Tag Archives: educational curriculum

Intensive English Programs (IEPs) Are in Trouble Again

July 28th, 2016


Once again, we find ourselves in very challenging times for intensive English language programs in the US. These enrollment valleys occur once every ten years or so. One can cite a variety of reasons for the declining enrollments; however, the primary one is the decline in Saudi Arabian scholarship students. Other factors at play are the dollar, the “Trump card,” the Brazilian scholar program, the lousy world economy, more world competition (e.g. English in Malaysia), and some might even include “global warming” on their list of causes. But the primary cause of the situation we’re in today, the Saudi student decline, was certainly predictable. It was not a matter of “if,” but “when.”Along with the tremendous influx of Saudi students since 2005 came more IEP school openings. IEPs barely had to lift a finger to fill their seats thanks to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. There was really no reason to allocate resources to prime the pump of other potentially lucrative future international student markets. I am sure a few of the IEPs continued to cast their sales net far and wide and were able to groom some potentially new emerging markets; however, I suspect most did not. Life was good, so why make the effort?

Not the first IEP enrollment crisis, not the last

These major “market disruptors” such as the Saudi student decline occur about every decade for IEPs. For other examples, we can look back to the oil crisis of 1974, the huge Venezuelan scholarship program of the mid 1970s that saw a sudden end, and the Iranian take over of the American Embassy in 1979, as well as the 1997 Asian financial crisis and 9/11. In addition to these major market disruptors, there were minor ones such as periodic foreign government fiscal controls on travel abroad, major currency devaluations (or stronger dollar), Europeans no longer able to quit their jobs to study abroad and easily return home to better jobs (Switzerland in particular), and military conflicts, just to name a few.

So, here we are in this mess today with declining enrollments, instructors being laid off, administrators being placed in classrooms, program levels being combined (out of financial necessity), and IEPs closing (more by the end of the 2016). And then there is the possible impact on international education if Donald Trump becomes our next president, or a disruptor of some sort occurring in the People’s Republic of China, either of which would bring further hardship to IEPs.

How to survive the Saudi slump

There are few short-term solutions to getting us out of this mess. If the student numbers do not turn around soon, there will be an increasing number of IEP closures resulting in fewer IEPs, providing some enrollment growth among the remaining IEPs. Yes—you are all competing in the same markets for the same students with few exceptions. You are all friends, but you are also friendly competitors.

Those IEPs that are able to survive the carnage will be those that are best able to manage their expenses throughout this period. That is how they will survive. I say this because developing new markets is costly, time consuming and requires skill sets that might no longer be available at the IEPs. This is especially true since those IEPs that do survive into the fall of 2016 will have eliminated many administrative positions.

A common marketing mistake of many college/university IEPs is that they look to the “big name” schools to set the standards for recruitment. “Big name” schools do not require the same aggressive marketing efforts as those IEPs on lesser known campuses. So, if you are one of the “small name” schools, you need to be very creative and very aggressive in the ways you market your IEP program. You have to put the students first. For instance, if you have a program schedule designed to meet the schedule of your college/university instead of a schedule most convenient for your prospective students, well, need I say more?

Recruiting: an ongoing project

IEPs may sometimes forget that the sales effort does not end with receiving a student application. Special efforts need to be put forth to ensure that the student applicant will actually arrive and enroll for classes. And the sales effort continues. As you know, the student can easily pick up and transfer to another IEP if he or she becomes unhappy with yours. Regular blind student surveys will certainly go a long way to help you identify and rectify reasons behind unhappy student customers. When I think of the IEP program, I think in terms of 24/7. IEPs which do not accept 24/7 responsibility will be those programs which lose students to the IEPs which do think in 24/7 terms.

The surviving IEPs will be those that are customer centric and have carefully studied market conditions resulting in knowledge that will help them finely tune their sales efforts. They will need to be able to identify new potential markets utilizing recent US government visa statistics that are not readily available to the general public. Using student statistics such as those found in Open Doors can easily lead you astray. You need to know where the student activity is today, not where it was one or two years ago. A shotgun sales method will not yield the results you are looking for. Also, if you are not working with very qualified and carefully screened productive agents in key countries around the world, you will have great difficulty recovering from this downturn.

So, do your homework, target your promotion, keep your expenses in line with your revenue, work with good referral agents with whom you communicate by Skype once a month, and you will be around when the dust finally settles. And, yes, it will settle as new markets and new opportunities begin to appear on your radar.

See this article as it originally appeared on iTEP Chairman Perry Akins’ LinkedIn page. Follow iTEP on LinkedIn

Perry Akins

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Top Mindfulness in School Resources

October 2nd, 2015

It’s a new school year and I’m excited about all of the momentum building to support mindfulness in schools at all ages. Here is a shortlist of favorite resources and programs available now to foster social-emotional intelligence, resilience and overall wellness in school communities.


Mindfulness for Teachers: Simple Skills for Peace and Productivity in the Classroom
By Patricia A. Jennings

I’ve been following Tish’s work for years and never ceases to inspire with her heart for real learning and mind for good research. Want to stay current on what’s happening in mindfulness? Follow Tish. Want to start the new year in support of mindfulness in your child’s classroom? Give their teachers this book.


Wisdom Within
By Alison Morgan

For my son’s 4th birthday, this was the party favor. Great for young children and old, this book issues a powerful reminder of the power of listening to and trusting our inner guidance. A wonderful addition to pre-k and elementary classrooms.


Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids and their Parents
By Eline Snel

My son’s teachers had this book on display during their mindfulness month at pre-school. I found it simple, refreshing and practical. This book will give you lots of solid ideas to integrate mindfulness in your after school hours.


Mindful Schools

For teachers ready to take the plunge deeper into the world and practices of mindfulness, Mindful Schools offers online and in-person courses for adults to learn mindfulness and use it with youth. This program is comprehensive and supported by quality research. Let your teachers know this is a possibility for them!


Shanti Generation’s Partner Yoga for Teens ONLINE

With our new streaming service, Partner Yoga for Teens is now online for teachers to access resources designed to complement and bolster mindful practice in the classroom. Our first set of online content, Partner Yoga for Teens, is available for educational licensing to schools to integrate into existing mindfulness programs, or to begin to plant the seeds of mindfulness.


Mindful Life Skills for the Classroom

Stay tuned for Shanti Generation’s NEW mindfulness program that offers teachers a myriad of practical, simple ways of integrating mindfulness into every day. We have chosen the best and simplest of what works in mindfulness for youth and tailored the practices to meet the needs of the classroom. We are putting the finishing touches on the project now.

Sign up for our newsletter to stay informed. We will let you know as soon as it is available and we’ll send you a Mindful Educator’s Toolkit including video and audio segments you can use now.

Abby Wills

Abby Wills, MA, E-RYT

Shanti Generation, Co-Founder, Program Director

Abby brings her passion for developmental education and deep respect for the tradition of yoga to her work guiding youth and teachers in contemplative arts. Abby’s approach is informed by studies in social justice and democratic education at Pacific Oaks College, as well as two decades of training in yoga.

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Rewriting History, One Textbook At A Time

November 20th, 2014

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” George Orwell

There is an epidemic and it is sweeping across continents, again. I’m not speaking of an infectious disease that is rapidly spreading and infecting a large swath of the population. I am speaking of a different kind of an epidemic that has happened before and is happening again. It’s target: school textbooks.

Recently in Russia, a purge has started where hundreds of textbooks that for many years have been used by the schoolchildren and their teachers at the country’s 43,000 schools have been scrapped and deemed unsuitable. The reasons given have been a series of bureaucratic nitpicking mixed with accusations of unpatriotic content. Not only has this rash ban on textbooks by the Ministry of Education and Science upset curriculum and lesson plans, angered principals, teachers and parents, but is also threatening the livelihood of the small publishers for the textbook market. The purge, however, appears to have cleared the way for Enlightenment–a publishing house that used to be the sole provider of school textbooks during the Soviet era–whose CEO is a close friend of Mr. Putin, Russia’s President. To get an idea of how Enlightenment, ended up in such a cushy position, please read the article by Jo Becker and Steven Lee Myers in the New York Times. Now that the power of textbook publishing rests in the hands of a publisher with ties to the former Soviet era and the country’s current ruling powers, one is apt to expect that the content of history textbooks will soon be revised to meet the political views of those in charge today.

Next, we head over to China, where education officials are thinking of changing elementary and middle school textbooks to include more subjects on Chinese philosophy and literature in an effort to emphasize China’s cultural heritage. If the Ministry of Education approves these changes, they would go into effect next September in time for the new school year. What is unclear is if these changes are approved which components of the existing curricula will be dropped to make room for the new subjects? Are there any qualified teachers in China who are available to teach the traditional Chinese language and literature? The young teachers today were educated under the influence of Chinese Communism. Most of the experienced teachers with knowledge of these traditional subjects are long gone. How will these subjects be taught in today’s modern China?

Moving on to Japan and South Korea, we see their respective Prime Minister and President, each pushing to have high school history textbooks rewritten to reflect their political views. The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe has instructed the country’s Ministry of Education to revise the textbooks so that they are more patriotic and no longer include Japan’s atrocities during WWII. The South Korean, President, Ms. Park Geun-hye, wishes to downplay and do away with Korea’s history of collaboration with the Japanese colonial authorities and have the textbooks rewritten so that Koreans are seen as having been coerced into collaboration rather than having done so willingly. Much of this push has to do with the fact that a majority of South Korea’s professionals and elite members of the civil service come from families that did in fact collaborate with the Japanese colonizers.

And, right here in the USA, we recently heard news of students and teachers in Jefferson County, Colorado, protesting a controversial conservative plan to change the AP U.S. History curriculum to stress more positive elements and “promote patriotism and avoid encouragement of civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.” The students, their parents and teachers opposing the proposed changes see them as censorship and an attempt by the conservative board to rewrite history in accordance to its own political views.

I’m sure by now you see the common thread amongst the sampling of countries mentioned in this blog. There’s no better way to sum this up but with this quote from “The Lost Sisterhood,” by the writer Anne Fortier: “He always says that those who control the present can rewrite the past.”


The Frustrated Evaluator


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Turning Our Back On Education: Way to go America!

March 8, 2012

St. William Elementary School Olympic Week- Art & Culture Day

In a recent NYT article “Where the Jobs Are, The Training May Not Be,” Catherine Rampell reports that even though technical, engineering and health care specialists are in great demand in today’s weak job market, these fields happen to be the most expensive subjects to teach. “As a result, state colleges in Nebraska, Nevada, South Dakota, Colorado, Michigan, Florida, and Texas have eliminated entire engineering and computer science departments.” The situation is so dire that Ms. Rampell writes: “At one community college in North Carolina –a state with a severe nursing shortage—nursing program applicants so outnumber available slots that there is a waiting list just to get on the waiting list.”

Why is this happening? For the past twenty-five years, the states have withdrawn from higher education and slashed financing for colleges during and immediately after the last few recessions. And even when the economy did recover, the states never restored the money that had been cut from education and now with the current recession the problem has been amplified.

According to Ronald G. Ehrenberg, the director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute and a trustee of the State University of New York System: “There has been a shift from the belief that we as a nation benefit from higher education, to a belief that it’s the people receiving the education who primarily benefit and so they should foot the bill.” Really? Is this what we’ve become as a people and as a nation? So the nurse graduate who received four years of education and practices as a registered nurse is the sole beneficiary of her education? What about the patients whom she tends to and the medical centers which use her services? Don’t they too benefit? How can we be so crass as to think that all that we do is for our own benefit and has absolutely no impact or ramification on the people around us, the community, the environment, the world? How dare we operate from such an ego-centric mindset?

In fact economists have found that higher education benefits communities even more than the individual with the degree. Let’s not forget the G.I. Bill which helped bankroll the college education of Americans following the post- World War II economic boom. An educated people help the economy grow faster and foster a more stable democracy and aid the neediest workers. By cutting funds, states reduce the ability for the poor to receive an education and more training to prepare them for skilled labor. They also limit access to the field such as sciences, engineering and health care that are most important to economic and job growth.

As an educator and one who deals with domestic and international students, I am dumbfounded as to how our country turns its back on these key educational programs. President Obama speaks for keeping America on the forefront of science and engineering so that we can remain competitive with the rest of the world, yet at the same time funding is taken away from the very programs that will train and nurture future scientists, engineers and health practitioners. What does this mean? It means that US would have to recruit its scientists, engineers, nurses and doctors from overseas, diminishing the chances of US students from pursuing studies in these fields and ultimately finding gainful employment.

So the next time xenophobia kicks in, and angry fingers are pointed at skilled and educated professionals immigrating to the US who’re filling engineering and health care positions, best we take a good look in the mirror. The problem is not “them” but “us” and our collective attitude and diminished respect for education and the teaching profession.

The Frustrated Evaluator


Filed under Education

Math on my Mind

February 24, 2012

The Never Ending Math Problem

After hearing friends rave about a new TV series called “Touch”, I finally broke down and watched the pilot on VOD. The series is about a man who lost his wife in the World Trade Center attacks and is left to take care of his emotionally-challenged eleven-year old boy who has a gift with numbers. The young boy is a mathematics genius and is able to see the interconnectivity of life and people through numbers and can predict events. Watching this series made me think of my own personal relationship with the subject of mathematics. While I relished solving word problems in crossword puzzles or writing stories, It had a difficult relationship with mathematics. What is it with mathematics?

In a study released in 2008 by the American Mathematical Society, it was determined that the USA has fallen behind in math education of both girls and boys. Much of the disinterest in mathematics appears to be cultural. According to the study, it is not part of the American culture to value talent in mathematics and this cultural mindset discourages boys and girls from excelling in the field. In fact the study showed that the boys and girls, especially girls who seemed to excel in math competitions in US schools were children of families recently immigrated to the U.S. from countries such as Russia, Romania, China, S. Korea, where the teaching of mathematics and its importance is a key component of those countries’ educational curriculum.

In my family, education has been first and foremost. I had the privilege of attending private schools in Iran and England, and here in the US. But I always feared mathematics, it was the least favorite of my subjects. I envied those classmates who seemed to just get it. For them solving mathematical equations was as easy as 2+2. Yet, I struggled. I avoided a math course in college by majoring in Political Science. But when I set my sights to grad school for an MBA, the dreaded GMAT with its math component sent me running to my uncle, a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and a professor in mathematics, for intensive tutoring. Watching him solve the math problems on the GMAT test samples was like watching a master painter at work with his paintbrushes. It seemed so effortless and natural. He would chuckle at the problems and nod his head at their simplicity while I looked on enviously.

Why can’t we all benefit from the beauty of mathematics? Why can’t we all experience the same joy felt by those who get it? Is it cultural? Fearing to be labeled as nerds and ostracized at school, boys and girls almost intentionally avoid or dismiss math preventing any chance of excelling in the subject. Have we placed stigmas on math? We’ve all heard comments like “math is hard,” or “only boys are good at math,” and the best one of all “you’ll never use math in real life.”

In the TV series “Touch,” the little boy doesn’t speak, yet he communicates through numbers. Mathematics is a language and like any language we need to learn it at a very early age and we need to make it fun and interesting and relevant. Imagine how enriched our lives would be if we were able to see the interconnectivity of all life form, a gift that words alone do not accomplish, but with a little help from mathematics, we could see the world with a new perspective.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert

President & CEO of Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI)


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