Monthly Archives: April 2013

20 Interesting Facts about Bhutan

April 25, 2013


Time for some country facts! In this week’s blog, we’re going to look at Bhutan, officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan. This landlocked country in South Asia is nestled in the eastern end of the Himalaya mountains bordered by India in the south, east and west and by China in the north. It’s regarded as one of the most isolated nations in the world mainly because the Bhutanese government has regulated foreign influences and tourism to a great extent in order to protect and preserve the nation’s identity, culture and eco-system.

Here are a few facts you may find interesting about this mysterious Kingdom in the Himalayas:

1. Bhutan is a democracy and constitutional monarchy. The Bhutanese monarchy was founded in 1907. It held its first democratic elections in 2008.

2. In 1865, Britain and Bhutan signed the Treaty of Sinchulu, under which Bhutan would receive an annual subsidy in exchange for ceding some border land to British India. Under British influence, a monarchy was set up in 1907; three years later, a treaty was signed whereby the British agreed not to interfere in Bhutanese internal affairs, and Bhutan allowed Britain to direct its foreign affairs. This role was assumed by independent India after 1947.


3. The United Nations recognized Bhutan as a country in 1974.

4. Origin of the name Bhutan may be derived from the Sanskrit Bhotanta which means “the end of Tibet,” or the Sanskrit Bhu-attan, meaning “highlands.”

5. Bhutanese call their home “Druk Yul,” which means “the Land of the Thunder Dragons,” because of the extremely powerful storms which constantly roar in from the Himalayas.

6. Its capital is Thimpu with a population of about 742,737 (2012). It is the only capital in the world without traffic lights. In fact when traffic lights were installed the people objected and the city reverted back to the use of white-gloved traffic police.

7. Until the 1960’s it had no roads, automobiles, telephone, postal system or electricity. Bhutanese had no access to TV or Internet until limited access was permitted in 1999.

8. Buddhism is the official religion with Hinduism the second popular faith.

9. Dzongka is the official language.

10. 54.3% of adults and 76.2% of youth in Bhutan are literate.

11. The first foreign tourists were allowed into Bhutan in 1974.

12. Bhutan has the world’s highest unclimbed peak, Gangkhar Puensum, a mountain so sacred by the Bhutanese that the government has banned mountaineering on any peak above 19,685 feet.

13. Bhutan is the world’s only carbon sink, that is; it absorbs more CO2 than it gives out. It sells hydro-electrical power, making it the only country whose largest export is renewable energy. 72% of the country is forested. In fact, it’s in the country’s constitution to keep 60% of its land forested. Respect for the environment, the eco system and all species is a serious matter in Bhutan. Anyone caught killing an endangered species, faces the harsh sentence of life in prison.
14. Agriculture is its major industry with rice, fruit and dairy industry (yaks).

15. Rather than using the GDP as an economic index, Bhutan measures its overall “health” through the four pillars: sustainable development, environmental protection, cultural preservation, and good governance, which together form the Gross National Happiness or GNH. Not all was as happy as hoped when in the early 1990s riots erupted in the Nepalese community living in Bhutan after the King’s decree to have all Bhutanese follow traditional customs including dress and conduct. This led to the repatriation of about 40,000 Nepali-Bhutanese to Newark, New Jersey, USA in early 2010.

16. Plastic bags have been banned in Bhutan since 1999.

17. Bhutan is the only country to outlaw tobacco (effective 2004).

18. The “takin,” a goat-antelope, is Bhutan’s national animal.

Takin, San Diego Zoo

19. The country’s two national sports are archery and darts. But unlike a regulation dartboard, theirs is much smaller and the darts heavy and quite lethal which are thrown over 20 meters toward the target.

20. All citizens officially become one year older on New Year’s Day. This way, no one forgets anyone’s birthday!

And, here’s a bonus fact:

21. Need some good luck? Thinking of starting a family? Bhutanese have a long tradition of painting phalluses on their houses to serve as a symbol of fertility and good luck. All part and parcel of a nation that measures its annual success by its people’s rate of happiness! For a fun article and photos of houses adorned by phalluses go to this link: Phallus Alert: Fertility Blessings in Bhutan!

Helpful links:—Asias-Forgotten-Gem-345208.html


Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.


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April 24, 2013 · 10:38 pm

China: Taking steps to ensure academic document legitimacy

Cooperative Agreement between CDGDC and ACEI

April 18, 2013


According to a recent IIE Open Door report “International Student enrollment increased by 5% in 2010/11, led by strong increase in students from China.” The report cites a 23% increase in the number of Chinese students of which 43% are studying at the undergraduate level.

According to the US Department of Commerce, international student contributes more than $21 billion to the US economy, through their expenditures on tuition, living expenses such as room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance and covering the financial cost of their accompanying family members.

In the same breath, a 2010 report published by Zinch states that in China “the cultural norm is that there is no harm in creating false documents.” As credential evaluation professionals, we recognize the importance of supporting the U.S. position as the number one destination for international students and are always striving to find ways we can help bolster and improve our service to complement the needs of the U.S. institutions requiring international transcript evaluations. We are also cognizant that doing our due diligence by ensuring the legitimacy of documents is, first and foremost, an integral component of evaluating academic credentials.

One step we have taken to address the growing number of Chinese student applications for college/university admission and even professional licensing is through our cooperation with the China Academic Degrees and Graduate Education Development Center (CDGDC) in Beijing. CDGDC is the legal entity, authorized by the government in China that provides verification of degrees, certificates, diplomas and other related educational document conferred by Chinese colleges and universities as well as secondary credentials.

I had the good fortune of being introduced to the CDGDC Director, Mr. Wang, through our contact Mr. Chenguan (Alex) Lu with EducationUSA in Beijing. Through this introduction, I was able to secure a meeting in San Francisco on April 14, 2013 with Mr. Wang and a delegation from CDGDC where we signed the Cooperative Agreement between our two organizations to carry out comparative studies of Sino-U.S. degrees and other educational credentials through verification and evaluation.

photo (1)

For the past two years, ACEI has been referring its Chinese students seeking an evaluation of their academic credentials to the CDGDC for document verification. By signing the Cooperative Agreement, ACEI will continue to use CGDCD’s educational credential verification services in its educational evaluation work. Chinese applicants are advised to contact the CDGDC and request the verification of their academic transcripts, certificates, diplomas and/or degrees. CDGDC in turn submits its verification directly to ACEI certifying the legitimacy of the academic documents. The verification of academic documents from China will further ensure that the evaluations prepared by ACEI are based on educational documents that have been properly vetted by a legal entity.

We can continue to be the number one destination for international students and we can do so without loosening our requirements and lowering our standards.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI

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Understanding the Institutes of Chartered Accountants in India and Pakistan

April 11, 2013

Filing Taxes - 1040 Form

For institutions in the United States, accounting credentials from India and Pakistan can be especially difficult to interpret. Typically, comparative education researchers and credential evaluators in the U.S. seek to determine the comparability of foreign studies to domestic equivalents based on several criteria including:

• admission requirements for the academic program in question;
• course content covered via classroom instruction;
• specific knowledge base and skills tested via examination;
• the nature of the program in the source country.
– Do partial studies transfer into other academic programs?
– Does the completed program provide eligibility for higher academic programs?
– Does the completed program allow eligibility for professional registration, etc.?
– Is the completed program terminal?

Official accounting credentials in India are issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) and official accounting credentials in Pakistan are issued by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Pakistan (ICAP) .

Both the ICAI and ICAP programs inherit much of their structure from the British system, which frequently uses a “Qualifications-Based-Assessment” approach in which all program requirements are based on examination results, and students become eligible for examinations through either academic studies, professional experience, or some combination of both. Another aspect of the British “Qualifications-Based-Assessment” method is that examinations may be graded as “pass-fail” and thus have no grades or marks associated with them.

From a comparative education perspective, the ICAI and ICAP credentials do not fit very well into the traditional mold of a U.S. educational program. ICAI and ICAP programs have very flexible “admission requirements” since eligibility for examinations can be derived from both academic and professional qualifications and classroom instruction is not necessarily a central component in every case.

Despite the fundamental differences between ICAI/ICAP and U.S. programs, the comparability of ICAI/ICAP examinations to U.S. academic levels is well established. Some of the best research done on this topic is available through NAFSA (the Association of International Educators) in the PIER Workshop Report on South Asia published in 1986 and the PIER World Education Series published in 1997. Both publications are based on research performed by a hand-picked group of experts who conducted in-country investigations and site-visits to many institutions. It has been documented and confirmed that ICAI/ICAP examinations do provide “transferrable credit” into other academic programs in India and Pakistan, and much of the comparative education research since the PIER reports has concluded similarly that the following “placement recommendations” be made for ICAI and ICAP examinations:

• Passed ICAI/ICAP Foundation Examinations are comparable to one year of undergraduate coursework in business administration and accounting in the U.S.;
• Passed ICAI/ICAP Intermediate Examinations are comparable to an associate degree in in business studies and accounting (two year of undergraduate coursework) in the U.S.;
• Passed ICAI/ICAP Professional/Final Examinations with membership are comparable to a completed Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting, a Bachelor of Science in Accounting or another similarly named degree in the U.S.

For U.S. institutions seeking to understand and process ICAI and ICAP qualifications, it is important to be aware that many details we expect to see in most academic documents might not be available. ICAI/ICAP usually issue credentials that prove completion of the program, but not individual examination titles, grades/scores, and other information that would be included in a “transcript” or similar document. Additionally, ICAI and ICAP do not typically include a description of how individuals become eligible for or exempted from certain examinations. Thus, we recommend that U.S. institutions ask applicants for the following documentation along with any official ICAI/ICAP credentials:

• Descriptions/Titles of the ICAI/ICAP examinations during certain years (similar to a curriculum) and preferably descriptions/titles of exams taken and passed by an individual – this will allow a better comparison to specific U.S. courses*;
• Documents for any previously completed academic coursework – this may provide a straightforward academic basis for exam eligibility or exemption;
• Resume and other professional experience documentation – this may add details for any exam eligibility or exemption derived from experience.

*Samples of ICAI and ICAP exam descriptions are available along with other comparative education data in Credential Consultants’ GRADE™ Database Additionally, the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) compiles CPA examination results taken in the U.S. for a given year, including breakdowns of performance by country of residence, educational institutions attended, etc. The 2012 Candidate Performance Book is can be found here

Although the nature of ICAI and ICAP accounting programs may differ from typical collegiate accounting programs in the U.S., they can be compared to each other in meaningful ways for both academic and professional purposes.

Authored in collaboration with the Association of International Credential Evaluators (AICE) by:

Drew Feder
President of Credential Consultants, Inc.

Hany Arafat
Senior Comparative Education Specialist at Credential Consultants, Inc.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.

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How I Discovered Bollywood

April 4, 2013

LP cover - Bollywood - Tuhje Nahin Chhodunga (1991)

My first experience with Bollywood music came with a couple of cd’s back in the 1980s called Golden Voices from the Silver Screen, on a cool UK label called Globe Style. Vol 2 featured songs from the TV series Movie Mahal; the first volume featured classics from Lata Mangeshkar, her kid sister Asha Bhosle, Mohammed Rafi, and others. I was aware of the two sisters who held the Guiness World Record for most recordings. Lata was #1, Asha at #2.

I remember leaving KCRW once back in the late 80s and pulling into a Chevron Station in Santa Monica to fill up, with a cassette of Lata playing. An attendant came over and said, “you know our divine Lata?”. Yes I said smiling proudly.

Later came Bappi Lahiri’s “I am a disco dancer”. Another hit, “Pump Up the Bhangra” came shortly after Technotronic’s “Pump Up the Volume”.

I watched Satyajit Ray’s epic Apu Trilogy with the great soundtrack music from Ravi Shankar. I’d known about Hindustani classical Indian music all the way back into the 1960s, when Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan came onto the American scene. I remember a great Ali Akbar Khan lp on the World Pacific label called Sound of the Sarod. It featured a rhapsodic piece called “Chandranadan”. Hearing it engraved it into my memory forever.

When I taught World Music at UCLA Extension in the 1990s, I invited two people on Indian night. The first was a guy named Jac Zinder, who ran a wildly eclectic pop-up nightclub that featured Bollywood videos, music, as well as fluff from Herb Alpert and other light fare. Jac showed some of the wilder clips from classic Bollywood films such as Gumnaam, which my class loved. When Jac was done, a very flustered and annoyed Harihar Rao–who founded LA’s great presenting organization The Music Circle with Ravi Shankar in 1966–admonished the class, telling students “I hope this isn’t all you learn about Indian culture!!!” He was clearly rattled.

I was delighted to see Lagaan come to mainstream cinemas here. Four hours never went by so fast. I was also the host of the big Bollywood Show at the Hollywood Bowl a few years ago; it was an unbelievable night, 18,000 people cheering. A.R. Rahman’s big entrée into Hollywood. A later show featuring orchestral versions of his soundtrack followed, but it lacked the spectacle and energy of that first show. I felt the second show was to show that Rahman can write orchetral soundtrack music for any film….not just Bollywood.

I wish Bollywood movies appeared at more mainstream theaters… LA you have to go to Artesia or in the past to Laemmle Fallbrook Theater, which has now closed and become another AMC venue. Channel 18 on Saturday mornings 11-12 noon; there are also Indian channels on Dish Network.

It may be that for non-Indians, following Bollywood is just something for those who know. It is fun and the films are produced in the most fantastic manner….you get it all: soap opera, musicals, dancing, spectacle, beautiful clothing. What’s not to like? I love it, and hope Bollywood finds a bigger audience.

Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles 2013

Tom Schnabel, M.A.
Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Host of music program on radio for KCRW Sundays noon-2 p.m.
Blogs for KCRW
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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