... in education

Tiger mothers without claws

07 Sep 2012 | 207 words | education mediocrity netherlands

One of the most annoying aspects of the Netherlands is the profound love this society has for all things mediocre. this expresses itself in a large number of proverbs that warn against being not normal or raising your head above the ground-level.

One of the most unfortunate results of this cultural trait is what is known as ‘zesjescultuur‘ referring to the 6 points out of 10 that you need to score in an exam to pass, which are generally considered to be the optimum result of an exam since achieving any more points would require more work (and result in an undesirable deviation from the norm).

To me it is one of the big mysteries of this country how it can be that pretty much everyone agrees that the ‘zesjescultuur’ is bad and shameful and still nothing seems to change. Yesterday while sitting in a coffee shop (the starbucks type) i noticed this cover of the weekend women’s insert of the Telegraaf daily wihc effetively eradicates all hope that this will ever change:

Turns out that all the Tiger-mothers of the Netherlands aim for is that their kids score ‘better than a 6’. Guess it is time for some kind of ‘real tiger mothers’ stamp of approval…

Computer Science is the Science of the Future [and more pics from Cuba]

07 Dec 2008 | 333 words | future cuba photos technology education

So i finally finished uploading my pictures from cuba to flickr [see here and here]. among them is one more series that deserves special attention. it consists of a number of photos of an abandonened boarding school building that we found along the road from Bayamo to Las Tunas in eastern Cuba. The soviet-style prefabricated builing stands at a stark contrast with the surrounding countryside. When we first stopped there we had no idea what the building was. While exploring the building it became clear that it used to house a boarding school (there is a former boarding school head’s office next to the former communist party of cuba’s office) on the first floor of one of the wings.

I would guess that the building stands empty for at least 5 years or so. Based on this it is in remarkably good condition: Everything that can be reused (such as the window panes or the threads of the second staircase) has been taken away, but for the rest the building is remarkable clean and the walls are still covered with propaganda slogans promising support for Fidel, Raúl & the Revolution.

Most interesting were a number of rooms that seem to have been used as computer science labs. There are two rooms in the vast building that have inscriptions in a programming language (basic?) painted on the walls: In one – otherwise empty – room the inscription on the wall reads:

INPUT [“mensaje”] , PRINT [] OPEN “dispositivo:nombre” FOR AS [see picture here]

and in another room the inscriptions on the wall read:

PRINT [] DIM , INPUT [“mensaje”] , IF-THEN-ELSE IF THEN [else ] [see picture here]

Another wall in the same room also has ‘La Computacion es la ciencia del futuro’ (‘Computer science is the science of the future’) written on on it. What has obviously been intended as a motivational slogan for the pupils now stands in an almost absurd contrast with the surroundings. Guess the future happens elsewhere these days…

Victory of the weak....

20 Oct 2006 | 394 words | migration netherlands education policy xenophobia

It is not very often that those who are supposed to be the weakest members of a social group manage to slip through policies designed to exclude them from resources. Apparently though, this seems to be what is happening in the case of the stupid language tests that the Dutch government has imposed on would-be immigrants a while back. To recap, would-be immigrants have to do a basic dutch language test in their countries of origin before they get permission to come to the Netherlands even if they do qualify for a residence permit. Now these language tests are pretty basic and fully computerized and they are clearly designed to weed-out immigrants with lower education so that only ‘desirable highly-educated’ immigrants are let into the Netherlands.

Now apparently this policy is a complete failure. i recently talked to a couple of civil servants from the city of Amsterdam and they told me that the whole system does not work at all: According to them it is the low-skilled, lower educated immigrants who pass this language test and the high-skilled, highly-educated would-be immigrants who miserably fail to do so. Of course this was not really satisfactory from the view of the sick bureaucrats who came up with this stupid idea in the first place and consequently they ordered some research into this issue:

So it appears that people with relatively low education have ‘auditive memory‘ and are good in ‘instructive learning‘ while people with higher education levels seem to have predominatly ‘visual memory‘ and engage in ‘experimental learning‘.

What this comes down to, is that people with lower education are better at remembering phrases thrown at them and repeat them to a computer than people with higher education who do seem to get lost in this simple procedure partly because they get offended by the setup. The result is, that non-western people (of course in good old apartheid-style white western people do not have to take this test) with higher education currently seem to have an extremely hard time getting into this little arrogant country. Now this is not to the liking of those who came up with this system and those civil servants i talked to (who did not come up with this system) were pretty sure that within the next 6 months this policy will get canned. Let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: