A guide to choose the Best college

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If you are looking for a bachelor’s or a master’s course in Economics, and planning to study abroad, then look no further than here. For those, who are planning to study abroad, the initial planning and research starts as early as 12-15 months in advance. However, for those who are still unclear about the steps, the following article could be a great help. The UCAS 2015 convention, could be the perfect place to kick off your preparations. Their one could meet representatives from not just colleges from UK, but some of the best institutes, and this event play a major role in choosing your ultimate college. The UCAS hold conventions from the beginning of March till the end of October.

For more information about the event details, registration charges, participating institutes, location, and guest speakers, you can log onto the web portal of the UCAS.

Seminars

Seminars are an integral part of the UCAS convention, however, topics can be as diverse as student finances to life at a particular college, to the application process. The goal, though, of the seminars is to make the decision making as simple as possible. And it is always worthwhile attending one of these seminars and getting an opportunity to listen to the experts and hearing about the institute from the horse’s mouth. For more details about the event log on to the UCAS website and it is advisable to book early, as it will guarantee you access to one of the best, and certainly most influential, education events of the year.

Visiting university stands

Contrary to the popular belief, a fair isn’t just an opportunity to collect brochures from all the colleges attending the event; an opportunity to interact with representatives from different universities, all under one roof, is a major advantage of attending a UCAS convention. Also, any research and homework about the college of your choice will benefit you, as you will be able to easily raise your queries and seek satisfactory solutions. Always make sure that they offer you the desired programme and that you fulfil their eligibility requirements, which will ultimately help you save time and ensure that you only have to speak to relevant people without wasting time on colleges you aren’t eligible for. Don’t just follow your friends or the freebies and only visit the stands that are relevant to you. The UCAS preparatory site also has some handy tips for the same.

Sharing your contact details with an institute of your interest will also be beneficial for you, as this way you can keep track of important dates and deadline , and never miss out on the recent developments and deadlines.

Never miss an Open Day

An open day is a fantastic way of getting to know more about colleges you’re extremely keen on. Talking to academic staff of the college or subject of your choice would really help you to learn more about the college you are interested in, whereas visiting the college campus will help you understand more about the size of the place and location, and get a feel for undergraduate life.

Although the format of the day will differ by institution, however, the opportunity to hear from or speak to academic staff as well as current students and admissions staff, is one not to be missed. Also, at open day, you have the opportunity to: listen to subject talks from academic staff, meet current students, visit a college’s student accommodations, ask your questions directly to staff from various departments, and an opportunity to interact with the current students. In the end it will all ultimately come down to the choices that you make, and your decisions will alter the shape of you career.

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A Flawed Study Abroad Policy

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If we compare the number of students choosing to study abroad as against in India, one would realize the increase has been alarming to say the least. Higher competition, too many entrance exams, scarcity of good teachers, and lack of facilities have been few of the many reasons prompting students to study abroad. And to be honest, an opportunity to study in state of the art colleges, under the guidance of Nobel Laureates is an opportunity too good to be missed, however, the colleges today are too focussed on just increasing the numbers. In reality what they need is to take good hard look at their policy and not just the fancy slogans and obsolete study programs. For instance, the programs offered in some of the Ivy League institutes are too expensive and non-justifiably so, as they do not help or encourage the students to obtain the multi-ethnic skills necessary for a successful career across a broader range of fields.

Many live in the illusion that studying in Ivy League colleges is the only way they can enhance their careers and gain international experience which is essential to work in today’s cut throat marketplace. Students in awe of such fancy colleges refuse to look at the larger picture that every “study abroad program” does not boost their career. Though, to meet the growing demand for international experience, colleges highlight their fancy programs and show commitment towards “global education”, however, the key question is how global they actually are? Far too many “global centres of education” associate global education with their study abroad programs; for instance, a few of them have even opened their study abroad offices in countries like India, Brazil, and the Middle-East. Even though studying abroad is a vital element of “global education”, however, global education comprehends much more.

It is not to say that study abroad programs should be chucked off, on the contrary time spent studying abroad is beneficial for a student for more than one reason, but the impact of such programs in improving the depth of their abilities is a different question altogether and needs to be talked about. Study conducted in the past decade, shows that far too many apprentices who go abroad aren’t learning and evolving in ways that were common as recently as few years ago.

Lack of Cultural Orientation Programmes

One of the deficits of studying abroad these days is the absence of engagement between professors and students; both before students go abroad, and after they return. What many forget is that, this process of interaction between a teacher and a student is just as crucial to cross-cultural learning as the overall experience of living in a new culture itself. Although orientation programmes (which also include: suggesting websites to visit, and recommendations like country-specific information) induced at the start go a long way in preparing the students, however, this is not nearly enough to prepare students. Research conducted over the years indicated that only a fraction of students were provided with any cross-cultural training before they were inducted into various programmes. And only a handful are offered travel guides with cultural information specific to the country or region to which a student would be traveling. These facts are troubling, to say the least. The truth is, when a prospective student goes abroad, he/she lands not only in a new country but also another culture altogether; different attitudes, behaviours, beliefs, and values shared by a society. If students are unaware about the culture, their ability to be able to respond will also hamper their ability to communicate. Therefore, all study-abroad programs should command cross-cultural preparation, training, and reintegration programs, which many don’t. In an effort to determine why not, I looked in to various colleges and institutes and not surprisingly came out with the reason – cost! The programs are already too expensive and to add to the already searing costs the expenses of inducing training programs, modulation sessions, and comprehensive study modules will put off many students from their accessibility maps.

The vast majority of students rue the inefficiency of colleges to make them accustomed to new culture and living conditions, which ultimately hampers their overall performance. Most students feel disorganised because of lack of interaction with local people. Furthermore, students reported lack of support and even greater difficulties upon returning home. They felt less comfortable in reintegrating with the culture and traditions of same old culture, and sometimes the differences are too much for them to deal with. Many are clueless about ways of leveraging their experiences gained abroad which eventually hampers their future growth in their respective careers, whether academically or professionally. Also, students felt isolated and alone because of lack of interaction with friends and family. While most students seemed to mix-up, writing up the active change to part of the learning curve, it doesn’t have to be that way.


For students, college is a place which prepares them for the workplace that awaits them after graduation, and the study-abroad experience is an important component of that preparation. Instead of treating it as a one-off adventure, colleges must integrate study abroad into a broader global-education curriculum to truly help their students become global citizens.

Importance of Preschool

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Many parents ponder over the pros and cons of putting their children in preschools and think about what their children will learn by getting into one. The worries are endless and the increasing cost of education is not helping the cause in any way. Ironically many parents forget the importance of the preschool years in shaping the overall psyche of the child, they believe a child can learn more by staying at home.

Personality Development.

The advent of society led to the evolution of human beings to a superior species; they said our forefathers appeared more like monkeys than human. But with adaptation and evolution and advent of society, we learned to live in harmony, help each other and work towards the betterment of society. Later, education became the tool for change and helped us evolve into something more substantial and helped us in adapting to countless surroundings and circumstances. We learned through imitation in our quest to better ourselves. The race to achieve and outscore each other led to improvement of our skills and instincts.

Similarly, for young budding children, preschool is an organised environment where their skills are developed and a strong base for their future growth years is laid. Children continuously learn from their surroundings, and not just the rhymes or alphabets or the tables, which we expect them to memorise by heart and recite boastfully in front of guests, but the actual essence of life, to discover their hobbies and interests. Also, a child develops the pace of learning and interests, learns to control emotions, discovers confidence and a never say no attitude. And a preschool is a perfect environment for a child to learn.  A preschool is a perfect place to improve the cognitive, motor, emotional, intellectual development of a child. Yes it is well known fact that home is where a child learns his basic skills, however, a school is the place where the child learns to control the instincts and behaviour with peers and develops his social skill.

The brain is a fascinating chip, the more info you feed the better it becomes, one can train the brain to be happy, curious, excited, and positive but again in a systematic way. The inputs help to start a positive chain of development from a young age, and a preschool plays an important role in this. It starts with – preparing a child mentally to stay away from the families and learn to adapt amongst the strangers; it improves the emotional development. The good behaviour which a child learns from the preschool years makes them socially responsible and ultimately helps them in leading a good life.

Cognition Development

It is a scientifically proven fact that our brains are developed almost 85% by the time we get to the age of five, coupled with bizzare questions from a child which include a diverse range of topics and taking them as different lines in grey matter. These are the base for their future development and thinking process. In preschools, children are made familiar with systematic data through visual, oral, and experimental means, thus helping them in development of key brain areas. If implemented in true spirit, the teaching methods coupled with a skilled teacher brings a long lasting and carefree learning experience for the children.


The delay in realising the importance of preschool years can push a child behind by a few years in comparison to their peers. Under the guidance of a trained preschool teacher, a child’s emotional control, basic instincts, and inhibitions and fears can be controlled. In case of children, the time span of attention is critical because of their lack of cognitive skills and meandering nature. School can be a perfect environment of change where a trained teacher can create miracles by appealing the attention of the kids. With growing age, a child’s attention span also increases proportionally, therefore a teacher has be creative and innovate new teaching skills to provide an enriching as well as stimulating environment; which again highlights the importance of a preschool as a learning centre.

High School Vs College

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Seriously, forget everything you know. Making the transition from school to college is one of the biggest, nerve-wrecking transformations a student has to face.  It is, in many ways, the end of things they hold dear and the beginning of the growth that marks these students as adults in the end. However, while gearing up for college, most students see this phase merely as an extension of their high school years, expecting similar experiences with the kinds of people they’ve interacted with their whole lives.

So, here is a list of all the things that are going to change once you step through those huge gates and gaze at your schedule for the first time.

 

Your social clique doesn’t exist anymore.

While this may be the most obvious change to strike anyone, its true repercussions run a little deeper than just hanging out with people you haven’t know all your life. The biggest change here comes in the form of meeting new types of people and, as a result, possibly being friends with people you probably would’ve overlooked in high school. One of the greatest plus points of this is that you are more likely to learn more about people around you and yourself, which will be quite instrumental in shaping your perspective. With the budding curiosity that comes with meeting new people, you will also start exploring more creative and intellectual outlets than you did in school. So, don’t be surprised when you run into the math whiz from school who can suddenly rock the bass guitar.

 

Self-expression and identity become pivotal issues.

Now that you’ve been thrown into the deep end of the pool without a life jacket, you’re going want to learn a few skills to stay afloat. One of the first things that you’ll notice is that no one actually cares about who you were in school. Now, pause and let that sink in. For those of you who have had a less-than-fortunate high school experience, this is a great chance for reinvention. Of course the idea behind this isn’t to change who you are but to give yourself a chance to be the version of yourself that you’ve always been too shy or too repressed to be. The same goes for people who don’t feel the need for a second chance. No one actually knows the right way to interpret your humor or mood swings or how well you can draw. This is great for you because, let’s face it, while you were surrounded by everyone who knew you since nursery, how much did you have to prove, anyway? Expression leads to better communication, which is a skill that comes in handy no matter what sphere you’re planning to work in.

 

Best teachers don’t give you notes.

This may sound like a dream but there’s a catch – the best teachers don’t give you notes, they talk. Teachers who can teach from experience are the ones you’re going to learn from the most. On the other hand, teachers who throw highlighted notes and excerpts in your face usually don’t have much of an opinion on the subject. Another major change in college is that your teachers will behave a little less like authority figures and a little more like people who are willing to guide you if you need the guidance. Teachers in college are more open to discussions outside the classroom, whether you’re looking for advice on the subject they teach or just want to discuss the latest dystopian universe trilogy out there in the market.

 

Your opinion counts more than the facts.

Well, to be honest, this really depends on what you’re studying but in most cases, teachers don’t really want to know how well you can memorize and recite a textbook without glancing down. They’re more interested in the perspective you’re willing to bring to the classroom and whether you can stand up for your opinion. When you go to college, you’re going to notice that your grades are split up into your tests, exams, projects and participation and while the last is given a lesser percentage in terms of relevance to your final grade (it’s usually around 10-15%), it happens to be one of the most important ways to show you’re learning something in the classroom. The best part about opinionated answers is that there isn’t any right or wrong answer because, as it suggests, it’s your opinion. So, don’t be shy to raise your hand and tell your teacher why you think an idea is wrong.

 

Extra-curricular activities teach you the most.

Here’s one of the best things about college – your extra-curricular activities count. At the end of three years (or four, depending on the college you’re attending), you’ll be surprised when you realize that you’ve picked up managerial skills from the time you directed the annual play, have learnt how to communicate ideas more effectively during your stint in the debate club, have a better understanding of organizational behavior because you joined the student union, are more honest after that long lecture on plagiarism and are more self assured and confident because of all the time you’ve spent meeting deadlines. So, at the end of the day, if you go to your college of choice with an openness towards new experiences and a positive attitude, your college years could very well be the best of your life. However, if you’re expecting your college scene to be exactly like high school, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening.

Using Humour in Classrooms

b1As someone who tries to be funny all the time, I know it can be quite annoying – my friends constantly tell me to stop making jokes. But the truth is – I cannot help it. If there’s a laugh to be had, I feel I’m letting myself down by not pouncing; it’s like being thrown an underarm ball, and watching it sail over your head. Not all jokes work, but – good or bad – they are usually remembered. And that is what we all are trying to do, right? For instance – teachers impart information in a way that sticks; using the right mix of humour to make classrooms more interactive. The key to make students love the classroom is by making them laugh. The concepts of chemistry or the formulas of mathematics are all available in fancy books, but by dressing them up with right amount of humour or exemplifying them with some jokes, teachers can help students to remember them. (The ‘fancy’ term, though, for this is – stealth teaching).

Some explore humour-writing in their classroom using different fun techniques; like talking about the skill of “covering the punch line”, or to demonstrate the significance of cadence in writing. Result? Students laugh, and wriggle at the awkward behaviour of their teachers, but these tricks do help in making the point about how these fun techniques work. Of course, doing this on a daily basis will be something which is unreal as well as difficult but the key is to keep innovating and looking for newer ideas.

So is it easy for teachers to raise the humour bar? The answer to this is tricky to say the least. There are teachers who come across as a hoot outside the classrooms but the moment they enter their “teaching havens”, their demeanour diminishes and all lark disappear. Possibly it bogs down to discipline. Agreeably, some level of control is needed to keep that firm line between a teacher and a student, as there’s a fine line between being viewed as a joker, or simply a joke. But to think that a certain amount of humour challenges someone’s authority would be equally wrong. Yes a teacher has to remain proficient, but as long as unassailable admiration has been established initially; dropping the guard every now and then is a good thing and will be appreciated by all. One way of doing this is by engaging in ‘bantering’; occasionally a student will say something comical and it’s ok for a teacher to reply. A volley of back and forth between a teacher and their class is enormously valued, however, the trick is just not to worry if your student ends up saying something funny and you don’t have a witty reply to it, then simply congratulate them.

In minds of many kids, teachers are ethereal characters but showing you are actually human can help win them over and think of you more as humanly. Opening up in front of your class about a funny situation shows that you are more than just a teaching machine and have a life outside school. The fact is, injecting a bit of humour into the driest of subjects can go a long way in improving the overall classroom atmosphere. Like many comedians who spend their life on circuit, trying to find their niche, teachers too are constantly looking for that appreciation from their students. For instance, during my school days we had a teacher who continuously came up with clichéd one-liners and only about one in ten actually worked, but we loved him because of his authenticity.

Various party skills like juggling, singing, or an uncanny celebrity impression also work. Also, leading by example like writing down a funny joke and sharing it with your class can be helpful. Also, encouraging students to share their jokes can help. Don’t get heartbroken if your joke doesn’t work, and always remember – nothing funny ever started with: Here’s a great joke. A lot of jokes are centred on prodding fun at noticing things which are familiar to any instance in life in a way that they strike harmony with listeners.

Bridging the Digital Divide

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Over the years we have seen a gradual shift in information and communications technology, with people moving from older tools of communications like telegrams and letters to modern tools like mobiles, instant messengers, and VoIP. Still the divide between the rural areas and more ‘informed’ – cyber cities – is quite apparent. In countries like USA, Japan, and the UK, people are more ‘tech-literate’ and informed; use latest tools to communicate or for other tasks. Most services are available on the internet which can be accessed using devices like mobile phones, tablets, desktops or any other hand held device. Compare that to developing economies like India – credited with one of the fastest growing IT markets; but still lacks that last mile connectivity option for rural areas. Although the developing economies are trying to fast-track various IT projects to catch up with the developed nations but the gap is widening every day because of better implementation of schemes in the technologically superior countries. Countries like the USA and others belonging to the European Union are using better tools to cater to even a wider market; for instance, moving to ‘contact-less’ payment services – removing the need to carry payment cards or net banking pins. Compare them to the North Eastern states in India where accessibility to internet is still very poor. The world is changing rapidly with the emergence of the ubiquitous societies and availability of better information and communication tools, making it even more difficult for the developing nations to catch up with the developed countries.

Connectivity & Infrastructure

Infrastructure which includes devices such as – computers, laptops, mobiles, tablets, mp3 players, and many more – is the basic necessity to build a strong communications channel. The digital divide can be witnessed in terms of the number of subscriptions and availability of these devices. Countries like India, Sri Lanka, or Indonesia are still using old technology standards like the “2g networks”; compare them to countries like the USA or Japan where latest “LTE technology” is in use from past many years. Government of India’s recent moves, for instance – the implementation of the “Rural Broadband Connectivity” – are worth mentioning, however, implementation of such plans is another uphill task in such a diverse nation like ours, which further enhances the digital divide. The only way to catch up with the developed nations is to develop better infrastructure and connectivity tools at affordable rates to motivate and encourage more people to use them.

Policy Framework

For the success or better implementation of any project, the primary necessity is to define the financial budget for the project. Better implementation of schemes can only be insured if the money is utilized in more effective ways. The flow of funds between various government agencies has to be smooth and in accordance with law to guarantee adoption of modern technology. The government has to introduce stricter policy framework to ascertain the importance of building tools and improving the last mile connectivity in ‘underdeveloped’ areas like – the villages. The bludgeoning gap between the developed and the developing economies can only be reduced if policies and frameworks are adopted after due diligence.


Bridging the Digital Divide

The only way to decrease the gap between – the developed and the developing – is by encouraging more people to use technological tools like the mobile phones, laptops, and computers. Private sector must also commit to providing equal tools to the rural sector, thus enabling more people to join internet. To guarantee better implementation of schemes the government must develop stricter policy checks to ascertain that the schemes and tools are adopted at the grassroots level and provide for better implementation.

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Multimedia classrooms vs Traditional Method of Teaching

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It is sad that so few modern students will ever experience a real lecture; the ones we attended, where the lectures stretched up to long durations, to say the least, and the professor used conventional chalk and boards to teach. For those, who wish to learn and understand the concepts in detail, real lectures will always be interesting and drive their passion to learn. But what are called ‘lectures’ these days is a charade. Gigantic, suffocating venues that can seat hundreds; students struggling to spot the teachers, while sitting in the dark; a ghostly voice vibrating in the microphone; a teacher reading out never-ending power point slides, which, paradoxically, have already been posted online; the flimsy listeners flaccid instead of scribbling their notes; distracted by their neighbour erratically browsing through social networks or last night’s game updates; and the whole thing being recorded as if either it was a court room trial or to emphasise that students don’t really need to be there nor their attention is warranted. Ironically, these indefensible atrocities are what many currently call lectures.

Although the gadgets and tools look fascinating to the onlooker, however, these substitutes to lectures are mere gimmicks designed to get praise for teaching ‘innovation’ and wooing the audience. For instance, a bi-cycle with trilateral wheels is an invention, though, the proper question is whether it fits the purpose. If taken seriously, and conducted in a proper way, lectures are the best practical way of imparting knowledge to people who want to learn.  In contrast to what many believe, good lectures are actually possible and attainable – I experienced many of them at my school, however, they are neither easy, nor as cheap as some substitutes. A good lecture requires a holistic team work, starting from those who appoint teaching staff, to those who design lecture theatres, to those who construct courses, and ultimately the creators of the educational ethos. The hardest of all, however, is the fact that good lectures require a great effort in form of concentration during the teaching period from those seeking information (read as students). Furthermore, a good lecture is an effort from both lecturer and audience alike. A good lecture is more like a theatre than a cinema, as it seeks involvement of the audience to make it a success or a failure. It is unique, similar to what a musical performance is – seeing and hearing each other in real-time and working together on something both the performer and viewer value. And when it works, it is an experience that lasts in our memories forever. It is sad that with advent of tools and technology only a few modern students will ever get an opportunity to experience anything of this kind. Many wonder “Why students don’t get as much out of lectures?”, and the truth is that there are a myriad of reasons, from as simple as lapses in concentration to more complex like lack of interest in the subject. Many studies conducted by experts validate the importance of good lectures. Real lecturing can be a good way of passing knowledge and can play an influential role in improving the performance of students. Teachers even face stubborn attendance problems which ultimately distorts their interest in class and many classes often ended the semester half-empty; with efforts like using newer methods or introduction of online tests also failing to bring any considerable effect.

Experts, who usually have something to teach which is worth learning, should feel more confident about the aptness of the method. Contrary to the popular belief, lectures are not an inferior medium, nor should the lecture be seen as subordinate to the provision of written texts. Accordingly, lecturers should resist the temptation of making lectures more ‘entertaining’ by over-using multimedia tools. Since lectures are principally ‘aural’, the visual material should generally be like simple summary diagrams which are appropriate for recording in lecture notes. Mostly, lectures should aim to be enjoyable, but shouldn’t attempt to be entertaining. Lectures should be memorable rather than distracting.

In a nutshell, lectures retain a major educational role as learning through lectures is easier and more effective in comparison to literacy-based and electronic media. And to increase the effectiveness of university teaching, it is important to make learning as easy as possible. Making lectures more enjoyable and effective should be the actual goal, instead of trying to phase them out. This can only be done by understanding how lectures exploit human psychology – particularly the fact that lectures are fundamentally formal, verbal, shared events.

Go Dutch! Student Life in Netherlands

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Traditionally, the UK, the US, and Australia have been education hubs for students; attracting the best of the talents from around the world. Fascinating campus life, university brand names like the Cambridge, the MIT, London School of business, or the Queensland University have been the primary choices. And apart from the names, the country and standard of living across them has been a major crowd puller. However, moving to these places brings along its own share of stress. It starts with higher cut off scores to sky rocketing tuition fees; and by the end of it all, for many, the dream of moving to the US or the UK stays a dream. Netherlands has been slowly but progressively becoming a major student hub with its traditional architecture, high value of living, and stress-free campuses. In contrast to the UK and the US, Netherlands is a relaxed country with a laid back approach, and this sense is critical to the student experience. People are easy to talk to and helpful; college campus have a distinct architecture which is a welcome attraction from monotonous lives most of us lead, and standard of life at par any developed economy.

Here’s why student life in Netherlands trumps that in “traditional education destination”.

You are part of the place you live

The universities in Netherlands characteristically offer fewer societies; allowing students time to take part in activities in their town or city, where they are studying. Students are encouraged to take part in co-curricular activities such as local choirs or amateur sports. Students are motivated and encouraged to help organize events like: conferences, seminars, food banks, charities or any other event of social repute. Students can use such events as a way of evading the repetitive studies and do something that is different and fresh. Most importantly, it allows you to meet people from outside the gated community of your college as ultimately you aren’t going to live in a university forever, and this comes out as a perfect preparation for your life ahead.

You can Cycle anywhere (Literally)

Imagine yourself jumping on your bike on a sunny summer’s day to cycle down Amsterdam’s canals. Pretty sublime; isn’t it? However, in Netherlands, it is a daily choir, as you have to cycle to get around, no matter what time of year. Though, cycling in chilling winds of January isn’t always idyllic, but you can’t get your daily exercise without putting any extra effort. It is like the Netherlands was designed specifically for cyclists, the open alleys, a beautiful canal, and archaic buildings; so by far, cycling is the best way to get around.

A heaven for sports fanatics

Youngsters in the Netherlands are brought up playing several sports from a young age and, unlike India, where children are forced to choose one between the studies or sports, they keep this up as they get older. Even girls are motivated to pick a game of their choice. In Netherlands, games and sports are considered an integral part of development of the overall personality. Most of the youngsters have played field hockey, football, and tennis from the moment they could walk. Their teams often aren’t associated with the college, giving youngsters another chance to grow their friend circle.

You can travel (and it won’t cost you a fortune)

At universities in Netherlands, students usually have class modules for around 40 weeks every year. This may sound hellish to Indian students who are used to a holiday after almost every few days; in Netherlands students get a maximum of three weeks off for such holidays. However you will realize you prefer this system to the one followed back home in India, because during your stay there you‘ll have to shape a diverse life for yourself. You can organize day trips to other cities or can explore your college city. The location – in the mid of Western Europe – also allow you to organize cheap weekend trips. One can easily get to Antwerp, Berlin, Cologne, or Madrid in a few hours by coach.

You will learn more

You’ll get more time for academic reading or assignments or to simply go out and witness the historic beauty of the city; reducing stress levels and means your other interests do not hamper your grades. Students in Indian Universities often complain about not having enough time to do everything they want to do. The old cliché of “work hard, play hard” really applies to Netherlands. In comparison, the students in India have to cram about 12 weeks’ worth of work into a four week term, while also doing extracurricular activities like social events or competitions. Ironically, each term at the university feels like a marathon run at sprint pace.

Although the experience of living in Netherlands can be similar in terms of costs and financial status, however, the ‘student-life’ experience is well worth the cost.

India Desperately Needs Teacher Reforms

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Traditionally, teachers in the Indian subcontinent have always commanded the respect they deserved. Consider this: according to the Mahabharata, ‘Eklavya’ – known for his precision with archery – gave up the thumb of his right hand in honor of his guru (teacher). Ideally one would imagine that with history as rich and popular as this, India must be one of the strongholds for teachers, but the irony is that the state of education has worsened over the years with fall in number of trained teachers.

Teaching was considered a novel and attractive profession for the brightest but the decline in the number of teachers has been appalling. Though, India has managed to increase the number of children in school by starting new initiatives like – right to education, however, the decline in the number of trained teachers has been considerably alarming. Consider these numbers: according to a study conducted by a NGO in 2012, 53% of class 5 students were unable to read class 2 level text, here’s more – 43% of class 5 students couldn’t solve simple two-digit mathematics problems AND to absolutely rub in government’s face – 2012 was celebrated as the “year of mathematics”. Who should be held accountable for such an inexplicable situation? Government? Schools? Children? Parents? Or the lack of trained teachers!

The fact is, our woeful state schools are in stark contrast to our dream of becoming a nation of IT parks and call centers. The decline in the number of teachers is paradoxical to government’s rush to set up new schools to encourage more children to study. Shockingly, little attention is paid to what children are learning in those classrooms and how effective the teaching methods are. Moreover teachers are quitting their jobs in the initial years and atypically the important positions, for instance, head of department, are held by teachers who are old and at the end of their careers.

Why need for teacher reforms?

The exacerbated teacher workloads, negative job publicity, and lack of reforms are only a few of the many reasons to name from. In a profession as novel and important as teaching, more than 30% of teachers are working on temporary basis, without any job security; hampering the overall methodology of improving the state of education. Every school, or for that matter every parent wants their child to utilize their skills and outperform their peers; resulting in more pressure on teachers to deliver results. Another reason why teachers are rapidly moving away from the profession, as many are not able to handle such pressures. As with any profession, teachers have been demanding pay packages at par other professionals, however, many of them are still underpaid. Pupil taught by teachers go on to earn huge pay packets at national and international firms, though, their teachers are still struggling with ‘4-figure’ salaries. For most Indian teachers, the battles are that basic!

We need quality teachers for quality education

Take China for example – another growing economy like ours – where the teaching model is very unique. Teachers command a tremendous amount of respect because in China, the student teacher relationship is limited to confines of the classrooms. Outside classrooms, teachers and students are not allowed to communicate, which ultimately allows teachers to lead a stress free life. But over here, the student teacher relationship sometimes becomes too personal, which does not allow a teacher the time to rejuvenate, which ultimately hampers their teaching skills.

According to a 2013 report, there are almost 5.8 million teachers in India but only 75% of them are trained. Now compare this figure to year 2008 when 90% of them were trained. Drastic and immediate changes are needed to improve the plight of education in India. Each government stresses on the importance of having an effective education model, however, what we hear are only speeches, but no concrete laws to ensure the change.

Implementing policies like – regularly testing teaching skills and improving basic salary structure can go a long way in improving the state of education in India. But the bigger question is – how soon can the administration act to ensure that this crunch in our education system be stemmed now?

Rankings and League Tables

MIT-campus-wallpaper

Millions of students start university in high spirits every year in either the Spring or the Autumn semester, in a new place, making new friends, adapting to the environment in- and outside the university but all after a series of decisions and preparation centred round the university they chose all those months ago – one of the first decisions being the selection of the institute itself. So how do you decide? This is never an easy decision because of the numerous factors involved; however, it starts initially with the ranking and reputation of a university. You ask your family, friends, and those who may be presently attending or may have previously attended, or you may visit to a professional career guidance service to seek their help but, ultimately, you will have to decide and push the button yourself.

Here, we help you decode those league and ranking tables and tell why reputation is not the only thing that should factor into your decision.

Prestige and Reputation isn’t above all

Always the first aspect to be evaluated, a university’s prestige is what matters to most people nonetheless. True, for prospective employment opportunities, attending the right university is more important. For example, attending Cambridge, Harvard, MIT, or Oxford will be respected by most employers regardless of the course studied; or knowing that attending Wharton for a MBA will offer plenty of prospects. However, this does not imply that a certain course from, say, a small community college will curtail your future prospects. Eventually, it depends on your ambition, as well as the skills you acquired and how you use them.

The widely respected QS university ranking system considers academic reputation as its largest factor; thus, established universities with a strong brand score higher on their ranking system. Such systems are an unavoidable part of the reputation and brand image of universities, enabling them to attract staff, students, and research investment; university leaders, though cynical of them, always pay attention to their institute’s ranking.

Research Influence and Staff Ratios

Even within the lesser-ranked universities, certain subject departments and research institutes stand out; consider the University of Surrey, UK, which does not rank very highly internationally, despite being a established and respected university nationally. However, it is one of the best universities for Civil Engineering courses in the UK, with a world-leading Space Structures Research Centre. Similarly, large research funding attracts a proportionately large pool of talented lecturers, often those who have worked for a long time within the relevant industry. To gain funding, the research output must be strong and a great emphasis is placed on “citations per faculty” – or how often they are published in academic publications. Linked with this is the academic staff-to-student ratio since a lower staff-student ratio prevents you from being just another number and, just like in school, allows greater contact time with your lecturers.

This is important for both under- and post-graduate students, since you must evaluate whether your course’s parent department is any good: for undergraduates and taught postgraduates, the focus is on the teaching quality; for research postgraduates and doctoral students, it is on the research quality.

Physical and social environment

While the latter is more difficult to define qualitatively, the physical environment plays a huge role: you are spending anywhere between 1-5 years in a new location, depending on your course, so it is best to find out whether the place you will call your second home is actually liveable. Most universities located in the world’s major metropolises are very adaptable: New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris, and so on are globalised cities, catering to almost all your needs. However, those smaller cities and towns that are not so familiar may seem ‘riskier’ but they have the ability to widen – or even change – your perspective. Linked to the liveability is the social aspect: are the denizens welcoming? Are there enjoyable cultural and recreational activities? Eventually, you must question: “Does the environment excite me?”

Affordability

Perhaps obvious but factoring in the monetary constraints is significant: can you or your family afford the tuition, the accommodation, and other living expenses you require? Consideration of other factors, besides prestige, also should factor into your spending an exorbitant sum on your education abroad, especially when taking a loan; think of it as an investment: will it pay off? You will not be hired by a company simply based on your graduation from, say, Yale so you must ensure that the learning and skills acquired are actually worth it.


The ‘official’ rankings and such measurements are the characteristics of universities rather than its students, resulting in a list dominated by an élite selection. Specialist and smaller arts-schools or polytechnics will not feature despite their quality, nor will those that emphasize teaching over research. Prioritizing reputation – such is the nature of the QS, and other, rankings – merely highlights those already renowned. Although useful, seeing through the limitations of these rankings facilitates better decision-making regarding your future.