Tag: Education

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Trinidad and Tobago: An Educational Overview

Trinidad and Tobago is a dual-island Caribbean nation located about seven miles off the coast of Venezuela. The island of Tobago was settled by the Dutch in 1630, but was a French colony until it was ceded to the British crown in 1814. Trinidad on the other hand, was a Spanish colony from 1594 until 1802, when it was ceded to the British. The islands were united as one colony in 1888, gaining independence in 1962. In 1976, Trinidad and Tobago became a republic.

Trinidad and Tobago’s economy is supported by revenues in the oil and gas industry. The nation stands out among emerging markets for its education system, considered one of its core economic strengths. Trinidad and Tobago is the third most literate country in the Caribbean region after Barbados and Cuba, with a youth literacy rate higher than 99%. Education is available and free to all nationals, save for examination and administration fees at the tertiary level.

The education system is designed to distribute the population’s wealth from petrochemical industries. The emphasis is on strengthening basic education and increasing professional specializations at the higher levels. As such, the country’s government has made education a priority. For example, the fiscal year 2015 saw fifteen percent of national spending (about $1.56 billion USD) allotted to education alone.

Primary and Secondary School

The country’s educational system is based on the British model. School is free and compulsory for ages 5-15. Primary school starts at age 5 (grades 1-5). However, non-mandatory schooling can begin as early as age 3. Past primary school, students take a secondary school assessment for entry called the SEA (Secondary Entrance Assessment) which tests reading comprehension, essay writing, literacy and numeracy.  Secondary school spans grades 6-8 at which point students complete their Caribbean secondary education certificate. Grades 9-10 are part of upper secondary school, and are non-compulsory for students. However, completing these grades may lead to an advanced proficiency certificate and entrance to tertiary education. The examinations taken at the end of upper secondary school are comparable to the British O and A Level exams.

Higher Education

Undergraduate-level study is also free at approved universities, such as the University of the West Indies, the University of Trinidad and Tobago, and the University of the Southern Caribbean. Some master’s programs are subsidized by the government as well. The Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) program, for example, benefits over sixty-five thousand nationals, but expects recipients to work in the island for a period of time after graduation in return. Programs like these aim to curb brain-drain in the small dual-island nation.

Generally, education from government-assisted and public schools is considered to be of a higher quality than private schools. Students may also choose to attend technical and vocational schools instead of undergraduate university education.

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Education in Indonesia

Indonesia is fourth most populous country in the world and has the third largest educational system. Education in Indonesia is compulsory for all children from the age of 7 to 14. The first six years of compulsory education are completed in a primary school, followed by three years in lower/ junior secondary school. After nine years of mandatory schooling, students may choose to continue their education in a senior secondary or vocational school. Thereafter they can choose between a university education and a paraprofessional education. If a student chooses to pursue higher professional education in Indonesia, they can receive a diploma in a certain profession. Students that choose to attend university can obtain a master’s degree or a doctoral degree if they meet set requirements.

The Ministry of National Education (MoNE) manages 84% of the primary and secondary schools in Indonesia, and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) oversees the remaining 16%. Islamic Schools, or madrasahs run by the MoRA are offered from preprimary (optional schooling for children under the age of 7) to upper secondary school. Completion of an Islamic primary or secondary school is equated to completion of a public school in Indonesia. The MoRA also manages Islamic institutes, which are given the same ranking as public and private universities.

After mandatory schooling is finished, Indonesian teenagers can continue to a three-year upper/senior secondary education. There are three options at this level; general education, an Islamic education, and vocational training. General senior secondary schooling teaches students natural and social sciences, languages, and/or religion. Islamic senior secondary education provides students with specialized religious knowledge. A three-year vocational school in either an Islamic or public school will give students job training in a chosen field. Students also have the option of entering a four-year vocational program, in which they will receive a Level 1 diploma upon graduation. Upon completion of coursework, all secondary school students must pass an exam administered by their individual schools to receive a Certificate of Completion. To receive a Certificate of Graduation students must pass the national examinations administered by the MoNE, which also serves as an entrance exam to public universities.

Those that wish to continue to higher education must meet requirements set by each institution. To gain entrance to a private university, a polytechnic institution, or an academy students must take the exam set by each school. In Indonesia there are many options for higher education. Students may seek an education at a public or private university, a teacher training institute, an Islamic institute, a college or advanced school, a polytechnic school, an academy, or a community college.

A diploma from the Indonesian education system is awarded when a student completes higher education-level schoolwork at a teacher institute, academy, or any paraprofessional program. A diploma I requires one year of study, a diploma II requires two years of study, and so on. A Diploma IV is the highest diploma a student can earn.

After senior secondary school students may also choose to apply to university. There are over 400 universities in Indonesia, and a majority are private institutions. Because of the small number of public universities and therefore the limited number of available spots, gaining admission is very competitive. The national examination/entrance exam is standard throughout Indonesia, and therefore students who can afford to prepare for the exam tend to receive better scores. Due to the competitive nature of universities, many Indonesian students attend international institutions. Indonesian institutions also offer master’s and doctoral degrees for students who want to continue their education after an undergraduate degree.

As Indonesia’s economy is growing, there is a large demand for mid-level skilled workers who can contribute to the local and national economies. Because of this demand, there are a growing number of community colleges that provide two-year educational programs. Credits from these schools can be transferred to university credits, or graduates can join the workforce. As part of an initiative to increase the number of skilled workers in the market, the government has set a goal to increase the number of students enrolled in upper secondary vocational schools.

Over the past decade the Indonesian government has allocated more money to the education sector and decentralized money management. Now schools have more control of how they spend their money and can better customize their budget for students at each school. Despite these efforts, the lower education system has not improved much. Indonesian primary and secondary students continue to rank low on standardized examinations compared to their international counterparts.

Another effort has been made to increase the quality of teachers in primary and secondary schools. Passed in 2005, the Teacher Law requires all new teachers to hold a four-year degree, increasing the number of teachers that have a bachelor degree or a Degree IV. In theory this should increase the quality of education each student receives. But, it also means that more money must be allocated to teachers’ salaries, which decreases the amount of available funding from the operational budget.

The biggest problem with the Indonesian education system is the low rate of students who can actually attend school. Although primary and lower secondary school are mandatory for all children, in 2014 only 21% of children were receiving an early childhood education. Students are forced to leave school in order to support their families, get married at a young age, or because of various economic constraints. The education department has so far been unable to control or counteract many of the factors that contribute to the low rate of enrollment. As such, large scale policies and initiatives are needed to decrease poverty and to give children the opportunity to complete school.

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A Brief Overview of Higher Education in France

From the uniformity of laïcité (secularism) to the leftist ideals of the incumbent Socialist party under François Hollande, France has a pronounced legacy of embodying a tame adaptation of Democratic Socialism among industrialized nations. One need look no further than the French higher education system to witness an institutionalization of égalité.

Upon completion of secondary school coursework, students seeking to continue their studies must take a series of exams based on the track of study they pursued in lycée. The three main strata for the baccalauréat (truncated as le bac) are the Bac Général, which has “streams” in science, literature, and social and economic sciences, the Bac Technologique which specializes in sciences, technology, music, dance, and hotel management, and the Brevet de Technicien, which allows access to non-university technical programs in areas like manufacturing and industrial studies. Passing one of these three exam series guarantees admission to French higher education. Those who choose not to pursue a baccalauréat may finish their studies one year early and receive either a Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle (le CAP) or the slightly more prestigious Brevet d’Etudes Professionnelles (le BEP). These certifications segue into a multitude of technical and career-oriented programs ranging from one to two years. France contains more than 3,000 schools that offer programs of this kind, both public and private.

Those who opt into the Brevet de Technicien earn access to an array of higher-level technical degrees. These typically two-year programs are offered at Universities, lycées, and Instituts Universitaires de Technologie (IUT), the latter of which are connected to universities and prepare students for the workforce. It is worth noting that obtaining a degree of this level does not grant eligibility for “second cycle” degree programs, such as a Master diploma.

France’s formalized university structure abides by a consolidated European Union approach called the LMD System (Licence-Master-Doctorat). The degrees are merited via ECTS credits (European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System), which are accepted by most European educational institutions. The “Licence” degree is earned in three years, the “Master” in two additional years, and the “Doctorat” in an additional three. These degrees can chiefly be obtained at public universities and Grandes Ecoles.

There are 83 public sector universities in France, and anyone is guaranteed admission to one of these schools upon passing le bac. Moreover, France is one of six countries in which public higher education is virtually free—“Licence” programs cost a mere €184 (roughly $200) per academic year, with a “Master” only demanding €256 (roughly $275). The caveat is the sheer turnover of these programs. Nearly half of all students fail to complete their first year of studies at these institutions, with about 90,000 leaving without a qualification. Efforts are being made to curb the failure rate among students, but the volume of students makes the endeavor a difficult one.

There are also private institutions that offer LMD system degrees, with tuition ranging from €3,000 to €10,000 annually (approximately $3,200 to $10,700). The most prestigious of these institutions are called Grandes Ecoles, which elicit a five-year program ultimately resulting in a Master’s-level qualification. These French equivalents to the Ivy League only mandate three years of study within the institutions themselves, in addition to two preceding years of classes préparatoires (truncated as prépas). Following these two years of study, students then take a concours for admission to a Grande Ecole. Not all Grandes Ecoles are private; a notable example is La Sorbonne, a renowned university in Paris. The most prominent programs offered within these schools are Management and Engineering.

The French higher education system displays close parallels with the United States system and has also exhibited efforts to consolidate curricula among European nations. While there are certainly hitches in fielding the influx of people seeking educational advancement, the open opportunity to obtain a degree speaks well to the fraternal ideals of the country.

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A Brief Look at Higher Education in China

China boasts the world’s largest higher education system, with more than three thousand higher education institutions and an average yearly enrollment of more than twenty-five million students. Within its system, there are a variety of types of higher education institutions, including both general and discipline-specific universities, vocational institutes, and adult higher education institutes. Successful passage of the post-secondary National Entrance Examination is typically required for university admission, a process that can be highly competitive.

The country’s system of universities is divided between the central and municipal governments, as well as autonomous regions and municipalities. The typical school year runs on a semester schedule, with the first semester starting in early September and the second starting in mid-February. China’s higher education system is noted for its rigorous curriculum, and students commonly have five-day class schedules.

China’s higher education system is heavily influenced by Western education systems, and features traditional bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Students completing a bachelor’s program are expected to finish a graduation thesis, report good academic grades, and finish the associated teaching plan. Those completing a master’s program must pass all exams in subject studies and draft a graduation defense. Graduate students also have the option to attend research institutions. Students completing a doctoral program generally must complete the same requirements within a masters’ program in addition to completing the graduation oral examinations.

The modern implementation of China’s higher education system dates back to the 1980s, though its roots can be traced as far back as the Han Dynasty. According to the British Council, at the time of the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, there were only 205 higher education institutions in the entire country. Of those, 123 were state and provincial universities, with the rest being private or religiously affiliated. Total enrollment was approximately 120,000 students, or one in every ten thousand Chinese citizens. However, as a result of the Soviet Union’s influence on Chinese culture in the 1950s, higher education expanded to include comprehensive universities and specialized institutes for industrial training and development. Structural reforms, including the reintroduction of the National Higher Education Entrance Exam, then followed in 1977 under the rule of Deng Xiaoping.

Seeking to invest in the people’s education, China implemented the 21st Century Education Revitalization Plan in 1999. This led to an annual enrollment increase of 2%, leading to an overall gross enrollment of 30% in 2012. Across the system as a whole, more than 30 million people have enrolled in recent years to pursue a variety of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs. Rankings also suggest that China is now a popular destination for international students in Asia.

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The Australian Educational System

The Australian education system is similar to the systems of many developed countries. Children attend primary and secondary school, and many continue to higher education. Australian schools are primarily publically owned and funded, while a small percentage are considered private schools. Degrees from Australian schools are recognized worldwide and Australia is known for having a robust higher education system.

From about the age of five to the age of fifteen, school is compulsory for Australians. Each state or territory is responsible for setting the standards, policies, and rules for its primary and secondary schools. The Australian government provides funding and infrastructure to schools around the country, in hopes that the quality of public schools will continue to improve. The Australian government is currently looking for a solution to the lack of sufficient improvement in student outcomes. Although funding has increased over the past decade, there has not been a change in the quality of public schools. Like other countries seeking alternatives to current schooling systems, Australia is looking for ways to better prepare students for life.

Following primary and secondary education, Australian students can advance to tertiary education, which includes university and vocational education and training. English is the official language of Australia and its education system, which makes it a popular destination for international students. Australia is also home to many of the top universities in the world.

Introduced in 1995, the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) makes it easier to compare a tertiary education degree to those from international schools and the more than one thousand institutions of higher education in Australia. After graduating from any school in Australia, a student earns a degree that is ranked on a scale from one to ten. For example, a Bachelor’s degree is a Level 7 qualification, but a Bachelor’s (Honours) degree is a Level 8, the same level as a Graduate Certificate or Diploma. In order for a school to issue one of these standardized qualifications to graduating students, the school must meet government standards. In a sense, institutions approved by the government can be considered accredited institutions.

Students who choose to continue with higher education can receive many different degrees from Australian institutions. Options include an Advanced Diploma, an Associate’s degree, a Bachelor’s degree, a Bachelor’s (Honours) degree, a Graduate Certificate, a Graduate Diploma, a Master’s degree, and a Doctoral degree. After secondary school, students may also choose to obtain a certificate in their chosen field of work. According to AQF specifications for earning certificates, students must learn specialized skills in a particular vocation. Certificate levels range from Level 1 to Level 4, corresponding with AQF Levels 1 through Level 4, with each subsequent certificate requiring more knowledge. A Diploma equates to an AQF Level 5, as opposed to an Advanced Diploma, which equates to an AQF level 6, the same level as an Associate’s degree.

Before Europeans settled in Australia, the only known inhabitants of the country were aboriginals. When explorers discovered the land, aboriginal people were not included in the British Empire’s plan for the soon-to-be colony. In modern times, the government has made efforts to repair the relationship between the indigenous people of this region and those of European descent. Indigenous Education Units (IEU) provide a support network for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students on university campuses. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet also provides support for these students through scholarships and assistance.

Most tertiary education institutions in Australia are public institutions, which means that they mostly rely on government funding and grants. Proposed changes to the higher education system in Australia have been under debate recently. While some government officials feel that higher education is over-funded, others believe that cutting the budget will lower the quality of public universities. The Education Investment Fund (EIF) pays for public university infrastructure. Recently, it was decided that the money allocated for this fund would be redirected to efforts for disabled citizens. Existing programs that receive funding from EIF will continue to do so, but new projects will not be accepted. Institutions of higher education are still funded by the Higher Education Support Act (HESA), which has been providing a majority of funding since 2003.

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Education in Brazil: An Overview

Brazil is the fifth largest country in the world and the largest country in South America. Its population is over 200 million people. Unlike many other countries with a colonial past, Brazil went through various types of government since its establishment in the early 1500s. Having gained independence in 1822, Brazil’s government system shifted from colonial to monarchical, to oligarchic, then populist, to military dictatorship, and finally, to the democratic republic formed in 1985. By 1988, the basis for modern Brazilian legislation was created with the newest constitution.

K-12 Education

While the current system of education in the country is based on the last constitution, some of the tenets by which the Brazilian system operates date back to pre-republican times. In Brazil, schooling is divided into progressive stages based on age grouping.  School is compulsory at the elementary level, from ages 6-14. High school usually spans ages 15-17. This stage of schooling has as recently as 2016 been considered for compulsory mandate as well. Other schooling options are technical schools, which provide technical degrees that can be obtained while attending high school. Technical degrees are usually provided by public institutions but not accredited by the Ministry of Education. Higher education is not mandatory and is aimed at adults 18 and over.

The decree on mandatory schooling and the state’s responsibility in education dates back to the 59th amendment to the Brazilian constitution made in 1971.  The intent was to universalize basic education across the country. Clauses in the amendment ensure that the state provides coverage for costs associated with didactic materials, transportation, nourishment, and health assistance.  However, this law is seldom enforced as the country’s 18% illiteracy rate demonstrates. Over 80% of the Brazilian population lives in urban areas, and despite its large manufacturing and service sectors, agriculture and mining are still leading industries in the nation. Rural as well as urban dwellers in low resource settings, especially in areas outside of the Southeast and ocean bordering regions, have a higher incidence of lack of access to education, as poor transportation and the need for labor hinder basic educational pursuits.

Path to Higher Ed: Private vs. Public

The Brazilian educational system is supervised by government offices at the municipal, state, and federal levels. Childhood education falls under the responsibility of the municipalities, while states and the federal district are tasked with the regulation and provision of primary and secondary education. This includes the federal government’s responsibility in providing education in institutions such as universities and regulating private ones.

Educational bodies in Brazil include the Ministry of Education (Ministério da Educação), the Coordination for the Improvement for Higher Education Personnel (Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior [CONAES]), and the National Committee for the Evaluation of Higher Education (Comissão Nacional de Avaliação da Educação Superior [CAPES].

Admission to universities is contingent upon completion of secondary school as well as entrance exam scores. Each university has conventionally held its own exam called a vestibular, which tests students on a variety of subjects. Brazilian students often resort to extra courses outside of normal schooling hours or after completing secondary school in order to prepare for this exam.

Another exam is the ENEM, the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio. This exam was created as a means of assessing the quality of Brazilian education, and hundreds of universities have replaced their vestibulares for ENEMs for admissions. As of 2009, the Ministry of Education named the ENEM as the official university entrance exam. Because entrance exams are so challenging and the best universities in Brazil are public federal universities with limited seats, admissions are competitive.

Brazil has private and public universities. Unlike the U.S educational system, public or federal schools at the university level are considered more prestigious and require a competitive state examination for entry. Deficiencies and inequalities in the Brazilian educational system become eminent when looking at the path taken towards university entry.

Prior to a widespread affirmative action decision passed in 2012, only students that had the means to afford private schooling in the primary and secondary stages earned the scores required for entry at these federal institutions. Public schools at these levels are traditionally attended by lower-income students that may not be able to afford the extra preparation courses that some middle class and higher-income students can for university entry. The affirmative action law was passed in response to this issue, and required that half of the incoming class of each federal university be matriculated from public schools. The federal universities were given four years to implement the change in their admission processes.

Higher Education

At the university level, the “graduação” or “Bacharel,” the first level undergraduate program, is typically earned in 3 to 6 years of study. All programs require a research paper or project.  The “mestrado,” or graduate-level program, is usually completed from 18 months to 2 years and always requires a thesis.  A “doutorado,” or Doctorate degree, is usually earned in 4 years. Except for a few programs that allow for direct admission from an undergraduate program, most “doutorado” programs require students to have completed the “mestrado” prior to admission.