international education

3 Ways to Improve U.S. Students Standing Worldwide

The latest international report on student knowledge and success worldwide once again paints U.S. pupils in a bad light. This is not the first time American students have lagged behind their peers on the OECD PISA global education survey that tests and compares student outcomes in areas like math, science and reading. The results are really just more of the same.

While I take issue with particular parts of the test (leader China reportedly only tested students in elite schools in Shanghai), it is a wake-up call nonetheless. When it comes to American K-12 student achievement, it is not enough to be a big fish in a little pond. To really make a splash and gain international footing, a few things need to change in U.S. K-12 education. Here are just a few:

Teacher support. This starts from administration in individual schools and extends into the community at large. Parents must also respect the role of teachers in order for kids to follow suit. Unfortunately many times teachers are pitted as servants, and not put on the pedestal they deserve. Perhaps I’m biased but what is more important than imparting knowledge to our next generation? Today’s best teachers are not simply reciting facts and expecting their students to regurgitate them; the teachers in contemporary classrooms are “showing their work” so to speak by imparting the life skills necessary for students to find answers on their own and be successful citizens in other ways.

Teachers need backup from the other people in their students’ lives and from their own colleagues and superiors. Traditionally high-performing PISA countries like Sweden, Australia and Japan all have one thing in common – high levels of community support for teachers and involvement from teachers in the course of instruction and curriculum. When new initiatives are handed down in the U.S., like the Common Core standards, teachers should have access to resources to help them reach goals. Teachers need more input in decisions, more access to continuing education resources and more faith from the administrators and families impacted by their classrooms.

STEM emphasis. There seems to be a general societal consensus that science, technology, engineering and math subjects are somehow boring, or uncool. A lot of attention has been placed lately on young women and finding ways to encourage them in male-dominated STEM fields, but I’d argue that young men need the same opportunities. Overall, more American students need to take an interest in STEM topics if we want to be able to compete on a global scale. The rapidly changing field of technology makes this part of U.S. K-12 education even more pressing. As the digital age continues to modify life as we know it, the students in today’s classrooms must have the tools to lead the country in discoveries, inventions and communication technology the coming decades.

Equal opportunities. In country that claims to be based on equality for all, there are still too many achievement gaps in our classrooms. While it should be a non-issue, the color of a student’s skin does seem to impact his or her academic achievement. It is not a direct effect, of course, but still something that needs even more focus to overcome. The best work on closing the achievement gap is in individual schools and I think that makes the most sense. No blanket national program will be able to answer all of the intricacies of why an achievement gap exists in a particular place or school. From a federal standpoint, however, schools should be encouraged to develop programs for eliminating achievement gaps and reaching individual students where it is most effective – their own classrooms.

Why do you think American students lag the rest of the world? What would you add to my list?

Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

Should teachers pay for apps?

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post by Maria Constantides

I very often talk to teachers about online apps and great new tools and the standard question always is: “Is it free?’”

And of course it’s natural for teachers – who are amongst the world’s worst paid people for the amount and quality of the work they have to do – to look for free apps and tools.


On a UK pay scale, a colleague recently told me that they make 23 pounds an hour. In Athens, if you  have training and experience, you will be lucky if you make 9 or 10 euros – the average is 6 per hour while the official hourly rate is 4,5 euros per hour  for only 8 months a year; in the summer you can live off the sun and the sea and unemployment benefit of 300 euros per month  (for some people, not even that).

So if most of my better paid colleagues look for free apps, why would the low-paid colleague do anything different? Teachers look for freebies because

  • Their school won’t pay
  • They can’t afford to pay themselves
  • If it’s free, why pay?

So we all flock to the free options and use them, create accounts, create materials, until one day, the company goes bust and we lose everything!

Of course, the paying users lose even more!

A typical example was one of my favourite online animation tools Xtranormal  I loved this app and used the free version along with thousands of other teachers, then started paying to buy more scenes and more characters and to have the option to download and save my videos!  Suddenly the company announced they were closing and loads and loads of teachers lost all their work.

This is what you can now read on their website, written by a team of people trying to resurrect the service: xtranormal

No more losing the movie maker

No more losing the characters that some of you had bought

No more losing the movies that you had made

So what are the going rates?

On the flipside of this, you have your average startup company which creates a great product or serivce and they offer a free plan for a limited range of presentations and one or two templates.

Pricing Slidebean

I believe most start ups think in terms of ‘Well, what’ 29 dollars a month? It’s not that much money!’  Or 19 dollars a month!!!

Well, I tell you that at the end of the day, if you pay for a few services like we do as a school, the bill at the end of each month is quite steep!!!!

Compare this to the infinitely more versatile and original Prezi pricing plan and you will note the difference.

Of the two services, this is the one I would be more likely to pay for for this, and of course, other reasons, such as the versatility of the presentation templates, the desktop variation of a presentation which can be downloaded and played on one’s pc or laptop…

Pricing Prezi

Up to a couple of years ago, I used to pay a 29 euros per month subscription to Survey Monkey – when I calculated the cost of each survey I did using their services, it has cost me more than 300 or 400 euros!!!!

Google does it for free!!!!

One more example – my favourite screencast software – the famous Jing

TechSmith online video sharing Plans and PricingCompare it with my OTHER favourite screencasting software, Screen-cast-0-matic

Go Pro Screencast O Matic Free online screen recorder for instant screen capture video sharing.

Compare two great screencast apps – Jing at about 100 dollars a year and Screen-cast-o-matic for 15 or under 10 if you go for the 3 year discount!


By contrast, most tablet  apps are much lower in price; for example, purchasing Microsoft Powerpoint for my iPad costs nothing, where you would have to pay almost 80 dollars US for the PC version. Keynote is now free but if you purchase an iPhone or iPad and even if you need to buy it is less than 20 dollars US – compare to powerpoint above!


Make the price right!

Make the price right, people! You can’t jump from nothing to 30 dollars a month – bring your prices down and you might get a lot more people paying!

You  let me have dropbox for free but if I want to pay, you ask me for 100 euros per month! 

Why would I pay that when Amazon asks for 70 a year for unlimited storage space!!!! Get real!!!! And OneDrive gives me 50 GB for free – Plus free online use of the latest versions of the Office Suite! 

This has happened to me time and again! I am willing to pay to keep my content safe but prices are too high – so I will keep going for the free versions for as long as I can.


P.S. Just like governments would make more money if they lowered their taxes – but greedy so and so’s that they are, they keep losing more and more money every year!!!!!

This post originally appeared on, and was republished with permission.


Marisa Constantinides runs CELT Athens, a Teacher Development centre based in the capital of Greece, and is a Course Supervisor for all courses, including the DELTA Cambridge/RSA Diploma, the Institute of Linguists Diploma in Translation and off-site seminars and workshops on a variety of topics.

5 Steps America’s Schools Must Take to Reclaim its Spot on the World Stage

The United States entered the 21st century as the world’s sole superpower. Our diplomatic strength, military might, financial resources, and technological innovation were, and continue to be, the envy of the world.

However, in the crucial area of education, the U.S. lags behind many other developed countries. Although the U.S. spends more per student than almost any other country in the world, international exams have demonstrated that we consistently perform well behind countries such as South Korea, China, Japan, and Finland in the areas of reading and math.

Why is it happening and what do we, as Americans, need to do to rise to the top again? Here are a few thoughts on that.

  1. Consider what’s really important: more respect for education and teachers. China, Japan, and South Korea understand that well-educated workers are crucial for survival in the competitive global economy.

Thus, they place enormous emphasis on education, ensuring that their students are given not only foundational reading and math skills, but also that they are able to think creatively and solve problems. Their youth are poised to take on and conquer the world. Educating, hiring, and retaining high-quality teachers are key to lasting reform.

On the other hand, the teaching profession in America is undervalued, certainly in comparison with countries like Finland and South Korea.

  1. Recognize that money doesn’t solve everything. School systems are using more money but have less to show for it. Test results, especially among the children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, are dismal. America has extraordinary natural resources, a solid, functioning democracy, and an excellent infrastructure, but unless we can reform our educational system to produce students who are able to take advantage of new technologies and compete in the global economy, we will cede our position as world leader.
  2. Weigh the various factors that make or break a student’s education, especially community involvement. The educational system involves seven major players: the federal government, district authorities, the community, parents and family, the school administration, teachers, and the students themselves. In order to reform our schools, we must look at each of these players, investigating the interactions among them, and offering suggestions for bolstering involvement and efficacy between them.

In areas where schools are successful, community involvement is a critical element. In low socioeconomic communities, there is often a sense that schools are separate entities, run by elite elements that have little connection to the community. Perhaps the starkest difference between students from low socioeconomic environments and those from wealthier environments is the amount of parental involvement in students’ education.

  1. Consider that it’s not just about the tests. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), while admirable, has also proven fundamentally flawed. It is not producing the anticipated results, and has had the effect of forcing schools to teach to the exam, rather than fostering a love of learning among students.
  2. Use authority wisely. There is mounting evidence that the U. S. education system is failing our students. Appropriate engagement and direction by district authorities is crucial to creating a quality learning environment. Too often, cronyism, corruption, and misuse of resources diminish the influence of the district-level administration.

Society in general needs to understand that the lack of quality teachers, effective administration, and parental involvement are all factors that contribute to the current state of our educational system. The country must unite and work together to carry the responsibility of enriching and continuing America’s future via educational excellence. We must become supermen and superwomen.

What are your thoughts on how the American education system can reach elite status globally? Please leave a comment below.


Here’s why immigrant students perform poorly

Molly McManus, University of Texas at Austin

Immigrant students in the United States consistently perform worse academically than nonimmigrant students. This achievement gap is evident as early as preschool and only grows as immigrant students advance through high school.

But, what causes the achievement gap?

One notion that fuels anti-immigrant attitudes is the belief that immigrant students perform poorly because of their immigrant backgrounds.

This is misguided.

As a former teacher and now researcher of immigrant families, I am familiar with concerns about low academic achievement among immigrant students. However, as my work shows, immigrant students face barriers beyond their immigrant backgrounds, including restrictive learning environments in their classrooms.

A multitude of barriers

Research has also shown that immigrant students tend to be concentrated in poor neighborhoods, speak a language other than English at home and enter school later than nonimmigrant students.

Immigrant kids tend to be concentrated in poorer neighborhoods.
michael_swan, CC BY-ND

We know that poverty, language barriers and low levels of preschool enrollment contribute to poor academic performance.

There is also another, lesser known, factor at work here: school and teacher attitudes toward immigrant students. Immigrant students have been shown to perform worse when their schools or teachers harbor negative attitudes about their presence and abilities.


A recent report on immigration and education from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows the extent of the immigrant achievement gap.

According to the report, in 2012, students in the U.S. with an immigrant background performed worse than nonimmigrant students on the Programme for International Student Assessments (PISA), a test administered to 15-year-olds in 65 countries, including the U.S. Immigrant students in the U.S. scored about 20 points lower in reading and 15 points lower in math.

Many people are also concerned that immigrant students negatively impact the education systems that they enter.

Current research, however, shows the opposite.

The presence of immigrant students does not negatively affect overall school performance. Rather, schools that serve poor families tend to underperform and immigrant families are often poor.

Poverty affects over half of immigrant families. In 2013, 54 percent of immigrant families in the US qualified as low-income.

In fact, when family income is taken into account, the difference between scores from immigrant students and nonimmigrant students on the PISA disappears.

Language and preschool

Immigrant students also struggle when they do not have mastery of the dominant language in their new country.

In 2015, nearly 10 percent of students in K-12 in the U.S. were classified as English Language Learners. These language barriers explain a larger portion of the achievement gap than immigrant backgrounds.

Also, low levels of enrollment in early childhood programs have a huge impact. Early entrance into the school system increases students chances for success in later grades. However, many immigrant families do not enroll their children in preschool programs because of families’ legal status, language barriers and cultural sensitivities.

Discrimination and racism

There is actually more evidence to show that schools in the U.S. are negatively impacting immigrant students and their families, not the other way around.

Many immigrant students face discrimination and racism in the form of segregation and hostile attitudes at their schools. Also, many schools don’t offer essential resources, like family liaisons or other social services, that would support immigrant families as well as the larger school community.

Immigrant students are also affected by a rarely acknowledged but equally important factor: the receptiveness of their host country’s education system, also known as the “context of reception.”

Teachers’ views of immigrant kids leave a big impact., CC BY-NC

When teachers and staff have negative views of immigrant children and their families, it has a negative impact on the academic performance of immigrant students.

Negative views are particularly harmful when they involve deficit thinking, or the belief that immigrant students perform poorly because their families have less or know less.

Alternatively, immigrant students who enter a welcoming environment benefit from positive school outcomes. Research in education shows that students who enter positive contexts of reception are more motivated, better adjusted and more engaged in curriculum.

The OECD report also found that immigrant students who said they felt supported and cared for by their teachers scored higher on the PISA.

Value in diversity

Research shows that despite barriers, immigrant students often hold high aspirations for themselves. These high aspirations make them more likely to put in greater effort to take advantage of educational opportunities and succeed academically. This is part of a phenomenon known as the immigrant paradox.

Just consider this fact. Among low-income students who took the PISA, immigrants make up a larger share of high-performing students than nonimmigrants.

At a time when presidential candidates are threatening to build a wall along the US-Mexican border and governors are attempting to close their states to Syrian refugees, it is important to understand that immigrant students do not harm our education system or our communities. Instead, they bring valuable diversity.

The Conversation

Molly McManus, Ph.D. Student in Educational Psychology, University of Texas at Austin

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.


Click here to read all our posts concerning the Achievement Gap.

Why U.S. Education Must Evolve to Stay Ahead

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post by Jim Milton

In my travels abroad last year to visit some international higher education clients, I was very encouraged by the progress that many of them have made in raising the quality and accessibility of higher education through technology. It was also clear to me that the U.S. higher education system remains the gold standard for the rest of the world. There is no more respected or admired system, even as we face growing challenges domestically.

From São Paulo to Mumbai, these institutions look not only to our most venerated Ivy League schools and research institutions as the touchstones for their own growth and success, but they also recognize the sheer number of choices in the United States – from career schools to community colleges to faith-based institutions – along with the diversity of students across income levels and backgrounds.

Back home, though, we see a superstorm of challenges that could threaten our standing as the beacon for higher learning throughout the world. Not only are skyrocketing tuition and student-loan debt posing a threat to an otherwise inclusive and diverse higher education landscape, there are now widening skills gaps in the job market that threaten the continued growth and success of our economy.

This is particularly true of “mid-skills” jobs, which require some post-secondary education but less than a four-year degree (e.g., systems and network specialists, healthcare workers, paralegals, mechanics, welders, retail and manufacturing workers). According to a survey of more than 800 human resources executives throughout the country by Accenture, 69 percent of employers say that their inability to attract and retain mid-skills talent frequently affected the performance of their companies1.

One reason for the mid-skills gap has to be today’s deeply ingrained mindset that the bachelor’s degree is the only viable path to productive, successful lives. Many of us wisely establish prepaid tuition plans for our children when they are very young, but typically with four-year institutions in mind. It’s what William Symonds, Director of the Global Pathways Institute at Arizona State University, calls the “one road to heaven” approach2. But even if 80 percent of U.S. high school students graduate and go on to four-year institutions, and 50 percent of those students drop out of college, the road comes up short for 60 percent of students in our system.

To use my own family as an example, all three of my children were on the path to traditional colleges from an early age, including my son, who went straight from high school to Drexel University in Philadelphia—clearly a great school. But he left after a year and then completed a few additional classes at a community college. Ultimately, he was drawn to the restaurant business. After attending a brief restaurant management training program through his company, he now manages one of the locations, earning a good salary with profit sharing and plenty of opportunity for career growth. How much sooner would he have landed on the right career path if we had guided him to other education options early on? Why not a culinary or restaurant management program? What could the high school counselor have suggested to him?

Decades ago, high schools in this country offered both vocational and college preparatory tracks, but today, vocational programs are either nonexistent or stigmatized as a last resort. Instead, high schools push students en masse toward four-year institutions, eliminating a key way that young people are introduced to these kinds of careers.

While community colleges continue to add more career-oriented programs, the fact remains that they are doing double and triple duty on limited budgets. They prepare students to transfer to four-year institutions and provide remedial education to students who are lacking certain academic fundamentals, as well as offer career programs that quickly fill up from the demand.

This brings us to proprietary career schools. Sometimes lost in the negative news around this sector is that many of these schools provide the best path to those critical mid-skill careers. These colleges produce 51 percent of associate degrees in computer science and information technology, including mid-skill positions – such as network administrators and programmers – that are so critical to our economy3. What’s more, a study by Northwestern University economist Jonathan Guryan observes that only 18 percent of associate-degree students and 12 percent of students who are enrolled in certificate programs at for-profit institutions have nonprofit alternatives in the same fields of study nearby4.

Career schools also play a critical role in continuing education. Mid-skill workers who have already completed postsecondary programs can gain new skills and credentials based on industry needs. Take cybersecurity, for example. Whether it’s healthcare, IT or business, there is an incredible need for those with baseline occupational expertise to gain additional training in cybersecurity. Career schools adapt quickly to workforce demands like these.

In comparing one system or approach to another, we often get lost in the fact that they have different but equally important missions in our economy. Traditional four-year institutions provide the foundation for future leaders and innovators across industries. Community colleges remain an important link and partner to those four-year institutions. Career schools, with their emphasis on mid-skill careers and highly focused, flexible and affordable programs, will continue to be an indispensable part of that higher education mosaic. Diversity remains our strength.

Technology’s Role in this Evolution

The solutions to our challenges in higher education aren’t limited to filling the mid-skills gap or embracing any one model. Containing costs and student loan debt, increasing student retention and improving outcomes are top priorities for public, private and proprietary institutions alike.

What’s encouraging to see both here in the United States and abroad is that more traditional schools are embracing new technology and delivery models (and, dare I say it, business practices) to improve results. They are reaching more diverse candidates through enabling technologies and offering them more ways to succeed, including online learning, flexible terms and hybrid delivery models.

Traditional institutions are becoming as adept at serving the single mother of two who’s pursuing her nursing degree part time as they are the student right out of high school. They are offering competency-based programs, stackable credentials and other nontraditional alternatives to help students to achieve their goals faster and more cost-effectively.

Each new innovation or academic model will have its challenges. Institutions, as well as state and federal agencies, are still trying to create uniform standards for competency-based education, for example. What’s important is to keep encouraging new ideas, keep the ball rolling on them and have a flexible enough foundation to adapt and change with the needs of our economy—this is how our higher education system will continue to be the envy of the world.


Jim Milton is CEO of Campus Management Corp., a global solutions provider to higher education.


  1. Finding the Middle. How businesses can manage the talent pipeline to close the middle-skills employment gap. Accenture. 2014.
  1. Reimagining the Road to Career Development, William Symonds, Director, Global Pathways Institute. July 1, 2015.   Institute_July01_2015.pdf
  1. The For Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators? Harvard University Research. 2012.
  1. Report on the Proposed Gainful Employment Regulation. Jonathan Guryan,  Ph.D.,  Northwestern  University. Charles River Associates. May 2014.


10 mandatory websites for international students

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest column by Julie Petersen

When you applied to a school in a different country, you were enthusiastic about the change. You expected to meet tons of friends and benefit from your freedom as much as possible. However, international studies come with huge responsibilities that will bring you back to reality.

Before you even start adapting to the new environment, you’ll realize that it’s hard to manage your expenses, understand your professors, and complete all academic projects you’re expected to submit. That’s why you need to rely on the following websites, which are meant to make the life and studies of an international student less stressful.

Educational Resources for International Students

  1. ElevateThis is your personal brain trainer! Elevate is an app that enables you to develop a comprehensive sets of reading, speaking, listening, and writing skills. They are all important for your education! The app is very entertaining, so you won’t even realize you’re boosting your English skills along the way. It doesn’t matter whether you get the correct answer or you make a mistake; you’ll always get a chance to practice more and become better.
  2. Common Errors in English UsageNo matter how hard you tried to master English grammar and vocabulary throughout your studies, it will be difficult to express yourself entirely in this language. You’ve been focused on grammar and syntax rules, but do you know which mistakes to avoid? At this website, you’ll get access to detailed explanations of the common errors in English usage. When you learn how to avoid these slips, you’ll instantly become a better speaker and writer.
  3. CliffsNotesAt this website, you’ll find effective study guides, literature notes, and test prep materials that will make your studies much easier. In addition, CliffsNotes offers words of the week and tips on how to enhance your lifestyle. When you don’t have a time to read a particular book for class, the literature notes in this database will save you from a bad grade.
  4. International StudentThis website is a necessary addition to your set of tools. It enables you to search for products and services for international students, such as insurance, loans, textbooks, prepaid SIM cards, and more. You can also use the Student Job Search tool if you’re ready to start making money throughout your studies abroad. The blog is awesome; it offers information on different majors, so you’ll understand which degree will ensure you the best future.
  5. AU-Assignment-Help.comAt this website, you can get professional writing assistance for any academic project. The project was launched by Australian educators, who understood that most students faced difficulties when they had to write essays, assignments, research papers and other projects. When you ask for help, you’ll be paired with a tutor who understands the particular area of study, so you’ll get detailed guidance through the planning and writing process. This learning experience will certainly help you meet the expectations of the professors in your university.

Tools that Help You Balance Your Lifestyle

  1. WhatsAppWhatsApp is available as a web-based tool and an app for Android and iOS. It will enable you to catch up with your friends and family at any time. If you have a girlfriend back home, it will be easier to maintain the relationship knowing that you’re always be available for each other. In addition, WhatsApp is a great tool for organizing study sessions and meet-ups with your new friends.
  2. Google MapsWhen you find yourself in an unknown city, it’s hard to get to the right places on time. That’s why you have Google Maps – a tool that will always help you find the right way. The tool works well in warning you about crowded traffic. It also shows bike routes, so you’ll have no problem finding your way regardless of the type of transport you choose.
  3. Converter PlusThe new currency can make spending confusing. You might never be aware of the amounts you spend, so you can easily end up wasting $20 on tea. Don’t make such mistakes. Converter Plus is an awesome app that enables you to convert currencies and units in an extensive list of categories. Suddenly, you’ll understand that the need to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit and Meters to Feet is not that frustrating after all.
  4. OnTreesWhen your budget is limited, it’s difficult to decide what expenses are mandatory and which ones you can live without. OnTrees will help you manage your money effectively. You can track your activity and see how much you are spending on a daily basis. Then, you can analyze the expenses according to type, data and account. When you have such detailed presentation of your expenses, it will be easier for you to plan them thoughtfully.
  5. EventbriteYou don’t want to miss a concert, an exhibition, or another cultural event in the new city? Eventbrite will help you realize the lifestyle you imagined when you planned your studies in another country. The tool enables you to search by location and buy tickets for different events you are interested in. Plus, you’ll see which of your friends are attending, so you can easily find company.

International students have to invest double efforts if they want to achieve the goals they have set. The new environment imposes many challenges, but there is no issue you cannot overcome without commitment. You’ll also need the right resources to support you on that journey, so you should start exploring the above-listed websites with no delay.               


Julie Petersen is a young blogger and writer, who features the latest educational and career trends in her articles. At present time she is working on her first ebook dedicated to e-learning technologies. You can contact her via LinkedIn.

The Vicious Cycle of (un)Education in Pakistan

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding a P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

By Khaula Mazhar

In Pakistan there are basically three levels of schools. The top ranking schools, the middle ranking schools and the lowest ranking schools.  Unfortunately the ranking has more to do with how much the Pakistani parent can actually spend on education rather than academic results. In Pakistan education is a privilege, not a right.

The sad fact is the top ranking schools are extremely expensive private schools owned by business savvy entrepreneurs whose main interest is to keep up their personal prestige as well as finance their round the world trips.  That being said however, these private schools are mainly O-Level Schools in urban and suburban areas. They have to adhere to certain standards, if they wish to remain affiliated with the Cambridge system, resulting in a higher standard of academics. O-Level schools charge the highest fees, so remaining in the Cambridge system has a huge monetary attraction. The students are encouraged and supported to maintain their grades and in most cases the teachers are well-trained, dedicated individuals. At least that is how the school starts its journey.

The problem arises when the school attains an impressive reputation for academic excellence among its competitors. As with the rise of empires there is always the inevitable fall, it is true for private schools as well. The growing waiting lists for admissions into top schools are inversely proportional to the academic standard in most cases, especially where there is sole ownership rather than a board of directors. The culprit is greed, misuse of authority and the loss of dedication to working for the coming generations.

To keep up with the demand to give more admissions to more students, the private school owner must supply more buildings and more staff.  This should be a simple enough task however the reality of the expenditure can be daunting especially when it infringes upon the comfort of the school’s owner. Expenses must be cut elsewhere. Unfortunately it is the staff and students that ultimately pay. To meet the expenses current staff must forgo the yearly salary increment, mediocre teachers lacking proper training are hired on minimum salaries and fees are hiked a good percentage on a yearly basis. Not to mention the one-time admission fee (costs and arm and leg for the average upper middle class working father). It only takes a year for the standard to slip, and since the students are required to maintain a certain level of grades so as not to tarnish the school’s results. Parents have no choice but to pay for tutors or look for another school if their child is removed, in which case they would have to pay admission fees to any school willing to give an admission.

The reality of this situation is clearer when we see the average salary of teachers as compared to the monthly school fees. In one top ranking school (now on a steady decline) the average monthly fees for one child in Pre-nursery to grade two is around RS 16 000 ($157) and reaches up to RS 20 000 for higher grades. The average Pakistani family has at least three children. Sending them to school is no easy feat.

The average teacher’s monthly salary ranges from RS 13 000 to RS 20 000 only ($127-$197). So for teaching to a class of at least thirty, the teacher is paid the equivalent or less than the fees of one single student. Teachers quit on a regular basis burdened by the work load and the pathetic salaries. The teachers that do stay on don’t exactly have the incentive to give it their best.  In the end parents end up paying dearly for school fees plus tuition fees in the hope of providing their child with a proper education. And they are the lucky ones.

The average middle class family can’t afford a top ranking school and has to settle for the neighborhood private schools, which follow the Matric system. The lower fee structure although more reasonable, is still quite an expense with monthly fees ranging around RS 5000 and up per child and the average salary being RS 50 000. If there are three children, that comes to RS 15 000 at least. That is 30 % of the total household income.

The teacher’s qualifications range from Intermediate (what would be grade 14) to Bachelors, mostly with no teacher’s training at all. The training is done on the job. Students come home from school and then study with tutors, usually of equally mediocre capabilities. Getting an admission into any post secondary school of worth is a large improbability for most of these children. And so the cycle continues when they go out to get jobs.  Unless one has a degree from a well-reputed academia one must settle for a second-rate job.

The lowest ranking schools are the government schools. The government spends an embarrassing 2% of the budget on education. Due to the insignificant funding there is a lack of motivation among the under-qualified teachers, who are regularly transferred on the basis of prejudice and nepotism. The lack of teaching staff causes an overload of work on the remaining teachers. All this results in a poor and sometimes even hostile environment which encourages students to bunk.

Children who do attend are faced with sitting in dilapidated classrooms, sometimes without electricity or even desks. The majority of the children won’t ever complete their schooling, will end up working less than minimum wage jobs then try to raise a family on that. And so the vicious cycle continues.

Khaula Mazhar, children’s book author, has a ten year teaching experience from Pakistan where she also wrote for Dawn Newspaper. After moving back home to Canada she continues to pursue her writing when she can. She blogs at Blog Her, and and writes articles for

4 considerations before applying to schools abroad

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post by Brooke Chaplan

Attending school overseas is an exciting idea for any prospective student. But when push comes to shove, there are numerous practical decisions you have to think about before applying abroad. From the travel, cost, and even just the application itself, going overseas can mean a lot of time and work put in from you. Considering every detail is important to getting the best deal and finding the perfect program for you. Of these numerous considerations, the four most important are listed below.

Consider the Cost
Analyze the marketability of the degree you’re thinking about, the chosen school’s prestige, the availability of student loans for foreign students, and the exchange rate between the local currency and the currency used in the country where the school is located. If you fail to factor in the financial burdens associated with going to school abroad, you may be financially crippled for life. Keep in mind that many foreign locales have excellent programs for a fraction of what a degree would cost elsewhere, you just have to be sure. If your degree program isn’t going to guarantee you a job or internship back home, the cost of going to school may not be worth the reward. Look at students who have succeeded in the past and talk to faculty who can help you find out where you can use the degree to your advantage.


Consider the Housing
Specifically, does the university provide housing for foreign students, what is the cost of living on campus vs. off campus, is it safe to live off campus, and what type of public transit is available to ride to the school? If you find an economical apartment in a nice neighborhood but with no access to public transportation, then living there may be impractical. If they do provide student housing is it included in tuition costs? Are there any ways you can save money or get financial aid here as a foreign student. Look at all your options and find out what you can live with.

Consider the Travel
A U.S. citizen will need a passport to leave the U.S. and vaccinations for local diseases may be needed before you can safely enter a foreign locale. Certain students may need a student visa in order to enter a foreign country as well. For example, if you wanted to attend medical school in an exotic location like the Caribbean, a visa would be required for those staying in the country more than 90 days. Schools like St. Martinus University often offer a lot of student financial aid for travel and visas as well. If you are going to a more exotic country you might need to think about language barriers. If you will have a lot of fellow foreign students to help you around and if you are familiar with the culture it may not be such a shock.

Consider the Local Government
Utilize websites such as the CIA World Fact Book to evaluate the governmental stability of the country in which the school is located and research how locals are reputed to treat students of your own nationality. It would not be ideal to attend a school in an area where you don’t feel safe or welcomed. Look at reviews of the school from alumni and past foreign students. They can help you navigate your way in how life is after graduation and during the school semesters.

Wherever your educational goals take you, the most important thing to remember is to work hard and enjoy the country you’ve chosen to visit. Immersion into a foreign culture exponentially broadens your horizons and will provide you with a completely different perspective on life.


Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening. For more information contact Brooke via Twitter @BrookeChaplan.

6 things students forget to bring when they study abroad

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest column by Brooke Chaplan

It’s always tough to prepare yourself for a study abroad trip. In most cases, this will be the first time you’ve left the country, and despite your months of preparation, there are going to be unexpected differences. Until you understand your new living conditions, it’s best to be prepared and bring the basic items you need to survive well in a foreign country. Don’t be like the others who have gone before you and forget these essential items on your study abroad.

Personal Hygiene
Depending on where you go, you may find the personal hygiene products available don’t work quite the same way as your favorites back home. To tide you over while you find replacements, it’s a good idea to bring a three-month supply of any cosmetics, bath products, and deodorant that you use regularly. This includes a brush, shampoo, toothbrush, soap, contact lenses and solution, and razors.

Getting Money
In most instances, you’re going to do better exchanging your money when you get to the country in question. In the U.S., Forex fees are charged in addition to the fee charged by the establishment. If you go to a country like Japan, you will pay very close to the exchange rate. The best places to get money in a foreign country are usually at the local post offices, or by withdrawing money from your bank account at an ATM. However, you should bring at least $300 in local currency to help you get started

Portable Charger

Purchasing a portable charger in your home country is a great way to make sure your electronics work when you arrive. A portable charger can keep your cell phone alive, and then you won’t get lost without some way to communicate. Even if you don’t have a cell phone contract in your new country, you can typically find a Wi-Fi network you can use to communicate online.

Hair Dryer
Look for a hair dryer that uses dual-voltage. This is much better than plugging your dryer into a converter. You may think the country you’re visiting will have the same electronics as your home country, but this isn’t always true.

Favorite Snacks
You’re likely excited about trying out new foods, but it’s important to bring a cache of your favorites for emergencies. You’ll thank yourself when culture shock begins to set in, or when you find yourself alone in a foreign country and your stomach is upset from new water, living conditions, and foods.

Bottle with Filter

Bring a bottle that contains a built-in filter. You may find yourself stuck in the airport with little to no money. If you fill up your bottle with water, you can at least stave off dehydration and avoid much of the jet lag associated with long flights.

Many of the items you need can be found at your local stores like Target or Kohl’s. Use coupons from site like discountrue to save even more money, and make sure you purchase the lightest luggage possible. This will ensure you’re able to take as much with you as possible, without exceeding airline baggage limits.


Brooke Chaplan is a freelance writer and blogger. She lives and works out of her home in Los Lunas, New Mexico. She loves the outdoors and spends most her time hiking, biking and gardening.