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Taking the First Step: Introducing EFA’s ESL Program
Almost 3 years since our founding, all of our programs have been directed towards alleviating poverty in rural communities. While poverty isn't unique to geographic locations, we have never targeted students outside of Asian farming villages. So we are excited to announce the planned launch of our ESL program (English as a Second Language) this September 2021-2022 school year, which will target foreign middle and high school students studying in the Greater Toronto Area. But this initiative cannot be credited to our executives or leads but rather from Teo Meng, a curriculum design volunteer and incoming Grade 11 student who brought us the idea in April. He was in the Ontario ESL system himself, being taught by teachers who have never learnt a second language themselves. While Teo has now entered the normal English stream of classes, many of his peers continue falling further behind native speakers. The shortcomings of North America's ESL programs are not a secret. There is a long history of discrimination and violence due to language differences, which has been heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic in issues such as Asian hate. In everyday life, immigrants must navigate unconscious biases and prejudices against their accents – assuming they were even taught the language. So back in April, Teo called for a meeting and urged several EFA executives to start creating a program that addresses the core issues facing his peers. Alex Hu, our Executive Director, told him, "Why don't you build it yourself?" Ever since then, Teo has been recruiting a team to build the program, which will utilize peer teachers who are currently learning second languages themselves - a cornerstone of EFA's operation. He has already gathered a focus group that will beta test the program throughout the summer, until the official launch next school year. We highly commend Teo for his will to create change. While success is never guaranteed, Teo has created an opportunity to try. Many students already know the ESL program needs adjustment, but Teo took the first step towards making a change by creating a plan and advocating for his ideas. He exemplifies that the only way that we, as students, can change the system is when more of us step up and take action towards the issues we are passionate about. All of EFA's leaders are incredibly proud of Teo's proactiveness, and we look forward to seeing the seeds he plants now bear fruit in September.
Mark Inflation: A Student’s Friend or Foe?
Every year, high school seniors hailing from all kinds of schools, social classes, and races apply to universities with big hopes and dreams. Students coming from private high schools are accustomed to paying tuition for their education and, often, it seems like they are essentially investing in a business with statistically higher marks as their return. On the other hand, public high schools are sometimes underfunded and have larger class sizes, therefore, resulting in a less personal (albeit much more affordable) learning experience. Are private school students truly paying for the marks they receive? How do private high schools uphold their reputation as elite schools if their graduating class average is low? These questions are a few factors to consider when discussing mark inflation. What is Mark Inflation? Mark inflation occurs when teachers or school staff increase the averages or overall class marks of their students to give the appearance that they performed better in a course than they actually did. It most commonly occurs when a student receives a higher grade on work that would typically receive a lower grade in a more standardized setting. This is most commonly seen in private schools due to their lack of government regulation. In 2011, a Toronto Star journalist named Jennifer Yang went undercover as a student in a private high school. Yang’s teachers, unaware of her undercover mission, boosted her grade by nearly 25% while letting other students retake tests they had done poorly on, only the second time around, with an open book. This is a jarring difference to public schools, who generally only increase their students’ grades based on extra credit. Hence, private schools escape watchful eyes and function more like a business than a place of learning. They can inflate marks without hesitation in order to maintain their profitable image. However, mark inflation can happen unintentionally in public schools as well. For the average student, in theory, mark inflation seems to be a friend just there to look out for your back: decreasing academic pressure and always there to cushion the fall of a failed test. So, why is this a problem? Due to mark inflation, private school students who receive both higher grades and leeway are unaware that their work is not up to a provincial or national standard. Unfortunately for them, universities have a vastly different academic atmosphere in the sense that professors are not required to monitor a student’s progress or work. Not only do illegitimate grades render students unprepared for universities’ academic rigor, but the selection of said students also takes away program positions from actually legible students. Surprisingly, the trend of grade inflation amongst private schools is a huge contrast to generations ago when mark deflation was the common practice. The main issue with identifying mark inflation is that students don’t want to admit that their high marks were not earned fairly. However, if everyone receives a 95% in the same class, that grade no longer has any meaning: it’s just a number without representing any viable work. Grades and marks do not equal progress or how well a student performed in a class. Former scientist, Stuart Rojstaczer, commented on the issue by saying: “Students aren’t getting smarter. They aren’t studying more. When they graduate they are less literate. There’s no indication that the increase of grades nationwide is related to any increase in performance or achievement.” However, some universities aren’t letting inflated marks pass without repercussions. Take, for example, the University of Waterloo, which has strict guidelines on how they handle mark inflation. To counteract the issue, Waterloo amongst many others apply mark deflation to high schools that they believe inflate their students’ marks. The idea behind this is that the private and public school students would have an equal chance of getting into competitive programs once the playing field is made equitable. In reality, there is much more to be done to equalize all students. Although Waterloo openly talks about mark inflation and deflation, universities that don’t apply these same tactics lose out on talented and capable students, as well as experience a high dropout rate in first-year undergraduates. According to a study done by Brock University in 2010, students that entered their university with a 90% high school average had a 12% drop out rate, whereas students who received a 60–79% average in high school only had 4.5% drop out rate. 80% of private school students to attend Waterloo have faced above-average drops in their GPA at around 16%. Why does it matter if mark inflation occurs at a public or private school? Unfortunately, mark inflation disproportionately affects students from lower-income backgrounds, students of colour, and LGBTQ+ students who are more likely to attend public schools. By accepting private school students at higher rates due to mark inflation, universities not only miss out on diversity in the student population — but they also take away valuable opportunities from students who have worked just as hard as those with more privileges. Conclusion At the end of the day, universities have to do a better job at leveling the playing field between all students and ensuring the most equitable methods for program admissions. Along with that, the government has to set better standards for private and public schools to ensure neither students may fall to a disadvantage. Instead of taking statistics at face value and only attributing hard work to private school students, we must look at all facets of education in order to ensure equity, as a society. After all, children do not get to choose where they are born or their financial situation.
Private schools or public schools? The reality behind both.
For most, it simply isn’t sensical to compare the elite academia of private schools to that of public schools. For parents with the necessary means, there’s no question where their children will go. After all, it’s common sense: the more you pay, the more you get — right? Only, much like every other dilemma in existence, nothing is ever only black and white. So, are private schools really better than public schools? Or is it a false assumption accepted by so many for the sake of conventionality? Let’s go ahead and explore all the grey areas. The Pros and Cons of Private Education According to the U.S. Department of Education, 10 percent of American students attend private schools, and 6 percent of Canadian 15 year-olds receive a private education. What exactly are the benefits private school students pay for? Pros: More efficient learning systems better suited for the individual student. A smaller student population means a more manageable student-teacher ratio. More time is allocated to the education of each individual. Students pay for their education (and while this does put a dent in the wallet), this means students have more control over their educational experience. The process of “buying in” also motivates students to contribute more effort and value upon their education. Teachers tend to be more qualified, educated, and better paid, resulting in more dedication from their part. Variety and quality in extracurricular activities and programs. Access to advanced and experiential education programs: international exchange programs, the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), faith-based schools, and special needs programs. And they definitely produce results. ⅓ of the top-scoring students in Ontario are private school students, despite them only making up 6% of all Ontario students. Yet, along with all its benefits comes along with all the downfalls of private education: Cons: Private schools have fewer regulations to follow, it’s not a universal system like government implemented school districts of the public sector: In Ontario, they are not required to follow the Ontario curriculum Principals not required to meet the qualifications of public school principals Teachers have less strict requirements Not required to use report cards No regulations regarding grading and testing There is no legal requirement for setting rules about bullying, discipline, expulsion, etc. So how do we even know adequate measures are being put into place to protect our children? Private schools come off as elite and strict, but when faced with difficult situations involving students, like mental health and bullying, they tend to disregard the issue. The nature of private education often prioritizes business and monetary gain to the point of allowing corruption to infiltrate student grades, and allow students to get away with things they wouldn’t otherwise. Private schools holding students to a higher standard is generally a myth. It is extremely expensive and not accessible to lower-income students. In many private schools, the ever-increasing cost to attend is not accessible to many families, especially those with multiple children attending the school. The Pros and Cons of Public Education With the advantages and disadvantages of private education covered, seeing the other side of the argument paints a clearer picture. Compared to the number of private school students in the U.S, there are around 45 million more students that attend public schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). What are the advantages and disadvantages given to these students? Pros: Public schools are much more affordable when compared to private schools, as they do not need to receive their funding from the parents and guardians of students. The curriculum is often more varied and consistent, as the curriculum followed by public schools tends to be built by a larger workforce. A larger student and teacher community equates to a larger number of potential peers to interact and grow with. This allows students to experience diversity and understand a multitude of perspectives. Unlike private schools, public schools are government-regulated, and their rulesets are put together by a larger group of educators for a larger group of students. Public schools are usually secular, meaning the schools do not have any religious or spiritual bias that could possibly alienate minorities. The curriculum followed by public schools is rigid, allowing students to comfortably maintain their education styles. Cons: Public schools are often overcrowded, meaning classes are larger due to a lack of teachers. There is an increased amount of lower-quality facilities in the public school system. Teachers in public schools are often less qualified for the job and are paid less, negatively impacting students. There’s an increased amount of issues at public schools that highlight an inherent lack of discipline. In poorly funded communities, public schools often have little resources and are forced to make do with lower-quality education for lower-income families. Although the differences in experience between private schools and public schools are both drastic and undeniable, the thousands of dollars paid in tuition — or the lack thereof — doesn’t mean a single thing unless those many years come to fruition. Do they provide the necessary foundation to support students through post-secondary life? So, can private and public schools take on this role? Does one sector do it better? Let’s take a look at what the data tells us: According to a study by NAIS (National Association of Independent Schools), 85% of NAIS graduates compared to 69% of public school graduates enroll in college immediately after high school. Nearly 100% of private institute graduates continue into a college education with more than half attending the most selective colleges and universities. In addition, private school graduates greatly triumph when it comes to seeking experiential learning and extracurricular activities in their undergrad programs. This fact persists even when comparing personalities less likely to seek extracurricular participation. Strong participation in extracurricular & experiential learning activities creates long-term impacts automatically increasing future workplace engagement and success. The act of ‘buying in’ When it comes to private schools, the initiative involved with ‘buying in’ enforces a particular mindset upon private school students. In contrast to public students, who are simply required to attend school without a choice of their own, private school students have sacrificed funds amongst other things to ‘buy’ into their education. Thus, the priority of education can greatly differ when comparing the two. This phenomenon can also be seen in students who choose to take AP courses, Honors, or other enriched learning programs that involve students to take the initiative in ‘buying in’, even if the price is simply signing a form. It shows their willingness to take pride in their learning. Ok, we got it. Private school graduates score when it comes to landing elite colleges and universities, but, does this mean public schools are inferior? Although the statistics are clearly in favor of private education, these stats could have: “unintended consequences, the most dangerous of which is confirming a tendency to believe that education in independent schools must be [universally] better than what happens in public schools” Said Alden S. Blodget, the author of “Learning, Schooling and the Brain: New Research vs. Old Assumptions.” We have to recognize that the data released by the NAIS is undoubtedly perfect for marketing flyers. While not labeling it as the intentional manipulation of statistics, data can be misleading when comparing public school students to private school students is like comparing apples to oranges. Private schools are allowed to be extremely selective with the caliber of their attendees, and their population differs greatly in diversity and numbers. Conclusion Getting into colleges early, finishing college on time, having higher SAT scores, and participating in more extracurriculars — are they really the only measures of deep & meaningful education? There will always be areas intangible by pure numbers and quantitative measures like understanding a student’s level of skill or what they can do and not only what they can memorize. Above all, however effective our evaluating system may be, it still isn’t a fair representation of the nuances tied to true meaningful learning.
5 Organizations leading “fem, is the new STEM”
While women account for half of the workforce, they make up barely 24 percent of jobs in the STEM field. This definitely not old news. For as long as we can remember, women have been fighting their own wars for hundreds of years when it comes to being recognized and treated equally in the workplace. “If you know you are on the right track, if you have this inner knowledge, then nobody can turn you off… no matter what they say.” — Barbara McClintock, winner of the 1983 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine While barriers from the law are long gone, our goal now is to undo these hundreds of years of career stigmas and stereotypes surrounding women; and it all starts by empowering today’s generation of girls. Here are five leading organizations in the US and Canada who are actively making fem, the new STEM: 1. SciGirls: The main goal of SciGirls is not only changing the way girls view STEM, but also the world’s view towards females in STEM careers. SciGirls work towards creating a more equitable and acceptable environment for girls to feel welcome in the STEM field. To do this, they emphasize creating a culturally responsive learning environment that not only encourages girls but inspires them. Recently, SciGirls published a book outlining the best education approaches with proven methods shown to engage elementary school girls in science and math. Moreover, SciGirls is known for their hit television show on PBS that acts on cutting edge research relating to girls in STEM. Their website and educational out-reach program engage girls in STEM careers with their efforts reaching over 14 million girls worldwide. 2. 1000 Girls, 1000 Futures: Established by The New York Academy for Sciences, it is essentially a mentoring program between high school girls and real scientists and engineers. Girls around the world ages 13–17 can apply to be a part of the program to receive counsel work, leadership, and university preparation. This program is a fun safe place where girls can communicate with female STEM role models and attend fun online events, book club events, and communicating with leaders around the world. Moreover, girls can connect with mentors any time, anywhere making it super easy to integrate into a high school schedule. Participants gain access to coursework and discussions on Schoology as well as 1-year free membership to The New York Academy of Sciences. 3. Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades, and Technology: The CCWESTT is a non-profit, voluntary organization consisting of various individuals and groups who collectively advocate for diverse and inclusive STEM workplaces. This organization strives for not only inclusion but respect and integrity. With their members are located all over Canada and range in different fields from science, engineering, technology, and math, they advocate Canada as a country with a diverse and inclusive workforce and one where everyone is respected. Part of achieving this includes holding conferences that bring together others in positions of leadership in which they work towards building relationships and finding allies. All in all, CCWESTT provides opportunities for members to speak out as a unified voice to a greater audience. 4. Society for Canadian Women in Science or Technology: The goal of The SCWIST is to create an environment where women and girls can pursue careers in the STEM field without any systemic barriers. Overall, SCWIST provides leadership and mentorship to young girls with aspiring interests in STEM as well as activities to keep those interests alive. They strive to tear down career stereotypes surrounding women by raising awareness and advocating for inclusiveness within the STEM field by advocating for equitable practices in schools, workplaces, and the government. They work on fostering personal connections through professional and networking ways that will benefit the community. Most importantly, to boost the participation of women and girls in the STEM workforce they have provided over $11 000 in youth scholarships and have gathered almost 10 000 youth in participation events. On their website, you can learn all about the history of women in STEM and those who helped shape and define what we know today. 5. hEr VOLUTION: Based in Toronto, hEr VOLUTION is an organization dedicated to providing education in programming to equip youth in underdeveloped communities. Done so with pride, their goals are honored by five core values: integrity, respect, accountability, reach, and equity. By respecting these five traits they are able to achieve their goals in the most efficient and honorable way. Part of this goal includes offering a four-week program called STEM-ing Up in which girls aged 14–17 can attend that teaches them skills in coding, leadership, and problem-solving. In partnership with Humber College, young women will learn Design Thinking, Coding App Building, Front/Backend Developing, Prototyping, Analytical Thinking, Business, and Leadership Skills. In addition, they have been covered by numerous media outlets as well as have been named one of the top 75 STEM blogs. Want to learn more about gender disparity in the workplace and how it’s affecting the youth of today? Click here to read our infographic!
How COVID-19 has Impacted Education Around the World
For students around the globe, the closure of schools means a complete migration to the digital environment in order to continue their education whilst social distancing. Most ordinary students in first world countries with adequate access to technologies, countries including Canada and the U.S have turned to platforms such as Zoom and Google Classroom. These video-calling and virtual assignment delivering platforms allow students and educators to communicate effectively without any physical interaction. The transition is adaptable enough for citizens of first-world countries. The vast majority of the population were already relying on digital devices to interact long before the COVID-19 placed everyone in lockdown. For some, the transition is even preferred to attending classes in-person as it offers specific perks of digital education unobtainable otherwise. However, this situation disproportionately affects developing countries, low-income communities, and school boards that were already underfunded previous to the pandemic. In developing countries in South America, Asia, and Africa, trade and tourism reliant economies have taken a hit from COVID-19; leaving them incapable of properly funding schools and education solutions. Most do not have widespread internet availability, and it proves too expensive for most households. In Israel, television providers have agreed to air lessons on TV so that households without internet or devices can still learn. For some, parents of children living below the poverty line are unable to continue their employment. This leaves their children having to choose between school or putting food on the table. Most families lack access to the technology needed for digital schooling, and online education is not even a choice for underfunded school boards and their students. The impacts of this disparity can be seen in the urban-rural divide of communities in China. While children living in urban areas with access to devices are successfully attending their scheduled classes virtually–many students in rural areas do not have the means to do so. For these rural students, their families are left dealing with other pressing impacts of COVID-19, and thus, education is neglected. Reports show rural Chinese students forced to hike hour-long distances just to obtain a stable Wifi connection: “One high schooler in Sichuan Province was found doing homework under a rocky outcropping. Two little girls in Hubei Province set up a makeshift classroom on a wooded hillside.” - Raymond Zhong, The New York Times Along with having access to technology, another problem lies in the environments that children in poverty are subject to. Children living in abusive or overcrowded households find it extremely difficult to work from home. Many younger children must learn with no guardian supervision at all when parents work full-time either at home or outside as essential workers. The severity of the disparity between circumstances of families during this pandemic is real and as a result, these children lose a significant support factor in their education, hindering the overall learning process. Read more at efaglobal.org/on-education.
How to approach education for students in poverty
One particular underserved community of students is being failed the most by the education system: students in poverty. Education, as agreed by most, is the very foundation of a person’s quality of life in our current high-functioning societies. Thus, when the education system fails youth who come from underprivileged backgrounds, it contains them in place, continuing the poverty cycle. Could the solution being sought out simply be to just treat underprivileged youth with the same tough love everyone else receives? Push, Don’t Pity Unsurprisingly, students from impoverished backgrounds will more than often experience trauma as a result of their socioeconomic situations. However, students in poverty do not benefit from a teacher’s pity party. They do not need teachers who will exempt them from extra schoolwork or excuse any academic short-comings as a result of their situation. They do not need a rationalization for why they “can’t do it”, they need a teacher. This fact means educating a student in poverty with the same expectations, rules, and consequences as everyone else in the classroom. Good leadership of and with these students shows them your dedication in their growth and success as young adults. Most importantly, for students who often believe they are struggling alone without the love and support of a trusted companion, teachers must provide these students with the very love and support needed for them to overcome negativity and thrive. These students need someone to show them compassion and to believe in them while still having high expectations for their work. Providing students in poverty with the support they need requires educators to form relationships with students by building a rapport through discussion, letting their voices be heard, and truly listening to what they have to say. Part of this includes being transparent with students about your best interests and goals for them so they may in return open up about their academic and emotional struggles. To teach students in poverty, we need “effective educators who will not settle for mediocrity, who will not accept excuses for why these children can’t learn, who are willing to do whatever it takes to help each child succeed, who establish supportive environments where children learn to bounce back from life’s negative circumstances and thrive.” Essentially… A good quality education relies on so much more than just the content that is taught. The way a teacher approaches a student’s education greatly impacts the effectiveness of the student’s learning experience. Students in poverty especially need a strong emotional support system from their teachers in order to thrive in a learning environment. Read more about this topic at www.efaglobal.org/on-education! Sources http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/education-update/jan18/vol60/num01/Push,-Don't-Pity,-Students-in-Poverty.aspx https://www.amle.org/BrowsebyTopic/WhatsNew/WNDet/TabId/270/ArtMID/888/ArticleID/351/Leading-Learning-for-Children-From-Poverty.aspx
July Volunteers of the Month
Read to learn about our two volunteers of this month, Eecho Yuan and Emily Ing! Although Eecho only joined the EFA team two months ago, she has quickly grown from her initial role as a graphic designer to becoming part of the teaching, promotional, wechat, website, and logistics teams. Her commitment is not only evident in the breadth of her involvement, but also in the remarkable effort she puts into each of her roles; she always gives her all. She is an incredibly talented designer, always thinks outside of the box when brainstorming and creating content, and never hesitates to contribute her ideas or lend a helping hand to her teammates. Eecho is an integral part of every team she is involved with, and truly someone who we are lucky to work with. Emily is also a volunteer who puts her heart into her work. She is able to channel her natural talent for writing into consistently creating impactful content that effectively conveys and forwards EFA’s mission. Over the past month, she has worked tirelessly as part of the website, promotional, and educational content team in writing and directing engaging materials pivotal to our operations. She excels as a collaborative and ever-reliable teammate––she is always on top of it. For these reasons, Emily is a well-deserved volunteer of the month, and we are so excited to see what she creates next!
June Volunteers of the Month
Read more about our two volunteers of the month: Sunny and Sophia! Sunny is one of our oldest volunteers and has been with EFA since our earliest stages. Even from the beginning, her dedication to our organization and cause has been evident. Her communication and engagement with her team has been incredibly consistent and meaningful. Sunny’s lessons have pushed the boundaries of our design capabilities and curriculum standards, as her creativity and meticulousness has led to the creation of beautifully slide decks. Her creations often serve as templates for lessons to come, and have redefined our standards for excellence. The heart and time she puts into her work sets her up to be an invaluable team member. Sophia is also one of our senior curriculum volunteers. Not only does she bring her eye for design and lesson creation to the table, she also brings positivity and excitement that often heightens the team dynamics of any team that she’s on. Sophia is someone that is able to create a fun and engaging atmosphere within the team while also producing incredibly high quality work. She never turns down opportunities to get more involved and to give back to our schools. For these reasons, she is one of our volunteers of the month.
Gender Disparity in Education and in the Workforce
Thanks for reading! This is part 3 of 3 infographics of our third series, which will be covering diversity in education. We are posting these to encourage you to question the way that we are educated and to send a message out to the world about the education system. Help us out by sharing this infographic!
Recognizing Diversity in a Learning Environment
Sources https://web.uri.edu/teach/multicultural/ https://online.queens.edu/online-programs/medl/resources/benefits-of-diversity-in-school https://sites.google.com/site/literacyonline/support/creating-a-safe-and-supportive-learning-environment https://www.idra.org/resource-center/fostering-culturally-diverse-learning-environments/ https://www.wgu.edu/blog/improving-diversity-classroom2005.html#:~:text=Diversity%20in%20the%20classroom%20fosters%20creativity.&text=Collaboration%20encourages%20creativity%20inside%20the,other%20and%20creating%20creative%20solutions. https://www.thoughtco.com/advantages-of-single-sex-schools-2774613 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-010-9914-z https://theconversation.com/single-sex-schools-could-they-harm-your-child-69962 https://inservice.ascd.org/creating-the-culturally-diverse-classroom/ Concluding Note Thanks for reading! This is part 2 of 3 infographics of our third series, which will be covering diversity in education. We are posting these to encourage you to question the way that we are educated and to send a message out to the world about the education system. Our next infographic will be out soon! Meanwhile, help us out by sharing this infographic!
The Racialization of African-Americans in Education
To read more about the history of segregation in education, check out this website that details an outline of major events. EFA will be putting out more related content on our Instagram, so stay tuned there! Thanks for reading! This is part 1 of 3 infographics of our third series, which will be covering diversity in education. We are posting these to encourage you to question the way that we are educated and to send a message out to the world about the education system. Our next infographic will be out soon! Meanwhile, help us out by sharing this infographic!
How COVID-19 has Impacted Education Around the World
Read more details in our Medium article HERE! Thanks for reading! This is part 3 of 3 infographics of our second series, which will be covering different approaches to education. We are posting these to encourage you to question the way that we are educated and to send a message out to the world about the education system.
Our next series will be out soon! Meanwhile, help us out by sharing this infographic!