Tag Archives: education
We watched the graph; up, surely, it spiked. We glanced across to the traffic referrers, and in an instant the trajectory was explained: WordPress.com featured mediolana.wordpress.com once again in their education tag section. AC Milan and Germany midfielder Alexander Merkel, the subject of our 17th May 2011 blog post, is clearly a subject that the world’s biggest blog provider deems worthy of serious consideration.
As Possibly the World’s Most Interesting Blog.™ continues to surprise, we wish to say a big danke to Alexander and WordPress.com. Coming soon on mediolana.wordpress.com: the United Arab Emirates, China and much more!
Flicking through the 10th March 2011 edition of that erstwhile paper of record The Times, a large article headed up Ibrahimovic proves reliably toothless provided Mediolana with much mirth. The piece concludes that AC Milan’s 0-1 aggregate defeat to a gritty Tottenham Hotspur in the 2010-11 Champions League last sixteen was characterised by a listless Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with the Swedish striker of Balkan origins patronisingly labelled as ‘enigmatic’, his apparently poor performance against English opposition all too predictable.
The dry facts are a little more complex, however: Ibrahimovic, who has been far and away the club’s outstanding player in his first season with the Rossoneri, had a spectacular overhead kick ruled out in the first leg for a hairline offside infringement; in the second instalment, he toiled tirelessly against an impenetrable Spurs defence and could so easily have been a hero had his deft touch to Robinho in the final minutes been rewarded with the goal it deserved. Moreover, against English opposition, his record is rather less uncertain than many would believe: not only did Ibrahimovic score two exemplary goals at the quarter-final stage of the same competition last season – against Tottenham’s north London neighbours Arsenal – but he struck the only goal of a 2004 international match against England in Gothenburg.
What does this combination of suspect evaluation and amnesia tell us, apart from confirming that the chances of ‘Ibra’ being objectively assessed by the UK press is a slim one? Perhaps more than anything else, it shows the difficulty of communicating certain types of talent in cultures which do not necessarily value or recognise these. Individualistic cultures are fond of extolling the virtues of self-expression and diversity, but even the most open ones – and contemporary British culture is in some ways paradigmatically eclectic – do not always live up to this ideal. A player such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic – gangly, languid-looking, impossibly skilful – may pass entirely beneath the radar precisely because he is so gifted; one only has to recall the example of Matthew Le Tissier, an attacking midfielder who consistently scored goals seemingly authored in comic books, yet was inexplicably overlooked for the English national team, where creativity has been at a premium for most of the period since 1990.
Students should be aware of this phenomenon, too: when communicating ideas, it is worth taking into account that brilliance is often culturally contingent and not necessarily a rationally observed attribute. A unique interpretation of the October 1917 Russian Revolution or a searing critique of modern natural science may be besmirched as much as welcomed. This should not stop the generation and advocacy of original material, but students – like Ibrahimovic, who has never been contracted to an English club – would do well to know who their audience is, and seek it out elsewhere if necessary.
With tens of millions of blogs on WordPress.com and our first entry only being posted on 1st January 2011, Mediolana would not presume to be ranked amongst the best blogs on this portal. However, the people at WordPress.com itself seem to be differing: on 10th March 2011, mediolana.wordpress.com was featured not once but twice in two separate categories: technology (pietured) and education.
This is some honour for Mediolana, and we hope to be worthy of our burgeoning readership well into the future. Next up: Zlatan Ibrahimovic as a creative paradigm!
An absorbing piece splashed across the front page of this week’s Epoch Times (2nd-8th March 2011, UK edition) depicts another country in the Greater Middle East on the verge of mass revolt: Pakistan. As in many other developing nations, the price of basic items is stretching the patience of the general population, but Pakistan faces a particularly acute energy supply problem. Despite having the sixth largest coal reserves in the world and more sunshine – and therefore solar power potential – than anyone sane can really stand, the Pakistani government is engaging in what is euphemistically termed ‘load shedding’: planned (and increasingly, unplanned) electricity cuts and gas rationing designed to ameliorate the country’s chronic energy shortages.
The result of this policy has been nothing less than a tearing of the fabric of everyday existence: small businesses are suffering chronic financial losses, with many companies resorting to mass layoffs or wage reductions; manufacturing industries are seeing a 30-40% rise in production costs; and householders cannot even cook meals for large portions of the day as the provision of liquefied petroleum gas (‘LPG’) is often highly irregular.
As the Epoch Times reports, Mahfooz Elahi, the President of the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce, has pointed to the possibility of North Africa-style uprising in Pakistan, with energy shortages as a key catalyst. But is this really likely? There appear to be at least five factors which would obviate any chances of Pakistan turning into the next Egypt:
1. Education. While literacy rates have officially been rising in Pakistan in recent years, with the 2008‐9 Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement (‘PSLM’) Survey giving an overall literacy rate of 57% for those aged 10 and above, the country lacks a body of educated middle-class citizens who are connected to the global flow of knowledge and ideas;
2. Exploitation. The fact that Pakistan is an essentially feudal society where over 60% of the population lives on under US$2 per diem does not begin to capture the ruthless exploitation which is endemic in the country. As illustrated in Uwe Buse’s Balls and Chains feature for Der Spiegel on football production in Sialkot – in 2006, the city was responsible for 60% of the global output of the beautiful game’s central element – the economic abuse of men, women and children is an entrenched part of Pakistani society rather than something to rebel against;
3. Military dominance. In the 1980s, the quip amongst international observers was that the country was defined by the ‘three As’: America, Allah and the Army. This is still essentially true, with the Pakistani defence budget of around US$5bn for 2010-11 representing a 16.5% increase on the 2009-10 total, an startling allocation of resources given the country’s dire situation according to virtually every economic, political and social indicator. However, it is also reflective of the military’s revered position within Pakistani society as a perceived agent of stability, a perception which does not bode well for a transition to a more democratic system;
4. The Chinese factor. Pakistan has traditionally been an ally of China, India’s main regional rival, and in recent years China has invested massively in Pakistani infrastructure: the development of the warm water, deep sea port at Gwardar on the Arabian Sea – constructed with ample Chinese technical and financial assistance – is arguably a prototypical strategic endowment. China is unlikely to look favourably on any systemic instability in a country which is a key part of its future energy strategy, though it is difficult to speculate exactly what action it would take in the event of any mass uprising in Pakistan;
5. The ideology of conspiracy. This is such a key element of the national culture of Pakistan that it is reminiscent of the diaries of Stepan Podlubny. The son of a Ukrainian Peasant, Podlubny’s chronicle of life in the 1930s Soviet Union depicted a world permeated by the idea that the failures of Stalinist society were not the result of repressive autocracy or economic planning gone mad, but instead a vague and omnipresent notion that a great conspiracy was to blame. Analogously, in large sections of Pakistani society, the concept that Pakistanis themselves might have something to do with the parlous state of their nation is met with carefree denial: the United States and India (probably acting in combination), the West, being in the wrong geographical location and almost anything else that comes to hand are instead at fault for Pakistan’s legendary graft, insecurity, inequality and injustice. A country in which self-examination is notable only by its absence is not fertile ground for meaningful reform.
A piece published in this week’s New Statesman illustrates the phenomenon of youth unemployment in the United Kingdom is presently a very real one: David Blanchflower’s The Scars of a Jobless Generation reports that while 14% of the UK population aged 16-24 were without a job in November 2007, the equivalent figure for November 2010 was 20.5%. Blanchflower goes on to make some interesting suggestions as to how this problem can be tackled: reversing cuts to the Future Jobs Fund and Education Maintenance Allowance, increasing government funding and other forms of support to universities and charities and so on.
These measures are worthy of consideration. But as the essayistic companion article The Lost Generation authored by Sophie Elmhirst shows, the roots of youth unemployment in much of the UK are too deep to be solved alone by the state prising open its coffers a little wider. A significant proportion of the youth population – even after twelve years of compulsory schooling and further education – is poorly motivated and ill-qualified. As this blog adduced on 9th February 2011, only around half of those taking GCSE examinations are scoring a minimum of five A*-C grades, which in an era where grading has been quantitatively eased should be regarded as an entry-level accomplishment.
In an epoch where standards are being internationalised and the downward pressure on global tariff barriers is immense, there is an urgent need for new educational narratives in the United Kingdom if the country is to be economically competitive and socially at peace in the future. With regard to raising the attainment levels and enthusiasm of students, these narratives should stress the following two complementary points:
1. Inspiration. A huge chunk of the student population in the UK is clearly uninspired by education; they see no purpose or potential in it. Effective communication of the enabling power of education – for everything from earning power and expansion of life choices to increased self-worth and inner contentment – could help to change this situation. To give one example, students need to be informed that learning a foreign language does not just mean another grade on a piece of paper, but another soul in which to think and feel.
2. Individual responsibility within a context of global awareness. The United Kingdom is a mid-sized European country with a cool climate and few natural resources. Presently, it still punches well above its weight in many respects, but as emerging markets metamorphose into developed ones it is inconceivable that the UK can maintain its international position without considerable exertion. Its students should be aware of this, and the corresponding need to make the most of the many advantages that the United Kingdom still offers them: free state education to the age of 18, the planet’s lingua franca as the medium of instruction, exposure to an incredible variety of cultures and economic opportunities in its major cities, etc.
Thinking the Previously Unthinkable: Five Reasons to Ditch the Ivy League & Russell Group and Get Your Degree from India
Up until relatively, India was synonymous with poverty, filth and fatalism; a country which averaged an annual decline of 2% in GDP under British rule as its resources were appropriated did not prosper in the early decades of its iteration as a republic. However, while still vaunting an abundance of deprivation and dirt, the largest country in the Subcontinent is now also a byword for economic dynamism. And students in the United States (as well as the United Kingdom) would be well advised to seriously consider India as a higher education destination for the following reasons:
1. Expense. As reported in this blog on 4th January 2011, Indian universities are almost indescribably cheaper than those in the US and UK, with even courses in medicine and dentistry costing between €4,000.00 and €15,000.00 per annum, inclusive of accommodation; most other degrees cost in the region of €1,000.00-2,000.00 annually. Comparable courses in the United States usually cost tens of thousands of euros per year; annual costs of similar courses in the UK are soon likely to nudge €10,000.00 at Russell Group institutions. For a three-, four- or five-year program, the cost differences could easily run into a six-figure sum.
2. High educational standards. While – as in most countries – universities in India vary tremendously in quality, the best institutions – such as the Indian Institutes of Technology – have excellent academic standards, and as India’s economy develops further and educational knowledge becomes ever more internationalised, the gap between the best institutions in India and the rest of the Anglosphere should shrink yet further;
3. English! English is the medium of instruction in the majority of Indian universities, and professional courses such as medicine and law are taught exclusively in the globe’s lingua franca. This is a huge bonus for students from the US and UK, who are able to attend courses in their native tongue while studying in South Asia.
4. Self-development. India is culturally arguably the wealthiest country in the world, with the opportunities for self-development unimaginably vast. Hanging out with Buddhist monks or Sufi mystics; working in the world’s biggest film industry, Bollywood; learning one or more of the country’s hundreds of languages; riding camels in the Himalayas; all of this and much, much more is possible for students in India.
5. Economic opportunities. First-hand exposure to and knowledge of the Indian economy – representing a market of over one billion people – are invaluable for virtually anyone who is looking to make a career in a multinational corporation. For those of an entrepreneurial bent, India possesses a rich seam of diligent knowledge workers available at a fraction of a cost of their counterparts in the developed world; privileged access to this bank of human capital can confer significant advantages for students wishing to start their own company.
Studying in India will not be everyone’s cup of chai, but for the more adventurous – and visionary – it may be the best decision they ever make.