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British Expat Newsletter:
31 August 2005

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Edukashun
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Joke and quotation

This week

Those of you who have teenage kids will be all too well aware that exam results have been published during the last month. For many of us the tense summer weeks of waiting are a dim and distant memory. (Not for me – I had to go through that ordeal earlier this year while waiting for my MSc result.) But I think we’re all aware that it’s a very stressful time; after all, the results can be life-changing. All the more so now that the government are trying so hard to boost the numbers attending university after school.

The results have never been better, we’re told, with over 96% of A-level exams resulting in passes – the percentage has risen for the last 23 years in succession. But there’s a lot of scepticism over this, with the inevitable annual debate over whether teaching methods are genuinely improving or, as many suspect, exams are getting easier. It now seems that the truth may lie elsewhere. The numbers taking A-levels in languages are in decline, with many students choosing “softer” courses such as the much-derided media studies. One media studies university lecturer recently sought to defend his subject on the BBC’s website, but drew a set of generally unfavourable comments in response – including from some who confessed to having taken media studies as an easy option.

That raises the whole question of the type of learning schoolchildren undertake – learning by rote or learning how to think. In many of Asia’s developing countries, much of the teaching that goes on depends on rote learning rather than pursuing knowledge through enquiry. This extends beyond primary school, where you might expect it, to quite advanced levels in the education system; Dave’s sat on scholarship interview panels in the South Asian sub-continent where his fellow panellists – most of them university lecturers – seemed to regard it as their job to catch the candidates out on gaps in their factual knowledge, not test their ability to put together a reasoned argument. Very depressing. This quotation from the BBC/British Council English teaching website explains why:

“Knowledge is changing rapidly; memorising facts and figures which could shortly be outdated does not seem wise. However, learning how to access knowledge quickly and effectively, and evaluating it, as structured inquiry does, seems much wiser.”

(Source: British Council)

Cultural differences lie at the root of this, no doubt. It’s much rarer for a student to challenge a teacher in an Asian classroom than it would be in Europe or North America. But there are other differences. For instance, Scott Hipsher tells us in his guide to studying in Bangkok (added to our website today) that it’s quite usual for postgrad university coursework to be undertaken in groups, and for each participant in the group to be awarded the same mark for the work. Something of an alien concept to most UK students, I should think – particularly given the spirit of competition which is instilled in our classrooms through the constant testing.

Do you have any thoughts on this issue? Why not comment and tell us about it?

Virtual Snacks

If you have a child of school leaving age who isn’t sure what he or she wants to study yet, why not point them in the direction of Salford University’s Higher National Diploma in stand-up comedy? This is no joke…
BBC News – A joke with qualifications

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • wilt chamberlain penis
  • how to make englishes chicken
  • sex tips for greek men
  • hyperactive shih tzu
  • fairy tales film british adult
  • celebs captures unknowingly
  • bunkfest lineup
  • saggy
  • how people communicate on olden days
  • ross german kick boxer
  • rip my cloths [sic] off
  • british nude women with nude men alone in the rome and doing sex

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

British Expat Magazine


“It can be said unequivocally that good teaching is far more complex, difficult, and demanding than mediocre research, which may explain why professors try so hard to avoid it.”

– Page Smith, US historian and university lecturer (1917-95)


A mum and dad are worried about their son not wanting to learn maths at the school he’s in, so they decide to send him to a Catholic school instead.

After the first day of school, their son comes racing into the house, goes straight into his room and slams the door shut. Mum and dad are a little worried about this and go to his room to see if he is okay. They find him sitting at his desk doing his homework.

The boy keeps doing that for the rest of the year.

At the end of the year the son brings home his report card and gives it to his mum and dad. Looking at it they see under maths an A+.

Mum and Dad are very happy and ask the son, “What changed your mind about learning maths?”

The son looked at his parents and said, “Well, on the first day when I walked into the classroom, I saw a guy nailed to the plus sign at the back of the room behind the teacher’s desk and I knew they meant business.”

Bonus joke:

The parents were very disappointed in the grades that their son brought home. “The only consolation I can find in these awful grades,” lamented the mother, “is that I know he never cheated during his exams.”

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