Monthly Archives: May 2011

Translation vs. Evaluation

There seems to be a misconception about “translation” and “evaluation.” Some think the two are the same but that is not true. A translation is quite literally the word-for-word line-by-line interpretation of a document issued in one language into another language. An evaluation in the case of academic documents is an analysis of the learning acquired and recommending the equivalent U.S. education for that level of learning on the basis of a comprehensive review of the educational system of the country where studies were completed. In most cases, documents that are not issued in English are to be accompanied by English translations in order to have them evaluated. Translations are prepared by individuals proficient in the languages they are translating and in most cases sit for licensing examinations that qualify them as certified/licensed translators. Evaluations are prepared by individuals with experience in world education systems and knowledge of academic programs offered at various level of learning throughout the world. Here in the U.S. individuals preparing evaluations may be employed by a school, college or university or work at private credential evaluation agencies or educational organizations. For a list of professional organizations and their member credential evaluation agencies visit the U.S. Department of Education website:

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Music to My Ears

Music and Iran are not words that harmonize well in today’s Islamic Republic. And you can imagine my surprise when official transcripts for a degree in Music from the Islamic Azad University (est. 1988), the bastion of the Republic’s Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution and the Islamic Consultative Assembly, landed on my desk. There, nestled between the mandatory Islamic religious subjects were courses that moved across the page like notes on sheet music: Piano, Harmony, Counter Point, Ensemble, Theory, History of Classical Persian Music, History of World Classical Music, Music in Film, Study of Musical Instruments, Rhythm, Study of Acoustic Music, Human Nature and Music, and a course on the Analysis of Current Iranian Music. The latter course is even more confusing since in today’s Iran, music is a taboo subject. Music—rock, pop, punk, alternative, world—can only be enjoyed in secret, where bands perform in underground venues, and women are prohibited from performing in public.

In an August 2, 2010 post on the UK-based Guardian newspaper’s website, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (who is said to “hate” music and prefers only revolutionary and religious anthems) was quoted to have said that music is “not compatible with the values of the Islamic republic, and should not be practiced or
taught in the country.” If this is the case, then Islamic Azad University is treading on unholy turf.

Iran’s official stance against music, yet the offering of a bachelor’s degree in music at the Islamic Azad University is an example of the mixed messages the regime routinely transmits to its domestic and global audience. Iran, a nation with music so steeped into its culture, where musicians in ancient Persian even held socially respectable positions, continues to grapple with finding ways to justify its stand on the subject.

Waves of artists, musicians and performers have either left the country, served prison sentences or worse. A recent independent film from Iran “No One Knows about Persian Cats,” focuses on the lives of a number of young musicians who struggle to create and play music in cellars, attics, and even a malodorous dairy farm, always glancing over the shoulders in fear of a police raid and arrest.

The same article by the Guardian reports on a 21-year-old follower who asks Khamenei if he should consider a career in teaching music and is advised that “its better for our dear youth to spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills and fill their time with sport and health recreations instead of music.” If this is the case, then it is interesting indeed to see the Islamic Azad University–the private religious non-profit tuition driven institution and brainchild of the former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini–offering the very subject so deplored by Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader.

Maybe change is on its way; one note at a time.

by Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
an LA-based writer, working on her memoire “Cinema Iran,” and
a novel “The Nobleman’s Son: A Persian Tale”
she is also President & CEO – ACEI, Inc., an international education evaluation company serving students from around the world


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The Rise of On-Line Courses in U.S. High Schools

In a recent NYT article of 4/6/11 “More Pupils are Learning Online, Fueling Debate on Quality,” more and more high schools are resorting to classroom instruction provided by computers versus teachers. The proponents of on-line courses in high schools argue that it provides students the computer skills they would need for college where on-line courses are commonly offered. Critics see this as yet another step toward spending less on education by cutting back on teachers and buildings. But does this movement to embrace on-line instruction at such a nascent stage of a student’s learning development adequate preparation for college? What learning is a student really gaining from on-line courses which lack the immediate input and interaction with teachers and fellow students where debate and exchange of ideas fuel critical thinking? In the short run, this may be a cost-effective plan, but in the long run, how will this impact quality? And most importantly, how would this give the US high school and future college graduate the competitive edge needed to succeed in a global economy?


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The Dying Art of Cursive Handwriting

It looks like we are on the cusp of seeing the end of cursive training in our school curriculum. According to a recent NYT article “Can You Read This? Its Cursive,” (4/29/11) by Katie Zezima “many school districts are spending far less time teaching it and handwriting in general.” As the product of an English boarding school, I still remember the importance of penmanship. Cursive handwriting was a key factor in the grades we received on an assignment, homework or final exams. I practiced diligently on perfecting my cursive handwriting and developing my own unique style; one that I was praised as being legible and elegant. And now, with the advent of all things digital and electronic, computer keyboards, and smartphones the need to put pen to paper is seemingly a dying art. Ms. Zezima notes in her article that many young people today can’t even read something written in cursive. To them, cursive writing is too cryptic and challenging much like cracking a code. Can you imagine coming across handwritten letters found in a box tucked away in the attic and not being able to decipher the text? The Constitution must look like hieroglyphics to the cursive-challenged generation. What would this do to the honing and developing of our fine motor skills? The art of cursive handwriting once a standard component in our schooling is, sadly, on the fast track of becoming a lost and dying art.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI, Inc.


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Diploma Mills

What is a “Diploma Mill?” According to an article in the Winter 2002 issue of Colleges and Universities (Volume 77, No. 3) by Allen Ezell, a diploma mill was defined as “an organization that awards degrees without requiring students to meet educational standards for such degrees; it either receives frees from its so-called students on the basis of fraudulent misrepresentation, or it makes it possible for the recipients of its degrees to perpetuate a fraud on the public.”

Many an unsuspecting U.S. national or international student is wooed by a degree mill with promises of receiving a bachelor, master or even doctorate degree based on his/her work experience for a fee. They’re assured that the degree is recognized by an accreditation agency with an impressive name which too is an accreditation mill. Before falling for the easy degree, check the status of the institution to ensure that it is not a degree mill. If the institution is in the U.S. and the accreditation agency it claims to have awarded its accreditation does not appear on the list of those recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for higher Education Accreditation, then know that you are not dealing with a legitimate organization. If the institution is not in the U.S. you must be sure that it is formally and officially recognized by that country’s Ministry of Education and that its academic programs are recognized by other accredited institutions in the country.

Ask questions, do your research and study hard!

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