21 November, 2010

"afblazen" or calling it off: study trip to Berlin

Practical and fun website if you decide to learn some Dutch !
By coincidence today's Dutch word of the day is "afblazen", in English to call off (a plan). Why a coincidence you may ask.... well, last Friday was supposed to have been the day that a group of our students from the minor Media & Culture departed from Rotterdam en route to Berlin.
However, due to recent developments in Germany, the study trip was cancelled the day before departure. Germany is on heightened alert following a recent announcement that a terrorist attack was being planned for the country. Daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel reported that the United States had told Berlin that between two to four al-Qaeda militants were on their way to Germany and Britain to attempt attacks at the end of November. Among the targets are said to be Germany's popular Christmas markets, scheduled to open in the coming days. Security has been stepped up at airports and train stations across the country.
On the other hand, the German government has urged citizens to remain calm and not to let the recent terror alerts affect their daily lives.
"There is reason for concern, but no reason for hysteria", German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said at a gathering in the northern city of Hamburg.
In these circumstances, what would you have done facing this dilemma: go ahead as planned or cancel the study trip? Feel free to respond !

14 November, 2010

Full of impressions

With the international conference on Ethical Competences in Adult Education coming to an end this week, my head is spinning with all of the impressions I got in the last two days: an enormous variety of people, activities, presentations, visits to schools and other places, discussions, informal chats in between, networking, sampling the typically Romanian dishes and drinks that were kindly offered to us by the many Romanian hosts.
I was impressed with the ambitious training programmes that had been carried out by our Romanian partner, the Galati County House of Educational Staff. They had been using a whole range of methods and materials to train and evaluate adult ethical competences. An afternoon visit to the Botanical Garden and most of all the mindboggling experience in the Planetarium of the Natural Sciences Museum made me feel such a tiny element of the universe.
Heartwarming was the typically Romanian reception at the two schools that we visited. On both occasions we were welcomed with a small bouquet of flowers and some bread dipped in salt. The Costache Negri National College presented us with creative and stimulating learning activities to be discussed in small groups, relating to 3 of the ethical competences, before we got a sumptuous 4 course meal.
The next day, an interesting change of scene: we were taken to the gymnasium school in Independenta, Galati County where we were treated to an enthusiastic demonstration of some typically Romanian dances by children of different ages. It didn’t end there though …. Within minutes after their dances had ended they took the hands of people in the audience and before we knew, we had joined them in their communal dance, a group of around 35 visitors hand in hand with the children! This was undoubtedly the cultural highlight of our visit.
It was apparent that the school had well prepared their pupils for our visit. Each one of us received a colourful handicraft pendant, beautifully painted and decorated, attached to the neatly printed programme of our afternoon visit.
Most of us felt that the school and its pupils had given us a royalty treatment.
All in all, in retrospect it was a superbly organised visit to look back on. Besides, we are well on the road to concluding the project with good results, a common framework on ethical competences in adult education. A draft version is envisaged to be ready at the end of April 2011, when we have our final meeting Yozgat, Turkey.

05 November, 2010

people are the real wealth of nations

That is the final line of a video launched yesterday on the UNDP website, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Human Development Report. People are healthier, wealthier and better educated, according to the 2010 edition of the HDP report.

Most developing countries made dramatic yet often underestimated progress in health, education and basic living standards in recent decades, with many of the poorest countries posting the greatest gains.
Yet patterns of achievement vary greatly, with some countries losing ground since 1970. The 2010 edition of the HD Report documents wide inequalities within and among countries, deep disparities between women and men on a wide range of development indicators, and the prevalence of extreme multidimensional poverty in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
The dominant trend in life expectancy globally is convergence, with average life spans in most poor countries getting increasingly close to those in developed countries. However, in income the pattern remains one of divergence, with most rich countries getting steadily richer, while sustained growth eludes many poor countries.
The Human Development Reports and the HD Indicators challenged purely economic measures of national achievement and helped lay the conceptual foundation for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, calling for consistent global tracking of progress in health, education and overall living standards. “The Human Development Reports have changed the way we see the world,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday. “We have learned that while economic growth is very important, what ultimately matters is using national income to give all people a chance at a longer, healthier and more productive life.” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark added: "While not all trends are positive, there is much that countries can do to improve people’s lives, even in adverse conditions. This requires courageous local leadership as well as the continuing commitment of the international community."
Overall conclusions of the authors: “We see great advances, but changes over the past few decades have by no means been wholly positive. Some countries have suffered serious setbacks, particularly in health, sometimes erasing in a few years the gains accumulated over several decades. Economic growth has been extremely unequal, both in countries experiencing fast growth and in groups benefiting from national progress. And the gaps in human development across the world, while narrowing, remain huge.”
Here is the link to the recent Human Development Reports and its many statistics and indicators, a helpful resource for us in higher education to work on the concept of global citizenship.
Interestingly, the report pinpoints the Netherlands as the most gender-balanced country in the Gender Inequality Index, an index designed to help advance human development progress by objectively measuring the extent and impact of the persistent social disparities between men and women.
Jeni Klugman, the HD Report’s lead author: “Providing girls and women with equal educational opportunities, medical care, legal rights and political representation is not only socially just, but one of the best possible investments in development for all people.”