Friday, 30 September 2011

Young European of the Year

The Schwarzkopf-foundation is looking for young people from Europe between the ages of 18 and 26, (i.e. in 2012 the prize winner should not be older than 26) who are imaginative and active in an honorary capacity engaged for the European understanding and integration.

Young people prepared to grasp the opportunities of our time in forging peaceful coexistence in a Europe of diversity. Each year with this prize the Schwarzkopf Foundation rewards a young European for his/her outstanding commitment to fostering international understanding and the union of Europe.

At the same time we want to encourage and motivate these young people to continue to champion these ideals. The sum donated for the prize is € 5.000. This amount is intended to finance a six-month internship with a Member of the European Parliament or another European institution. It is also possible to use the sum to finance a project which promotes European integration. Such a project must further the aims of the Schwarzkopf Foundation and receive the agreement of the Foundation’s Management board in order to be accepted.

If you know a young person who fits the bill please fill in the nomination form and send it to:
Schwarzkopf-Stiftung Junges Europa,
Sophienstraße 28-29, 10178 Berlin

Deadline for entries: 30th of October, 2011

For further information, please visit

BBC paid trainee program open

The BBC will accept applications for its paid, year-long trainee program from September 26 - October 10. The program is designed for people who don't necessarily have journalistic qualifications but who have some work experience.
A knowledge and understanding of news and current affairs is key. Sports trainees will need to demonstrate a keen interest in a wide range of sports. A good understanding of politics is needed for the Gareth Butler placement. For the Global placement, it would be particularly useful to have a knowledge of languages, such as Urdu, Arabic, Farsi, Afghan, Pashtu, Swahili or Hausa.
Trainees must be in London for orientation January 18th, 2012 and to be able to start work on Monday March 5th, 2012. Trainees must have the right to work in the U.K.; there is no age limit.
Deadline 10th of October, 2011
For more information, please visit

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

EF Social Media Challenge

Prize Details
Create a 1 Minute video on how you will achieve EF’s mission “of breaking down the barriers of language, culture and geography” with Social Media tools and you might be one of the 6 lucky winners of our Grand Prize

up to 6 winners will each receive the following prize: a 2-day Social Media Training in Zurich Switzerland and a subsequent 2 week language course and Social Media project at one of 6 EF schools.
How To Enter:
  1. Create a video based on the brief above (1 min maximum length).
  2. Upload video to your Youtube account (or other video platform, i.e. Vimeo, YouKu, etc.) and name it: ’AIESEC-EF Competition_Name_Country
  3. Submit the link of the video, with a 200-word summary of your video
The Prize includes:
  • Participation in EF Social Media Training in Zurich
  • Hotel accommodation and full board in Zurich
  • Participation in Social Media Project at a school location in the UK, US, Canada, Spain, France or Australia
  • Participation in a 2 week EF general course in the English, Spanish or French (depending on school location) during this period
  • Accommodation at an EF residence or EF host family (shared) and half board in school destination during this period
  • Flight from home country to Zurich and then onwards to assigned school location
  • For the final winner: possibility for an internship in EF Social Media department
Selection Process:
  1. Enter the competition before the deadline
  2. The videos will be judged by a panel comprising of AIESEC International and EF Education First (marketing and social media teams)
  3. The Winners will be announced on 12th October 2011 in the next Global Membership Newsletter.
Selection Criteria and Guidelines:
Selection will be based on how effectively the candidate can communicate his/her message about the usage of social media in connecting people across geography, language and culture in a 1-2 minute video. - What is the main idea in your video? - How is your video unique? - Are you willing to convert the idea into practice? - Will you be able to get what you need from EF mentorship to get started on your idea? The judging panel will include representatives of EF Education First and AIESEC International.
Contest Starts
April 12, 2011 @ 12:13 pm (CEST)
Contest Ends
September 30, 2011 @ 01:59 am (CEST)
Need more Details?

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Human[i]ties Perspective 2011, Germany

Deadline: 15 October 2011
Open to: all interested
Costs: Participation fee is 35€ for participants who need accommodation and will be provided with free shared room in hostel or 10€ for participants who don’t need accommodation

Human[i]ties Perspective 2011, a conference and professional networking event aimed at Erasmus Mundus students and alumni from Culture, Media and Communications studies will be held this year at the University of Hamburg, November 11th and 12th. This year’s event will attract between 30 and 40 participants. Upon completion of the event all participants will receive an official Certificate of Participation. The conference will take place over two days and include four themed sessions: three academic sections exploring, ‘Cultures & Identities’, ‘Communication & Democracy’, and ‘Crisis & Risk Communication’, and one session will focus on career paths.  Leading professors and professionals will speak on these topics, providing insight and inspiration into research lines and professional development ideas. The aim of Human[i]ties Perspective 2011 is to provide a forum of discussion and networking for young academics and professionals in the field of Culture, Media, and Communication.


The majority of participants will be from four core EM courses – MA Media, Communication & Cultural Studies; MA Journalism & Media within Globalization; MA Euroculture; and MA Crossways in European Humanities.  The participants will form the basis of an Erasmus Mundus Humanities network that will span the globe, enhance the exchange of information, and highlight career paths.  To further extend the potential networking, applications from other interested EM courses that run parallel or overlap these topics are, of course, also welcome. Participants who reside outside of Europe are welcome to apply if they can cover their own travel expenses.


Participation fee is 35€ for participants who need accommodation and 10€ for participants who don’t need accommodation. The participants who need accommodation will be provided with a free shared room in a hostel.  Light snacks and coffee will be provided during the breaks. A social programme will be organized, but delegates will be responsible for their own expenses. All Junior Speakers and 7 lucky participants will receive reimbursement of their travel expenses for up to 100€! Use this chance and apply early!


To register for Human[i]ties Perspective 2011 please fill in the required information in the form below and pay the appropriate fee. Before registering, make sure that you have carefully read the description and conditions in the About and FAQ section. The application period will end on October 15, 2011. Within 10 days after your registration, you will receive an email informing you about the final decision.
The fee needs to be transferred to the bank account of Hamburg University before your registration is completed. This should be done as soon as possible to ensure your registration is accepted.
Account number and transfer details:
Account holder: Universitaet Hamburg
Bank: Deutsche Bundesbank (for deposits from Germany BLZ: 200 000 00)
Account Nr.:  20 10 15 31
For international transactions:
IBAN:  DE68200000000020101531
Remember: while making the transfer all the applicants MUST write in the reference: 100024140 + your full name or your application and your deposit  will be invalid!
The Official Webpage

Vacancy for EVS Volunteer in Poland

Centre for Creative Activity is looking for EVS volunteer for the period of February-November 2012. Our project is about promoting voluntarism, building local activism. Volunteer is a person involved in making actions, workshops for youth and children, can also to adults. During EVS you will be involved in coordinating local and international projects, fundraising, writing application for grants and working at school:))) also sometimes you will be involve in travelling in a region with promotion of youth in action and your country! 

EURODESK INFORMATION POINT  - answering mails, updating website , making databases (for ex: grants, international summer courses etc)  - helping with international events 
NDIVIDUAL WORSHOPS - This activity depends of a volunteer him/her self. Depending of the wanted activity and the profile of volunteer that we will host, they will have opportunity to develop their own activity by share of his/her own interest (which means that if they are good in theatre they will have chance to organize theatre worshops or if they are good in belly dance, we will start new open for local youth).  Our main target are kids and younsgters till end of university 
WORKING ON A FIELD - In this part we planned to bring volunteers in projects on which we work, like:  - helping with local actions like: helping with studies for youth - organising free time activities for kids and youth such as concerts.  - promotion of the European integration process ( in a political and social meaning) by developing.  The four main areas, where we plan that the foreign volunteers could involve in are:  - cooperation with European School Clubs (ESC) - informal unions between the students and teachers in different types of schools from the following voivodeships: LUBUSKIE, WIELKOPOLSKIE, DOLNOŒL¥SKIE. The volunteers will travel around those voivodeships to give lectures and make workshops in kindergardens, schools about their own countries (traditions, history, educational system, young people's lifestyles) and the European Union (especialy educationals programms for youth). Apart from this the volunteers will help our volunteers to organise Europan day and Europan Youth Conference. To show the possibilities in EU for young people.  This part can be flexible, because volunteers will be involved in everything that we will do in a certain moment. If we will organize art festival they will have opportunity to be involved. In periods where field work is not necessary volunteers will have chance to develop their own  3) St. Staszic Complex of Schools in Wschowa  - helping Career Councelour with office work and leading worshops for youth 
We would like to welcome a volunteer in the age between 18 - 30 y.o. with as much artistic as realistic soul, who is enthusiastic and keen to do a lot of different activities, who would like to either teach teenagers important things about dance, music, theatre and/or acting or, help with creating/editing webside of our partners institutions and our NGO. We plan that the volunteer to his/her advantage will learn many things about Polish culture and language. We need a person who would like to share with kids, and youth what is "youth in action" and what kind of europan programmes they can use in their lifes. That person should like working with children and teenagers and have communicative command of English language.It would be also perfect if person is experienced in writing grants application and fundraising. Selected candidate will be contacted in order to receive further information about the procedure and to explain details about our organisation and the available acivities in Centre for Creative Activity.
- CV  and cover letter 
- Movie about herself/himself (with info how they can contribute project , why they choose our project) 
TILL 10.10.2011 - 23.59 CET TO THE EMAIL EVS@FUNDACJA-CAT.PL.  MAILS SENT TO KONTAKT@FUNDACJA-CAT.PL WOULD BE REJECTED AUTOMATICALLY!!! We prefer if sending organisation can apply in its own country, becuase our project is still running (first one)
  • Contact person: Marlena Pujsza Kunikowska
  • Organisation: Centre for Creative Activity
  • Location: Leszno, Poland
  • Deadline: 10/10/2011
  • Start: 27/02/2012
  • End: 26/11/2012

A program for young journalists from CSI countries.

Participants are offered a three-month study and work residence, which consists of a six-week academic course at the International Center for Journalism, followed by a one-week information-tour within Germany, and finally a six-week internship at a TV or radio station, online or newspaper editorial office, press or PR agency.

„Journalisten International“ awards up to 10 scholarships for the duration of the program. Additionally, participants receive a grant to cover their travel expenses, and accommodation in student residence halls is also provided.
Eligible to apply are journalists who have an academic degree, journalistic experience and good German language skills. For justified cases there is also the opportunity to participate in a one-month German-class at the Goethe-Institut Berlin prior to the start of the program. Applicants should not be older than 35 years and must have journalism or media experiences.
More information:

Monday, 26 September 2011

European day of languages marks 10th year

A music festival, poetry readings and a conference on foreign language ability and job prospects will mark the 10th edition of the European Day of Languages on 26 September.
Every year, on 26 September, Europe celebrates the many different languages spoken across the continent. Since 2001, the annual European day of languages has highlighted our rich linguistic heritage and encouraged people to learn new languages.
The theme of this year's event is how languages can open up new horizons and help you find a job.
Special events, organised by the local offices of the EU Commission’s translation department, will be held in every EU country:
  • European Language Label awards ceremony for innovative projects in language teaching and learning (Warsaw, 28 September).
  • Language Music Festival, part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad (London, 26 September)
  • round-table on how language skills can help immigrants integrate (Berlin, 26 September)
  • poetry readings by translators and artists in various languages (Makašāni, Valmiera, Kuldīga and Mežotne, Latvia, 19–22 September)
  • recruitment campaign for Dutch-speaking interpreters at the EU institutions (Brussels, The Hague, starting 26 September).
More information:

Renaissance art in Berlin

Some of the most beautiful faces in the world 

THE portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, the 16-year-old mistress of Ludovico Sforza (also known as Ludovico il Moro), Duke of Milan from 1489 until his death in 1508, is not only captivating—popularly known as "Lady with an Ermine" (pictured)—but the most valuable work of art in Poland. Painted by Leonardo da Vinci, it hardly ever leaves the country. But the Bode Museum in Berlin has been able to include it in a fascinating show, "Masterpieces of Renaissance Portraiture". This despite the painting’s fragile state and the fact that German Nazis stole it when they invaded Poland in 1939. The American Allies returned it to the Krakow Czartoryski Museum in May 1945.

This exhibition is sensational. More than 150 portraits, sculptures and medals from the early Italian Renaissance are on view. Thanks to its curators, Stefan Weppelmann from Berlin’s Gemäldegalerie (Picture Gallery) and Keith Christiansen from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, we can now admire all at once outstanding centuries-old works by Sandro Botticelli, Leon Battista Alberti, Desiderio da Settignano, Filippo Lippi, Pisanello, Gentile Bellini, da Vinci and others. The list of lenders includes the Britain's Royal Collection, the National Gallery in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi in Florence and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
After downloading the show’s app on my smart phone, I was perfectly equipped to see and learn. It was a charming juxtaposition of modern technology and 15th-century art. Hoping to avoid the long queues, I waited some weeks to see the show. I still had to wait for about an hour for my ticket and then another two hours for my time slot. But thanks to a well-organised mobile-notification system (which informs visitors of their time slot via text message), I was able to while away time at the nearby beach bar.

The light in the exhibition rooms is deliberately dim, and no more than 300 visitors are allowed in at a time, to preserve some intimacy with the works. Yet the colours of the paintings are amazingly bright and as clear as photographs. One of my favourite paintings (which I first saw as a child in a book and later the original at the Dresden Picture Gallery) is Andrea d’Assisi’s "Portrait of a Boy" (pictured), painted around 1495 or 1500. I am still captivated by the way he thoughtfully looks out across the centuries. Lady with an Ermine is the sensation at the end of the tour. If you don't see her here, you might be able to get a glimpse in London, where a Leonardo exhibition is due to open on November 9th.
“Gesichter der Renaissance” (“Renaissance Faces – Masterpieces of Italian Portraiture”)
is on view at the Bode Museum until November 20th; it will then travel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from December 19th to March 18th 2012

Article from:

The Istanbul Biennial

Vintage is the new vanguard

Most art biennials are incoherent and exhausting. Istanbul’s is an exception

VIRTUALLY every day of the year sees another art biennial opening somewhere in the world. The role of these exhibitions is to showcase contemporary art, attract affluent tourists and stimulate local culture. Most biennials are a sprawling mess—and the worst look like commercial art fairs studded with brand-name trophies. However, those that succeed in making sense of some aspect of global culture can be both enlightening and memorable. This year’s Istanbul Biennial, which opened on September 17th and runs for almost two months, is a case in point. Poignant, relevant and intellectually engaging, it has managed to create a coherent exhibition out of works by 130 artists from 41 countries—a rare achievement.

The Istanbul Biennial is held in two huge former warehouses on the banks of the Bosporus. Untamed, the buildings would force viewers into a monotonous marathon of spectatorship. But the biennial’s curators, Adriano Pedrosa (a Brazilian) and Jens Hoffmann (a Costa Rican), enlisted the help of a master of exhibition design, a Japanese architect called Ryue Nishizawa, who has introduced new energy into the space by creating rooms of different sizes and marking off “exterior” spaces with corrugated-steel walls.
As curators, Mr Pedrosa and Mr Hoffmann have also adopted an effective premise. Rather than using a theory or theme as a unifying rubric, the biennial has a muse—Félix González-Torres, an artist who died in 1996 and who was selected posthumously to be the official American representative at the 2007 Venice Biennale.

Born in Cuba and educated in Puerto Rico, González-Torres made minimalist conceptual works that were aesthetically innovative and politically sophisticated. Like its muse, the Istanbul Biennial is thoughtful rather than aggressive or sensationalist. “Activists spoon-feed messages but artists create works with layered meanings,” explains Mr Pedrosa.

The biennial also has an intelligent structure. There are five group shows around the main themes that inspired González-Torres’s work—love, death, abstraction, contested histories and territories. Each group show occupies a large grey room and acts as a hub for a cluster of solo shows featuring 50 artists, all in smaller white rooms. The elegant solution to the spaces stands in contrast to the names of the group shows, which repeat “Untitled” in an awkward manner. Nevertheless, it is moving to walk through the room called “ ‘Untitled’ (Ross)” named after the artist’s longtime lover, Ross Laycock, who died in 1991 of Aids-related causes, like González-Torres himself.

Another of the group shows, “ ‘Untitled’ (Passport # II)”, displays 20 works about maps and national identity. Hank Willis Thomas’s “A Place to Call Home” depicts North America and Africa as big black continents joined by an isthmus. Jorge Macchi’s “Seascape” covers all the landmasses below the equator with cut-outs of the northern seas. Displayed as a commentary to Mr Macchi’s drowned hemisphere is a video by Kutlug Ataman, one of Turkey’s most critically acclaimed artists, which depicts bands of choppy sunlit water.
In a series of vitrines in the same room, Baha Boukhari, a Ramallah-based cartoonist, shows the passports issued to his father under the British mandate in Palestine. Many of the artworks incorporate objects and documents found in historical archives. Contemporary art in 2011 has a distinctly vintage feel.

The curators are right not to let themselves be overly distracted by the latest thing; work made yesterday is not always the art that is most relevant to the present. They have chosen to include a range of historical artworks by women who they believe deserve greater recognition. For example, they have installed photo collages from Martha Rosler’s “Bringing the War Home” series (pictured above), which were made during the Vietnam war between 1967 and 1972, but which still resonate because of America’s continuing presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Istanbul Biennial also gives solo shows to a number of exciting emerging artists. Many visitors were impressed with “Cabaret Crusades: The Horror Show File”, a video by Wael Shawky, an Egyptian artist, in which marionettes act out the story of the crusades from an Arab point of view. Also much discussed were “Tin Soldiers” by Ala Younis, a Jordanian, and “Historical Record Archive” by Dani Gal, an Israeli artist.

It is interesting to view these works against the background of the recent political upheavals in the Middle East and to see the unexpected interaction between Arab artists and those from South America. Both areas are on the periphery of European modernity and the biennial’s artists have found much common ground over urban decay, disenfranchisement and the arbitrariness of national borders. Mr Pedrosa and Mr Hoffmann have played to their strengths, choosing more artists from South America than any other continent. It is a testament to the Turkish philanthropists who underwrite the biennial, particularly the Koc and Eczacibasi families, that the curators came under no pressure to include more local artists. Indeed, the stylish internationalism of the Istanbul Biennial feels entirely natural.

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The horse before the cart

Some experiments have failed. Others are now entering the mainstream

IN 1899 John Dewey, an American education theorist, published “The School and Society”. He argued that schooling should reflect the lives of children, as well as what they had to be taught. His theories spawned a vogue for “child-centred learning”, accelerating in the 1960s into a challenge to school hierarchies and a carelessness about exams.
That kind of laissez-faire approach to learning has receded in many places. Nowadays, everyone wants to measure outcomes. The most prominent American charter schools, strongly focused on getting poor children into college (see main story), insist that children do regular mental arithmetic between lessons. Germany has also tightened up its examination system in the past decade, to help standardise results.

In Britain Michael Gove, the education secretary, has emphasised a return to core subjects such as maths, English and sciences in secondary schools. He also wants to persuade former army officers into teaching to improve discipline in rowdy schools—boot camp, if you will.
Pam Sammons, a researcher at Oxford University who has conducted a review of successful teaching practices, says that elements of child-centred education are fine, as long as schools teach the basics first. In other words, put the horse before the cart. Problems start, she thinks, when more laissez-faire learning activities get in the way of proper teaching.

Growing diversity in schooling in the West, however, including the rise of free schools, allows more space for those who want to try different education methods. In Britain, Montessori and Steiner Schools, which concentrate on nurturing the whole child rather than on a rigid academic curriculum, can also become state-funded free schools, and are wondering whether they should.

Most of Britain’s new state-funded academies favour a more orthodox approach. At the Mossbourne Academy, in the heart of London’s recently riot-torn borough of Hackney, Sir Michael Wilshaw heads a school which was closed for poor discipline in 1995, but is now one of the most widely-praised academies in the country. His classrooms are basically boot-camps, with strict rules about everything from uniform onwards. “Schools that are imprecise about discipline end up with a huge amount of confusion, with staff taking different views about what’s acceptable,” he says. “That’s when children are taught badly.”

One British researcher, comparing Western reforms with Eastern practice, noted that the main difference was that in Hong Kong “the effective teacher is seen as a figure of authority, morality and benevolence”. Some Western parents might like a touch of such Confucianism in their own children’s classrooms.

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Flipping the classroom

Hopes that the internet can improve teaching may at last be bearing fruit

THE 12-year-olds filing into Courtney Cadwell’s classroom at Egan Junior High in Los Altos, a leafy suburb of Silicon Valley, each take a white MacBook from a trolley, log on to a website called and begin doing maths exercises. They will not get a lecture from Ms Cadwell, because they have already viewed, at home, various lectures as video clips on KhanAcademy (given by Salman Khan, its founder). And Ms Cadwell, logged in as a “coach”, can see exactly who has watched which. This means that class time is now free for something else: one-on-one instruction by Ms Cadwell, or what used to be known as tutoring.

So Ms Cadwell, in her own web browser, pulls up a dashboard where KhanAcademy’s software presents, through the internet, the data the children are producing at that instant. She can view information for the entire class or any individual pupil. Just then she sees two fields, representing modules, turning from green to red, one for Andrea, the other for Asia. Ms Cadwell sees that Andrea is struggling with exponents, Asia with fractions. “Instead of having to guess where my students have gaps, I can see it, at that moment, and I walk over to that one student,” says Ms Cadwell, as she arrives at Asia’s chair.
While the other pupils continue to work at their own pace and at different problems, Ms Cadwell now spends a few minutes just with Andrea and Asia. Soon Andrea has an epiphany and starts firing correct answers, getting, in KhanAcademy’s jargon, a “badge”, then going “transonic”. A few minutes later, Asia also gets a “streak”. She lets out a shriek. Ms Cadwell, with a big smile, is off to another pupil. “The growth in these kids is just staggering,” she says. “This is the future. I don’t see how it couldn’t be.”

This reversal of the traditional teaching methods—with lecturing done outside class time and tutoring (or “homework”) during it—is what Mr Khan calls “the flip”. A synonym for flip, of course, is revolution, and this experiment in Los Altos just might lead to one. For although only a handful of classes in this public-school district tried the method in the last school year, many other schools, private and public, are now expressing interest, and the methodology is spreading.

Indeed, philanthropists such as Bill Gates have such high hopes for the new method that they have given money to KhanAcademy, a tiny non-profit organisation based in Mountain View, next to Los Altos. This means that the more than 2,400 video lectures, on anything from arithmetic and finance to chemistry and history, will remain free for anybody.
If KhanAcademy were merely about those online lectures, of course, it would be in good but large company. Increasingly, teachers, professors and other experts make their talks available online: on iTunes, YouTube or university websites. Some, such as Michael Sandel at Harvard with his philosophy lectures, have become minor celebrities. More and more sites exist purely to spread learning—some free, such as; others not, such as

Watching lectures online, or on a smartphone or iPad on the go, has advantages, as Mr Khan has discovered from the huge number of comments he gets on his site. Children (or adults, for that matter) need no longer feel ashamed when they have to review part or all of a lecture several times. So they can advance at their own pace.

But lectures, whether online or in the flesh, play only a limited role in education. Research shows that the human brain accepts new concepts largely through constant recall while interacting socially. This suggests that good teaching must “de-emphasise lecture and emphasise active problem-solving,” says Carl Wieman, a winner of the Nobel prize in physics and an adviser to Barack Obama.

To KhanAcademy’s fans, the flip that Mr Khan advocates helps to do just that. As a tool, KhanAcademy individualises teaching and makes it interactive and fun. Maths “is social now,” says Kami Thordarson, as the 10-year-olds in the 5th-grade class she teaches at Santa Rita Elementary School huddle round their laptops to solve arithmetic problems as though they were trading baseball cards or marbles.

The system has its detractors. First, it may not be much use beyond “numerate” subjects such as maths and the sciences; KhanAcademy does have a few history offerings, but they are less convincing than the huge number of maths and science ones. Second, even in these subjects KhanAcademy implicitly reinforces the “sit-and-get” philosophy of teaching, thinks Frank Noschese, a high-school physics teacher in New York. That is, it still “teaches to the test”, without necessarily engaging pupils more deeply. Worse, says Mr Noschese, KhanAcademy’s deliberate “gamification” of learning—all those cute and addictive “meteorite badges”—may have the “disastrous consequence” of making pupils mechanically repeat lower-level exercises to win awards, rather than formulating questions and applying concepts.

The teachers now using KhanAcademy counter that it is meant to be merely one, not the only, teaching tool, and that by freeing up class time it also makes possible other projects that do exactly what Mr Noschese promotes. In the fifth-grade class at Santa Rita, the children have made a tile floor (requiring fancy maths to estimate sizes, shapes and numbers). When this correspondent visited, they practised on KhanAcademy but then played SKUNK, a game involving probability.

America’s standardised tests are now “easy, a floor, not of interest”, says Ms Thordarson. She feels that the tool thus allows her to teach better and go deeper. But “You have to be more creative and more flexible, which is challenging,” she says. It’s not for teachers who “want to turn a page in a book”, adds Kelly Rafferty, the co-teacher. They thereby answer one common misconception about KhanAcademy: that it makes live teachers less relevant. Mr Khan, the teachers and Mr Gates all insist that the opposite is the case. It can liberate a good teacher to become even better. Of course, it can also make it easy for a bad teacher to cop out.

The value of teachers
The arrival of a powerful new tool thus does not replace the other necessary element in education reform, the raising of teacher quality. Good teaching is the single biggest variable in educating pupils, bigger than class size, family background or school funding, says Eric Hanushek, an education expert at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. And crucial to having better teachers is evaluating them properly, hiring, firing and promoting on merit.

The teachers’ unions, however, are fighting all attempts to move away from systems in which pay and tenure are linked only to seniority and credentials. In some places, such as Washington, DC, the reformers have won a few skirmishes; in others, such as Los Angeles, the unions are digging in for a long war. The core question is how, even whether, teachers can be evaluated fairly on the basis of exam results or classroom observation (given that some pupils are from educated families, others from poor areas, and so on). The unions are doing their best to ensure that evaluations have no consequences in staffing.
Technology can play a part here, because, in essence, evaluation is an information problem. Today’s standardised tests are deservedly unpopular with teachers and parents because, first, the “standards” tend to be low (and easily lowered further); second, teaching to the test is a form of dumbing down; and third, the tests take place only once or twice a year.

By contrast, spend a few minutes playing with the KhanAcademy dashboard of a class in Los Altos, and you see a vision of the future. You can follow the progress of each child—where she started, how she progressed, where she got stuck and “unstuck” (as Ms Thordarson likes to put it). You can also view the progress of the entire class. And you could aggregate the information of all the classes taught by one teacher, of an entire school or even district, with data covering a whole year.

Dennis van Roekel, the president of the National Education Association (NEA), the largest labour union in America with 3.2m members, goes ballistic at this suggestion. “Don’t demean the profession” by implying that you can rate teachers with numbers, he says. Besides, this sort of thing would introduce destructive competition into a culture that should be collaborative, he adds (without explaining why data-driven evaluations have not destroyed collaboration in other industries).

The NEA and its supporters will eventually lose this fight, says Kate Walsh, the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a think-tank that unions love to hate. “It will be considered fair game to collect the data” and to use them to get better teachers in America’s classrooms, she says. It may or may not be KhanAcademy’s software that produces this information. Nonetheless, the academy, “by offering a different model, is forcing the issue that people have speculated about”, says Mr Hanushek at Stanford. “These technological ideas offer the possibility of breaking a logjam.”

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The great schools revolution

Education remains the trickiest part of attempts to reform the public sector. But as ever more countries embark on it, some vital lessons are beginning to be learned

FROM Toronto to Wroclaw, London to Rome, pupils and teachers have been returning to the classroom after their summer break. But this September schools themselves are caught up in a global battle of ideas. In many countries education is at the forefront of political debate, and reformers desperate to improve their national performance are drawing examples of good practice from all over the world.
Why now? One answer is the sheer amount of data available on performance, not just within countries but between them. In 2000 the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) at the OECD, a rich-country club, began tracking academic attainment by the age of 15 in 32 countries. Many were shocked by where they came in the rankings. (PISA’s latest figures appear in table 1.) Other outfits, too, have been measuring how good or bad schools are. McKinsey, a consultancy, has monitored which education systems have improved most in recent years.

Technology has also made a difference. After a number of false starts, many people now believe that the internet can make a real difference to educating children. Hence the success of institutions like America’s Kahn Academy (see article). Experimentation is also infectious; the more governments try things, the more others examine, and copy, the results.

Above all, though, there has been a change in the quality of the debate. In particular, what might be called “the three great excuses” for bad schools have receded in importance. Teachers’ unions have long maintained that failures in Western education could be blamed on skimpy government spending, social class and cultures that did not value education. All these make a difference, but they do not determine outcomes by themselves.
The idea that good schooling is about spending money is the one that has been beaten back hardest. Many of the 20 leading economic performers in the OECD doubled or tripled their education spending in real terms between 1970 and 1994, yet outcomes in many countries stagnated—or went backwards. Educational performance varies widely even among countries that spend similar amounts per pupil. Such spending is highest in the United States—yet America lags behind other developed countries on overall outcomes in secondary education. Andreas Schleicher, head of analysis at PISA, thinks that only about 10% of the variation in pupil performance has anything to do with money.

Many still insist, though, that social class makes a difference. Martin Johnson, an education trade unionist, points to Britain’s “inequality between classes, which is among the largest in the wealthiest nations” as the main reason why its pupils underperform. A review of reforms over the past decade by researchers at Oxford University supports him. “Despite rising attainment levels,” it concludes, “there has been little narrowing of longstanding and sizeable attainment gaps. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds remain at higher risks of poor outcomes.” American studies confirm the point; Dan Goldhaber of the University of Washington claims that “non-school factors”, such as family income, account for as much as 60% of a child’s performance in school.

Yet the link is much more variable than education egalitarians suggest. Australia, for instance, has wide discrepancies of income, but came a creditable ninth in the most recent PISA study. China, rapidly developing into one of the world’s least equal societies, finished first.
Culture is certainly a factor. Many Asian parents pay much more attention to their children’s test results than Western ones do, and push their schools to succeed. Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea sit comfortably at the top of McKinsey’s rankings (see table 2). But not only do some Western countries do fairly well; there are also huge differences within them. Even if you put to one side the unusual Asians, as this briefing will now do, many Western systems could jump forward merely by bringing their worst schools up to the standard of their best.

So what are the secrets of success? Though there is no one template, four important themes emerge: decentralisation (handing power back to schools); a focus on underachieving pupils; a choice of different sorts of schools; and high standards for teachers. These themes can all be traced in three places that did well in McKinsey’s league: Ontario, Poland and Saxony.

Reform without rancour
“Ontario really is impressive,” enthuses Sir Michael Barber, former head of global education practice at McKinsey (now at Pearson). The Canadian province has a high proportion of immigrants, many without English as a first language, yet it now has one of the world’s best-performing schools systems, after bringing in what one of its architects calls “reform without rancour”.

When Dalton McGuinty was elected Ontario’s premier in 2003, he embraced “whole-system reform”. Instead of directing reforms from the centre, the government encouraged schools to set their own targets and sent experienced teams to help them get there. Schools with large numbers of immigrant children could apply for special help, and could choose whether to extend the school day to do this, or work longer with the slower pupils.
The Ontario reformers made a special point of gaining full public support. Every school—even in the remotest “fly-in” places—had to be improved by the reforms, and had to show in regular inspections that it was making progress. These efforts were not cheap—since 2004, total funding for education has gone up by 30%. And their success is debated. As Mr McGuinty faces a tight election next month, some critics claim that inner-city schools in the capital, Toronto, are “coasting”, because improvements tend to come early and the intractable problems show themselves later. But Ontario has become a byword for decentralised, popular reform.

Lessons from Poland are equally impressive. The fourth-largest city, Wroclaw, cannot rival Warsaw for business buzz or Krakow for beauty; but its secondary schools have moved it into the “significantly above average” category in the PISA rankings, well above Britain and Sweden, as well as former eastern-block rivals.

Poland, like Ontario, illustrates the virtues of decentralisation. It used its new freedom to dismantle a centralised system which had channelled roughly half its pupils into an academic education and the rest, as factory-fodder, into less well-appointed vocational schools. Funding and administration are still controlled by state bureaucrats, but heads have freedom to hire teachers and can choose which curriculum to use from a list of private providers. National exams at 12-13, 15-16 and 18-19, and supplementary tests each year, allow local authorities to monitor carefully how the schools are doing.

At secondary School Number 12 Danuta Daszkiewicz-Ordylowska, the head teacher, is celebrating another bumper year. The school excels in sciences and languages—English is still popular, but Russian is making a comeback. “Now they don’t have to learn it like their parents, they find it’s useful,” she says. She admits that pupils feel pressure (“Too much,” grumbles a former parent. “We’re ending up with a lot more children having to see psychologists about stress.”) But Jaroslaw Obremski, the deputy mayor, exults at how well his town’s pupils are doing.

Mr Obremski illustrates the power of local civic pride to improve schools. “We can do better,” he says. “I’m worried we don’t encourage our elites enough. How will we get an Oxford or a Polish Harvard? We’re still squeamish about really pushing the best.” He is sceptical of the role of national government: it has, for instance, signed agreements with the teachers’ unions which, he thinks, give them too much power. He is fiercely competitive. “Look just behind us in the league tables,” he says. “The regions doing best are among the poorest in the east of the country. They’re snapping at our heels.”

German lessons
The first PISA study, in 2000, placed German pupils well below the OECD average for reading and literacy. This was “a real shock to the system”, says Ulrike Greiner, a teacher in Reutlingen, in south-west Germany. The research showed a higher correlation between economic status and achievement than in any other OECD country. For this, people blamed a system which allotted pupils to schools on the basis of perceived ability at the age of ten. A race to reform among the states followed, and the victor—to widespread surprise—was Saxony, from the old east, which reached fifth place in the McKinsey table.
Since unification Saxony has restored historic cities like Leipzig and Dresden, yet they remain blighted by the uniform social housing of communist days. The old regime still influences education, too. Wolfgang Nowak, a west German Social Democrat who led the school reforms, explains: “We wanted to lose the ideology, but keep the best of the old eastern system—the selective gymnasium for the academically minded, but also a bigger focus on the ‘middle schools’ for other pupils.” Crucially, he cut out the third-tier Hauptschulen schools for weak academic performers. “It’s terrible for integration, it’s terrible for results.” (The best Chinese schools, adds Sir Michael Barber, have also modified their obsession with high-fliers to ensure that they address the “long tail” of underachievement—something that hampers Britain’s performance, too.)

Many parents still look back on communist East Germany as a provider of first-rate secondary education in its many good grammar schools, though few regret the ideological brainwashing that went with it. Saxony kept the selective element, but sent pupils to secondary school at 13 rather than 11. That has made a big difference to the performance of boys, in particular. “Eleven is just too early to assess what they are capable of,” says Mr Nowak.

Exams in Saxony, previously organised by the schools themselves or with loose oversight, were opened up to external regulators. At the Gottlieb Bienert middle school in Plauen, a suburb of Dresden, head teacher Gert Gorski explains that the higher up the school pupils proceed, the more they follow different paths, though they mingle for non-academic subjects. The lower performers leave school at 15 with a basic qualification, usually in practical skills. “We don’t mind being a middle school with some pupils from lower academic groups,” says Mr Gorski, “as long as this middle is a standard we can be proud of.” This year Berlin and Hamburg have followed Saxony in abolishing the low-performing Hauptschulen.

In Britain, which has slipped down the PISA rankings in the past few years, examples like these are being studied closely. Michael Gove, the Conservative education secretary, pinpoints the lessons of PISA 2009 as “greater autonomy for schools; sharper accountability; raising the prestige of the profession and having greater control over discipline.” In pursuit of a more diverse supply of schools, the government is expanding the number of independent academies (Tony Blair’s innovation) to replace local authority-run comprehensives, and has allowed Free Schools, which are run by parents, charities and local groups.

Introducing new types of schools, however, is no guarantee of better outcomes. Sweden, admired by Mr Gove for its independent, non-selective, state-funded Free Schools, has had a sticky period in international rankings. Its drive to open new kinds of schools is not yet matched by rigorous inspections to help weaker schools target their failings. Sceptics of America’s fairly new experiment of this kind, privately funded charter schools, think that politicians are “too invested” in them to close them if they fail. Authorisation and renewal processes for innovative schools need to be robust, so that bad experiments are not prolonged and failures are not ignored.

On the whole, though, the rise of charter schools in American cities has brought dynamism to one of the tougher areas of reform. These are schools aimed at the poorest parts of society, where aspirations are often low. Letting new providers in also attracts people who are interested in education and have a talent for organisation, but no taste for bureaucracy.
A mass of data shows that both profit and not-for-profit innovations can work. Diversity of supply in schools concentrates minds on what kind of teaching is best, particularly in challenging places. It also offers the freedom to set working conditions outside the restraints of local authorities and the teachers’ unions, giving heads more capacity to tailor schools to the needs of their particular pupils. In America’s Aspire charter schools, which have done best in the rankings, teachers follow strict guidelines to chart each pupil’s progress. Aspire’s motto is “College for Certain”; higher education is made the ambition of teachers and pupils alike.

The key to success
Of the four chief elements of schools reform, diversity of supply is by far the most striking. From New York to Shanghai to Denmark, schools free of government control and run by non-state providers are adding quality to the mix. To date, they seem most successful where the state has been unwilling or unable to make a difference. It is still not clear whether creating archipelagoes of Free Schools and charter schools will consistently drive improvement in other institutions, or whether that is wishful thinking.

What is clear, however, is that the shiniest new academy will struggle without decent teachers. An emphasis on better teacher quality is a common feature of all reforms. Countries like Finland and South Korea make life easier for themselves by recruiting only elite graduates, and paying them accordingly. Mr Gove has said that he wants to raise the degree threshold for teachers and offer “golden hellos” in areas of shortage, like science and language teaching. America has experimented at state level with merit pay and payment by results, but often in the teeth of opposition from the teachers’ unions.
In schools reform, structural progress—new sorts of schools, reorganised old ones, new exams—can happen very fast. Better teachers take much longer to form. They should be made the priority.

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Sunday, 25 September 2011

Open call for technical editor: Europe&Me magazine

We hope you are looking forward to the new edition of Europe & Me, coming up in a few days! Meanwhile, we're looking for someone new to do one of the most crucial jobs on the team.


Since our magazine began, we've had a great technical guru on the team, who has now landed an exciting job and can't devote as much time to Europe & Me as he did in the past. So now we're looking for someone to deal with the webmaster aspect of the project.
Please forward the information below to people who you think might be interested, or use any networks you might have with computer-minded people. In the past, this position has been absolutely central to the smooth running of the magazine, and we're really hoping to find someone great to continue the job.
Here's the advert to forward:

Wanted: Technical editor for online magazine

If you want to work with a fun team, solve a different technical problem every week and help create an awesome magazine, this could be the job for you.

Europe & Me ( is a voluntary project - an online magazine made by young Europeans, for young Europeans. We're currently looking for a new technical editor. This is a flexible role, which would depend on your interests: it doesn't just have to mean being our webmaster. If you like, it can also mean layouting articles, training others, developing new features for the website - or being fully involved with editorial work, eg. by designing PR material or writing your own column. You'll get useful experience in a whole range of areas, and meet young people from all over Europe.

Experience in web design (especially joomla) is advantageous, but not required.

For more information, contact

Thanks for your help!

The E&M team

Friday, 23 September 2011

Erasmus could not fly today, says programme’s father

The Erasmus progamme, which allows thousands of students every year to study in other EU countries, could not be launched today, said the founder of the initiative, Domenico Lenarduzzi, in an interview with EurActiv.
Now a retired Commission director-general, Lenarduzzi worked for over 30 years in the EU executive and was the one who devised the programme when he was head of unit.
"I was totally convinced that we could strengthen the European Union with the citizens, particularly young people," he said, recalling his services started informally to facilitate exchanges in the early 80s.
The programme was launched in 1987. It was after the Fontainbleau summit in 1984, under French presidency, that President François Mitterand pushed for a Europe of citizens. "Heads of State and government agreed then that Europe could not be just a single market, but that we needed a Europe of citizens," the former director-general said.
But Lenarduzzi is convinced that such an initiative on the part of the Commission is no longer possible nowadays because of the nature of the budgetary periods—we need today to decide the budget for 2017 or 2020, he argued.
"We have a straitjacket that prevents us from taking initiatives beyond those that are foreseen by the multi-annual financial framework (MFF). There is no freedom of initiative anymore," he said.
Lenarduzzi's strategy in the 1980s was totally different. "We had to use personal contacts to convince every six months the EU [rotating] Presidency of the importance of the project ...  and to give them the impression that they were the ones initiating the project," he explained.
"It was the Commission that came up with the initiatives, but the member states wanted to benefit from it so they could say they achieved this or that," Lenarduzzi added.
The former Commission director-general gives a bleak and disheartening picture of today's policy-making. "Europe as we have conceived it is stuck, simply because from a budgetary point of view we are stuck."
Lenarduzzi believes education has a fundamental role, much more so than 20 years ago. "Today, we say that to build Europe it is first and foremost through education, education, education," he stressed, hinting however at the fact that the words are not translating into proper action.
Asked if the current leadership had the impetus to drive the Union further, he said the crisis has shown that more and more policies are decided between German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
"The community spirit is lost," Lenarduzzi argued, "We are moving forward but only because we are pushed by events, not by a design."
Scare-mongering and defeatism, announcing the end of the euro, is counterproductive, he noted. "Europe is not in danger. We can no longer do without the euro. We can no longer do without Europe," he concluded.
Lenarduzzi was speaking to EurActiv Managing Editor Daniela Vincenti.

Article from:

Advanced Academia Fellowships in Social Sciences and Humanities, Bulgaria

Deadline: 1 October 2011
Open to:
  Non-Bulgarian PhD graduates in the field of social sciences and humanities. Junior as well as Senior scholars are invited to apply.
700 euro/a month to cover living expenses, travel allowance (400 euro), research expenses (100 euro p.m.), accomodation provided


The Centre for Advanced Study Sofia (CAS Sofia) announces a Call for Applications for its 2012/2013 In-Residence Advanced Academia Fellowships in the fields of the humanities and the social sciences.
CAS Sofia is an independent Institute with international and multidisciplinary profile. Located in Sofia, Bulgaria, it promotes high-level scholarship in the social sciences and the humanities. In addition to supporting focus-group research, CAS Sofia invites outstanding scholars to pursue their individual research projects during in-residence periods of up to five months. The invited Fellows participate in the intellectual life and the scholarly community of the Centre (Bulgarian and foreign fellows) while working on projects of their own choice. Fellows receive adequate material and intellectual support and can profit from the Centre’s wide international networks, international seminar- and guest-lecturer programme. CAS Sofia assists Fellows in all practical matters concerning travel, residence and research in Sofia.


For the academic year 2012/2013 CAS Sofia provides in-residence fellowships of two- to five- month duration to post-doctoral non-Bulgarian researchers. Junior as well as Senior scholars are invited to apply.
The selected Fellows are entitled to:
  • A monthly stipend of 700 euro (liable to 10% income tax) to cover living expenses related to the stay in Sofia.
  • Accommodation in Sofia, comprising living quarters and working space. The Fellows will also have free access to the CAS library and electronic resources/databases.
  • Travel allowance (400 euro)
  • Research expenses (100 euro p.m.)
Candidates must indicate the preferred fellowship duration and its starting date within the following periods:
I. 1 March 2012 – 31 July 2012
II. 1 October 2012 – 28 February 2013
The selected Fellows will take part in the regular Fellow seminars and the other scientific events organized by the Centre (workshops, conferences, lectures, etc.) and are invited to present and discuss their project in lectures or seminars. The results of their work shall be summarized in a paper (in English), to be published in the electronic CAS Working Paper Series.


Candidates must
  • Be non-Bulgarian citizens;
  • Have completed a PhD in the fields of the humanities and social sciences;
  • International research experience (participation in projects and refereed conferences) and publications in peer-reviewed academic editions are strong advantages.
  • As an international academic institution CAS conducts most of its work in English which is also the language of the presentations of research results. Therefore, a good command of English is highly desirable.

How to apply?

In order to apply, you need to download the application form as well as application checklist.( To download these documents, please click here)
Application Form
Application Checklist

For Junior scholars (up to 12 years after PhD defense) only: two letters of recommendation by scholars familiar with the applicant’s academic work should be faxed/mailed/emailed to CAS by the referees.
Extensions to this period may be allowed in case of eligible career breaks which must be properly documented (maternity leave, long-term illness leave, national service).
All application documents should be presented in English and sent by e-mail to with a subject entry “Advanced Academia Fellowships“.
Deadline for applications is October 1, 2011.
Selection of the applicants will be based on:
  • High quality of the candidate’s academic portfolio and publications, participation in international research;
  • Innovative research proposal with significant contribution;
  • Interdisciplinary and/or comparative approaches are an advantage.
The Academic Council reserves the right, in cases of candidatures with equal quality, to grant advantage to candidates that have not been CAS Fellows within the preceding 3 years / have not repeatedly held CAS fellowships in the past.


Centre for Advanced Study Sofia; Sofia 1000, 7-B, Stefan Karadja Str
tel.: + 359 2 9803704 / fax: + 359 2 9803662
Ms Neliya Kolarska, e-mail:

The Official Website