Category Archives: Education Works

How to Get Good Marks

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos

Everyone wants to get good marks at school.  So how is it done?  Well a lot depends on you, the student.  Teachers and parents can only do so much, but the rest is up to you.  Here are some quick pointers for getting good marks at school:

  1. Get sufficient rest, nourishment and exercise – getting proper rest, eating enough food and getting plenty of exercise will give you the energy you need to study.
  2. Have a set time and place to study – if you have a set routine and a good place to study, then you will not forget to study or procrastinate.  The study place should not be your bed; you will only fall asleep.
  3. Plan a daily study schedule, don’t cram for exams – plan to study everyday.  This will help your long term memory and you will remember everything you need to for the exam.  Cramming only lasts as long as the cram; the facts may not even remain in your head long enough to write the exam.
  4. Take notes in class; don’t rely on your memory – take notes; most of us don’t have a photographic memory and we forget.  You have many subjects and facts to remember so don’t rely on your memory.
  5. Try to understand; don’t just memorise – to get good marks you need to understand your subjects, not just memorise them.  If you memorise only, you will forget, but if you understand you will remember; perhaps even as long as a lifetime.
  6. Study the questions at the end of the chapter – the summary and questions at the end of the chapter are there for a reason – to help you study.  So make use of this important part of the chapter.
  7. Review, review and review again – this is essential for good marks – review your text, your lecture notes; not just once or twice, but many times.  Remake notes in your reviews, not just read and you will remember most of the information.

If you follow this simple regime, you will benefit from the result because you will be the guy or gal with top marks.  So don’t procrastinate, set up a study schedule today and reap the rewards.

Disembowelling Illiteracy

we all need an educationIlliteracy rates in Pakistan are staggering.  Official statistics brag that the country is closing the edge on illiteracy where 46% of our children are now literate, and girls now are at a whopping 26%.  Critics of those figures say that the percentage would be closer to 26% and 12% respectively.  This may be closer to the truth when we consider that Pakistan has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world.  Furthermore to that, Pakistan stands as having the second largest population of out of school children in the world; the record holder being held by Nigeria.

If you ask a young person in Pakistan what it would mean to be educated, the quick response is a good job.  If you ask someone who is fortunate enough to go to a good school in Pakistan, or who has been brought up in a developed nation, a glib response will be again a better job, more money or you might even get the answer that the now literate will know their rights and no one will be able to take advantage of them.  Although lack of employment opportunities and ignorance of rights are bedfellows with illiteracy, there are more dire repercussions to illiteracy than these casual answers.

A literate person is an informed person who can now understand and analysis the situation or facts before him or her.  This is especially true once it comes to the medical services provided to the poor and disenfranchised of Pakistan.  The uneducated look up to the medical profession; assuming that they will get quality service, because they are dealing with an educated man.  Perhaps nothing is further from the truth.

Imagine if you will; an uneducated young man enters the doctor’s office with severe stomach pain, perhaps a little further towards the kidney area.  An X-ray is done, a surgical procedure is scheduled and the young man’s kidney is removed.  Assuming that he is in the hands of a respected educated man who knows what he is doing, no questions are asked.  And he doesn’t even know what questions he should ask; for he does not have the knowledge it takes to ask anything.  He is simply at the mercy of this exalted figure.  Mercy is what this young man really needed, for this respected pillar of the community removed the only kidney this young man had and sold it on the black market.  When questions did rise (by an educated man) the records were no were to be found.  Needless to say, the young man died leaving a grieving family.

Not all doctors are preying on the vulnerable poor and uneducated and engaging in the criminal activity of selling healthy organs extracted from unsuspecting illiterate peasants.  No, one would never accuse the medical profession of crimes, but perhaps we can indulge in the word malpractice.  There are some good doctors around who uphold the Hippocratic Oath to provide quality service to all, regardless of creed or economic position in life.  I have met a number of these special doctors.  But there are a sufficiently high number of doctors who Guinea pig with the lives of those who are voiceless against the educated elite.

Illiteracy’s ignorance leaves way for practices unquestioned.  And again, how can you ask a question if you don’t know what question to ask?  Why would the uneducated question the educated?  Unthinkable!  How dare him!  To be scorned, I am sure!   And so malpractice continues unchecked with no one the wiser.  Let me give you an example.  A father is informed that his son needs blood; again.  “Why does he need blood?”  The father’s answer is that he has white spots under his eyes.  When asked if the doctor had done any tests to determine the need for blood, the answer was no.  “What type of blood does your son have”, the father was further questioned.  Type A was his response.  And “what type of blood is the donor?”  Type O is the response.  Okay you say; O is a universal donor.  Ah, but only if you are an adult, not for a small child under one year.

“Did the doctor do a cross match,” the father was further inquisitioned.  No, was his response.  So, the educated man phoned the doctor only to be told that he asked too many question.  The doctor was not comfortable with the questions.

So, in this case, the small child was taken to a doctor where proper medical treatment was administered, for a financial sum of course.  The blood tests showed severe malnutrition and an extremely low haemoglobin count.  Yes, he needs blood, but Type A please.  Today the baby is doing well and on a nutritional based diet.

These two examples are only the faintest cries of how the illiterate are daily being disembowelled.  The millions that remain voiceless, if their cries were heard should ricochet around the world; but who will hear their cries?  Will you?  Will I?

Of course we cannot leave all the work to malpractice because every day the illiterate are stripped of dignity when the lords of this country tread on their emotions, their personage; reducing them to the sub-humans they think them to be.  They are criminalised because of their ignorance and poverty.  When an elite official can charge a young girl of abuse simply when she herself was the abuser, witnessed by over 50 people, where is the justice for the poor?  Where is the voice she needs?  What advocacy does she have when illiteracy and poverty is her state?  Not only are they being disembowelled of their vital life givers, but they are being disembowelled emotionally, mentally and financially.  The ugly head of injustice and inequality; the disparity between rich and poor cannot be ignored.

So, what can we do?  Those who care enough must take action, giving voice where none currently exists.  The severity of the situation cannot be undermined; this is ugly business.  It is not just about better jobs and knowing rights, as important as they are.  Yes, an educated person’s better job means a better standard of living, an ability to rise above the sub-meagre existence and to be able to pay for services once denied or skewed.

When we strip another human being of every emotion, every dignity, even their body and leave them a dismembered skeleton, then we need to do something now, urgently.

There is no place for complacency, no place for passing the task of education on to others – we all need to rise and take part.  Someone has said each one, teach one.  Others are advocates pushing authorities to take their responsibilities seriously.  Others fund NGOS that are making inroads into educating the neediest members of our society.  Whatever way we do it, it must be done.  We can no longer stand by and watch the one next to us perish emotionally, mentally, physically.  The disembowelment of our poor must stop with us.

This is Important! Kids Lose One to Three Months of Learning Each Summer

math tuitionNot going to school during the summer causes brain drain.  Whether the student loses up to three months of learning is debatable, but the fact is they do lose some of what they were taught the previous year.  The biggest loss is in math.

So what does a parent do for the summer to keep their child’s math abilities up to speed?  The problem is that in the summer, activities should be fun.  Here are a number of fun ways your child can have some math brain gain during the summer months:

Cooking in the Kitchen – Cooking is an excellent way to use math skills, especially where the recipe calls for exact measurements of cups, teaspoons, pounds or kg.  For the mother, it is more time consuming to teach your child how to cook, but the benefits pay off in the end.  Not only have you kept them busy using math skills, but you will have gained another chef in the family.  That budding chef will someday make your dinner.

Sewing Projects – Sewing projects are another good way to keep up those math skills.  It doesn’t matter what sewing project it is, math is involved; geometry, fractions, measuring in inches or centimetres, etc. and etc.  Don’t make the first project complicated; keep it simple like a handy shopping bag.

Grocery Shopping – Grocery shopping is a great way to teach your child financial math.  Have them figure out the approximate cost before they get to the cashier till.  If you are more than one of the same item, have your child multiply the numbers to get the cost.  Not only will you be teaching them math, but they will also learn the value of groceries and may not be so demanding for their favourite junk food when they see how much food actually costs.  You are then teaching a life skill to your child.

Math Games Online – there are lots of online math games.  Some are better than others.  One good math game site is Cool Math.

Building Project – Get your child to build something, either on paper or with the building material.  Perhaps they only do a blueprint, or if you have the time and resources teach them how to build a bird house, or some other small project.  Here they will be using a number of math concepts to build their project.

Summer Math Camps – If you are lucky enough to find a fun Math summer camp, then by all means send them to that.  It will get them out of the house, stimulate their brains and help them with their math.

Academy – There is always an academy but this may not necessarily be the most enjoyable way to retain math abilities.  You could talk to the academy staff to see if they incorporate fun activities in their summer math classes.

Learning math does not have to be boring but it does require a certain amount of effort on the part of the parent to have your child have a fun-filled math gain summer.  The other plus side to this is that you and your child can spend some quality family time together.


Let Your Children Grow Up to Go to School

I finally was able to capture a picture of what I believe is dangerous. 

school grow up

A sunroof in a car is an opening in the roof of a vehicle to allow fresh air and sunlight to enter the vehicle where the passengers and driver sit.  It is there to be enjoyed by all passengers.  It was never intended as a door or window for young children to exit while the car is moving.

Yet that is what I have seen many times in my daily travels through the streets of Lahore.  I am absolutely horrified when I see this because I think, don’t the parents love their children enough to keep them from danger.  Why do they expose them to this danger?  Do they think this is cute?  But when does cute stop being cute?

If the driver has to apply the brakes quickly or if God forbid, there was an accident and the car came to an immediate stop or jolt what would happen to that little 4 or 5 year old boy or girl?  I don’t even want to think about it but we do have to be realistic.  At the least the child would be injured with neck or head injuries.  At the extreme, the force of the impact in an accident could throw the child from the vehicle causing back, neck or spinal damages, perhaps permanent life- altering damages.  The child may have internal injuries or may even lose his or her life.  In an instant your child could die because of this dangerous practice.

So parents, next time your precious little ones wants to stick their heads or bodies outside the sunroof please, for their sakes, for your sakes, stop them.  It is not cute, it is dangerous.  Please let your children grow up to go to school, to become adults, to have a future, one that they can enjoy and you can enjoy.  Do everyone a favour and say no to using the sunroof as a door or window; as a plaything for children.

Your child is worth it.

Why Reading Doesn’t Help You Get Good Grades

Many students try to study by reading only to find that they can’t remember everything they need for the exam.  So the next time around, instead of finding a better study method, they read more and more with similar results.

Statistics show that when a student reads they retrain only 10% of the information.  That means that even if you read more you are still going to remember only 10% of what you read.  One needs to read to understand, not memorise and that is what happens when you just read you are trying to memorise information.  If you don’t understand or comprehend what you are readying you will not remember and you will not learn.

The problem when we just read we are passive learners and we learn less when we are passive than when we are active.

So if we only remember 10% of what we read and we don’t understand what we read, what is the solution?  We need to find a different method that works.  We need to become active learners.

Ask yourself questions – The first question you want to ask is why you are reading anyway.  What is the purpose?  They ask other questions such as what is the topic about.  What are the main ideas?

Read the headlines, subtitles, introductions and summaries first – Reading this first will give you the topic, main theme, main ideas etc.  It will answer some of your initial questions.  Reading headlines, summaries etc, will also help you ask more questions that you will want to find the answer s to.

Recall don’t memorise – Once you have read a section or chapter, close the book and see how much you can recall.  Answer the questions at the end of the chapter; answer the questions you have asked yourself.

Make notes and diagrams – While reading underline, highlight or make notes in a rough copy or in the margins of your textbook.  Draw diagrams and flowcharts of what you are learning.  By doing this, you are becoming an active learner and participating in your own learning experience.

Review – Once it is all done, review what you have learned.  By repletion and review, the information will become part of you and that means you will not forget it.  You will have understood and remembered.

So try out these active study methods, you will find that your marks will improve because you are now an active learner and not relying on passive reading to help you get good grades.


How Your Learning Style Might Affect Your Grades

We are all different.  This statement is not profound because it is something you already knew; I didn’t have to tell you so.  But what you might not know is how this difference might be affecting the way you learn and thus affecting your grades.

What does Learning Style mean?

Simply put, it means the way you acquire and process information best.  We all have a natural ability for something, or a natural interest in something.  This may well mean that if this part of us is stimulated, then we learn better than through other stimulants.  For example, if you are musically inclined, learning through the use of music, rhythm, etc might be the best way to learn and get those good grades in even maths and the sciences.

So if you spend hours and hours poring over your school notes and textbooks, but your efforts don’t produce high grades maybe the problem doesn’t lie with you but with the way you are being taught.  If your teachers or tutors use only one method of teaching, for example lecture style, then they are not allowing all of their students to maximize their potential to learn.  Not everyone is an auditory learner.  Certainly some students in the class learn well when they hear information, but remember we are all different and some of us have to see things, we are called visual learners.

Even though we may be different kinds of learners, we often are not just one kind.  We will be a combination of two or three styles with a one or two being higher on the scale.  So see yourself as a multi-facet person; complex.

What Should You Do?

If you are taught under a rote learning system where the teachers at school deliver lectures with little other teaching methods used, then there are two things you can do:

Chance Schools – Unfortunately for many, this is not an option; the schools that use a constructivist teaching methods may be unattainable due to unavailability or too costly.  But if you do have the opportunity to attend such a school, the teachers will use a variety of different teaching methods so ALL students can understand their subjects.

Change your Study Habits – This might be your best option regardless of the school you go to.  Here are some things you can do to change the way you learn:

  • Construct your own knowledge – don’t just memorise the facts but try to make sense of the information.  Ask questions such as:  How does it relate to me?  Is there something in my surroundings where this exists or is used?  How can I use this knowledge now or in the future?  For example, it might be as simple as figuring out how the electricity in your house works .  Now that is science!
  • Discuss it – Some statistics show that we retain 50% of the information we discuss.  So find a group of friends or a family member where you can discuss what you are learning.  Some of the best maths students at universities in Canada work on a buddy system for studying.
  • Teach someone else – It is reported that our retention rate when we teach someone is 90%.  Therefore try to find someone you can teach; a younger brother or sister, a schoolmate that isn’t doing so well or underprivileged children who cannot go to school.
  • Add dimension to your study methods – Incorporate diagrams, acronyms and other aids into your school notes and studies.  Don’t just limit your notes to the written word.  Try learning the different branches of science by making a tree and adding ‘science’ branches.

So, don’t get discouraged if you are not doing so well at school – it might not be your fault entirely.  Do try some of these different study methods into your weekly routine and you will see a difference in your marks.  And for those who are not studying as hard as they should, take these lessons here and set up a study program now.

The Cost of Poor Physical Education Programs in Schools

Few schools have an adequate physical education program as part of their school curriculum.  Although some elite schools for the echelons of society have some physical education program, for the most part, they are non-existent or mediocre at best.  This is particularly true of developing nations such as Pakistan.

This lack in a nation’s education system becomes pronounced at a time when children are spending more and more time behind walls for security reasons or tucked away in the house behind a computer game.  The cost of inadequate physical activity for our students is proving to be alarming and will only escalate as time passes.  The bottom line is that our students are not getting necessary physical exercise either in the school or outside.  This is costing nations like Pakistan big time by producing a population that is neither healthy nor productive due to unhealthy lifestyles.

Although promoters of physical education are at work trying to bring physical education into the school curriculum, they face a strenuous campaign.  Existing schools may not have facilities or grounds to accommodate a physical education program in the curriculum.  But even where the physical dimensions exist to provide an adequate playing ground, resistance abounds.  It is found in the following areas:

·         Lack of funding from the ministries of education – schools cannot bear the cost alone.

·         Lack of universal policies regarding the incorporation of physical education into the public and private school system and the lack of enforcement where physical education provisions are not met

·         Lack of interest on the part of staff, students and parents.  Often the “three Rs” (Reading, writing and Arithmetic) are seen as essential studies and physical education is not important for an education or for furtherance of a career

This indifference to physical education’s importance has already taken its toll on developing societies.  Take for example Pakistan which now has a high rate of obesity among the well-to-do, chronic heart diseases, hypertension and diabetes.  All of these diseases can be drastically reduced by the introduction of a good physical education program in the schools.  And of course, poor health leads to a loss of productivity at school and in the workplace.  Absenteeism due to disease means lower achievements and losses to the nation as a hole.  It costs a nation in health care and unproductivity.

A good physical education program in the schools is worth the initial cost of investment because the returns are:

·         It is a link to good health.  The learned healthy lifestyle, regular exercise and healthy eating will stay with a student throughout their lifespan

·         Preventive medicine as it reduces obesity, hypertension, chronic heart diseases and diabetes in children and into adulthood

·         Develops motor skills and hand-eye coordination

·         Promotes academic achievements:  Physical exercise improves circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body and also to the brain.  This increases a student’s attention span so they have a higher concentration and absorption of information.

·         Builds personal character in the areas of self-esteem, team players, cooperation and sportsmanship on and off the field.

In nations where there is a lack of physical education programs, the country’s education authorities must initiate this necessary component of education into the national curriculum.  They have to look around and see the damage that has already been done by the lack of it, see what it is costing them in losses and move towards a curriculum that includes physical education which will benefit them in the long term.

Keeping Pakistan Green

On the weekend we took a much needed holiday to Islamabad and Muree.  It was a lovely weekend with excellent weather, fresh air and beautiful scenery except for one tarnishing element.  Garbage!  Garbage was everywhere shattering the picturesque splendour of Pakistan’s mountains and ultimately destroying our environment.

Pakistan has a natural beauty that must be cherished, nurtured and maintained.  But we are destroying our land by our careless and indifferent attitude towards its beauty and the environment that makes our land beautiful.  Certainly some of the garbage strewn on the landscape is due to ignorance about pollution and its harmful effects.  But much of it is caused by people who are educated in the sciences and other technological disciplines.  What is their excuse?  What sort of education will it take to make us conscious of what we are doing to our country?

Garbage is everywhere in this country.  Some may blame it on overpopulation or uneducated masses.  And although there is some merit to the argument, we cannot let that be our excuse for self-destruction.  The gauntlet must be taken up to keep Pakistan clean and green.  Informal and formal education campaigns must be instigated and spread throughout the country to educate people about the end results of this mass destruction of the land and beauty of the country.  Tools and procedures must be put into place to allow people to put into practice the newly attained knowledge.

Lack of environmental rules and programs has put the land in jeopardy.  Lack of communication programs and enforcement cannot be taken lightly.  Government bodies must come on board as most municipalities have not put sufficient waste disposal systems in place.

I am actually a foreigner in your land, it isn’t truly mine to maintain, but it hurts me to see Pakistani’s destroying the natural beauty of this land, destroying the soil that produces our crops, the water that we drink and the air that we breath by carelessly tossing out our debris. 

Does it not hurt you too!

Littering has to stop!  Who is going to be the first one to do it?  It starts with me.

Here Are 4 Strategies That Will Help Students Succeed

No, this is not another lecture for students on how they should study harder.  In fact this one is more for teachers.  The full onus of achieving excellent marks doesn’t always fall on the student but must be shared equally with the teaching staff.

Making high-achieving students can best be done by putting the following components in place:

Rigorous Standards

  • Standards should be clearly set so both students and teachers know what is expected of them; this helps the student meet grade expectations and prepare for the next grade.
  • A school that integrates effective learning methods, demanding coursework and high expectations will result in producing high-achieving students.
  • This sets high goals for the student; challenging them so that they are excited about learning.

Rich Curriculum

School should never be boring because a bored student will not produce.  The intellectual quality of assignments must not be low because this produces dull listless minds.  If the assignments and material is interesting and challenging then students will gain better results.  One study in Chicago showed that students who received stimulating assignments gained marks 20% over the national average and where the assignments were intellectually low; students had marks 25% under the national average (Newmann, Bryk & Nagaoka, 201, January).

Effective Teachers

Teachers should be:

  • Well-trained not only in their subject matter, but also as educators – they must know teaching methodologies.
  • Studies show that a teacher’s expertise has a direct relationship to student achievement.

The effectiveness of a teacher is determined by how well they know their subject matter, how effective they are in engaging their students to be active participants in the classroom and how they challenge their students to accomplish more.

Meaningful Learning

Teachers should use methods and provide an environment that includes the following:

  • Authentic instruction – critical thinking and analysis, discussion, debates, praise for work well done, depth of knowledge and how the concepts/facts relate to the student’s life; the world around them.
  • Teachers should employ several learning models as there are different kinds of learners and intelligences.  For example some students learn better by hearing, others by seeing the visual and others by hands on experience.
  • Students should be free to ask questions, to explore, to investigate so that the learning experience is meaningful.  This king of learning experience will bring understanding not rote memorisation of facts that are soon forgotten as soon as the test is over.

So students, the full burden doesn’t rest fully on you.  But you do have a part to play too.  The expression goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”  When you are in the classroom drink deep for there is a well of knowledge that will benefit you every day of your life.

Science in the Kitchen

If you like to cook you probably go into your kitchen with the idea that you are going to produce a very delicious meal that everyone will like.  But did you realise that every time you enter the kitchen you are doing applied science?

Science is full of theories and formulas.  Did you know that you use lots of theories and formulas in the kitchen? Did you know that every recipe is a formula?  Let’s take a look at science in your kitchen:

The First Law of Thermodynamics – Every time you strike a match to light your gas stove, you are putting into play the First Law of Thermodynamics.  You are transferring one type of energy from the rough emery side of the match box to the match stick. How about that for a science experiment in the kitchen?

Types of Motion – Every physics student needs to know the types of motion.  Here are two types you will use in your kitchen.

Rotatory Motion – Rotary motion is when a circular kind of motion.  Put some ice cream, milk, a banana and some strawberries into the blender; turn on the blender and there you have it; a milk shake made from rotatory motion.

Vibratory Motion – Every time you use the rolling pin to roll out some dough, if you use a back and forth motion you are using vibratory motion plus rotatory motion.  Why do we call a rolling pin a rolling pin?

Properties of Material – Have you ever looked at the pots and pans and appliances you have in the kitchen as heat conductors and insulators?  Well that is exactly what they are.  For example, your metal pots are excellent heat conductors; they hold heat and get hot very quickly.  Other pots such as a glass Pyrex dishes, although they too are heat conductors, do not heat up so quickly so are poorer heat conductors.  The plastic or insulated pipe around the electric cord on the toaster is an insulator because it does not absorb heat quickly and keeps you from getting burned while making toast.

Latent heat of vaporization – When a liquid heats up to boiling point the temperature remains constant.  This heat is used to change the liquid to gas without any increase in its temperature.  This process takes place when you boil a pot of rice for dinner.  Once you put the lid on the pot of rice; the temperature in the boiling pot of rice remains constant but the liquid (water) turns to gas (steam) and that is what makes your rice swell and you will not have watery rice.

These are only a few examples of science in the kitchen.  Next time you go into the kitchen to cook; look at it as a science experiment.  See how many science theorems you can find in the kitchen.  You may be surprised that your time in the kitchen is one big science experience.

Try to think of other science facts you can find in your kitchen How many did you find?  I would like to hear back from you so you can share what you found on this page.