Tag Archives: international education


16 Aug

As the world’s eyes are glued to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Egypt, a few other bits of HREC-worthy news and stories caught my eye. Enjoy, share, discuss:

1) International Education M.A. Alumni share their stories

Because this blog is also dedicated to sharing the stories, struggles and successes of members of our graduate cohort as we emerge into the field of education, I would like to commend those who were featured in NYU Steinhardt’s M.A. Alumni profile section (including HREC’s own Alice Jacques and attendees of the Human Rights and Education Colloquium!). You can read interviews with each alum, detailing their favorite aspects about their new positions as well as what they liked about their recent International Education graduate degree program.

2) INEE Conflict Sensitive Education Pack

This week, the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) launched the highly anticipated Conflict Sensitive Education Pack. According to INEE, “conflict sensitive education refers to the design and delivery of education programs and policies in a way that considers the conflict context and aims to minimize the negative impact (contribution to conflict) and maximize positive impact (contribution to peace).” The CSE pack thus supports the integration of conflict sensitivity in education policies and programs with several tools, including: INEE’s Guidance Note on Conflict Sensitive Education; a Reflection Tool for designing and implementing conflict sensitive education programmes in conflict-affected and fragile contexts; Guiding Principles on integrating conflict sensitivity in education policy and programming; and a number of additional resources. FHI 360 and Save the Children co-hosted the Launch with INEE this Tuesday in Washington D.C. For those who missed out, you can watch the stream of the event.

You can find and download the full CSE Pack on INEE’s Toolkit here.

3) The humanitarian situation in Darfur

While eyes have been turned (justifiably) to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Syria and the surrounding region, the humanitarian situation in the Darfur region of Sudan is the worst it has been in years, with over 300,000 people fleeing their homes in 2013 alone and 3.2 million Sudanese in need of humanitarian assistance. Over the past decade, over 2.3 million people have been displaced by ongoing violence, which in recent years has been fueled primarily by disputes over grazing land and gold-mining. The Sudanese government in Khartoum is both unable and ostensibly unwilling to assist those in Darfur, placing the responsibility to protect (let’s not jump into an R2P debate just yet…) squarely in the hands of the international community, who remains drastically underfunded for the endeavor. Virtually all international NGO staff and aid workers have left Darfur. This deteriorating situation reminds me of the myriad challenges facing the humanitarian community to provide assistance to those in need. When states effectively dismantle international peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts, assistance becomes impossible. I am curious to see whether the same sort of “smuggled aid” that found its way into Syria last year has taken any sort of foothold in Sudan. My guess is no, but does anyone happen to know of other efforts being made to undercut the traditional avenues of assistance provision to help the people of Darfur?

4) How technology is transforming emergency preparedness

In their “Humanitarian Futures” series, OCHA’s IRIN has been producing some great pieces exploring anticipated changes in the aid world likely to unfold over the next decade. This week, IRIN looks at how technology is transforming emergency preparedness around the world. The piece explores how mobile phone technology, geographic information systems (GIS), and other technologies like Twitter are being used to provide early warning systems and routine monitoring in the face of crises. When I began my work in Tanzania as recently as 2009, it seemed that the idea of mobile banking was only in its very nascent stages. When I returned to Uganda just a year later, it seemed that mobile banking, mobile transfers and mass communication systems were burgeoning at a remarkable rate. I am quite interested to see how these technologies continue to be improved and expanded to benefit the largest number of people possible. I like to think the future looks quite bright!

5) Area 51 officially acknowledged

I’m hoping that before long, the Human Rights & Education Collaborative will have to evolve into the Human/Extraterrestrial Rights & Education Collaborative – HEREC…nice ring to it don’t you think?

The students and the educational system Left Behind

28 Feb

When I first imagined a Masters in International Education I thought I was going to compare and analyze different educational systems across the world. I had it all planned out in my mind, I wanted to write my thesis about how U.S. educational system is designed to fail its students through their absurd obsession with standardized testing. Nothing happened like expected and there was no thesis to be written.

A couple of weeks ago two friends brought to my attention two similar articles about the realities and consequences of standardize testing – the unpreparedness of students going to College and how standardize testing hurts children with disabilities. I strongly recommend you to read them.

As a former special education teacher I can confidently say that I was one of those teachers getting low evaluations because my students wouldn’t show a “significant” progress. A certain percent of the entire school special education population had to get above certain score in order for the school- and for us the teachers- to make it to safe heavens. My students were often treated more like numbers and labels rather than capable students. Every progress (personal or academic) they made was often diminished by those absurd standards set up by standardize testing. Subsequently, most of my students, just like the girl from the article, felt incompetent and stupid when taking such tests. Those two weeks of testing were the worst two weeks of the year for them. Their self-confidence was at its lowest and this kind of testing was a perfect trigger for anxiety and panic attacks.

I knew my students well, I knew what they learned and what not, the way they learned better and I know that the ways in which they grew personally and academically could not be measured by a standardized test. Parents, general ed teachers, and students themselves knew and noticed such progress, but the pressure is such that before their eyes the “real deal” was their standardized test score. It was very painful and heartbreaking to see my students go through the entire process. I ended up spending my time teaching to the test (not by choice…) – a set of “skills” that students will actually never use in real life. After teaching for only two years I became bitter and helpless and I left the system disappointed.

I honestly believe that the inclusive education model (and perhaps the entire system) needs to be revised and reformed to better and truly serve our kids. The day our education system stops being so politicized MAYBE that will be the day when we will stop failing our students with disabilities and we might then treat them more as capable human beings rather than just as a label with a price tag. And that absurd obsession with foolish standardize testing and their guidelines and modified tests for kids with disabilities means nothing to them or to their families. It’s a mere bureaucracy and a misuse of time.

I have very strong feelings against standardized testing in general, but when it comes to students with disabilities, I think it’s the most absurd thing!! It’s just a political thing and a huge waste of students’ and teachers’ time. If we look into it, I am pretty sure we can find other ways to measure and assess student achievement and teacher accountability. But then again I guess standardized testing is a multi-million industry…

Taking the leap

17 Jan

It’s funny how a blog, started by a group of Master’s candidates entering into their final semester of grad school, seems to drift off a bit according to the ebb and flow academic calendar, and the inevitable realities that follow its conclusion. Midterms and finals, final papers and campus events, and finally the holidays have left The League somewhat desolate. However, this blog was partially created in an effort for eventual readership by our fellow graduate students so they could get an idea of some of the ups and downs of completing such an intensive program. Here is my two cents thus far.

When your whole life is dominated by school, the sudden dearth of that constant activity is often difficult to replace, especially in a less-than-favorable job market. I feel like the job market for those entering the education field has a lot to offer if you’re open to what it actually HAS to offer. And, like a graduate program, you get out of the job market what you put into it, and that doesn’t just mean filling out applications and writing cover letters. It’s networking – it’s a TON of networking. And you can’t slack off, or you’ll lose the network. Networks in graduate school are very hard work to build, and like many things in life, can be lost in a matter of days. You have to continually prove yourself along the way. You have to make an impact. This process provides far more motivation than undergraduate pursuits I feel, in the sense that you feel personally obligated to make the absolute most of what little time you have to really solidify a network of people to help you, to help in return, and ultimately, to learn from.

That and grad school is expensive as all bloody hell.

So you emerge, reborn into the professional world, born crying in triumph of the start of a new career, or born mourning the loss of comfort in the academic womb. Some of us have already grown up, landed jobs, got our foot in the right door. Some of us are enjoying our neophyte emergence into the post-graduate world, taking it easy (in California we would say “chillin”), harkening back to a time when we had a few free hours to squeeze in a little fiction (I started the revived privilege off with one of my mom’s favorites – and yes it took seeing the film adaptation for me to read it – Life of Pi. Incredible!). Regardless, all of us remain in touch, which shows that we all networked at least within our cohort. Does that count?

We have one thing in common: we are all feasting our eyes on a world drenched in new perspective and dripping with insight we never considered possible. Critically analyzing the world around us day in and day out left our brains craving more out of life, more out of what is right in front of us, more out of what lies ahead. We relish the abundance of information and resources still swimming all around us in this extraordinary and mind-bending city. Some of us are trying to settle in, some of us are trying to fly as far away as possible, but for now we are all here.

Hopefully this blog will be able to successfully track some of our transitions, from these nascent stages of post-academia to whatever comes next. For now, I am continuing my work in New York in finance and grants management with the Development Research Institute, Africa House, and the Center for Technology and Economic Development (based in Abu Dhabi). Managing the expenses of these three research institutes keeps me locked in a comfortable university setting, and allows me to engage in and support the work of William Easterly, one of my initial inspirations for applying to this school in the first place. The work certainly has its rewards, but my wanderlust and personal drive to maximize my potential will soon send me packing, off to take yet another leap into the unknown.

Hopefully I can leap to warmer weather. More to come.

Always expect the unexpected

20 Dec

When I envisioned a Master’s program in International Education, I imagined studying comparative education across different countries.  But to my surprise a Masters in International Education meant different things to different people. The program at our school was not perfect, in fact it was far from being perfect; however, there was structure, mentoring and logic (sometimes) behind it and to some extent that’s all we needed. I think many of us started the program having more or less an idea of what we wanted to get out of it while some others knew exactly what they wanted right from the beginning. Whatever the case was, I’m certain we have found our way and purpose throughout the course of the program. In my case, I only knew I wanted to do something in the area of Inclusive Education, not quite sure exactly what. After taking a Politics, Conflict and Education class it became clear to me what I wanted to do and in what direction I wanted to go.

We have also found each other in this journey. I don’t think anyone came looking for “new friends”, certainly not me. Life happens and it’s inevitable not to get attached to people especially after spending long hours working on projects together, bouncing ideas off each other, starting a blog together, organizing a student-led human rights colloquium, helping each other with the job search, proof reading each others’ documents, crying out of stress to each other, helping one another move from one tiny apartment to another tiny apartment, traveling to CIES in Puerto Rico together and celebrating both our achievements and misfortunes. We have become good friends.

We have also found our own unique way to network in both social and academic ways. I argue that I’m not good at the latter, but I’ve learned and found my ways. The art of networking doesn’t come easy to everyone (me) and it is exhausting!  It took me a while to realize that it’s okay to send an email to a complete stranger asking for an informational interview and to send one or two reminders to the same person if you haven’t heard back. At the end of the day you have nothing to lose, so why not try. In my (short) experience I found out that the key to all networking situations you might encounter is 1) to be yourself-don’t overdo it 2) to be clear about your goals and purpose and 3) to be straightforward – don’t circle around and waste people’s time.

Throughout the program the writing process gets easier. At least for me the writing process had always been difficult. Sometimes my brain thinks in Spanish while trying to write in English and/or vice versa. It can be very confusing and frustrating, but I can say that after all the practice, the readings, friends tips and a copy of English Grammar for Dummies my writing has considerably improved. Also, throughout the program the reasoning process becomes harder and more analytical. The moral, logical and ethical become a paradox and seem to get farther away from reality.

Professors came and go throughout the semester/s and some were more willing and responsive than others. It takes one Professor to make a difference and in our case it was Professor B. who made that difference. She made an impact on many of us during our first semester by giving us the motivation many of us where looking for after a totally confusing and unexpected first semester. She became our mentor and inspired us in one way or another.

This cycle has come to an end and many things didn’t go as I expected, but that’s what life is all about- isn’t it? We have to make of it what we want with what we have. Despite the struggles and differences we had with the program design we took it upon ourselves to make it what we wanted to. We spoke up, we came together, we created and we took control over the direction of our education. I found my puzzle piece that fits well with my meaning of MA in International Education and I know what direction I want to go about.

I face uncertainty in terms of the near future, it’s scary and stressing at times, but I feel confident that I’m prepared as I have the skills, the drive and the support to succeed out there in the “real world”.  I have done it once, I can do it twice.

Can’t wait for life to happen and cross paths someday somewhere with my fellow classmates/my good friends.