Category Archives: Education

A 1st Timer’s Reflections on the NAFSA 2019 Annual Conference

June 7th, 2019

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My excitement and expectations as a first-time participant to the NAFSA Annual Meeting were exceeded. It was a great experience to see how united and collaborative the community of international higher education is. I think this was the first time when I truly understood what networking really means. I was waiting by the information desk to meet with my IEM mentor (via the IEM Connector Program) and I happened to glance over the long hallway of the Convention Center. Everywhere I could see, there were people with a big smile on their face and arms open wide, recognizing and old friend or collaborator. My experience with the conference was one of belonging to a community wholeheartedly dedicated to excellence in higher education.

Two prominent plenary speakers at the conference were former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright and Collin Powell. Both talked about the importance of international education and the role of the government in creating supporting policies for attracting international students. They shared their own experiences in the White House and expressed intense criticism for the current government’s actions against internationalization. They were so funny and witty!

The recurrent theme of this year’s NAFSA Annual Conference was the anticipated diminishing numbers of international students. The main reasons for predicted lower numbers are the following: difficulties in obtaining student visas, higher visa processing fees, perceived racism and discrimination, higher tuition costs, unstable political discourse, future USCIS plans for restructuring the OPT and CPT, rise in H1-B visa denials.

Where do international students go and why? International students mostly go to Canada and Australia, with the US and UK seeing lower numbers than ever. Canada is seen as more welcoming, with less visa restrictions and more opportunities for securing work after study completion.

At the conference, I attended sessions on how to develop recruitment, admissions and retentions strategies in response to the current unsteady global enrollment climate. I basically tried to learn from what other institutions are doing to develop and implement systemic change to deal with future enrollment. What I found was not a surprise: apply cross-cultural competencies to understand the incoming international student population, make data-driven policies and procedures, and create informative communication plans to teach students/applicants how to navigate the US academic system.

One of the most informative session I attended was Canada’s International Students: A Study in Diversity. This was an exceptionally interesting presentation with a tremendous amount of government data. Contrary to the perception that increased numbers or international students are due to the US and UK’s detrimental policies, the Canadian Government had created a plan to enhance the international student population back in 2013. US and UK’s discriminatory environment has indeed helped their numbers but only because they already had a very structured plan in place to absorb the high number of international students. It was not just luck, it was tremendous work and strong support from the government.

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POLIXENIA TOHANEANU, has been working as an International Admissions Specialist and Credential Evaluator in the Graduate Admissions Office at University of Idaho since 2016. She holds an M.A. in Francophone Studies from University of Cincinnati. As a previous international graduate student herself, she is passionate for researching new ways to make the process of evaluating international credentials more efficient. Email: polixeniat@uidaho.edu

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Albright & Powell: Two Former Secretaries of State in Conversation

International Students, Immigration, Diplomacy

May 31st, 2019

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This year’s NAFSA Annual Conference & Expo was held in Washington, DC and wrapped up on May 31st. The highlight of my 2 ½ day attendance besides the fruitful meetings with colleagues and strengthening partnerships with client institutions and organizations was the opening plenary that included two former U.S. Secretaries of State, Madeleine Albright and General Colin Powell which was moderated by Dr. Esther Brimmer, Executive Director & CEO of NAFSA.

The following are excerpts of their discussion on international education, immigration policy, and diplomacy which I’ve paraphrased to the best of my ability based on notes I was able to take:

On International Students:

Secretary Albright stressed that we need to have an understanding of international education and the importance of students from U.S. going abroad and international students coming to study in the U.S.  As a professor at Georgetown University she knows how dire the situation is as the number of international students coming to study in the U.S. has been declining. She sees this as a great loss to U.S. higher education and U.S. diplomatic relations with allies and adversaries.

On the Iron Curtain and the Cold War:

General Powell said when he joined the military 60 years ago, the military had a clear understanding of its mission. His first assignment was to stand guard behind the Iron Curtain. He said the rules were clear. Stopping the Russians was the mission. Both the Soviet Union and the United States knew that they had the capacity to destroy each other, and knew each other’s capabilities. This knowledge had a stabilizing influence. Both countries looked to the Third World and competed for it.  But the Soviet Union started to show cracks. Then the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed on Christmas Day 1991.  “The world as we had known it and the sense of anticipated destruction we’d been preparing for went away,” he said. The President at the time, George Herbert Bush, saw this as a brand new world, but one thing became clear was that throughout the Cold War years the U.S. knew its enemies and was prepared to take them down and defend those western European nations and any one who wished to join the American theory of democracy, equal rights and open economic policy. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union the lid on the proverbial boiling pot came off and what was inside was a scorching stew of sectarianism, different economic positions, and people who still wanted to be autocrats. And, these beliefs were spreading around the world. The U.S. and its allies may have predicted the fall of the Soviet Union but they had never anticipated the sectarian differences and rise of autocratic political systems in countries like Poland, Hungary, Turkey, and Egypt.

On Immigration and Diversity:

General Powell continued by saying that immigration, this wonderful national identity that America upheld for many years, is now becoming a problem in Europe because they did not prepare for it well and have not done a good job in managing it. And now it has hit the U.S. He urged that the U.S. must sort out what its policy should be with respect to immigration and international students. He warned that the U.S. is on the brink of turning into a country that has become more autocratic than any time in his life time. “We have a President who thinks he knows what he is doing,” he said. General Powell was chagrined by the lack of dialogue between the two political parties. He recalled that during his and Ms. Albright’s respective tenures as Secretary of State, they were able to resolve problems by having members of both political parties communicating with each other. “The Republican party is solidly behind the president no matter what he says or does and the Democrats are trying to figure out what they’re going to do,” he continued.  “Immigration has been the life and soul of America. It is who we are,” he added.  General Powell spoke of his parents who came from Jamaica to America on the banana board in 1920’s. His parents met in New York, married, and led a comfortable life. “I grew up in a diverse multi ethnic neighborhood. Born in Harlem, raised in the Bronx, called Fort Apache. It was called a bad neighborhood, but I loved it. I met every ethnicity of the world in that city block. I loved it.  I learned how to live with people who weren’t just like me, except they were just like me. We are human beings, we are Americans,” he continued.  He emphasized the importance of developing a solid immigration policy one that doesn’t make it difficult for young people to come here to study and doesn’t make it even more difficult for them to stay if they’ve succeeded in getting a solid education.  He feared that these young people’s opinion of the U.S., “once the crown jewel of the world,” will not be looked at the same way again. He said that “this image has been damaged but that America is still a country you can believe in, but that we need to sort ourselves out. It’s not about Make America Great Again, America never stopped being great.”

On Technology and Globalization:

Secretary Albright continued with General Powell’s sentiments and said that the world is counting on a U.S. that demonstrates “normal reactions to the problems going on,” but that is not what the U.S. is currently doing. She spoke about technology, both its positive influences as well as how disruptive it can be.  She said there are two megatrends that we are witnessing that have both positive and negative results. The first megatrend is ‘globalization’ and most of us have benefited from it in one form or another and most of it are the students who were able to travel from their country to another to study and saw themselves as a global citizen. “Being a global citizen is not an insult. But there is a downside to it. Globalization is faceless. People want an identity. We want to know who we are and where we come from.  But if my identity hates your identity, we end up with hyper-nationalism. Which is very dangerous and that is the downsize of globalization,” she said. Another megatrend is ‘technology’ which has great benefits, and she used the example of a Kenyan woman farmer who no longer needed to walk for miles to pay her bills and can do so now by using her mobile phone and even get an education online, or start her own business.  But the negative part of technology is that it “disarticulates voices.” She referred to the Egyptian Uprising of 2011 that was part of the Arab Spring movement, where people in Egypt in January 2011 were summoned to Tahrir Square by Social Media. But once the people gathered at the Square they had no sense of what their organizational system was going to be once they had overthrown President Hosni Mubarak. On the other hand, the Muslim Brotherhood was organized and had been organized for many years. In her opinion, the November 2011 elections in Egypt following uprising were held too soon and this is why the Muslim Brotherhood was able to win the election which caused more disruptions since it wasn’t what the people who had gathered in Tahrir Square had wanted. But the continuous disorganization made it unbearable for the merchants and shopkeepers who

were trying to make a living in the marketplace in a city that was riddled with chaos and disorder. They wanted order which led to Egypt having a military government. She sees what happened in Egypt as an example of why people, during periods of rapid change and disorder, call on autocratic leaders.  She quoted a Silicon Valley individual whose name she had forgotten as having said the following appropriate statement: “People are talking to their governments on 21st century technology, the governments are listening to them on 20th century technology, and are providing 19th century responses.”

On World History, Geography and Culture

Secretary Albright then spoke of the importance of learning and understanding the geography, history and culture of countries in order to help share cultural policy. She said she is known as “multilateral Madeleine,” and that Americans don’t like the word multilateralism that it has “too many syllables and ends with an “ism.” She regards international education and cultural diplomacy and learning about the other as the ultimate aspect of partnership. “We need to understand where we come from and none of that will happen if we decide to see ourselves as victims,” she added.

On Post 9/11 Immigration Policies:

General Powell recalled that in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the U.S. reacted by shutting down the flow of refugees and enforcing stricter visa regulations on international students. No sooner had these regulations been enforced that he began receiving angry calls from university presidents who implored the State Department to ease up on the student visas.  They argued that international students were financially beneficial to U.S. institutions of higher education and helped keep their institutions operational. He said today China has about 400,000 students studying in the U.S. and the current Administration is accusing Chinese students as spying for their government as an excuse to make visa requirements more difficult. General Powell quipped that the U.S. need not worry about Chinese students spying as “there are spies amongst us here.” He blamed TV news and social media as exaggerating events to scare the American people so much so that we cannot have rational intelligent conversations. “They (N. Korea, Iran, China, Russia) are not enemies, but our adversaries. If N. Korea has a nuclear weapon, it wouldn’t use it because it would be assisted suicide. If they were to drop a bomb on a U.S. city, the U.S. would in turn annihilate them,” he said. He found it odd that the current Administration is arguing that Iran is going to build nuclear weapons when this issue was taken care of in the Nuclear Agreement of 2015 which stopped them from further developing their centrifuges. He did not view Russia as a military threat because “it lacks the economic strength to back it up.” As for China, he found this Administration’s fear tactics concerning China baseless in that China is already defeating the U.S. economically and doing so very well. He asked: “Why would they (China) want to attack us, when they have us buying the stuff they make?”

 On Diplomacy:

Secretary Albright stressed the importance of diplomacy but said that “diplomacy means having people who are diplomats and allocating resources to fund the diplomats” and the need to have a State Department that is properly staffed with appointed Ambassadors at their posts in countries around the world. She also stated that the foreign students who come and study here build a network and when they graduate they return home and hold positions in the private or public sector. Some run for political office and some get appointed to be ambassadors of their own countries. She shared that the current Japanese Foreign Minister was her student at the Modern Foreign Government course she teaches. “This is how you build diplomatic relations. The people that you meet at school are people who are going to show up again. It’s an automatic network. Diplomacy works, if you can put yourself in the other person’s shoes. This can be achieved more easily if there is a basis of understanding of each other’s cultures,” she said. “ One could prove the importance of international education by the mere fact that it works. It helps create friendships,” she emphasized.

General Powell recalled that at every post he had held, one thing he learned that has proven effective is the ability to listen to people and talk to people, and not shout at them.  He also mentioned that today, at City College of New York Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership, the institution he had attended as a young adult, 90% of the student body is a minority and 80% were born in another country. “They are going to be great Americans. This is who we are and this is what makes us great,” he said.

On Immigration (Reminder why America is the Land of Immigrants):

Secretary Albright said that she and her parents came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in 1948, Her father had been a Czechoslovak diplomat and she remembers him saying that during WII when they had sought refuge in other countries, people would say “we’re so sorry your country has been taken on by Hitler, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you and when are you going home?” When she and her family came to the U.S. after the communists took over Czechoslovakia, people would say, “we’re so sorry your country has been taken over by a terrible system, you’re welcome here, what can we do to help you and when will you become a citizen?”  That is what made America different from other countries and she felt that this has been forgotten by many Americans. She saw the anti-immigration sentiments of the past two years to America’s detriment. She said that one of her favorite things to do is give people their naturalization certificates. The first time she did it was on July 4, 2000 at Monticello. She overheard one person say: “Can you believe it…I just received my naturalization certificate from the Secretary of State and I’m a refugee!” She went up to him and said: “Can you believe the Secretary of State is a refugee?” She added, “We are great, we don’t need to be great again, we just need someone who understands this about America.”


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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Diploma Mills & Fake Degrees: A billion $$$ industry

May 24th, 2019

According to an article by The Star, a recent report from Akhbar & Associates, a corporate fraud investigation agency, has found that “an estimated one in 20 potential hires in Malaysia has fake qualifications while one in 10 has credentials from unaccredited institutions.”

Many of these individuals are applying for senior management jobs at banks and the health care industry. The investigation agency found that the fake diplomas were purchased by Axact, the diploma mill in Karachi, Pakistan. You can read the full report here

The problem with fake diplomas and credentials from unaccredited institutions is not something new and is also not going away any time soon. ACEI has been covering the epidemic of diploma and accreditation mills in past blogs. In this week’s blog, rather than write more about this topic, we thought you’d prefer watching a documentary Al Jazeera’s program 101 Documentary aired on Axact and how entrenched the problem of diploma mills around the globe.

Don’t fall prey to diploma mills or get duped into accepting a fake diploma. Stay aware! Research! Verify!


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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Greece: Shakeup at the Higher Education Level

May 17th, 2019

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The Greek government recently announced the merging of its technological education institutes (TEIs) into universities. Here are some facts on this merger with a brief overview of the universities and TEIs and the anticipated impact of the merger on Greece’s higher education system:

About the merger:

  • By a vote of 147 in favor and 100 against, Greece’s parliament, passed the new higher education law that allows existing graduates of TEIs to upgrade their degrees to full university qualifications.
  • The new law will allow those employed by the government who are graduates of TEIs to qualify for higher salaries once relegated to university degree holders.
  • Guesstimates claim anywhere up to 400,00 TEI graduates will have their degrees upgraded.

 Here are a few facts on Greece’s higher education system:

  • Prior to the passing of this new law, Greece had 2 sectors of higher education: 1) the university sector; and 2) the technological sector.
  • The university sector encompassed Research Universities, Technical Universities (Polytechneia), School of Fine Arts, and the Open University.
  • The technological sector included Technological Education Institutions (Technologika Ekpedeftika Idrimata/TES) and the School of Pedagogical and Technological Education (ASPETE).
  • Greece has 23 universities and 15 TEIs (including the School of Pedagogical and Technological Education)
  • Minimum academic requirement for admission to the first cycle of undergraduate programs at institutions in the university and technological sectors require the Apolytirio Genikou Lykeiou (secondary school certificate).
  • Institutions in the university sector offer not only undergraduate but postgraduate and doctoral level degree programs.
  • Institutions in the technological sector offer only undergraduate level degree programs.
  • The duration of most Greek university first degree programs is 4 years. There are 5-year degree programs in the following specialties: agriculture, architecture, dentistry, engineering, and veterinary science and 6-year program in medicine.
  • The degree awarded on completion of the university program is the Ptychio and for engineering and agriculture studies it is the Diploma.
  • Completion of a final paper in the 4-year program is not required but it is typically required in the 5-year engineering and agricultural programs.
  • Entrance to the postgraduate programs requires completion of the first degree validated by the Ptychio from either a university or TEI or a university Diploma. Postgraduate programs lead to the award of the Metaptychiako Diploma Eidikefsis (postgraduate diploma or specialization) after 2 years of study and completion of a final paper/thesis.
  • Doctoral level studies usually take 3 to 4 years and require for entrance the Metaptychiako Diploma Eidikefsis. The degree of Didaktor is awarded after defense of the doctoral thesis. In some cases, students may be admitted directly to the doctoral program with a Ptychio or

Here are what critics of the new law are saying:

  • The upgrading of the TEIs to universities will devalue degrees of those who have met stricter admission and program requirements at universities.
  • Some fear that those working for government will want to have their pay enhancements backdated to reflect this upgrade of their degrees.
  • Many are concerned that overnight the mergers have promoted TEI faculty to full university professors.
  • Critics claim that universities and other stakeholders were not included in the discussions about the merger of universities and TEIs which they see as having been forced through by the government.
  • TEIs that have been upgraded to universities have many departments and academic programs that have not been accredited.

 Here is what Kostas Garoglou, Greece’s education minister, has said to counter the criticism:

  • TEI degrees would not be automatically upgraded which are contingent on when the studies were completed, as additional criteria will be established in the next 6 months.
  • TEI faculty who will become university professors could be barred from responsibilities such as supervision of Ph.D. candidates if their experience is deemed insufficient.
  • In some instances, TEI’s research endeavors exceed those of universities.
  • TEIs are mistakenly seen as second-class institutions which Greece’s ministry hopes this merger will help rectify.

We will report back on this evolving new law as more information becomes available.

Sources:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/05/09/change-degrees-greece-criticized-political-not-educational

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/greek-reforms-set-upgrade-thousands-graduates-degrees

https://www.nuffic.nl/en/subjects/education-and-diplomas-greece/


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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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COLOMBIA: Education and Opportunities

May 10th, 2019

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Recently, ACEI’s President & CEO, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, spoke on Colombia’s education system and opportunities for student mobility through its e-learning webinar series. And last week on May 4-5, at the invitation of the Embassy of Colombia in the U.S., ACEI attended the inaugural education fair hosted by the Embassy of Colombia in the U.S. on the campus of University of Illinois, Chicago. Clearly, the Colombian government is keen on reinforcing its connections with the U.S. and forging new relationships with U.S. institutions of higher education. In this week’s blog, we will share some highlights of this webinar.

On November 24, 2016, the Colombian government and the guerilla group known as FARC abbreviation of Spanish Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) signed a final peace agreement officially ending fifty-two years of conflict that had claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced more than 7 million people. The nearly five-decade long internal conflict has had an enormous impact Colombia’s the socio and economic development and education.

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(L) Former Colombian President, Juan Manual Santos shaking hands (R) with Rodigo Londoño, top FARC rebel commander at the signing ceremony of the peace agreement. Photo credit: Fernando Vergara/Associated Press

Over the past two decades the Colombian education system has undergone a fundamental transformation. One of the most visible outcomes is the impressive expansion of access to all levels of education thanks in part to ambitious policies to tackle barriers to enrollment, making higher education affordable, and bringing education services to all parts of the country. In fact, Colombia has made a pledge to become the “most education” country in Latin America by 2025.

Colombia has undergone a silent revolution, undetected by the international community. In just a decade, there has been a sharp rise in student enrollments at all level of the education sector. There was even a 2.1% increase in the number of students traveling from Colombia to the U.S. to study in 2016/2017.

The U.S. is the preferred destination for Colombian students pursuing higher education. And the preferred states are California, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Florida. The fields of studies in most demand are business administration, management, finance, banking, marketing and engineering.

You may ask why is the U.S. preferred over Canada or the United Kingdom? Obviously, is proximity is one reason but most importantly Colombians view studying in the U.S. as enhancing their employment opportunities after graduation when returning back home. Securing a high level position within the government or a prominent national or multinational company is much more difficult without proficient English skills and/or a master’s degree. There is a renewed push by the Colombian government to encourage English bilingualism, student see studying in the U.S. as a chance to improve and strengthen their English skills.

And another reason is that more Colombian businesses are increasing their presence and operation in the U.S. They prefer hiring bilingual Colombians with experience of having lived in the U.S. and who are knowledgeable of U.S. business practices and American culture.

Colombian universities are also interested in having agreements with U.S. universities to offer dual degree programs for their students. The Colombian government’s mandate is that a well-educated Colombian population is vital to the country’s economic growth and global competitiveness.

As the peace process solidifies in Colombia and the country becomes more stable and prosperous, the U.S. higher education institutions are in a good place to look at Colombian institutions and their students to strengthen their exchange programs.

For a link to a recording of ACEI’s e-learning webinar on Colombia that includes additional information on Colombia’s education system, study exchange possibilities, scholarship programs and resources, please email ACEI acei@acei-global.org and include “Colombia: Education & Opportunities” in the subject line.


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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Nashira Eco-Village In Colombia A Matriarchal Example Of Women Empowerment

April 26th, 2019

Commentary: Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Angela Dolmetsh, Ph.D., on Facebook. It turns out that both Angela and I attended the same boarding school in England. Charters Towers School was based in the small sleepy retirement community of Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex. It was an international boarding school for girls and attracted young women from all corners of the world.  Though Angela and I attended CTS at different years, there is an affinity that is shared by us Charterians that transcends time and place. This is one of those intangible positive side effects of having had an international education experience. The connections and friendships made with classmates from diverse cultural backgrounds leave such a memorable and indelible mark that transcends time and one’s place of origin.  Today, thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, many of us have been able to reconnect, stay in touch and hold reunions no matter where our life experiences have taken us or where we live. The young women of CTS have grown to be mothers, grandmothers, teachers, artists, engineers, judges, lawyers, doctors, scientists, and advocates for social justice. Angela’s achievements are impressive, but it was her founding of Nashira, an eco-village in her homeland of Colombia which fosters women empowerment that captured my attention when I first saw her Facebook post. I knew I had to connect with Angela and invited her to share with us the story behind the Nashira project and its positive impact on the lives of the women it has helped and the community. 

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert
President & CEO
ACEI


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Little is known about the economic structure of some pre-Colombian societies, as there are few early written records. Archeologists have been very reluctant to accept that some of these societies could have been matriarchal and practice different economic relationships. The particular culture that I will talk about is the Kansateura culture and the Nashira eco-village a practical example.

In the first century AD in the Cauca River Valley in what is now Colombia, there lived a community that is believed to have adhered to maternal principles and worshipped an earth mother figure and many female deities. The Malagana or Kansaterva culture was only discovered 30 years ago when a sugar cane worker accidentally uncovered a gold figure. He had discovered a remarkable hoard of ceramic and gold artefacts, very different in character from other previously known indigenous cultures in the region. The gold pieces were very fine and experts have recognised their quality by comparing them to objects found in the tomb of Tutankhamun. The ceramics depict mostly female figures and amongst them were alcarrazas or drinking vessels with double spouts with figures of women fiving birth.

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There is a ceramic figure or a woman giving birth seating, probably pregnant and breast feeding at the same time quite distinct from any seen before in other pre-Columbian cultures. Archaeologists believe the Kansaterva culture was matriarchal and worshiped not only the mother earth but also women goddesses capable of fulfilling the functions of mothering and generating the miracle of life giving.

Significantly and symbolically, the eco-village Nashira is located in the same area as the Kansaterva culture.  Nashira is an ambitious project in the Cauca river Valley in Colombia that aims to solve not only the problems of poverty which affect a considerable section of the Colombian population, but also to serve as an environmentally sustainable pilot project for a community where women rule.

In Colombia, 32% of households are headed by women and depend on their work as the main source of income. As a result of the gender structure of Colombian society and high male mortality rates, due to 70 years of civil war, massive displacement of rural communities and endemic violence, women are frequently responsible for the care of the family including the elderly as well as children.

The women of Nashira lived previously in cluttered rooms in rented houses with up to 70 other people and often with only one shared bathroom.

At that time the government required a down payment of 10 per cent of the cost of the house for them to finance the rest, an impossible task for people below the poverty line. For that reason, it was imperative that the land should be free.

An NGO provided a three-hectare piece of land where eighty women heads of families, have developed a happy and sustainable community. The women built their own houses using environmentally friendly parameters. The wall panels were made from materials recycled from previous constructions.

The women of Nashira cultivate staple crops using permaculture techniques, fruit trees flourish in the common areas used by the whole community. Some of the cooking uses solar power and the women proudly collect and recycle organic and inorganic waste from the neighbourhood. The recycled plastic, glass and other inorganic materials are used to make products for their own use.

75 % of Nashira’s households are headed by women as they are the main income earners. All administrative decisions are taken by the women by consensus. The consumption of alcohol is not encouraged and men who have incurred in violent acts against their partners or children have been expelled. There is no crime in Nashira. Violence against women was eradicated as Nashira is a community with open doors, where women support each other and men have developed a new culture of love and respect for women. Childcare and maintaining the ecovillage are tasks, shared through “mingas” or collective work.

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Angela Dolmetsch, Ph.D. received here doctorate from the University College London. Her doctorate thesis is on Women in Colombian Politics. She is the Founder of the Eco-village Nashira. She is a published author and is International Honorary life President of the International Federation of Women Lawyers. She is also the Director and interviewer of the weekly TV program “El Agora” and a columnist of the daily newspaper “El Pais”, Cali,Colombia

angela.dolmetsch@gmail.com

Additional Reading on The Nishira Project Ecovillage:

https://www.permaculture.co.uk/articles/womens-ecovillage-colombia-nashira

https://operationgroundswell.com/past-programs/nashira/

https://ecovillage.org/2018-hildur-jackson-award-extraordinary-project-nashira-ecovillage/

http://gift-economy.com/angela-dolmetsch-nashira/

 Publications by Angela Dolmetsch:

“La otra cara del Dólar”,  (Bogotá: Tercer Mundo, 1985)

“Of Govermnments and Guerrillas” (London: Biddles, 1988)

“El Hombrecillo que se tragó a Dios y otros relatos (Cali: ASOMUCAF, 1999)

In preparation “La Mujer en la Politica en Colombia Contemporanea. Tres experiencias reveladoras”

“Nashira, Las Mujeres Cambiando el Mundo”

NOTE: On May 8th, ACEI will be hosting a FREE webinar on the education system of Colombia and Opportunities for Student Mobility.  Join us!


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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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Do you know BTS?

April 12th, 2019

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BTS – Photo courtesy of Big Hit Entertainment

Have you heard of BTS? No, its not another acronym for an educational credential or yet another new international professional organization.  It stands for Beyond the Scene, the acronym for a boy-band from Korea, but not just any boy-band. ACEI-Global.Blog readers might be surprised to see this post about the K-Pop group BTS.  We do, however, have the pleasure of hearing from our guest blogger, world music connoisseur, Tom Schnabel (former Music Director of KCRW) who, through the help of a huge BTS fan, gives us a glimpse of the world of K-Pop, and BTS, a global musical phenomenon.

The reach of BTS and their music is evidenced in this photo of this Algerian student’s sign at a protest.  The words on his sign are lyrics from a BTS song.  – ACEI

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Rhythm Planet readers might be surprised to see this post about the K-Pop group BTS. I don’t normally cover pop music, but over the past months, BTS has become a global musical phenomenon unlike anything I have ever seen. Yet most people I know still remain oblivious to the group. I’m not a BTS expert, so I’ve asked a huge fan I know to introduce us to the group and explain why we should all get to know BTS. — Tom Schnabel

The seven-member K-Pop group BTS—short for either their Korean name Bangtan Sonyeondan (Bulletproof Boy Scouts) or an English name Beyond the Scene—is currently on the tail end of their Love Yourself world tour, which began in Seoul on August 25, 2018. The sold out tour has so far taken the members through 11 cities across North America and Europe plus 5 cities and counting in Asia. They’ve performed 34 concerts to date in major venues like Citi Field in New York, The O2 Arena in London, and the Tokyo Dome. Their most recent stop at Singapore National Stadium—where they were the first pop group from anywhere ever to perform—drew 45,000 passionate fans. What truly amazed me, however, was that fans from all over the world shared in the excitement and joy of the Singapore concert via more than one million tweets that weekend. It’s just one example of the powerful reach of BTS, and excitingly, they are still on the rise.

I joined the BTS ARMY (as the fans are collectively called) only this past August, when I happened to see an NPR music blog post about their candy-colored music video for the song “Idol.” It had broken YouTube’s record for the most number of views (45 million) within the first 24 hours of a video’s release, yet I had never heard of BTS. I was blown away by the dance moves and liked the song’s positive message. As an Asian American, I was also surprised and delighted that members of an Asian boy band appeared to have become worldwide heartthrobs. I wondered who they were and how they managed to connect with fans from Peru to Turkey, all while singing and rapping primarily in Korean. A YouTube search led me to introductory videos and a staggering amount of official and fan-made content. I quickly noticed—after watching just a few videos and reading some of the comments—that the group had forged a deep connection with fans through its music as well as what the members generously share about their lives via social media.

BTS members have a hand in writing and producing much of their music, and their lyrics often draw from their own experiences. They sing/rap candidly about dreams, doubts, and struggles, reflect on what they’ve achieved, and express satisfaction at overcoming haters who derided them as fluffy pop idols. Their most recent suite of three Love Yourself albums addresses themes of self-love and self-acceptance, and refreshingly to me, no glorification of sex, drugs, or violence is anywhere to be found. BTS’s heartfelt and sincere messages have resonated with its youthful ARMY, inspiring them to persevere in their own struggles and believe in their self-worth. I regularly see fan comments on Youtube and Twitter saying how much the group has helped them through hardship and depression. BTS’s positive influence is all the more important considering that Korea has one of the highest suicide rates of industrialized nations, with a troubling increase in teen suicides.

BTS also tries to create a positive impact on the lives of young people through its philanthropic endeavors. Shortly after the first Love Yourself album was released in fall of 2017, BTS partnered with UNICEF on the #ENDviolence initiative and simultaneously launched its own Love Myself campaign—both with the goal of ending violence against children and teens. The members and their management company collectively donated almost half a million U.S. dollars to the campaign and pledged a percentage of the proceeds from their album sales as well. While passing through New York last September on tour, BTS spoke at the United Nations in support of its UNICEF collaboration. Group leader RM acknowledged their sense of responsibility as role models and urged their fans to find their own voices:

BTS debuted in 2013 under Big Hit Entertainment, one of the smaller management companies in Korea. The seven members—RM, Jin, SUGA, J-Hope, Jimin, V, Jungkook—are currently between 21 and 26 years old. As is normal under the K-pop entertainment system, the members live together dormitory-style beginning from their trainee years. BTS started out in cramped quarters and slept in a single room, and some of the earliest members to join have now lived together for almost a decade. They have overcome hard times and celebrated triumphs together as a team. Not surprisingly, the members consider each other as brothers and BTS as a family. They’ve remarked that something feels off if one of them is away from the group, and their lyrics make frequent reference to the Bangtan brotherhood.

The members’s closeness and rapport shine through in hours of behind-the-scenes footage from rehearsals, dance practice, backstage, and music video shoots, as well as in several reality/variety series (Run BTS!, Bon Voyage, Burn the Stage) that they’ve filmed. Their genuine affection and support for each other only further endears them to an adoring ARMY, myself included. It’s simply charming and joyful to watch the members tease each other, have fun, and goof around like the young men that they are, even as they work extremely hard at their craft. Kudos also to Big Hit, for often prompting the members to think and talk openly about their achievements and fears in the many videos (such as this one) produced for fan consumption. The members express amazement that so many of their dreams have come true, but also struggle with the pressures that come with success. They look ahead to the future, knowing that this ascendance—and their youth and energy—won’t last forever. They speak of enjoying the moment and growing old together with ARMY. I find their emotional maturity and groundedness admirable given their youth and rapid rise.

In fact, ever since their debut in 2013, BTS members have shared their thoughts, feelings, and their everyday lives with fans through social media. There are video logs wherein they talk about anything, live chats on their fan cafe, live video broadcasts, and above all, thousands of tweets from a shared Twitter channel, where they currently have over 18 million followers. All the official online content combined with the group’s social media presence have allowed ARMY to connect with the members as real people rather than as idols on a pedestal—regular guys who still do their own laundry and love to eat instant ramen and Panda Express. By reaching out to their fans so openly and frequently, the members have cultivated a loyal fan base that reciprocates with a fierce love and devotion.

BTS understands how much ARMY contributes to their success, and the members take every opportunity to express their gratitude. The group won Billboard’s Top Social Artist of the Year award at the BBMA’s in both 2017 and 2018 thanks to ARMY’s efforts. ARMYs around the world lobbied hard to get them nominated in 2017, even though many people at the awards didn’t even know who BTS was at the time. Hardworking volunteer ARMY translators provide translations and subtitles for Korean lyrics, tweets, and videos almost instantly, so that international fans can understand in English, Spanish, Japanese, Arabic…you name it. Non-Korean ARMYs memorize the Korean lyrics (and many are learning Korean) so that they can sing along at concerts. They are vigorous defenders against real or perceived slights to the group. They are also quick to embrace anyone who gives the group a chance, because as big as BTS has become, it has yet to fully break into the western mainstream as a K-Pop act. K-Pop is not simply American pop sung in Korean. It is a genre unto itself where music, complex choreography, eye-popping videos, and edgy fashion all play an important role. The guys wear makeup and dye their hair rainbow colors. Language aside, these are not familiar aesthetics for male artists to a western pop audience, and it may still come off kitchy like Gangnam Style.

2018 was a very good year for BTS, with two number one albums on the Billboard 200, a Time magazine cover, not to mention the sold out tour. Their accomplishments on and off the world record charts are too lengthy to list—the word “first” currently appears 85 times on their Wikipedia page. But 2019 might be the year that BTS and K-Pop finally break through to a wider audience. The group was invited to present an award at this year’s Grammys, and they’ll be seated in the second and third rows along with the biggest pop stars in the west. The Recording Academy, which has been under attack for a lack of diversity in the Awards, has surely thought shrewdly about the good visuals offered by the group’s prominent seating. However, I do think they’re acknowledging BTS’s global success, even though it has yet to score a number 1 single on the Billboard 100. I’ll take bets that the ratings will be higher. I know I’ll be watching the Grammys for the first time in over a decade just to cheer the guys on.

In Season 3 of BTS’s Bon Voyage travel series, Jin, the eldest member of the group, goes around Malta jokingly asking random people if they know BTS. He probably won’t need to ask that question much longer. Even if their music isn’t your thing, I hope you’ve come to know BTS as not just “the new One Direction,” but an inspirational bunch of hardworking musicians and dancers who happen to be some of the nicest idols around.

Get to know the individual members of BTS:

The poignant music video for Spring Day, which pays tribute to the victims of the South Korean Sewol ferry tragedy (be sure to turn on English captions if they don’t come on):

A huge thank you to all the ARMY translators and in particular the following whose hard work has allowed me to get to know BTS — @JL_Kdiamond, @btstranslation7@doyou_bangtan, and @BTS_Trans. Cheers! — @brightstars88

[Correction: This post was updated to say BTS has not yet had a number 1 single. Their song Fake Love did make the top 10 on the Billboard 100.]

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Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

 

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