SAT Exam: A Tool for an Objective and Standardized Method in College Admissions

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The SAT has been a staple of the college application process ever since it was introduced at Harvard almost a hundred years ago. It’s no wonder then, that with more students attending college than ever before, more high school students are taking the SAT than ever before as well. The importance of a college degree has continued to increase, and with it, the meteoric rise of the SAT as a tool used in college admissions. The SAT exam provides colleges with a (supposedly) objective and standardized method of measuring students’ potential and fit for each particular institution, after all.

Many factors contribute to the rise of the SAT besides the rise of the college degree. In fact, now that many states require students to sit for the exam and the College Board provides free testing in school, students almost have no excuse not to take the SAT. While many colleges and universities have switched to being “test optional,” this hasn’t deterred students from taking the exam in the slightest. Why? Well, how many times does optional really mean optional?

In 2019, more than 2.2 million students took the SAT.  In 2020, this number is expected to increase, especially given that the SAT will most likely have to be administered online due to the current COVID-19 pandemic that will prevent traditional testing to take place. While the College Board has come under fire  many times before because of its discriminatory and class-biased approach to the exam, unintentional or not, the number of students taking the test has continued to rise. Of course, the number of students taking the ACT has continued to rise as well.

Testing is simply a cemented part of the college admissions process by now, one that does not seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. With the College Board’s partnerships with state governments in Idaho, Delaware, Maine, and the District of Columbia, students are sure to be taking the exam in these states at the very least, despite any bad press that the College Board might face. Even if it is flawed, the exam still presents a levelheaded way for colleges to evaluate students, especially given all of the different components that go into the admissions decision.

Beyond that, the College Board has made efforts to support low-income and first-generation students with more access to fee waivers, free preparatory modules online through Khan Academy, and the addition of “Landscape” which provides colleges with context about the applicant’s neighborhood, socioeconomic status, and school, in order to promote fairer admissions. The College Board’s sincere efforts have paid off, with more students now taking the test than ever. But the narrative of higher education being accessible to the rich and white has not been dispelled. Even so, students all over are rallying to take, and achieve high, on the SAT.

In Queens, New York, three brothers are helping these students achieve their desired SAT scores. With branches in both Jackson Heights and Jamaica, the brothers running Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center are ensuring that their students make it to the finish line. Additionally, Bobby-Tariq now provides live-online SAT Prep so students can prep from wherever they want.

With a comprehensive BEAST curriculum, also known as Bobby’s Beast, that was cherry picked by founder and CEO Kukhon Uddin Bobby and his brothers President Tariq Hussain and Vice President Sakib Hussain, students at Bobby-Tariq are given the most up to date, realistic materials to base their studying on. Bobby, Tariq, and Sakib know that the SAT is not an exam that measures intelligence. It’s an exam that measures motivation, grit, and dedication.

In fact, it was famous psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth who coined the term “grit” which means sticking with something until you master it. This is the type of attitude that Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center aims to instill within its students. Not only do tutors provide top quality material and explanations to their students, they also provide motivational speeches and insight that contribute greatly to their exams scores.

“We know the SAT is not an easy test. More than 900,000 students score below national average, so we are here to help students all around the nation. As a matter of fact, we are officially launching live-online SAT Prep in 2020 to provide access to affordable and quality SAT prep to those in need,” said CEO Bobby.

More students are taking the SAT now than ever, and this means that students should aim to score higher in order to set themselves apart. “We train our students with the shortcut strategies to hack hard math, the grammar rules that show up without fail, and other nifty ticks and trips that make their lives so much easier,” said Vice President Sakib.

“You might not think so, but the insight that we provide our students with goes a long way,” said President Tariq. “So much of what they’re doing is new and foreign to them. So much of it is challenging and at times, they want to give up. We acknowledge that and push them to go above and beyond. And it works.”

Students at Bobby-Tariq Tutoring Center know the SAT is not an easy test and worry they may not find success. But without fail, these students have scored within the top 5% of all test takers for the last ten years. If there’s a secret to the SAT, these three brothers have mastered it. 

Current Trends in Educational Technology – Ready to Disrupt the Educational Field

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Technology often disrupts established fields, but there’s a common misunderstanding as to how that happens. People often think that the technologies that are transforming our world today were created recently, but the nature of technological development makes that proposition unlikely.

In most cases, new technologies are clunky, expensive, and hard to implement — which is why they start with a small user base and remain in that state for a while until the required leaps are made. Only then does a new technology gain mass appeal and start being adopted on a large scale. In other words, it’s only at this stage that a technology becomes capable of truly disrupting a field.

Take your phone’s screen as an example. It may feel like touch screen technology was invented and made popular by the 2009 iPhone, or maybe you think it was created for and popularized by the PDAs that were around in the 90s and early 2000s. But in truth, touch screen technology was invented in the 1960s. The HP-150 computer had touch-screen support — it was launched in 1983.

The reasons why those early renditions of the touch screen failed to realize the technology’s potential were due in large part to technical problems. The HP-150, for example, relied on a grid of infrared beams to detect touches on its screen. But the infrared sensors would collect dust, and required constant cleaning as a result.

Why bring all of this up? Well, it’s simple. For the past few years, a lot of interesting applications of education technology have been in the “collecting dust in the sensors” stage. They were clunky, expensive, and hard to implement; they looked bad and frustrated users. However, many of those new educational tools and ideas are now ready to be mass implemented and disrupt the educational field.

The Jill Watson case

Let’s consider a simple example: chatbots. You have likely already dealt with one of those. A lot of companies have started implementing chatbots as part of their customer experience efforts, and chatbots can now do everything from helping customers browse catalogs to setting appointments and even holding conversations.

Colleges have also started making use of chatbots. Back in 2016, Georgia Tech professor Ashok Goel used IBM’s Watson AI to build Jill Watson — a chatbot teacher assistant. The bot was trained using data from the course’s forum, and for one semester, Jill helped students with their routine questions and requests on the course forum. The best part was that the students didn’t even realize Jill was a bot, and she was helping computer science majors.

Jill is still active today. According to the Georgia Tech website, “Soon Jill will be able to answer about 40 percent of the 10,000 questions students ask each semester. And she doesn’t even need coffee breaks.”

Georgia Tech calls Jill an “artificially intelligent teacher assistant.” Other sources call her a chatbot. The truth is the line between the two is blurry in cases like this, especially when you throw machine learning into the mix. Regardless of what you call it, the result is that we are ever closer to creating an automated general learning assistance solution—one that can be customized and adapts to individual students’ needs.

This will result in software like Jill being present in every student’s phone and forum, helping people learn faster, more effectively, and in a more self-sufficient manner. It will be a personal digital tutor serving students content, grading essays—yes, bots can already do that—and overall, making students’ and teachers’ lives easier.

The rise of massive education

Before the printing press, each book had to be copied by hand. The cost in time and materials, combined with the technical knowledge needed to copy books, meant that books were expensive luxury goods for most of human history. But then came the printing press, and we went from awkwardly copying books page by page to mass-producing books by the truckload in a matter of weeks. Technology made the written word more accessible than it had ever been before.

College lectures are already undergoing the same type of revolution. Earlier, the only way to see a lecture was to be physically present in the room and witness the lecture being executed in front of you.

As cameras became cheaper and video storage tools more reliable, the rise of long-distance and correspondence courses gave us an inkling of what a future with mass-produced education could look like. However, mail was clunky, slow, and often unreliable. Those were still the early days of massive long-distance education.

In the present, those initial problems have been solved thanks to cloud storage, cloud computing, and streaming technologies. This is what made EdX possible.

EdX is a massive open online course (MOOC) provider launched in 2012. The platform is the result of a partnership between Harvard and MIT. Their approach is simple: every single course is open and free, and the curriculums are organized around weekly video lessons that are followed up with activities to help students review and deepen their understanding of the lecture. If you complete a free course, you can pay a fee to get a certified EdX accreditation.

As of 2018, EdX has served 18 million students through two thousand university-level online courses. In the same year, an estimated 20 million students were attending university in the US.

Right now, this form of education is an alternative to traditional learning. But when will it become a partial replacement? With the rise of video technology, making professors deliver the same lectures every semester is no longer necessary. It makes a lot more sense to simply record the semester’s lectures, edit them together, and then let students watch those lectures on their own time, at their own pace — which is what EdX allows.

Professors will then be responsible for updating the videos when needed. They will be able to dedicate the rest of their time to answering questions and helping students.

The personal benefits

The rise of mass video tools and AI teacher assistants will mean a surge in students’ ability to learn independently. This freedom will benefit college students while at university and post-graduation. After all, careers today require almost constant learning of new technologies, and the independent study skills students learn at EdX will help them as they continue their real-world studying. In addition to career benefits, constant study has also been linked to longevity and increased mental health.

Right now, we have to search and find information. The next step is having information come to us when we need it and at a manageable pace. While we wait for such tools to gain mass appeal, you can get young students’ attention using more traditional methods, such as math worksheets.

College Financing Avenues Available for Students with Disabilities

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College is usually one of the biggest expenses a person can face; however, it is an investment in their future and a way to achieve their goals. Importantly, college can even be more expensive for people with disabilities.

In many cases, accommodations to make their classrooms accessible have to be paid by the student. Furthermore, medical bills also take a toll on their finances, with higher costs than average, and their transportation needs can be more expensive than other students. Therefore, students with disabilities should be as well informed as possible about the options they have when it comes to funding.

Here, some of these options are presented, in the hope that students with disabilities can learn more about the resources available to them.

Scholarships

Students with disabilities should get information about the many scholarship options available to them.

Some of these are:

  • AAHD Frederick J. Krause Scholarship on Health and Disability.
  • Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (AG Bell) College Scholarship Program.
  • Google Lime Scholarship Program.
  • Baer Reintegration Scholarship.
  • Flora Marie Jenkins Memorial Disability Scholarship.
  • National Center for Learning Disabilities Anne Ford and Allegra Ford Thomas Scholarships.
  • Hemophilia Federation of America (HFA) Educational Scholarships.
  • Microsoft disAbility Scholarship.

Some of these scholarships are available to any student who has finished high school, while others have more specific criteria. The scholarships offered by Google and Microsoft are for students with disabilities who want to declare a major related to technology. Meanwhile, the Baer Reintegration Scholarship is directed to students with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

Federal Disability Benefits

The federal government has been instrumental in making more campuses accessible to students with disabilities. Furthermore, they consider this population as eligible for the Federal TRIO Programs. These are services that are offered to people from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as students with disabilities. There are eight different programs, and people are eligible from middle school until they finish their graduate studies.

Also, the Pell grant is available to all students, including those with disabilities. The amount of the grant will depend on several aspects, including how expensive the school the person wishes to attend is, if their education will be full-time or part-time, the depth of financial need, and more. Therefore, an extensive process is done to apply for this grant.

The amount depends on your financial need, costs to attend school, status as a full-time or part-time student, and plans to attend school for a full academic year or less.

The government also offers the Vocational Rehabilitation Program, which is focused on helping people with disabilities to find a job. During the assessment, they offer insight on what the educational goal should be for this person based on their aptitudes and vocation. After this, the program offers assistance with higher education options, including vocational training.

Other Financial Options

Loans

The first option for loans should always be federal loans. The amount students can borrow varies, but the interest rates are much better than loans from a private institution. Like any other student, students with disabilities must fill out the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA), where their eligibility is assessed.

Students with disabilities must do a correct estimate of the cost of attendance. As these are very likely to be higher than for other students. Therefore, it is important to have the necessary documentation to provide proof of these estimates. This means, being able to provide the bills and services the student will have to pay due to their disability.

On the other hand, there are personal loans for fair credit and private loans, that will take into consideration credit scores as well as other criteria, which will depend on the institution in question.

Grants

Unlike loans, grants do not need to be paid back. However, this usually translates into stricter criteria. Like with loans, financial need and family situation are assessed before a grant is awarded. Similar to scholarships, there are numerous grants offered every year to students with disabilities.

Some of these are:

  • The Foundation for Science and Disability Grant.
  • Gabriel’s Foundation of Hope Scholarships and Grants.
  • Alice Chavez Pardini Education Advancement Grant.
  • Michigan Scholarships and Grants for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired.

Just like with scholarships, grants can be general or highly specific. The Foundation for Science and Disability Grant is offered to students who will be focusing on STEM careers, while the Alice Chavez grant is specifically for people who are legally blind. Furthermore, other grants are awarded to cover for any technological or accessibility issues that need to be paid by the student due to their disability.

Work-Study Programs

These programs are available to all students and the vast majority of them are funded by the federal government. However, there are limits to how much a student can earn through these programs. The hourly pay starts at the minimum wage, and it can increase depending on the job.

Summary

The federal government has implemented different bills and acts to ensure students with disabilities are not discriminated against in college. However, this goes beyond improving accessibility. Increased financial expenses mean that college, which can already be very expensive, can become a prohibitive dream for many. Therefore, financial aid becomes instrumental for most students with disabilities, and getting informed about the options available can make all the difference. It is thanks to these financial aid opportunities that many students with disabilities can embark on a successful college career.

 

The Thrilling Evolution of Educational Toys

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Education is one of the most forward and revolutionary industries in the world. This has always been the way for this intellectually inclined industry. Throughout the decades, education has adapted with the shifting tides of a changing world, evolving time and time again to realign with the next phase of the human experience. Throughout all these years, the key fundamentals in education that have never wavered have been that education is powerful, and educational tools and toys make or break student experiences. The evolution of educational toys has been an evolution that has been challenging and inspiring, depending on which perspective you looked at any given moment in time from, and how long you stayed rooted to that perspective, taking it all in. In recent years, the educational toys available began to modernise again, this time becoming more capable and reliable through the introduction of technological advancement and enhancement. Even now, the toys utilised in education are becoming more heavily focused on modern marvels like digitalization and technological advancement than ever.

Of course, this is a direct mirroring response to the way that the entire modern education industry is slowly but surely transforming, being revolutionised in the face of technological advancement. The world around us has been slowly but surely shifting into high gear as a response to the climbing efforts in technological advancement that have had a phenomenal impact on the way the education industry – and the world itself, for that matter – have changed over the years. Today, the educational toys that students and educators alike utilise are more technologically sound than ever. So much so, in fact, that they are now almost entirely driven, or at the very least cultivated in collaboration with, technological innovation. Why, you ask? It all starts with the students. The students that go through the global education industry at any given time largely (if not entirely) control what aspects of education – yes, including educational toys – are working and which are not.

Modern students have grown up positively immersed in and surrounded by great feats of digitalisation and technological advancement. So, when the educational toys available to them began to incorporate and even mirror those same tech-driven innovations they had grown up surrounded by for their entire lives, they responded to them. It is a known fact that we respond best to what we are familiar with – at least in the beginning. Tech-driven educational toys like the digitalisation of learning materials (think textbooks, test papers, etc), iPads for homework, and Kindles for reading (among many other examples of tech-driven educational tools, of course) are just some examples of the educational toys that have evolved to become some of the most well-known and highly utilised of all of those available. This has all been through the ongoing assistance of the students who, one way or the other, make it known how the educational toys in circulation are being received and how useful they actually are to the students.

From educational toys in Australia, to the educational toys in Europe, and everywhere in between and beyond, the one constant is that the evolution of educational toys has been one that is rife with excitement, innovation, growth, and trial and error. Over the years, all those teachable moments and reigning triumphs built up to become what the educational toys available to learners and educators alike today, are. Never have educational tools and toys been this incredible, this profound. And never again will they be this simple, this old-school. The fundamentals that go into evolving educational toys from one era effectively into the next are the very same fundamentals that play a core role in ensuring that education remains fresh and relevant. This is an important distinction to make because if we lose sight of that fact, it becomes all too easy to lose sight of everything else.

Throughout the decades that education has thrived in its colourful existence, it has been a recurring theme that this is an industry that has adapted with the shifting tides of a world that refuses to stop evolving. Of course, this is a good thing. Education is a key fundamental contributor to the way of the world around us, and without it we would surely crumble. So, having an academic industry like education that not only meets expectations but far exceeds them, is a gift. The educational tools and toys that have assisted students and educators alike in their pursuit of more capable and reliable ways to learn and to teach, have become more and more technologically advanced and enhanced over the years. Today, these educational toys are more tech-savvy than ever. Going forward, these innovations in educational toys will only continue to become more and more advanced and enhanced – and technological innovation is largely, if not entirely, to thank for this ongoing evolution.

The Continuous Advancement of Online Education

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Education is an industry that, over time, has been through its fair share of evolutionary eras. This makes perfect sense. After all, education is an industry that quite literally must adapt and evolve with its clients (i.e. its students) to maintain its relevance and its steady hand in the world. Over the years, there have been many great evolutions within the education industry, all of which have had their own distinct impact on the students that successfully made their way through the systems and the academic layout itself. Now that the modern world is dealing with exceedingly rapid innovations in digitalisation and technological advancement, the next natural step in the ongoing evolution of the education industry is the move towards innovations that digitise elements of the academic experience. This concept has been hovering on the horizon for a while now, but it has only been in the last few years that it has begun to genuinely shift into being. Now, we are seeing the proof in the pudding all the time in the education industry.

Consider the introduction and ongoing advancement of online education, for instance. Traditional education has always been enormously successful, of course, but there is something to be said about the power of breaking down the structured barriers of traditional education and giving students access to a form of learning that is truly and entirely inclusive. Traditional education is a sole approach, in a set environment, with structured hours for classes and communications. For some students, this is the ideal approach to learning, and they thrive. But the fact is that trying to education millions of students a year with a single approach to learning, will never get the best out of each and every student. That is where online education comes in and changes the game. Online education is all about breaking down the barriers that are set in place in traditional education (intentionally or not) and creating an environment where students can have a more flexible experience.

Of course, it is important to note that a more flexible learning environment does not mean that it is any less legitimate at all. In fact, the online courses and degrees available via online education are there largely (if not entirely) because they are the very same courses that are offered through traditional education opportunities. Literally the only difference is the nature of the environment and its surrounding circumstances that students navigate when engaging in online education versus traditional education. Learning standard skills like writing and perfecting an impressive resume and learning some of the more stimulating lessons like sciences and understanding the history of literature, are all lessons that are available in online education as well as traditional education. The most valuable ideal of online education is simply that it essentially puts learners in a position to take control of their experience more.

Digitising materials, courses, and entire programs is a life-changing feat that many people honestly once doubted would ever come to fruition. Now, however, thanks to online education, the boundaries of traditional education have been effectively broken down, and students around the globe now have the option of a more heavily structured approach to learning (traditional education) or a more flexible approach to learning (online education). Having the power to decide which pathway a student wants to take has had a dramatic impact on just about every aspect of their education experience. That is why online education is so overwhelmingly valuable. That is the power of online education. And that is exactly why online education is only going to continue going from strength to strength over the coming years. This is just the beginning for online education. As the most exciting and revolutionary transformation in education and its history, online education is going to continue breaking down barriers and changing the lives of students going into the future.

As one of the world’s oldest industries, education has been through many great evolutions in its time. Moving forward, it will continue to do so. Now, as we head further and further into the impending digital era, education is undergoing perhaps its most exciting evolution yet: the introduction of the digitisation of elements of academics. Of course, this includes online education. The movement towards online learning is one that has been on the horizon for quite some time now, but it is only in the last few years that it has truly kicked into high gear. The ongoing innovations in online education are ones that are changing the way that students learn and educators teach, for the better. This is just the beginning for online education too; there are many advancements coming up in the next few years that are set to further revolutionise the online education approach. This is an exciting time for education.

Dutch Researchers Rank Higher than the Top 10 Most Research-intensive Nations in Key Research

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When it comes to ranking a nation and its researchers high in the list of global researches, there is a set of prerequisites that they ought to fulfill. Apart from being proven productive and efficient in the works submitted, the chief objective of the researchers must be to abide by all the constituents that would take his country forward along with placing it on the world map of integrated advancement and add to the overall value of its education system and uplift the present awareness and understanding of the same. 

In the recent past, reports that were conducted with an aim to announce the outcome of a comparative study based on Dutch researcher’s international performance and comprised of straps from scientific, technical and medical information products and services asserted that in a comparison that included the top 10 nations placed in order of their annual spending in research and development, the Netherlands ranked number one. Furthermore, the Dutch researchers were declared to be placed at a position higher than all its contemporaries in terms of their publication impact per article and effectiveness in international collaboration. However, the list of achievements associated with the Netherlands in the field of educational research doesn’t make halt here; it moves on to place the country at number one in the world as far as citations generated per unit of Resource and Development spending is concerned and at number two in case of publications generated per unit of R&D spending. All these digits and configurations were duly verified and submitted at the Impact of Science Conference held in Amsterdam.

After browsing through all these technical facts, if we start exploring the components that in reality led to this glaring success of the Netherlands amidst the top 10 most research-intensive nations in key research, we will come across the two major ones that form an indispensable portion of any research-driven study. Firstly, in the past few years, the Netherlands ‘ international collaboration and initiation of a geographically mobile research base were invariably high with almost little or no exceptions. A sum total of about 48.7% of the number of articles submitted by a Netherlands-based researcher were delineated in collaboration with a researcher who hailed from a distinct country altogether. In any research technique, international collaboration is always studied under a positive light and justifiably so. Coming back to our evaluation, the constituting figure of 48.7% is inevitably a higher proportion when placed alongside any of the top 10 R&D spending nations of the world. Like we have already mentioned, international collaboration is always considered to be a positive driving force when it comes to laying a generous impact on the research impact and prestige. 

The second factor which analysts qualify as a highly influential ingredient in positing the Netherlands at the top of the list is the mobile research base. This mechanism of research is related to the term that we call “brain circulation”, or in simpler terms, cross-border mobility of researchers. As per the guidelines of this method, the country allows and aids its researchers to explore distinct notches of educations and the fields that they are related to both in the national and international realms. When a scholar is pursuing his research, it is not customary for him to limit his mode of investigation within the resources available in his country; and therefore, he is free to examine the funds supplied by its collaborators. The Netherlands has always been known and been in history for allowing people to move in and out of the country, even when it comes to pursuing the assets in the world of science. For instance, there has been a record of at least 74% of affiliated authors with the Dutch universities who have successfully published their research articles in an institution situated in another country at some point in their careers.

After analyzing the above-mentioned influences we can safely conclude that the rank that has been granted to the Netherlands in the paraphernalia of global educational research has been rightly earned by the Dutch scholars. A notion that we have all believed and been taught since our childhood is that there is no end to learning; a man, no matter how learned or well informed he is, cannot guarantee a full-fledged demonstration of the same. Therefore, when it comes to dealing with a serious matter like that of research, steering away from the implications of international collaboration and mobile research base cannot be waived. Injecting profound shreds of information like no other and enriching the study with lesser-known facts and SEO approved content is the key to illustrating a worthy research paper that is capable of representing the educational trends and recourses of its country.

The Rise of Sustainable Tourism

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Last month, the last tourists were allowed to ascend Ayer’s Rock or Uluru, Australia’s most famous rock and a drawcard for international and domestic tourists. Uluru is now closed to tourists in respect of its traditional owners, the Anangu people, whose culture and law forbid people to climb Uluru. The decision to close Uluru comes after many years of debate between local indigenous communities and local government, and is one of the few times where Indigenious values have actually won over other (financial) interests. The decision was made by the Australian government, in extension of its support for the Indigenous Protected Areas (IPAs) program, which enables Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to manage existing and creating new IPAs, in an effort to protect and conserve Australia’s rich biodiversity. Even if that means tourism revenue is lost as a direct result.

It is just one example of a growing travel trend we are seeing around the world – a trend where more value is being placed on ethics than on profits, where environmentally and socially sustainable outcomes are being emphasised over ‘experience vacationing’. It is the rise in sustainable tourism, and boy is it about time. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious: they want a holiday, but not if it is to the detriment of a local community or the local environment.

Millennials are driving the shift, fueling demand for more sustainable accommodation, tour agencies and group holiday experiences. They are also prepared to pay more for the experience, 73 percent of them are, in fact. They would rather not visit a major tourist attraction if they know its profits are used to further corruption within the government, and they will skip out on a walking tour of a slum community if they feel it will have a harmful impact on those residing within the slum. They would rather avoid visiting an elephant orphanage if they know the elephants are ‘rescued’ under false pretences and then abused.  Even if it the best location for wildlife watching, the new age conscious consumer is not interested in staying at an African safari lodge if it uses plastic bottles for drinking water, or if lodge profits aren’t used to better the surrounding community. They know what we want, and thankfully so, because the future is more or less in their hands.

It’s not just millennials driving the trend though, 105.3 million U.S. travellers are prioritising vacations that give back to the environment and community as much as they take, according to Sustainable Travel International, and 60 percent of leisure travellers in the U.S. are sustainable travellers. The UN even aptly named 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development, taking advantage of global momentum to further the efforts of sustainable tour operators, airlines, organisations and companies seeking to lessen travellers’ impacts on the world.  According to the UN, the fastest growing group of sustainable traveller is that which would rather travel to a pristine, remote area and contribute to conservation efforts there than go on an all-paid luxury holiday to a tropical beach. People want to come back from a holiday feeling reinvigorated and inspired, not as though they have laid on a beach for a fortnight drinking cocktails.

For a destination to be certified as sustainable by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, it must follow a very specific set of criteria, from supporting local businesses to conserving natural resources. Yellowstone National Park and Vail, Colorado, are two U.S. destinations on the path to becoming certified as sustainable destinations – but a place must tick a lot of boxes in order to make the cut. Beyond this particular certification, well-known destinations right around the world are doing what they can to negate the impacts of the hordes of tourists they welcome on a daily basis. Cinque Terre, Machu Picchu and the Great Barrier Reef are some of them, by limiting the annual number of visitors they receive, while authorities of places like Koh Tachai in the Similan National Park are prohibiting visitors altogether in an effort to conserve the pristine environment.

The thing is, if we wish to continue being able to explore all corners of planet earth, bathe in its waterfalls, swim on its beaches, walk on its mountains, we really do need to change the way we travel.

According to Sustainable Travel International, travel and tourism are responsible for 5 percent of total carbon emissions globally, contributing significantly to climate change, thus putting all these still-pristine destinations at risk of destruction. The World Tourism Organization expects the international tourism market to climb to 1.8 billion by 2030, and has confirmed that in the past 20 years alone worldwide destination seeking has grown by more than 50 percent. The tourism industry is not shrinking any time soon. The choices we make in terms of the food we eat, the agencies we travel with, the modes of transport we use, and the types of activities we engage in, all have significant impacts on both the physical and social or cultural environments in which we find ourselves while travelling. Even the dirt and dust we carry home with us after our travels to foreign lands can have monumentally significant impacts on the integrity of our home country’s ecosystem if introduced. It is no wonder we are all beginning to question how we can do things better while on the road, enjoying ourselves while not putting global communities or ecosystems at risk. With proper measures and by trying wherever possible to travel sustainably, we can negate our impacts and in some circumstances even restore environments to their pre-discovered state.

How English Evolved Into a Modern Language

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In many countries, education is considered as a duty, not just a mere right. It is often accepted as a fundamental resource for individuals and societies. Historically, over the past two centuries, there has been a substantial expansion in literary education over the globe. The global literacy rates have been increasing. In 2016, it was recorded that approximately 86% of the world population were able to read and write. In 1820, literate people accounted for only 12.0% of the population. Rising rates of enrollment in primary education and a continual increase in the growth of secondary and tertiary education are perceived to have been driving up the global literacy rates.

Currently, English is the preferred global language and the international language of commerce, science and other major areas, despite being ranked top 3 in the world’s most spoken language. There are more than 350 million people that speak English as a first language, with 350 million people conversing in English as a second language. English started to get popular many years after the English alphabet got its full 26 letters.

Literacy has a very long history. The very first written communication can be traced way back to around 3500 B.C. Inscriptions on the Kish tablet were observed by experts to be the earliest form of known writing. The tablet is inscribed with proto-cuneiform signs that are typically elementary symbols intended to convey meaning by means of their resemblance to physical objects. By 3000 B.C., the Sumerians had developed cuneiform script, known by many people as wedge-shaped script because the inscribed marks seem to have been pressed into clay tablets with a wedge. Gradually, these pictorial symbols were developed into smaller characters that were meant to represent the syllabus of the spoken language. Because of its versatility, cuneiform writing was also used to write various languages, including Elamite and Hittite. An actual alphabet, having symbols to represent phonetic sounds, came later from a different culture. Having been Influenced by cuneiform, the Phoenicians developed, around 1400 B.C., a set of symbols expressing consonants only. The Phoenician alphabet was widely used throughout Greece and the Mediterranean region as it only comprised of 22 letters based on sound as opposed to the countless symbols used in cuneiform. The Greeks, building on the Phoenician alphabet, added vowels around 750 B.C. It was sometime later appropriated by the Latins who had merged it with some Etruscan characters, such as the letters F and S. The Latins became the Romans, and the Roman alphabet looked very similar to our modern English today. It contains every letter except J, U/V or W.

When the Roman Empire landed in Britain, the Latin language was brought by them. At that time, Anglo-Saxons was controlling Britain, the spoken and written language of which were based on the runic alphabet. Throughout the intervention of the Roman Empire, Old English was developed. It was the combination of the Latin alphabet and runic alphabet. Around 1066 A.D. when the Normans invaded Britain, Old English was still being used by some of the lowborn. The clergy, scholars and nobility were conversing and writing in either Latin or Norman French, during which Old English was slowly being developed into Middle English, changing its pronunciation, spelling and grammar. After the end of the ruling of Norman, English started to become more prominent. In the middle of the 15th Century with the establishment of the first printing press in Great Britain, English became more standardized. Sometime later, the first English dictionary was introduced, known as the Table Alphabeticall. By the 19th Century, the letters J, U, V and W had been added, completing the English alphabet that we still use today.

Considered by many as a global language, English is widely used all over the world today. An English renowned linguist has once suggested that a language turns into a global language due to the influence of the people who use it. He mentioned that the popularity of English was due to the influence of the British Empire. In the early 1920, the British Empire had covered over a quarter of the world’s total land surface, including North America, Australia, Africa, Asia and many other areas. During that era, English was widely used. In addition, he also implied that British colonialism was also the reason behind the popularity of English.

In addition to being the preferred global language, higher education is often taught in English all over the world. For instance, Singapore, a multicultural country, has become the top three of an international annual ranking in relation to English proficiency. Despite being a linguistically diverse country where various languages are widely spoken, including Malay, Chinese, Tamil and English, English is taught in every school as a first language, and many tuition classes, such as creative writing classes for primary schools, are conducted in English.

Given its never-ending popularity, English will be used as the global language for many years to come. The English dictionary will likely to expand with the inclusion of many new words. The global literacy rates will continue to raise alongside an increase in the number of English language speakers. Such evolution of literacy will become part of the history of languages.

New Pew Study Reports Student Debt Repayments Needs to Be Easier

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Eighty percent of Americans want the federal government to make it easier to repay student loans.  

This statistic is from a new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts. It conducted a telephone poll this past August, interviewing more than 1,000 people about their opinions on student loans.

It’s important to note, the study only referred to federal student loans and not any additional personal loan or line of credit students may take out.

Many students searching out the answer to what is a personal line of credit know they may have to supplement student loans when their financing falls short. But Pew turns its spotlight away from these personal products to shine a light on the student debt crisis.

Now a record $1.6 trillion, the debt crises has gotten its fair share of ink at the nation’s biggest online news outlets — from the New York Times and the Washington Post to CBS News and CNN. It even hogs much of talking points in the 2020 Democratic debates unfolding this fall. 

And now, thanks to Pew, the average American can share their opinion, too. As it turns out, the country has a complicated relationship with student debt.

Repaying Loans is a Challenge

Although it’s possible to strike debt clean from your record, most people recognize it’s not the easiest thing to do. 

A whopping 89 percent of respondents said they agree borrowers have a hard time paying back their student loans. 

The average graduate owes roughly $30,000, which puts the average monthly payment of a standard repayment plan somewhere between $304 and $333

Picking away at debt in these sized installments means it will take you roughly 10 years to pay off what you owe. 

Of course, this $300 is on top of any personal line of credit payment, rent, and utilities you may have. 

A decade of balancing your books this way may be a hardship. And for some 7 million borrowers in default, it’s impossible. 

Student Loans Are a Drain on the Economy.

Pew reports 69 percent of respondents agree that borrowers who struggle to repay their debt have a greater impact on the economy. 

And they have good reason to believe this. 

More than 45 million people shoulder a collective $1.6 trillion debt load. This means nearly a little over 13 percent of the population share a significant financial burden. 

If they aren’t in default, they’re funneling a lot of each paycheck into their monthly repayments, along with other bills that keep their household running. 

Basic things like covering rent, a line of credit balance, and utilities become the priority

Less dire spending, like unnecessary yet fun services and products that help boost the economy, are put on the backburner. 

They’re also postponing major milestones that may have a greater impact on the economy later on. Unlike generations before them, millennials are waiting to start a family, putting off homeownership, and failing to save up for retirement. 

Federal Government Needs to Step Up

It may come as no surprise then that many of the those surveyed — or 58 percent — strongly agree the federal government needs to take action. They believe the government should make it easier to pay off student debt.

What Does Federal Action Look Like?

What the poll fails to make clear is how these survey participants expect the government to address this problem. 

Is it something like Bernie Sander’s plan to cancel all $1.6 trillion of debt by taxing the top 0.1 percent of Americans? 

Or is it something closer to Elizabeth Warren’s sliding scale of relief, which promises to forgive up to $50,000 of debt for those households earning less than $100,000?

Or perhaps, it involves much less progressive proposals, like Joe Biden’s bid for income-driven repayment plans or Julio Castro’s time-based forgiveness.

The answer to this question may have to wait until July 2020, when the Democratic Presidential Nominee takes the stage at the National Convention. 

And of course, let’s not forget the results of the November election, when the country chooses between another Trump government and a fresh start. 

While the Democrats debate canceling the debt, the GOP has moved in the other direction. During Trump’s presidency, his administration has loosened restrictions on loans, put sharp limits on repayment options, and ended loan subsidies and forgiveness programs. 

Next year proves a momentous year for the future of student loans and the economy. Time will tell how and if American concerns over the debt crisis will impact how they mark their ballots. 

However they vote, Pew proves that student loan debt and the repayment system weighs heavily on the minds of most Americans. If it does the same to yours, vote carefully. Find where the nearest polling station is to campus, and make sure you’re registered.

Qualification Exams: Skills Opportunities and Challenges for Teachers and Students Alike

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Standardized testing is such an ingrained part of life in public and private schools, all the way through graduate school and beyond, that we’ve begun to take for granted the profound impact that they have on our personal and professional lives. Meanwhile, the scope of these tests has been widening, and the consequences for passing or failing can be far-reaching and life-altering. Prospective students understand this dilemma all too well; just past the midway point of their high school careers, students around the country must study for a day long process of examinations and essays, the scores of which will determine their future trajectory through life in major ways, affecting college admissions and thereby future job prospects and salaries. But there is usually only a day or two given to the testing itself; students must still struggle to stay on top of an already demanding educational curriculum, and some sections of the test will likely focus on material they haven’t even covered yet.

The disconnect between a student’s real life situation and the expectations of standardized testing are starting to become a subject of hotly contested debate in areas where the standards are changing. And the testing doesn’t stop after high school; for many college majors there are required professional certification exams in order to fully qualify to work in any given field. Depending on the field or specialization, the level of certification can be genuinely mind-boggling. Physicians studying sleep medicine, for instance, have a 12 to 15 year educational term before they even have a chance to become board certified in that one specific area of expertise, usually amassing a wide array of general and specialized knowledge in a variety of different medical fields along the way. 

The path to success on a certification exam can be fraught with difficulty and confusion as well. There are myriad groups offering many different kinds of assistance with preparation for these exams, and prospective test takers have few ways to evaluate their quality for jumping in. A prospective fitness trainer studying for the NASM test will be presented with dozens of outlets offering study materials. Some are more trustworthy than others, and materials can go out of date quickly as the test makers change the nature of the examination at the behest of the groups that regulate certification in any given field.

The woes of standardized testing seem to only intensify after students leave high school or college and enter the professional world. Common sense seems to dictate that professionals in training should be evaluated mostly by their mentors and teachers, class grades, and the quality of their coursework, project work, and dissertations, if applicable. But certification exams can play an inordinately large role. Teachers are among the professionals most affected by certification requirements that can change drastically, with consequences even for teachers that have already been working for years.

The issue of certification and qualification exams for teachers is one that certainly seems to lack a consensus. Some claim that the tests are too easy, resulting in a low quality of teachers across the board. These detractors point out that most people have fond memories of only a handful of inspiring teachers across their educational career, meaning that there is a lot of dead weight likely hanging around as a result of lax testing standards, but this view ignores the reality of a drastic shortage of teachers of all levels of experience and talent, while most teachers currently working are woefully underpaid and overworked. Nor is inspiration necessarily a benchmark for educational success; no one feels inspired when their doctor explains to them what’s wrong with their heart, but they still come away in the best scenario with a fundamentally better understanding of their medical condition than they had going in.

The problem for teachers and certification exams is that changes to requirements can force teachers to re-certify themselves and undergo testing again, resulting in a potential loss of employment if they fail to meet the new requirements. This complaint is at the heart of a lawsuit against Pearson on behalf of teachers in Florida. The teachers claim that the test itself is unfair, while the failure rate is exorbitantly high (earning money for Pearson as teaching students have to pay to retake the exam) and the grading process unnecessarily opaque.

In some areas, failure rates are startlingly high. Failure rates on the elementary level teacher exam are higher than 50%, and most teachers complain that they are tested on content above their level (and the level of their students), while their classes mostly prepared them to understand different teaching methodologies and classroom dynamics. This disconnect results in potentially high-quality teachers being kept out of the system entirely in some cases.

This disconnect between true ability and what is measured on a certification exam results in losses for everyone involved in the educational system, and increased scrutiny may result in some changes in the future.