Tag Archives: education

Let’s reclaim the fun of maths!

Merry Christmas, everyone! Here is a fittingly optimistic read about how to make maths fun and exciting for the new generations to come:


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An antiapology of the student experience

 The enthusiasm for the “student experience” is a depressing example of how higher education is becoming a commodity. Universities invest in better services not only to please students, but to enhance their competitiveness in the market by attracting more, or better qualified, students, and to boost their scores in the national student survey and league tables.

Peter Scott, the Guardian, http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/oct/06/students-university-education-experience-customer

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What do zombies have to do with maths?

UK maths educators are going more and more overboard in their attempts to make maths popular with young people.  Consider this Halloween special by the Oxford Science blog:

Or maybe I’m just too old to understand what the hype with zombies is all about. More pure human maths for me, please.

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Family Maths Day in Berlin: 6 September, Saturday!


Was für eine tolle Idee: ein Mathe-Familien-Tag! Das Fest findet am Samstag, 6.September, von 14 bis 18 Uhr im Schulgarten Moabit statt. Der Eintritt ist frei. Mehr Infos hier und hierMathe-Familien-Tag am 6.9. in BerlinMathe-Familien-Tag 2014Mathe-Familien-Tag 2014

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Trafficked Filipino Maths Teachers in the USA

I just read an article about something new and shocking to me – qualified teachers of mathematics (and other subjects) from the Philiphines who are  recruited on one-year contracts to teach in USA public schools, but often end up in appalling working and employment conditions:

“Between 2007 and 2009, 350 Filipino teachers arrived in Louisiana, excited for the opportunity to teach math and science in public schools throughout the state. They’d been recruited through a company called Universal Placement International Inc., which professes on its website to “successfully place teachers in different schools thru out [sic] the United States.” As a lawsuit later revealed, however, their journey through the American public school system was fraught with abuse.

According to court documents, Lourdes Navarro, chief recruiter and head of Universal Placement, made applicants pay a whopping $12,550 in interview and “processing fees” before they’d even left the Philippines. But the exploitation didn’t stop there. Immediately after the teachers landed in LAX, Navarro coerced them into signing a contract paying her 10 percent of their first and second years’ salaries; she threatened those who refused with instant deportation. Even after they started at their schools, Navarro kept the teachers dependent on her by only obtaining them one-year visas before exorbitantly charging them for an annual renewal fee. She also confiscated their passports.”

The article continues with an interesting analysis of the underlying problems in education and the neoliberal economy:

The idea that new teachers should be imported from halfway around the world for yearlong stints, knowing no background about the communities they are entering and the content relevant to them, is only justified if the teacher is reduced to an instrument of standardized information transmission. And if teachers are just such instruments, why not search the global market for the cheapest, most malleable ones possible? […]for corporate recruiters and their district clients, finding the right match for a school is not about teacher quality or experience, but rather cost and expendability.  The phenomenon of teacher trafficking, then, doesn’t rest entirely on recruiters’ mercenary tendencies or districts’ drive to cheapen their labor. It also rests on the larger neoliberal conception of workers. In this case, teachers become moveable parts, switched out in accordance with the iron laws of supply and demand in order to more efficiently output successful test scores, whose value comes to represent students themselves.

There is, however, something that worries me in the article. It also talks of “Teach For the Philippines” and its mother scheme, Teach for America, as a “global empire”. Although I can see how this scheme is part of the same complex of problems – not enough teachers in poorer countries, exacerbated by richer countries “poaching” teachers from poor countries – the disparaging analysis of “Teach for X” took me aback. I know only very good things about a similar scheme in Bulgaria. I would like to read more – if you read this and want to recommend me something to read about “Teach for X”, please do.

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