US schools should take a lesson from Asia.

I just read about the results of a 2015 global education survey that shows U.S. high school students come in a dispiriting 26th out of 65 places worldwide in combined scores for math, science and reading tests.
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This latest league table, ranking more than a third of the world’s nations, shows once again the poor performance of the United States, slipping behind successful European countries and being overtaken by Vietnam. It also highlights the decline of Sweden, with the OECD warning last week that it had serious problems in its education system.

The OECD’s Program for International Assessment (PISA) suggests that while America lags, Asia soars: Out of the top 10, eight are in the Asia-Pacific region — led by Shanghai and Hong Kong in China, Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

The rise of education in Asia is no accident. It reflects deliberate policies and long-term investments that recognize the centrality of quality education to a nation’s economic growth.

After living in Singapore and witnessing their growth and progress first hand I was especially taken by the former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong’s quote after the 2011 survey, “A nation’s wealth in the 21st century will depend on the capacity of its people to learn.” I think we should follow their lead.

I have listed a few of their key “best practices” from the most recent report that we here in the US are still only debating but should certainly adopt;

1) Rigorous standards and coherent curricula. I also saw this first hand in Japan, Asian nations establish high academic standards and a demanding school curriculum that clearly defines the content to be taught and is sequenced to build on a student’s abilities step by step. High-quality teachers and principals.

2) Teachers are routinely recruited from among the top high-school graduates and, unlike in the U.S., principals generally do not apply to become school leaders as much as they are selected and prepared to do so. There are comprehensive systems for selecting, training, compensating and developing teachers and principals — delivering tremendous skill right to the classroom.
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3) Emphasis on math and science. Math and science training begins early in primary school and rigorous courses such as biology, chemistry and physics, as well as algebra and geometry are part of a core curriculum for secondary school. Specialist teachers are often employed in elementary schools unlike “generalists” usually found in U.S. schools.

4) Time and Effort. With longer school years and sometimes longer school days, Asian students often have the equivalent of several more years of schooling by the time they finish high school than the typical American student. Asian students are also expected to work hard in school, reflecting a societal belief that developing one’s skills and knowledge reflects effort more than innate ability.

The time has come for America to learn from Asia and the world. Our ability to compete and lead in a global economy may well depend on it.

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Geezers have become digitally savvy.

Vine vs Snap

It’s often assumed that older people generally aren’t very digitally savvy — but research from Pew indicates that older people are becoming about as skilled online as younger ones.

According to the latest Generations report from the Pew Internet and American Life project, the biggest online trend is that, while the very youngest and oldest cohorts may differ, certain key internet uses are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups.

The study found that internet users aged 34 and older are more likely than those age 33 and younger to engage in several online activities, including visiting government sites and getting financial information online.

These online activities are becoming more uniformly popular across all age groups: e-mail, search engines, getting health information, following the news, researching or making purchases (including travel reservations), online banking, supplying reviews or ratings, donating to charity, and downloading podcasts.

And get ready: Your grandmother might soon try to friend you on Facebook.

Even though younger people are significantly more likely to use social networking services, Pew reports that the fastest growth has come from internet users 74 and older: social network site usage for this oldest cohort has grown since 2010, from 16% to 22%.

Some online trends are creeping down the age ladder, too. According to Pew, it used to be mostly older adults who searched for online health information. But now this has become “the third most popular online activity for all internet users 18 and older.”

With smartphone penetration at over 75% wireless net access is definitely not the exclusive province of youth. Like the latest iPass mobile workforce study — which put the median aged of a mobile-enabled worker at 46 — Pew found that 55% of people aged 46-55 access websites or other digital media or services via a laptop, cell phone, or other internet-connected mobile device. That figure drops to 46% for people aged 56-64, and 33% for people aged 65-73.

The bottom line is, don’t assume you know how digitally savvy someone is based on their age.

Japanese “Manga” Newspapers Report Current Events in Graphic Detail

This would be prefect for the USA papers as we have such dramatic headline news stories…Oil spills, Tornados, hostage situations.

Japan is newspaper-crazy. Its biggest daily, Yomiuri Shimbun, has 10 times the circulation of The New York Times. They have their own baseball team the Giants!

For now just as in the USA, young people in Japan aren’t reading newspapers as often as their parents. But the Japanese seem to have a solution: Manga No Shimbun, (Manga Newspaper), an online outfit that covers the week’s events in comic book form.

Here is a translated version…
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These aren’t the funnies or political cartoons—they’re actual news articles about everything from foreign policy to pop culture to murder trials. The site employs more than 100 manga artists to cover breaking stories, updating 10 or 15 times a day. Graphic style varies—some pieces are in color, others black-and-white; some are realistic, some exaggeratedly kawaii (cute).

Manga News is also available via an iPhone app and will come to Android and other mobile platforms later this year. There’s even talk of international versions.

Good idea, especially if Astro Boy gets elected to parliament or Speed Racer runs for President! But given the reduced literacy in our schools here in the USA we may have to create text books like this

New Tires Made of Oil from Orange Peels

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Of course Japan would come up with this one….tire manufacturer Yokohama is now selling a tire model made with 80 percent non-petroleum material, substituting orange oil as the primary ingredient to make vulcanized rubber.

The new tire is called the Super E-spec™ and has already received the Popular Mechanics Editor’s Choice Award in 2008. Yokohama will initially market the tire for hybrid car models such as the Toyota Prius.

“The eco-focused dB Super E-spec mixes sustainable orange oil and natural rubber to drastically cut the use of petroleum, without compromising performance,” Yokohama vice president of sales Dan King said. “It also helps consumers save money at the gas pump by improving fuel efficiency via a 20-percent reduction in rolling resistance.”

Orange oil is considered sustainable because it is produced from a renewable resource. The same philosophy of reducing petroleum use is utilized in producing plastics from corn starch or vegetable oil. I love the new drink cups made from corn starch except they have been melting in my car with all this heat this summer!
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Yokohama has yet to release the environmental impact of disposing these tires, which typically provides an environmental concern. The petroleum in traditional tires can burn for months in a landfill and is difficult to extinguish. These fires also release black smoke and toxins into the air. Yokohama has not specified whether the orange oil will biodegrade over time. Let’s hope they will.

The process for recycling tires involves devulcanizing the rubber, which would essentially remove the oil and extract natural rubber. Because this is an expensive process, used tires are often shredded and turned into playground surfacing or additives for the soil in sports turf.

Stress Relief? Try Tickle Therapy.

I appears laughter is strong medicine. Really.

Did you know that when you laugh, you not only exercise almost all of the 53 facial muscles; you also spark a series of chemical reactions within the body? No one knows exactly what process takes place, but studies show definite benefits:

Levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol, are reduced. This leads to a strengthened immune system and lower blood pressure.

You mean I’m taking Norvasc every day to control my blood pressure and all I needed was a tickle?

Many of my friends are advocates of natural health. While I am not ready to give up the Norvasc just yet a twice-a-day tickle therapy seems to help…although it is driving the neighbors crazy listening to my screeching laughter I am definitely less stressed out!

Stress is also associated with damage to the protective barrier lining our blood vessels. This can cause fat and cholesterol to build-up in the arteries and could ultimately lead to a heart attack.

So laughing is even thought to help protect the heart.

Endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, are released when we laugh, producing a general sense of well being. The conscious thought process is bypassed – it’s like taking a weight off the mind! Hmmm…Sounds a little like hemp!

The reduction of stress-related hormones has also been linked to enhanced creativity and beneficial effects on conditions as diverse as insomnia, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

I use to live and work in the heart of Tokyo. Everyone in the city was so stressed out and serious…maybe they could have employed a bit of “tickle” therapy!
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Look at this shot…no wonder Tokyo made me stressed. The conductors actually push the passengers into the packed train! At least they are wear clean white gloves.

Wow…H2 Oh!

Water splashing into glass

I always knew that water was important to our health but I never knew these facts.

1. 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated.

2. In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.

3. Even MILD dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism as much as 30%.

4. One glass of water will shut down midnight hunger pangs for almost 100% of the dieters studied in a University of Washington study.

5. Lack of water, the #1 trigger of daytime fatigue.

6. Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.

7. A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.

8. Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, plus it can slash the risk of breast cancer by 79%, and one is 50% less likely to develop bladder cancer.