Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Saturday, December 9, 2017

When Mental Strength Rather than Skills and Techniques Become the Primary Determinant for Success

Today was the final exam for graduating medical school students at the University of Tokyo.  The final exam took the form of individual clinical simulations, where each student separately, in designated time periods, perform certain required medical checkup procedures in front of their professors.  Students from other departments were called up to perform as mock patients for the final exam, and the author was luckily selected as one of the privileged (?) few who had the opportunity to witness firsthand the final examination process.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Encouraging Signs of a More International Socialization of Japanese Kids

When the author was attending elementary school in Japan as a child, the concept of catering for foreigners within both the school environment and community was practically unheard of.  While foreigners have already been not rare even in a provincial city like Kanazawa by the early 1990s, the general mainstream society basically pretended that if the foreigners are treated not any differently from the Japanese, they will assimilate into Japanese culture in no time.  As much as many foreign residents treated to go along with such idealistic wishes of the Japanese majority, to accept a new culture while abandoning an old is difficult.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Are Some Exam Formats More "Juvenile" Than Others?

One of the favorite tools for teachers in American high schools is the Scantron.  These machine-readable little slips are the key to automating multiple choice tests.  Teachers enter the correct answers in the scanning machine before the multiple-choice test even happens.  And then students color in the bubbles that correspond to what they think are the right answers on the Scantron slip.  Immediately after the test, the teacher gathers all the slips and shove them into the scanning machine.  The machine automatically grades everyone's test, and the teacher is saved from having to manually check all the answers.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Isolationist Tendencies Will Hurt Academia's Financial Viability

A few months ago during a trip back to San Diego, the author heard about an initiative ran by PhD students and postdocs at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD).  The initiative involves a weekly trip by a few science researchers to the nearby drinking holes, where they will mark themselves as people doing scientific research and take questions from other, normal customers.  By taking the time to appeal to the laymen's curiosity about science, they are hoping to reduce the distance between scientists and normal people, and make more people understand the necessity of scientific research for their own daily lives.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Relationship between Political Stability and Business Reputation

When a restaurant or a retail shop advertises itself topic to the general public, one of more common method used is to emphasize its long tradition of operations.  The term "Since (insert year of founding here)" is frequently placed right next to the company name and logo.  The logic goes that if customers recognize just how long the company has been in operation, with no change in business or name, they can have the assurance that the products being sold are of high quality.  After all, those same products have been satisfying generations of customers, and if there were not satisfied, there is no reason the company still exists.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

When Food Becomes the First Line of Institutional Globalization

In any university, often the cafeteria becomes a sort of the student body's microcosm.  The cheap and hearty fare of the speedy provided lunch menu is a godsend for poor students with tight class schedules.  Even for those with time to spare, cafeterias are perfect places to meet up with friends within the college, as they are usually centrally located, easily reached from offices and classrooms scattered around the school campus.  It is over the busy lunch hours when student life at its most basic social aspect becomes apparent.  Gossip, stories, and laughs fly across food halls unusually loud by Japanese standards.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Regrettable Left-Wing Tyranny of Opinions on American College Campuses

The author is often asked why he chose to study in Japan when there are so many more reputable schools in the US.  Surely, even though he was flatly rejected by several of the country's best, if applications to slightly lesser known schools are submitted, there would have been a fairly good chance he would receive admission and scholarship to study.  In response, he would often cite the cheaper tuition and shorter time needed to complete studies in Japan, along with familiarity, convenience, and even lower living expenses in Tokyo.  But in using such mundane reasons, he declines to state one of the biggest reasons for not studying in America.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Can A Non-Academic Become Academic on a Short Notice?

Despite having done my degrees at Yale and LSE, I am rather hesitant to consider myself academically inclined.  A year in London was mostly spent traveling around Europe and drinking in pubs, with pitifully little time spent on actual reading and writing as stipulated by the courses.  Having graduated with low grades that is unenviable for anyone pursuing career academic jobs or further studies, I took off to the business world even before the final grades were finalized and the diplomas passed out.  For the next five years, apart from a short six-month stint in Taiwan doing political search, there has been nothing academic in my resume.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Inflation Leading to Supply and Demand Problems in Argentina

There is a weird phenomenon at the hostel that I am currently staying in.  Many of the guests are long-term residents.  And by "long-term," I mean not weeks or months, but years after years.  Some of the residents are foreign students at local universities doing their proper college degrees.  And they tell me that for some reason, it is cheaper for them to stay in a hostel, even with their inflated daily rates, than it would be to find a shared apartment in a decent part of Buenos Aires.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Conflicts of Family and Friendship Ties vs Self-Interest in Social Confinement

In the novel Beloved, Toni Morrison follows the life experience of several freed slaves before and after the Civil War, as they struggle with the harshness of present economic realities and continued discrimination against blacks, while they seek out family and friends from the days as slaves.  The novel transcends different time periods and voices of different characters, creating a highly diverse portrait of how individual African-Americans and the black society as a whole cope with constant and permanent coming and going of people due to slave sales and botched/successful attempts at escapes from southern plantations.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Feeling Human Fragility Revisited: How Breakdown of Authority Leads to Breakdown of Ethics

In the novel Blindness, Portuguese author Jose Saramago describes a world where a sudden epidemic of unexplainable blindness that struck an entire population led to sudden collapse of human civilization.  Amidst the disorder of a post-apocalyptic world where everyone is reduced to blind savages only concerned about procuring enough food for survival, the lone woman who can still see witnesses how quickly human morals can fall apart, just as quickly as physical infrastructures and institutions.  Yet, the stories of camaraderie among strangers in distress also speak to the power of human bonds in collectively overcoming difficulties.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Comparative History of Human Development Can Provide New Clues for Explorations of Extraterrestrial Life

In his book Guns, Germs, and Steel, Prof. Jared Diamond argues that the different levels of development among modern human societies, in terms of institutions, wealth, and technology, are ultimately due to different environmental conditions faced by their historical predecessors.  The availability of wild plants/animals for domestication and fertile climates/soil for food production enabled some societies, more than others, to adopt agriculture, explode in overall population, and create non-food producing specialists that enable innovations and complex society-building.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Experiencing Suffering of the Poorest Firsthand is needed for Even the Richest

I write after two years in the depth of rural Tanzania, where I have worked for an NGO.  Our clients, a group of farmers scattered across a series of remote villages, struggles to make ends meet as changing rain patterns and dearth of high-quality fertilizers keep their farms unproductive.  It was a tough two years working to reverse these struggles.  Idealism turned into cynicism, hope into disillusionment.  For failures, I found myself becoming too quick to blame others, whether it be government absence, unmotivated staff, or refusal for organizations, including ours, to prioritize projects that are realistically feasible rather than glamorous for publicity. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Is Book Buying Also a Sign of Materialism?

What is the most visual sign of an intellectual?  For many people, the answer may be an obvious one.  The person must be well-read.  And what better proof is there of a person being well-read than having a study full of bookshelves, completely filled up with good books?  It is unsurprising than, whenever the average media outlet go conduct a face-to-face interview with scholars, professors, and experts, they are often conducted in their offices, flanked by bookshelves full of books related to the topics at hand and the person's field of expertise.  Having many books has become equated with knowledge.

Friday, June 9, 2017

What Reforms Are Urgently Needed By Modern Education

Today’s students ought to be anxious.  As technology develops, many cushy jobs are in the process of disappearing and being replaced by robots and computer algorithms.  Government policies, from increased tariffs to fickle visa regimes, make employment in an increasingly interconnected world volatile and unpredictable.  To counter these constant changes in the overall economic environment, Educational institutions need to restructure their curriculums and mindset to help students develop a diverse set of knowledge base.  Only with varied set of skills will students, upon graduation, be able to weather changing employment patterns as well as rise and fall of particular industries. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Key to Ending Ivory Trade is not Bans, but Increase in Supply of Ivory in the Market

In economics, there is a type of product called "Veblen good" that does not contradicts the normal supply-and-demand relationships.  For a normal good, a decrease in supply corresponds to an increase in price, leading to a corresponding drop in demand as consumers reduce consumption and/or seek out cheaper substitutes for the now more expensive product.  But for a Veblen good, while decrease in supply also leads to a price increase, demand actually surges, with consumers assigning higher value to the good due to the higher price of the good.

Friday, March 17, 2017

「学生」という身分だからこそできる世界の「巡り方」

たぶんご存知でない方もたくさんいらっしゃいますが、著者の学生生活は日本で始まった。5歳で中国から移住していた著者、言語が分からぬまま入れられてしまった石川県金沢市のとある保育園は実に最初の学校経験であった。その後もそのまま隣の小学校に入学し、両親が学術研究で忙しいため、放課後には町が運営する児童センターで毎日何時間ほど過ごした。そのおかげで、12歳にアメリカに移民する前にはすっかりごく普通で日本っぽい小学生になっていた。

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Journey Outside the USA Continues....

Many readers of this blog may or may not realize that the author of this blog is actually an American citizen.  Yet during more than six years of this blog's run, the vast majority of posts are written in locations about topics that are distinctively unrelated to the author's country of citizenship.  Even when written, America only exists as an elusive point of reference for other countries, a passive player looming large in the background that features much in the collective psyche of the local populace, but not nearly as much in the workings of their daily lives.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

How Lack of Financial Discipline Fuels an Explosive Growth of African Government Debt

In his work Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki attempts to dissect the mentality of the poor, the middle class, and the rich.  Among all the differences he notes of the three, one is constantly repeated and stands out as pivotal in the difference.  The rich, he argues, invests in assets and not liabilities.  And when the rich makes these investments, they do so through incomes earned through assets, and not by taking on more liabilities in the form of loans to be repaid.  By wisely investing in income-generating assets within their means and then reinvesting resulting incomes in more assets, a small initial capital can quickly turn into a large sum.

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Enviable Professional Freedom of an Academic

Many people see one's academic and professional lives are two separate,distinct phases.  Schooling is something done in young age, a process of learning that culminates in certifications that signify one's ability to think critically and apply certain skill sets.  Those skill sets are prerequisites to a second phase, professional work that apply and further enhance academic knowledge that can be directed and sharpened to achieve certain goals that are worthy of financial compensation.  For most, one leads to the other (sometimes in reverse), and the two rarely, if ever, crosses paths.