Gender Equality – Success Stories: Canada

Gender Equality – Success Stories: Canada

Gender equality can have a series of forms, each has its meaning. In this series, I would like to enumerate a couple of success stories of countries that implemented this principle in their governments. The latest cabinet (elected in 2015) consists of some real idols (even women). Justin Trudeau (the son of the legendary Pierre Trudeau) is the current leader of this cabinet. When he was elected, he gave a short speech. Below is a famous conversation between him and a journalist.

Journalist: You said your cabinet looks a lot like Canada. I understood that one of your priorities was to have a gender-balanced cabinet. Why was it so important to you?

Trudeau: Because it’s 2015.

His cabinet has set an example for the 21st century. Half of the ministers are men, half of them are women. I have to add that Trudeau placed special attention on the fact that a minister should be an idol for the people. One of his ministers was (until 2018, when he had to resign) a paraplegic lawyer. Who should be an idol for the war veterans? Many of them are tied to wheelchairs for life. So who is the idol? Someone who had also experienced the same feeling earlier. Another minister who used to be responsible for sports affairs (nowadays she is the Minister of Public Service) is a former professional athlete. A Paralympian, one because she was born blind. Being visually impaired, she gained three bronze medals in swimming, representing Canada. Therefore a whole nation became proud of her. This means she is an excellent choice for a minister. She became a lawyer when she retired from professional sport. A Minister of Sports should be someone who is widely respected among fellow sportswomen and sportsmen, not someone who is placed there for political interests. Fortunately, this minister is one of the former.

One common critique of the predecessor, the Harper Cabinet, is that it was not really into science. Well, Justin Trudeau is a science geek (he used to be a teacher) and sometimes conducts lectures at university. More importantly, he appointed a Minister of Science. Who is the best icon within science? Someone who has a Nobel Prize and is a woman! Scientists are almost exclusively men, especially within medical geography (she published a book on the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic). Moreover, she is researching climate change as well, and her efforts resulted in a Nobel Prize in 2007 (within a team). Who else can be better in this position? A scientist with a Nobel Prize. Another example-setting minister is the former Minister of Health. She is a physician by profession. Who could know more about health than a certified doctor with twelve years of experience? Unfortunately, she had to resign after a corruption scandal. She also set another example: she was the first real medical doctor to hold this position. Not only is she an expert in family medicine, but she also researches HIV/AIDS, which is a common issue even nowadays. When she became a minister, she had to address many serious issues besides the former one. At that time, the Zika virus was an alarming one for the Canadian population (the virus might cause microcephaly in newborn babies), on top of the refugee crisis. The Canadian government set another example. They accepted 25,000 refugees. Last but not least, with her lead, the government paved the way to legalize cannabis all over Canada, but there are restrictions on that. For example, you are only allowed to possess up to thirty grams over the age of 18. This issue was preceded by tons of debates. First of all, cannabis had been illegal since 1938. In 2001, the government opened the doors for medical cannabis, but only if a doctor had approved it previously (1). Then, the Liberal government tried to loosen the ties further, the first attempts towards decriminalization took place in 2003 and 2004. These bills both failed due to American pressure. The succeeding Conservative government did not take care of this issue anymore. Cannabis was legalized in 2018 (2), making Canada the second country in the Western hemisphere to legalize the drug after Uruguay. A female leader will make things happen. Because a woman takes the meaning of “care” more seriously.

With this article, I wanted to encourage thinking about which countries are more open-minded. Where are women oppressed and repeatedly humiliated, even publicly? Or, where do women just require you to comply with the rules? Think about my first video again. At school, the teacher is a woman and is scanning around to check compliance. Compliance is the key to success. That’s why women in prominent positions require you to comply. Think about that slap when I wrote about discipline. I am sure that if that one had flown from a female teacher, it would have made more of an impact on the student. The student would have screamed. Or think about the Headteacher of my primary school. She deserves a lot of respect. She used physical punishment only once when she slapped a disrespectful student. The student fled from the school, but later he realized that the teacher was right. So, we should think again where women should be in our society as sometimes we find ourselves at loggerheads with the fact that we are not mature enough.

– Gergely Lázár

  1. The Cannabis Act of Canada: The Legal History of Cannabis in Canada
  2. Cannabis was legalized in 2018: Marijuana to Be Legal in Canada Starting October 17, Trudeau Confirms
  3. Everything about the super-government of Canada: 29th Canadian Ministry

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Equal Opportunities – Yes or No to Uniforms at School?

Equal Opportunities – Yes or No to Uniforms at School?

In my previous article, I discussed test results versus equal opportunities. The controversial No Child Left Behind Act placed too much emphasis on testing and that teachers were focusing on test scores. This means testing is not sustainable in the long run because it places too much pressure on both sides.

It stresses students because they are forced to keep focusing on obtaining high test scores rather than gaining deep and profound knowledge. But it torments teachers too because they are forced to teach to the test and not put the knowledge students gain into practice. Teaching to the test also means they are kept busy with assembling these standardized tests, correcting them, distributing them and so on. The fresh Every Student Succeeds Act focuses on equal opportunity for everyone. Standardized tests were restricted and emphasis was not placed on practice. This is where the old Prussian method gets a strike. Practice enhances creativity. What does that mean? In-depth understanding of the material in the end. This should be the target. Needless to say, providing equal opportunities also enhances compliance.

This article focuses on the ongoing debate on whether schools should have a uniform or not. My primary school has a uniform, which is a blue and white checked shirt complete with a tie, on special occasions. The shirt has an alternative, a white, blue, or yellow T-shirt with the school’s logo on it. On special occasions, the shirt is required to be worn with the tie. My primary school specializes in music. Hungary has a distinguished music education tradition (see Call to Action No. 1). At any rate, whether wearing a uniform increases equality is an ongoing debate. It is a popular argument that uniforms teach children that everyone is equal, therefore children become more open to each other and they start to build a community. Then this community should start doing a lot of research together. It helps to dismantle stereotypes and brings children closer to each other. This is what my school intended to do. Dismantling stereotypes, moreover, conceals social differences. It does not matter whether you came from an impoverished or a well-to-do family. The school is open, the community is open. What does this mean? Equal opportunities. Where does it get us to? More compliance and less disrespectful students. As I said, my primary school is blessed with a great tradition of music and singing education. We had a music class every day. Twice a week, I attended choir rehearsals. These rehearsals were compulsory, however, I never felt that I was forced to go. Of course, my choir represented the school at music festivals around Hungary and even Europe. The school built close friendships with a German school and one in the UK—once I managed to go to Germany because the choir was invited. We even sang to the Prime Minister of Bavaria, who was amazed by the fact that we learned some Bavarian folk songs (in Bavarian, of course!).

It is worth noting that my school was often considered as a privileged one, as they had an entrance test. Yes, they measured my singing skills. When I enrolled, the headmaster of the school was at the singing test. My mother was there and said I would fail because I could not sing. However, the headmaster (whom I respect a lot) thought differently and said I did not have a problem with the lower pitch, he would put emphasise on a lower tune, which solved the problem. This headmaster never humiliated a student. Rather he found true talent in everyone. However, he got annoyed if students were sneaky. Again, I would like to refer back to my article on discipline. Why did that slap fly? To sum up, having a uniform does help schools to build a community and help them dismantle stereotypes. Moreover, it teaches us that everyone is equal and encourages us to place emphasise on “effort” over “excuse”.

On the other hand, one popular argument against uniforms is that they go against freedom. Well, this has some truth to it, but consider schools in the United Kingdom where every school has one. We have never heard any complaint about British school uniform policy. Of course, a uniform can be expensive to make, and you have to clean it yourself. Well, this is a reasonable argument, again, but some uniforms are made of special material to resist sweat and dirt. Moreover, the material is durable. A third relatively common argument is that uniforms conceal the beauty of girls. Well, in my view, we do not have to parade everything we have at home at school. It will fuel jealousy among others, and subsequently, disrespect towards others. Uniforms teach one to comply and be disciplined.

All things considered, uniforms are a good idea at primary and secondary schools. This way children learn the value of teamwork to get an in-depth understanding of the material. In-depth understanding means they will have no difficulty putting it into practice.

Calls to Action:

  1. Watch Interview with Zoltán Kodály on the importance of music education, the footage of which was made in 1946.
  2. Read more about Zoltán Kodály and his famous method.

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

What More Can We Do? More of Course!

What More Can We Do? More of Course!

In 2016, to fellow former members, I wrote: “I was a member of the largest student organisation in the world 25 years ago. It made such an impact on me that I want to work with you all to reboot humanity. The Sustainable Development Goals cannot wait! Our alumni are the perfect group of empowered people to set the wheels in motion. Let’s go for it!”

I sincerely wanted to make an impact on humanity, even in the slightest. And if that means shouting from the rooftops, I will gladly stand up there with my megaphone.

I received the following reply of endorsement from a member of the Executive Board:

“We totally agree, which is why we have built an online platform and are working to link our members into a global network of leaders for a better world. Thanks for joining us!”

So, even after being an inactive member of AIESEC for many years, since the SDGs came into effect on 1 January 2016, in my own way, I have been persevering to further my passion for the promotion and execution of the Sustainable Development Goals as a member of AIESEC Alumni International. Accordingly, as a former active member in my childhood, I am determined to make a difference again. These publications attest to that conviction.

Strategically aligned, AAI has an active network all over the world including members with a grounded understanding of how to raise the potential of humanity for peace and rehabilitation collectively in an apolitical manner. Additionally, alongside the Global Goals sponsored voluntarily by the like-minded Member States of the United Nations, it provides a platform for fellow alumni to band together to launch projects to be bold and, as stated in its mission statement, “achieve peace and fulfilment of humankind’s potential”.

Surely, in your heart of hearts, you yearn for the same?

– Lee Vallance

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Education at a Ghanaian Kindergarten and Nursery

Education at a Ghanaian Kindergarten and Nursery

On the very first day of my volunteer project, I found myself experiencing a billion waves of emotions: glad, amazed, shocked, heartbroken, angry, loved, exhausted…

I was glad that the director gave us a one-hour car ride from busy Medina to rural Taifa. As a first time European traveller to a developing nation back then, I was immobilised.

Besides being grateful for surviving what could be described as the craziest traffic on earth, I was amazed. When I arrived at Emmanuel School Complex in Taifa-North, nearly 100 little babies, in their cute blue uniforms were standing in line, singing the national anthem of Ghana and impressively repeating from memory the oath of the nation. In Hungary, we don’t pay attention to teach things like that to little ones. Moreover, doing that every single day is not a habit, either.

Unlike me, some kids didn’t find this daily routine amusing. They were more interested in running towards their best friends or just talking with them when their teachers rigorously interrupted to discipline them. Sometimes with scary facial expressions, they even whipped them with canes.

Just then, I had a flashback to my primary school days. Back in the 1990s in barely post-communist Hungary, my music teacher grabbed my hair to turn me towards the board to stop me talking to my best friend behind me. The order was to face the board and learn what my teacher stated, no matter whether I appreciated it or not.

Regulations have changed in the last three decades, and today we prefer not to use physical discipline on our kids across the Western World. So my eyes and my soul were no longer used to seeing such scenes. Being abused at school or on the streets—where mothers used to try instantly rewarding their kids with a slap for swearing, being disrespectful, or something like that—are almost entirely unfamiliar nowadays.

To me, as a first impression of educating the next generation of Ghanaians wasn’t coming across quite well. Having been in that school for only five minutes, I was already afraid of facing the six upcoming weeks.

And the students knew it well. They were well aware that I was different, and I was afraid of harsh actions. So they manipulated me, in my very first class.

In the classroom, I was left alone with 35 infants aged between 4-5. Antie Nina did everything she could to introduce me and establish my authority. She even left me alone, placing the cane in my hand.

Alas, street smart kids don’t fall for this…

Shortly after, Little Kaziah came up to be excused to use the bathroom: “Madam, I need to wee-wee”. I naively let her walk out of the classroom door, which opens straight into the inside garden (the place where we gathered for the morning routine on my arrival). Then, I started the lesson.

We were halfway through learning how to fold a page into a square when I realized the toilet-break-kids were still out for seemingly way too long in the garden. I stared out of the door, as we always kept them wide open, and I saw my pupils playing in the dust together with stones. I smiled because I noticed how smart they were to recognise opportunities to get up to mischief.

After that, when I asked them to get some paper out to fold a few basic shapes, I noticed that some of them didn’t have any, so I quickly took several pages out of my notebook for them to use.

In my country, it wasn’t a big deal, nobody would have even noticed it. But in Taifa district, where kids need to walk hours to school between rusty, old cars on mud roads with gigantic potholes, circumstances are different.

All the other kids stood up to see what they had received. It seemed like they were not used to anyone giving out anything freely. I realized later on that if some students get something, then all of them should.

After quickly getting them back to their seats, John raised his hand: “Madam, I need to wee-wee”, so I let him go. Then, one by one, a few more kids wanted to go too, so I let three more go, and asked the 4th one to wait for Kaziah to return.

The headteacher was temporarily in the kitchen to assist other teachers in cooking lunch for the entire school. They could not afford a separate crew member for duties like that. If Madam Gloria had been sitting in her usual place in the garden, she would have made the kids return instantly. Or actually, the kids would have never even thought to do otherwise.

I was just smiling at myself and shouted out to call the kids back. They waited till I held up the cane. Then, with a huge smile and giggles, the little group ran back to find their seats and finally listen to my lesson.

I couldn’t help but love how smart and cute they were, but also realised how exhausting it was to keep them all in order. By break time, I was already exhausted, even though the teacher came to observe the class every 15 minutes to keep the kids’ voices down.

Snack time was always around 10 am. I was told to go to assist with feeding the smallest kids who were aged between a few months old and 2 years old. I noticed the teacher took everyone’s bag off the little shelves and searched for their snacks. Some had nice bottles for their water, some had biscuits, others were sent off to school with a piece of bread—a few only had their change of clothes with them, in an otherwise empty bag.

Teachers were told to serve everyone with what had been brought from home explaining to me why it was not permissible to serve food to some, and not to others.

So, we usually put everyone’s food together to reallocate it a little bit less unfairly—at least everyone received something—consequently, all of them shared something with their community.

I loved feeding the kids. They were not picky at all. Rice in tomato sauce with bits of fish in it was their favourite. I spooned it in tiny portions to the bigger ones, and they enjoyed it even with fish bones. They already knew how to separate them, unlike the toddlers. We had so many rules to follow for them, such as not serving certain foods like beans or fish, especially with bones in it as they could potentially suffocate.

After returning to my class, the teacher came with me. The kids were still playing with the folded flowers I made for each of them—for which, by the way, they rewarded me with millions of hugs—when I heard Antie Nina shouting at them. She didn’t like the idea of “wasting” paper. Later on, I realized the kids have to skip almost all of their art classes due to the lack of teaching materials. They focus mainly on learning the basics of reading, writing and counting instead.

Going back home, tired, dirty, and overwhelmed made the boot of the jeep seem like a limousine. That day, I experienced more quality education about people, personalities, what life is, and how to lead and manage situations than through my leadership and management master at university.

I’m truly grateful for Emmanuel Complex School in Accra, AIESEC in Ghana, and all the others enabling my two months of moving life-changing experiences.

Calls to Action:

  1. Read more on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
  2. Discuss the following topic with your sympathizers: How would our world change if we were to reach all SDG 4 targets? What are the consequences of the lack of Quality Education to those who have no access to it? How come we understand the importance of SDG 4, but still have giant gaps in delivering its targets?
  3. Find a project and reach out to the host entity to support them with advice or funds to deliver it, especially West African entities as there is an urgent need to provide SDG-related changes there.
  4. Sponsor and motivate someone in your world to take on a Global Volunteer project with AIESEC. I suggest Creative Mind in the Benin Republic.

– Krisztina Kapuvari

  • Created and Photographs Provided by Krisztina@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Illustrated by Oguz@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Proofed and Edited by Greg@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Edited and Published by Lee@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Supported and Funded by Advertising-Free Online Sales of What Are You Still Waiting For? Publications and Affiliation with WordPress

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

How Important Is Quality Education?

How Important Is Quality Education?

Quality Education was voted among 160,000+ young people as the most burning issue globally says YouthSpeak Global Report 2016 (1) run by AIESEC in 2016. Why is that?

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” said Nelson Mandela (2), and it seems like the world agrees with this narrative. Why is it still among the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 even though we all have agreed on its importance for a while now?

Unfortunately, there are some serious issues around the globe when we talk about the Quality of Education and its current state. I have some numbers for you to meditate on below. Some statistics to learn about the current state of Quality Education all over the world based on SDG 4 Targets (3) follow:

  • 4.1 Free, equitable access to quality education at primary and secondary schools:

“The total (out of school number) includes 64 million children of primary school age, 61 million of lower secondary school age and 138 million of upper secondary age.” (4)

Let alone the moral issues of competing for work in our soon to be AI-controlled future, how can those kids have any chance in the drastically changing external environment of modern life?

  • 4.2 Access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education:

“… more than 200 million children under 5 years fail to reach their potential in cognitive development because of poverty, poor health and nutrition, and deficient care.” (5)

Can we replace a missing step of early development in their lives until later on? With higher odds than others, they are doomed to fail in school and life.

  • 4.3 Access for all women and men to affordable and quality education:

“Limited access to educational opportunities in the past has left 774 million adults lacking basic literacy skills, of whom about two in every three are women.” (6)

How can they stand a chance against the free/easy movements of the better-educated workforce due to globalization? Are they doomed to remain in the lower strata of societies?

  • 4.4 Increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills for employment:

On proficiency in computer skills, even among OECD countries, “only 5% of the population reached level three – those most proficient in computer-related activities.” (7)

While we have countries with completely digital e-governments and in some parts of the world with an entire C (connected)-generation already in adulthood, how can the vast majority of the world live in this rapidly changing technological environment, or even make decisions over the unforeseeable future, if many of them do not even know how to turn on a computer or perform basic computer tasks like writing an email or using a touchpad?

  • 4.5 Eliminate inequalities including gender, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations:

One billion people are “living with a disability in the world, out of which 10% are children.” (8)

How many of them can get access to schools? In the developing world, 9 out of 10 children with disabilities never get basic education (8). Why are we marginalizing them, even more so as their physical health makes it a must to care for them?

  • 4.6 Achieve literacy and numeracy:

171 countries out of 197 are having illiterate citizens. (9)

How can you educate and provide access to information or digital solutions for those who cannot even read or count?

We are the privileged ones, who can independently open this digital platform and read this article, and many more we can access online. Can you imagine your life without free access to such information? Or accessing it without having studied the education you did? How different would your life be, and what consequences would your family face? Do not even start to think about your near-future relevance on this planet concerning the rapid increase in the use of infotech and biotech!

With that in mind, read the last target and sense your responsibility to make the world a better place:

  • 4.7 By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and culture’s contribution to sustainable development.

Calls to Action:

  1. Read more on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
  2. Discuss the following topic with your sympathizers: How would our world change if we were to reach all SDG 4 targets? What are the consequences of the lack of Quality Education to those who have no access to it? How come we understand the importance of SDG 4, but still have giant gaps in delivering its targets?
  3. Find a project and reach out to the host entity to support them with advice or funds to deliver it, especially West African entities as there is an urgent need to provide SDG-related changes there.
  4. Sponsor and motivate someone in your world to take on a Global Volunteer project with AIESEC. I suggest Creative Mind in the Benin Republic.

– Krisztina Kapuvari

  1. YouthSpeak Global Report 2016 (Page 31)
  2. Education Quotes
  3. Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform SDG 4 Targets
  4. Out-Of-School Children and Youth
  5. Early Childhood Development Is Essential to Delivering the SDGs
  6. Global Report on Adult Learning and Education (Page 19)
  7. The Four Levels of Computer Skills, and the Surprising Number of Adults Who Fall Short
  8. Children With Disabilities Face the Longest Road to Education
  9. List of Countries by Literacy Rate

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Why Constant Testing Is Not Sustainable in the Long Run

Why Constant Testing Is Not Sustainable in the Long Run

When the word “test” infiltrates students’ minds, they get scared. Because tests are measurements of their performance in certain subjects. Of course, receiving the results of them is the most frightening part of all!

In this article, I would like to make a comparison between Hungarian tests at schools and the controversial “standardized” tests in the United States. The main question of this article: why constant testing does not represent true knowledge. The most specific way I can answer: because it is placing too much pressure on both the teacher and the students. The teacher’s job is not to test the children but TEACH them. In other words: teachers do not have to prepare a test (or a quiz) week by week because they have to correct and grade them, which takes too much time. To make matters worse, school rules also apply to the teacher: failing to correct and grade a test by the deadline means the grade will not count.

According to regulations in Hungary, the number of grades is limited to twelve in each subject within one semester. However, students must have at least three grades to qualify for the evaluation. The grading system is based on a 1-5 scale, where one means fail and five means excellent. There is also a limit on midterm examinations, which is two in each semester. It is worth noting that they count twice. This means if you fail a midterm, you get two fails. Only in special cases can you retake a midterm (or test), however, the fail will not be annulled. Should you miss a midterm test due to (certified) absence, you must catch up. At the end of your last year in secondary school, you have to take a mock exam of the four compulsory subjects. The grades of these are worth two midterms, so it is ill-advised to fail them.

The title of this article refers to the clash of the two methods, which I focused on in a previous article. Hungary belongs to the “Prussian” camp. That is, as the teacher presents the material, students must comply and write it down, do the homework, and prepare for frequent tests, and so on. Sometimes, these tests are overly frequent as teachers do not always have to announce the time of the test. (It is obligatory to announce midterms, but not so for short tests.) I can understand the intention – students must comply and learn. However, these short tests tend to be overused and only represent fleeting knowledge. Of course, the results do not reveal whether the student was stressed or not. These tests are stressing students and eventually, teachers. Hungary lacks in compliance, sometimes roles are not clarified in certain cases. Who is to blame for bad performance? Back in the day, it was automatically the pupil for not complying and the bad grade served its “punishing” role.

Let me enumerate two cases within my high school. My Maths teacher and my Physics teacher (who taught Chemistry as well) were widely hated within my class for being very harsh and unfair. None of these claims was true. They were harsh, for sure, but they were fair. My Maths teacher, whom I admire a lot, came from Ukraine (Subcarpathian region). She graduated from Lviv University as a mathematician and taught there for some years afterwards. All she did was introduce the mentality of a Soviet university to us with fairness. She required a lot from us because she wanted us to excel in mathematics. Some students did not like the idea of excelling. That is why some of them tried to betray the teacher for being unfair. A common argument was, “I excelled in mathematics in primary school, but now I cannot produce the same results because of the teacher requiring too much of me”. My mother answered in a short but concise way like this: “Maybe you do not prepare well enough. My son practices all the problems before tests. His grades are quite good.”

For being overly harsh, the same issue applied to the Physics teacher. That teacher reminded us to voice concerns face to face at all times. No tattletales. She told us we were not able to use the calculator (in Hungary, at some tests and exams you are allowed to use one), which was true. At the time, some students were not able to distinguish the signs of the four basic operations. Therefore it is not a good idea in primary school that calculators are banned and counting is enforced (you cannot even use one after entering high school). There should be some time set aside to use a scientific calculator. Look at the equation above (source: Wikipedia), and try to solve it on your own!

Let us jump to a short analysis of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, repealed in 2015 with the introduction of Every Student Succeeds Act. The former act introduced a standardized test to measure a school’s performance. The intention was to set a rigorous challenge (in reading and math) for students. The keyword is “accountability”. This keyword is measured by Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). This measure is intended to help minorities reach a proficient level or above in English within 12 years. These standardized tests should take place every year between 3rd and 8th grade. However, they led to constant criticism because schools were required to teach to the test and not to seek practice. What does this mean? A student would only master performing a calculation such as “What is 2+6?”, but not be aware of any practical use for it.

In the long run, there would not be enough places for equal opportunity to succeed. States had set arbitrary scores to reach, which were not realistic at times. Education solely based on these tests would provide only half the necessary information. That is, in the worst-case scenario when something was wrong, it would not reveal exactly what was wrong or what the best way to solve the problem was. (1)

Speaking of unrealistic goals, some schools even manipulated the results to prevent the attrition rate from rising. According to Meier and Woods (2004, p. 36), a high school in Houston, Texas reportedly started with 1,000 first-year students, and four years later, only 300 of them had enrolled for senior classes. However, the 700 other students were not classified as “dropouts”. According to Alfie Kohn, the NCLB was a “destructive” act, constantly placing students under pressure. (2) Subsequently, since 2012, many states have issued a waiver, so they are no longer conforming with the Administration’s requirements.

In the last year of the Obama Administration, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was enacted to replace NCLB. This new act places more emphasis on both equal opportunity and accountability at the same time. Tests will remain mandatory, but their timing would be more flexible. That is, states could regulate the spent time for a test. (3) However, as Trump was sworn into office, the days of the U.S. Department of Education seem to be numbered. The new Secretary for Education, Betsy DeVos, suspended the accountability regulations of the Obama Administration. This step is in the crosshairs, as others say that this reversal would harm vulnerable students.

Source: Meier, D & Woods, G (2004): Many Children Left Behind: How the No Child Left Behind Act Is Damaging Our Children and Our Schools. Boston: Beacon Press, p. 36.

Calls to Action

  1. Read ‘No Child Left Behind’ Has Failed by Lily Eskelsen García & Otha Thornton (2015).
  2. Read NCLB: ‘Too Destructive To Salvage’ by Alfie Kohn (2007).
  3. Read With Passage of Every Student Succeeds Act, Life After NCLB Begins by Tim Walker (2015).
  4. Do you want to take part in a life-changing experience abroad? If you are aged between 18 and 30, do not hesitate to hit that Sign Up Button in the top right corner. AIESEC will be in touch!

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Do Teachers Have the Right to Discipline?

Do Teachers Have the Right to Discipline?

In my previous article, when I analyzed the two methods, the term “discipline” had next to no place. In my view, discipline and class management are crucial. The old Prussian method is commonly associated with the hard hand of the teacher. What does that mean? Discipline can be maintained even with physical force. In Hungary (and in some other countries as well), a teacher’s job was very prestigious. It was not well-paid, but they had respect all around the country. Many classrooms even had a cane stick, which awakened fears in students. If the teacher used it, they screamed a lot in pain. When I volunteered in the People’s Republic of China, I also had a stick like that. Of course, I never used it, because it was only used in the worst-case scenario. Worst case scenario meant a kid talked back to the teacher, which is considered very disrespectful. At that time, it was even more so. Therefore discipline was strict but, at the same time, fair. In the 1950s, when a strong rise in industrialization began, more and more people moved to the city and the cane stick lost its authority. Fortunately, the teacher enjoyed authority and kids did not want to talk back, because they were in fear of the slap. At that time, if the teacher slapped you, you got its other half at home in case you told a tattletale. Therefore you remained silent and prayed so that it did not turn out that way. However, students immediately understood where the borders were. This discipline method is commonly connected to a Soviet-Ukrainian educator, Anton Semyonovich Makarenko (see Call to Action No. 1). In my view, this is acceptable in the worst-case scenario. Let me tell you a true story to conclude this section, which my friend told me who attended the same primary school as I did.

Let us jump back in time to 1977. At that time, Hungary belonged to the Communist camp, so that it was considered to be a big privilege to travel to Western Europe. My school had a famous choir and got invited to an international choir festival in Belgium. Of course, restrictions applied and each kid received 50 francs (which was pretty much nothing) daily. Kids got amazed by the freedom of the West. Nobody paid any attention to them, unfortunately, some people started to steal from shops. A few days later the whole choir got involved in stealing stuff. My friend admitted that he had also stolen a T-shirt. Another few days passed, then those who had started the stealing reported the choir to the teachers. Of course, the headmaster became very furious. He summoned each member, one by one, to a short hearing. My friend was the first to enter the room. The headmaster asked only one question: “Did you steal?” The answer was: “No, I did not!” The headmaster reached across the table and a slap flew. My friend kissed the floor immediately afterwards. His teacher was so angry that, had the table not been there, he would have even kicked the pupil kowtowing on the floor. My friend left the room, but as others saw him, everyone knew that there was no leeway for lies. The stolen stuff was confiscated and thrown into the Rhine. This is what discipline meant. Students were required to be honest with their teachers. If they lied to them, they would be labelled thieves.

If you watched the video I linked to in my previous article, did you notice anything? Were there any pupils talking back? Of course not! The material was about graphs and functions, not about coordinate-geometry. The question of usefulness rises again. If you watch it closely, the teacher was browsing around collecting questions and overseeing the workflow. The teacher appreciated every effort and recognised the good things about students first. Is this technique useful in the long run? In a school, a teacher acts as a real leader to encourage others. This will raise confidence among pupils. This is where class management begins. This is where the “Prussian” method falters. Of course, the teacher has authority over the class. Still, at the same time, he or she earns trust from children, so that they feel assured that they will never be left alone. Again, a teacher who has true leadership skills oversees everything. If children cheat during tests, the teacher will give them a fair punishment, which does deter them from doing it again. Will students be slapped, as discussed above? Maybe, maybe not. According to the No Child Left Behind Act (2002), (see Call to Action No. 2; its controversies will be discussed in my next article), signed by George W. Bush, badly performing and badly disciplined kids can be transferred to another school, but that school is not required to accept them. What does No Child Left Behind mean then? The teacher should keep discipline by keeping the materials interesting and eye-catching. Then he or she condemns excuses because they are not making enough effort. Long story short, pupil-compliance is also a crucial part to reach the desired quality of education. This is where Hungary is underperforming. Therefore many classes are wasted with disciplining while, as you saw in the video, there is no such thing in the USA. Thus without compliance, it will be very difficult to keep order in a class. To end this article, I would like to invite you to make a judgment, “Do teachers have the right to discipline with physical force or should they make as useful materials as possible so that students will eagerly want to comply?” In my view, physical force should only be used in the worst-case scenario when a pupil talks back disrespectfully. However, some people in my country run to the police if a teacher slaps a kid. These parents say such a teacher is aggressive and should be excluded from teaching. For sure, sometimes this argument may be right, but more often than not, it turns out that this slap is a so-called Makarenko one, which “gives students a hand” to discover the limits to their unruly behaviour.

Calls to Action:

  1. Who was Anton Semyonovich Makarenko? Read More About Him.
  2. Learn More About the No Child Left Behind Act.
  3. Do you want to take part in a life-changing experience campaigning Quality Education while teaching English to young kids overseas? Live the experience with AIESEC—sign up, and a local committee will call you for a meeting (note that you must be aged between 18 and 30 to participate).

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Two Methods in Contrast

Two Methods in Contrast

Education is the most important and influential part of our lives. The future of a country highly relies on educated people.

That is why I chose to be the Ambassador of Quality Education on AlumNet, as I have worked close to education, and even wrote my thesis on American education policy, analyzing the problems and reservations concerning education in the United States.

On that note, in this article, I am going to make a comparison between two distinct teaching methods. On one side, is the old, Prussian-like method and on the other, the more liberal “American” one. I enclosed the word “American” in quotation marks as I am unsure why it is classified so. Anyway, which one is “better” is an ongoing debate as each method has its advantages and disadvantages.

Let us begin with the old Prussian-like method. Many countries still adhere to this way of teaching, each with their modifications. In this method, the teacher explains and the student must take notes, getting homework and tested sooner or later. The topic of the test is usually what the teacher taught in the lesson. There is a big disadvantage of this, namely, it is nothing more than cramming dry facts, no research, nothing. Only the teacher can be right in a class, which can even consist of 50 students in some countries. Moreover, he or she has to maintain discipline. Yes, to a certain extent, it can be done. It has a definite advantage: students will gain wide lexical knowledge and educators can transfer complex ideas to their students.

However, we are in the 21st century. These days, dry facts are accessible to everyone on the Internet. That is why I am shifting my focus to American education. American students research a lot even during primary school. They are taught not only to have ideas but how to defend and debate them. Why do they have so many oral competitions? Incidentally, an American class also consists of a lot of students, but there have been attempts to reduce the size (reference Call to Action No. 1 below). Such classes are divided into smaller groups to enhance group research. Therefore, being very helpful for both sides as teachers will recognize, almost immediately, when students have deficiencies and need attention. Also, even if the outcome of such interaction is not favourable, the teacher will give generous appreciation to students who make an effort. The most common critique of this method is that it does not demand enough of the student. Well, this has some truth to it, but it does not overexert them either.

Last but not least, let us make a comparison between an 11th-grade math class in the United States and Hungary, a clash of the two opposing methods. Hungarian education has a definite downside: it is outdated and has NO TRUST in children. If untrue, why are all smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. required to be switched off during classes? Are we 100% sure that students will use them for social media? In Hungary, 11th graders (students aged 17-18) are studying coordinate geometry, combinatorics, exponential and logarithmic equations, and fraction-powered calculations—most of their time is spent doing coordinate geometry. According to School Improvement Network (see Call to Action No. 2 below), 11th-grade American children (age varies among states) are studying graphs and analysis. They are learning how to make predictions by learning formulas. What do you think? Which method is more up-to-date and useful in the long run?

Calls to Action:

  1. Search for “Student Success Act Proposal, by John Kline From Minnesota” at the Library of Congress online. Then, enhance your judgment by typing in the term “bilingual education” and read through the results.
  2. Watch this video and draw your own conclusion.
  3. Do you want to take part in a life-changing experience campaigning Quality Education? Live the experience with AIESEC—sign up, and a local committee will call you for a meeting (note that you must be aged between 18 and 30 to participate).

– Gergely Lázár

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

What Does Good Health and Well-Being Mean to Different Countries?

What Does Good Health and Well-Being Mean to Different Countries?

I realised more about this topic while on a two-month mission working on SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-Being) as a volunteer in the world’s most developed country: the United States.

Myself on the Left, the Other AIESEC Volunteer From Chile Luis on the Right in the Background, and Circle of Friends President Chandler Lewis in the Front-Right, While at Our Office in Seattle Startup Hall

Incidentally, after spending more than two and a half years in West Africa as an Eastern European (WA & EE), I had the rare chance to experience different challenges from the perspective of the developing world, too. Learn more about these realizations such as the impact of poverty or hunger.

Come what may, right after the Inauguration of President Trump, I arrived in Seattle on January 21, 2017, to volunteer at Circle of Friends for Mental Health (CoF).

Circle of Friends for Mental Health’s Mission Statement

Honestly, I had irrational expectations towards the USA on my arrival. My false preconception was that the more developed a country is, the fewer marginalized people there are, and the fewer social issues are present.

Unfortunately, this is not the case.

On the contrary, I witnessed similar marks of social issues like in those less developed regions I had lived my life earlier (WA & EE): tents in public parks, people asking for food and change, and thousands of rough sleepers on the doorsteps, all across the city.

“About 1.56 million people, or about 0.5% of the U.S. population, used an emergency shelter or transitional housing program between October 1, 2008, and September 30, 2009.” (1)

At first glance, this contradiction seemed strange in an American well-developed city with a giant tech industry, a flourishing economy, and the stateliest of freedoms.

It is not sharing a representative experiment, but my subjective opinion based on my interpretation through the lenses of my previous life experiences.

Does it mean that no matter how we produce economic growth, with the current societal settings and priorities, deep poverty and related effects of it, like health issues, homelessness, mental challenges, won’t disappear completely?

I am inclined to agree.

“More than 12,000 people were counted as homeless in Seattle and King County this year, a 4% increase over last year.” (3)

Daily, I thought and asked myself and others: “America can’t solve the most pressing local social issues even if it is the most developed nation on Earth, so what can we expect from those countries in deep poverty?”

In my country, where economic performance is well below the EU average, or across West Africa, it was easy to grasp the monetary and other challenges to development we were faced with, not to mention those of our penniless masses. However, it was difficult for me to accept that in the USA, when it comes to the number of homeless people on the streets, Seattle had the third-largest number in the country. (3)

Walking there daily, facing those masses and participating in city meetings discussing homelessness, made it seem as though there was a relatively higher number of street dwellers—at least compared to what can be seen in my capital of 2 million, or across West Africa.

That astounded me as I expected the complete opposite, and seeing the statistics below confirms my observation:

Note that the percentage of homelessness of the total population is higher in the US than in less developed Hungary. (2)

Whilst being shocked, I also noticed the incredible efforts from organizations, companies, governments, educational institutions, and many other parties in the American communities that are investing in and running projects to support those stigmatized in need of health and social care support. We lack these in EE & WA…

As a CoF volunteer, my duty was to prepare for a fundraiser gala, organize the board meetings, manage partners and donor relations and the online marketing team. Through these tasks, I obtained a decent understanding of the opportunities for individuals and organisations to participate in making the lives better for those in need.

Besides, I was to go weekly to two local social support centres:

  1. Mary’s Place, which is a women’s day shelter where I helped homeless ladies by providing them with healing through art sessions to ease their depression, isolation and other mental challenges.
  2. Downtown Emergency Services, where I learned from the background of government service centres how the system works to ease the lives of those souls in need.

My Abstract Amateur Artwork While at Mary’s Place Talking With Homeless Women as a CoF Volunteer

I deepened my understanding from this first-hand experience that mental well-being is essential to reintegrate into society, and it cannot be gained merely by getting into a housing program or having basic needs covered.

These experiences made it clear to me that all these collective efforts—from a well-organized society and willing citizens—do provide comfort for the most vulnerable, but are not the solution to completely wipe out homelessness, health issues of the masses, and mental challenges of individuals. Consequently, we need more comprehensive changes in our social welfare services.

The quality of care towards these social issues and the attention on the well-being of Americans through such healthcare is highly impressive compared to what we have in my home country, or those developing countries I have visited. The willingness across sectors and private and public participants to cooperate had unleashed in me hope for our future as humankind.

Although there are still lots of issues to solve…

Calls to Action:

  1. Read more on the Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform.
  2. Discuss the following topic with your sympathizers: What do you consider as the need for change in social and health care systems operating in your country and all over the world? How can they be improved? What effects do individuals and different parties of societies have on these countries, governments and the world’s ways of managing the needs of the marginalized masses? What can YOU DO?
  3. Find a project and reach out to the host entity to support them with advice or funds to deliver it, especially west African entities as there is an urgent need to provide SDG-related changes there.
  4. Sponsor and motivate someone in your world to take on a Global Volunteer project with AIESEC. I suggest Creative Mind in the Benin Republic.

– Krisztina Kapuvari

  1. Homelessness in the United States
  2. As Cities Grow, so Do the Numbers of Homeless
  3. Seattle Homeless Population Is Third Largest in the US, After LA and NYC
  • Created and Photographs Provided by Krisztina@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Illustrated by Oguz@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Proofed by Greg@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Edited and Published by Lee@Whatareyoustillwaitingfor.Space
  • Supported and Funded by Advertising-Free Online Sales of What Are You Still Waiting For? Publications and Affiliation with WordPress

The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.

Rising Stars of the Steppe

Rising Stars of the Steppe

Can an education model inspire citizens? Can it be a light for the future? Can it create a miracle? My answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

In this essay, I would like to write about an education system that created “flowers” in temperate grasslands named the Anatolian steppes. I will write about how it was a great system and how it was demolished.

This education model is called “village institutes”, which was adopted between 1940-1956 in Turkey. The aim was to mould kids from elementary to university level at the same school to become idealistic and transforming teachers. The schools were called “village institutes” as 21 villages, in total, hosted them. The most extraordinary thing was that instruction started by building the school itself, from inception! Imagine an empty field; after that, design a school with a garden, labs, classrooms, a store, a teachers’ room, or even a farm, and so on; whatever you imagine for the school, everything had to be built by students and teachers in challenging conditions.

Think about a poor village first, then think about ambitious, willing, idealistic teachers and students in the school. Math, science, foreigner languages, literature, sports lessons are already in standard school curriculum, but what about: theatre, classical music, farming, childcare, carpentry, shoe-making, zootechnical, arboriculture, industrial crops, ironing, beekeeping, soldering, playing the violin, saxophone, or piano, embroidery, sociology, psychology, even cooperatives…? Yes! These subjects are all part of their curriculum during their education.

In villages of Anatolia, music composed by Beethoven, Mozart, and Aleksandr Borodin was played by students. The same students cultivated grains to make bread, then learn English, French or German. Afterwards, they studied sociology and applied what they had learned on people. All students could use math, as proficiently as an engineer, and were able to write great poems and stories as well. In the end, after they graduated, they were spread all over Turkey as teachers to teach what they had learned.

Can you even begin to imagine what transpired afterwards?

Perplexingly, too many idealistic, patriotic, talented reformists had been nurtured this way. Nonetheless, they led Turkey a few steps forward.

But, as with everything, Village Institutes had an end too, unfortunately.

Hereinafter, I am going to talk about how this system was blocked, closed, and demolished by some politicians, just for their benefit and career.

Firstly, someone creates an alternative, then finds a way to slander the current system, finding supporters, and with full force, denounces it. The Village Institutes faced such condemnation.

In 1950, the government changed, and the new one was extremely conservative. They were thinking that traditional methods were better than the system of Village Institutes. Slowly they started to campaign publicly that the VIs were full of communists during the Cold War. “Schools are brainwashing innocent Muslim kids”. “Girls and boys are not permitted to be in the same classroom”. “They are learning about communism…”. These kinds of statements were kind of their motto. After defiling the VIs, they created an alternative. This method involved creating religious schools in every city of Turkey. “Kids must be educated following Islam”. And ultimately, they accumulated many supporters, and with their authority, all VIs were closed in 1954.

For 14 years, from 1940 to 1954, Turkey presented its intellectual side to the world. It proved that, if it wants to, it can create wonders in a short time.

After closing, VI students (after graduation, they became teachers, businesspeople, etc.) internalised VI ideology and upheld it. In their minds, Turkey’s interests came first and foremost, so they sustained them; personal benefits were not as important. Even in the harshest conditions, even in poverty, they inspired, impressed, and made an impact on people around them.

Even now, we are still talking about VIs. If they still existed, how would Turkey look now? How come that government closed them? Could they not recognise the results?

Now, we are looking forward to seeing a new, better education system, but our expectations are quite low.

– Oğuz Yılmazlar

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The opinions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of #WAYSWF.