatives to traditional university qualifications that can meet the needs of the economy.

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The instrumental impact of EU funding on Swansea University

“As a research-led University with a strong sense of civic mission, regional economic and social development are a major priority”

As Wales braces for what could be a perfect economic storm in the months ahead, Ceri D. Jones, director of Swansea University’s Research, Engagement and Innovation Services looks at the impact of EU funding on regional development, and some of the seeds of hope in the pipeline.

Recently Ford announced its engine plant in Bridgend is set to close in autumn 2020, with the loss of 1,700 jobs.  Just weeks ago, British Steel was put into compulsory liquidation – re-igniting major concerns about an industry that employs thousands in Wales.  With the UK set to leave the European Union on the 31 October, Wales is set to lose out on hundreds of millions of pounds each year in EU funding that has been driving economic and social regeneration in recent years.

Swansea University is located within the ‘West Wales and the Valleys’ region, which has been identified as one of the most deprived regions within Northern Europe, and as such, is a net beneficiary of EU funding.

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Will Canada have quadrupled its international student numbers in eight years?

“It is conceivable that Canada could have a million post-secondary level students by the end of 2022”

In early 2014 the Canadian Federal Government announced its intentions to grow study permit holders in Canada from 265,000 to 450,000 and gave itself eight years. In 2017 that target was surpassed, a full five years early.

The first time I heard the goal was at a Federal Government supported student recruitment fair in Abuja, Nigeria, in late January 2014. A good number of Canadian school recruiters (myself included) were busy laying out marketing materials and preparing for the prospective students lined up outside the event. The student fair in Abuja was one stop of many throughout Africa.

Before things opened to the public, the Canadian Ambassador to Nigeria and our then-International Trade Minister (Ed Fast) took to the podium to talk new policies and give encouragement to the audience. The big takeaway? Canada’s government had identified international student growth as a major “stimulant” to the domestic economy.  And the country would – in Fast’s estimation – get this injection by doubling the outcomes of our collective efforts (which were already round-the-clock). Murmurs of commentary and raised eyebrows went up. Clearly, not everyone was aligned on the scope and spirit of the proposition.

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Number of Vietnamese Students in the US Rebounds

“Viet Nam remains a shining star in a rather dark and gloomy international student recruitment galaxy for US educational institutions”

For those US colleagues who recruit in Viet Nam, there is some good news in challenging times.  According to the latest SEVIS by the Numbers update from March 2019, there are 30,684 Vietnamese students studying in the US at all levels, an increase of 3% over August 2018.  Overall, Vietnamese students in the US comprise 2.62% of total international enrollment vs. 2.47% last August.

As you can see below, Viet Nam still ranks fifth among sending countries and is now in the same statistical league as Saudi Arabia, which saw a sizable decline of nearly 9%.  (The only other top 10 sending country with an increase was Nigeria.)  Read More

Will language translation tech ring a death knell for modern language learning?

“100 billion words a day? It is nearly unfathomable that Google’s neural machine translation can accomplish this”

Humans have been trying to find better ways of deciphering different languages for centuries, but it wasn’t until 1949 that the concept of “machine translation” really became a possibility.

According to a paper written by John Hutchins, Yehoshua Bar-Hillel was one of the first ones to take an interest in the field. He led a Georgetown University machine translation team and in partnership with IBM performed a demonstration of an automatic translation machine in 1954 known as the Georgetown-IBM experiment.

It was the height of the cold war, and the machine was capable of translating roughly 250 words from Russian into English. At the time, the demonstration generated a lot of interest, and it was predicted that machine translation would be perfected before 1960. However, computers weren’t advanced enough at this time to handle the complexity of translation, and subsequent experiments for the following few decades were lacklustre at best.

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How online education can transform the international student experience

“If the online learning platform is of high quality, there is no reason why the online learner should be disadvantaged when studying virtually”

The facts are pretty clear-online education provision is growing and, not only does it benefit working adults who can fit studying around their work and family commitments, but it also has the power to transform the lives of international students.

Take high tariff, popular courses in the UK, such as veterinary science and medicine. The average premium international students are paying to study in the UK is £20,000 per year, so an additional £100,000 over a 5 year study period. Fees for international students typically increase every year across almost all Universities, so the cost of study in the UK is consistently rising.

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Working as a university residence assistant is about personal development as well as helping others

“Students were motivated to become an RA by their desire to help other students navigate what they had found difficult themselves”

Residence life – the US-led programming of activities and support for students in university accommodation – is taking off in the UK and Ireland. At its heart are the students who work as residence assistants (RAs), usually for pay or subsidised accommodation. But the benefits of being an RA reach far beyond the financial, and money is rarely the motivation, as the recent Residence Assistants Panel at the CUBO Residence Life Conference revealed.

The RA panel was part of a two-day professional development event for residence life professionals. It featured five of the eight students awarded a 2019 CUBO RA Award for outstanding services as residents assistants, including Shiyi Xu, aka Agnes, from Hong Kong.

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How to stay healthy while teaching abroad

“Staff are a school’s biggest asset, and their wellbeing directly affects the students in their care”

Working overseas is soaring in popularity for teachers, with an estimated 15,000 leaving the UK each year to join international schools. It’s easy to see why it’s so appealing – new places, sights, food, culture, people and a different pace of life all add up to an experience that can be both transformative and enriching.

There is so much to think about when you embark on an adventure of this kind that even the hardiest of travellers might not consider the nuts and bolts of what it will actually be like when you get there after the excitement has died down. Ask anyone who has lived abroad and they’ll tell you it’s the funny little things that can catch you out and make you feel like an outsider, like not knowing where to buy a trivial item such as cotton wool. Knowing to ask for fruit and vegetables by weight rather than quantity, on the other hand, can really help you feel as if you belong.

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