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January 20 2014

South Korea Accused of Rewriting History in High School Textbook

Image by Kopachris, Deviant Art (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

Image by Kopachris, Deviant Art (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) 

A conservative high school history textbook in South Korea that puts a positive spin on some of the country's most controversial periods of history, such as Japan's colonial rule, has been a source of heated debate for several weeks, with the government being accused of favoring textbooks that support their political beliefs and paint a rosier view of various periods of history.

The textbook by Kyohak Publishing Co has been lambasted not only for its inaccuracy, but for whitewashing the past flaws of certain interest groups. Critics say the sheer volume of errors – over 750 mistakes – in the textbook are serious enough to disqualify it as a legitimate learning tool.

Parents and students protested hard against several schools who have decided to adopt Kyohak's textbook and finally succeeded in revoking the decision. However, the Ministry of Education has offered excuses for the publishers, first by claiming that it was not the final version. Even after it was revealed that Kyohak still has not applied the required adjustments to the textbook and its revised version contained about 350 errors, the ministry again embraced them, saying that it was a trial version. According to local report, one historian said [ko] “in his 22 years as a history teacher, he has never heard of such thing as a ‘textbook trial version’, and the ministry’s outlandish claim renders him speechless.”

The scope [ko] of the errors are wide: misleading descriptions of Japanese imperial rule of Korea, incorrect names of locations on a map, and the false claim that the United States had a colony in the Indochina region. Another noteworthy mistake includes an inaccurate description of President Park Geun-hye’s father, the late military dictator Park Chung-hee: the textbook says Koreans’ average per capital income reached 10,000 US dollars under his rule, when it should be 1,000.

The textbook also claims that the so-called comfort women – young teenagers and women, many of whom were Korean, who were forced into prostitution by the Empire of Japan during World War II to “comfort” the troops – “followed the Japanese army around”, thereby implying that they have voluntarily choose to serve the army for the money. There is even an error suspected to have been lifted from an online blog post.

The New York Times recently added fuel to the fire with an editorial entitled “Politicians and Textbooks” in which the paper accused President Park of downplaying Korean collaboration with Japanese imperialists during Japan's colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The editorial concluded that Park, along with Japanese President Shinzo Abe, are “pushing to have high school history textbooks in their countries rewritten to reflect their political views.” The Korean Foreign Ministry fired right back, saying it will “take necessary steps against the New York Times with regard to the erroneous facts.”

Enraged Koreans commented as below:

Kyohak Publishing’s textbook is only worth as much as the ruling Saenuri party’s campaign flyers. 

After watching Chairman of Kyohak Publishing Yang Cheol-woo’s interview on the JTBC Sohn Suk-hee’s news program, I can totally see how that garbage, pro-Japanese imperialist book was born. He kept claiming their textbook has no flaws and it is the most accurate book available. He even accused other textbooks of being “left-leaning”.

More concerns arose as reports came out [ko] that immediately after Kyohak Publishing’s history textbook had been rejected by parents and students, the government and ruling Saenuri party began pushing to publish it and impose the textbook on a national level. Currently, students, parents and teachers have a say in the textbook selection process, and have a choice among several different books. The political opposition denounced the move [ko] as an attempt to stifle points of view that differ from their own, and commented that a one-size-fits-all textbook system is a favorite of authoritarian regimes who can easily manipulate its content. The most notable cases of the one national textbook system would be North Korea and Russia. 

When they found out that Kyohak’s history textbook had been completely rejected by students, parents and teachers, the proper way to respond is by looking back at their flaws and feeling shameful and apologetic. But how did they react? It is as if they are seeking revenge, they are pushing to switch to a universal textbook system. This is an utter disregard for history and disrespect for the people.

Twitter influencer and historian Jeon Woo-yong (@histopian) tweeted a series of messages regarding this issue:

Even the monarchy of the Joseon Dynasty did not interfere with chroniclers’ works. It is those in power who should be afraid of history, not history that clings on to power. The reason why those in power want to exert control over history is either because they are ashamed to face history, or they dont even bother to make themselves feel unashamed'. 

Is the Vybz Kartel Trial an Opportunity for Jamaica?

Jamaican music has always, and continues to capture the imagination of the world, and so have its musicians, especially when they blur the lines between celebrity and outlaw.

One of the most recent dancehall artists to get on the wrong side of the law is Adidja Palmer, better known as Vybz Kartel. A big name in the music business, he has collaborated with A-list hip hop musicians like Jay-Z, Rihanna and Eminem. Towards the end of 2006, he made headlines in the region over an ongoing feud with his former collaborator Mavado, which led to fans of each side mobilising themselves into two factions – Gaza and Gully – which often culminated in street clashes. Other controversies have followed him – the skin bleaching issue and now several murder charges.

One Jamaican blog, Cucumber Juice, recently examined “the value of the Vybz Kartel trial”, first taking issue with glaring inconsistencies in the media's reporting of the facts:

There is so much rich detail in the charges that were brought against Mr. Palmer. So many moving parts. I am grateful for the page on The Jamaica Gleaner that lists all its articles on Mr. Palmer’s charges. Unfortunately I realized a lot of problems with the reporting. After reviewing over 2 years worth of articles I could almost predict the phrasing and wording…there has obviously been too much copying and pasting and not enough editing or (attention to) detail. I saw inconsistent name spellings, inconsistent facts (e.g., Just how much bail was Mr. Palmer granted for Charge 2, JM$3 million or JM$1 million?).

After doing the research to come up with the above timeline and to properly refresh my memory about the charges against Mr. Palmer…I’m expanding my definition of quality to mean not only the kind of reporting being done on the trials but also how the reporting is presented. The poor quality of the former is amplified by the at least equally poor quality of the latter. It’s sloppy.

She continued, this time addressing the third offence on which the dancehall star is charged:, “the murder of Clive Williams (aka Lizard) on August 16, 2011″, which she sees as an opportunity to right some wrongs:

This trial (for Charge 3) has captured the attention of a lot of Jamaicans. A significant portion of…trial watchers are Vybz Kartel fans but others are following the case because, frankly, this is a high-profile landmark case and it’s the first time (that I can remember) a popular person actually going on trial for something and the trial not dragging out over a number of years. Evidence is being presented, the judge is making rulings; it seems that things are moving along.

But more than the unfolding of this case is the characteristic of a large number of people who are following [it]. They are people most likely to encounter Jamaica’s criminal justice system. Too often the average Jamaican’s experience with Jamaica’s criminal justice system is hostile, even deadly. The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is viewed with suspicion and contempt. Our courts are viewed as inefficient, burdened, and, I think, unjust. I believe the fancy parlance is that there is a trust deficit. Like him or hate him, Mr. Palmer’s alleged misdeeds have provided us with the opportunity to teach and, perhaps, even to address that trust deficit.

I’m wondering why neither the media nor Jamaica’s legal community is grabbing hold of this opportunity.

In particular, she saw clear roles for the Jamaican media and judiciary:

I think that it’s fair to expect Jamaica’s media to be doing more with the coverage of these trial. It’s fair to expect the legal community (which would include the judiciary) to proactively engage the Jamaican public to capitalize on this interest. Use it as an opportunity; you have a captive audience – the average Jamaican – that needs the information. Kartel ah ‘dem’ artist but I guarantee you that ‘they’ also identify with him…by calling upon their own experiences: in custody for over 2 years, no bail, charged with an array of things. It’s David versus Goliath; the underdog versus the big opponent already considered unjust and unfair. Babylon at work, even.

That’s why lawyers are important: to be the interpreter and navigator of that system on his or her client’s behalf. The lawyer knows the system and that the system is meant to represent and protect the society. They must…defend their clients against it not to bring the system down but to ensure a fair result, to ensure justice.

Next, she took on the way in which information is being disseminated online and offered suggestions:

I’ve seen some journalists and lawyers live tweet the trial. Good. But their reporting is necessarily limited by their own interest and availability. There isn’t even a consistent hashtag being used to allow easy curating of (relevant) tweets. Where’s the dedicated live tweeter (perhaps a former court reporter or a law student?) who will deliver dispassionate reporting on what is said from the stand and ruled on from the bench, and who will follow that reporting up with an end-of-the day wrap up and, geez I dunno, Legal Lesson of the Day?

At most these internships could cost a newspaper a transportation stipend and a lunch per diem. The student gets credit and a good entry on the résumé. Put interns on a rotation to cover this trial (it is news) and maybe another trial on a live blog.

Why is all this so important to her – and so many other Jamaicans? She summed it up by saying:

The law touches every aspect of society; it defines the boundaries for our interactions.

If you are at all interested in justice then you must be interested in ensuring that the ‘average man’ is aware of his rights and feels empowered to exercise them. That’s the opportunity of this trial and it’s being wasted.

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January 18 2014

Hong Kong: An Outraging Elementary School Entry Examination Question

A Christian elementary school entrance examination question has gone viral in Hong Kong social media. Many consider the value embedded in the answer is outraging.

A Christian elementary school entrance examination question has gone viral in Hong Kong social media. Many consider the hidden value of the question and answer unacceptable.

The answer to the question is “nothing”.

January 15 2014

China's Viral Sex Education Videos

A small team has released a collection of one-minute childhood sex education videos on China's youku, China's YouTube. The videos, involving topics such as “Why Are Boys Different from Girls” and “Where Do Babies Come From?”, have become the second most popular search on Baidu and have drawn over one million views online. TeaLeafNation has more details. Check one of the videos below:

January 12 2014

The Ripple Effect Of Rote-Learning In Pakistan

Muhammad Taseer Hussain at Pak Tea House criticizes the quality of education system in Pakistan. Lack of good teachers encourages some students to adopt rote-learning, which is more like a mechanical task of repeating what to be learned and does not require much of reasoning or inference. the blogger adds:

The entire ripple effect of rote-learning eventually reaps immeasurable catastrophic results in all the major and minor industries in Pakistan.

37 Million Students Start New Year with Free Textbooks in Bangladesh

A Student rises up a textbook during the

A student lifts up a textbook during the “Textbook Festival Day” program organized bythe  Education Ministry in the capital's Government Laboratory School. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (2/1/2014)

More than 37 million school students in Bangladesh have received nearly 300 million free school books from the government as part of “Textbook Festival Day” on January 2, 2014, setting a new world record in free textbook distribution, according to Education Minister Nurul Islam Nahid.

One of the aims of the annual textbook festival, which has been held since 2011, is to combat illiteracy in the country. According to UNESCO, about 80 percent of youth are literate in Bangladesh. 

In the past few years, the country has made tremendous progress [bn] in its education sector. Bangladesh has achieved almost 100 percent enrollment of eligible children in primary schools, male-female student parity, and ensuring free textbook for all. In 1991, the rate of enrollment was only 61 percent. In 2011, the rate rose to 98.2 percent and in 2012 to 99.47 percent. The rate of female enrollment in primary schools increased from 32 percent to 51 percent and in higher secondary from 18 percent to 54 percent of total students.

In 2014 school year the total books distributed were 299,675,938 among 37,336,672 students of primary, Ebtedayee, Higher secondary School, Dakhil and vocational school systems. The new textbooks can also be downloaded for free or read online from the government's e-book website and the National Curriculum and Textbook Board (NCTB) site.

Blogger and educator Masum Billah noted on the site Articles on Education of Bangladesh another benefit of free textbooks:

Free book distribution for all the primary students emerges as a great contributing factor to reducing drop out.

Different media published photos of students’ happy faces as they received their textbooks.

Film producer Rowshan Ara Nipa remembered on Facebook her own memories of school, when it took at least a few months to receive a new book for the school year:

গত ৫ বছর ধরে জানুয়ারীর ১ তাং এলেই সব বিদ্যালয় গুলিতে এক অসাধারন আনন্দ উৎসব আমাকে সুখকর এক ঈর্ষায় ফেলে দেয় , আহ্হারে আমি যদি ওদের বয়সী হতাম তবে তো আমিও আজ এই আনন্দের ভাগীধার হতাম! তবে আনন্দ যে একেবারে হয়না তা ঠিক নয়, বছরের শুরুর এই দিনে এক সাথে এত কচি কাচার হাসি মুখ এর চেয়ে বড় কোন শুভেচ্ছা আর আছে কি?

খুব মনে আছে এই তো ৫ বছর আগেই কোন ছাত্র-ছাত্রী নতুন বই কবে পাবে তার কোন ঠিক ঠাক সময় ছিলনা, বছরের ৩ মাস পেরিয়ে গেলেও নতন বই এর দেখা পাওয়া বড় সৌভাগ্য বলে গন্য হোত অথবা ২/১ টা নতুন বই আর পুরোনো বই মিলে একটা সেট বানানোর প্রান পন চেষ্টা করা হোত । আমার মা- বাবা দুজনেই প্রাথমিক বিদ্যালয়ের শিক্ষক ছিলেন। নতুন বই তো দুরের কথা ফেব্রুয়ারী-মার্চ পর্যন্ত কোন বই ছাত্রদের হাতে নাই এ নিয়ে দুশ্চিন্তার অন্ত ছিলনা…

The date January 1 meant a day of joy, which makes me happily jealous, if I were like them I would be part of the celebrations. But it is grand is to see all those happy faces of the children.

I remember that only five years ago there were no guarantee for the students when they would receive books. It would be pure luck for the students if they could get one or two books from the whole set after three months. Both my parents were primary school teachers. They would worry a lot how they were going to carry on with teaching the curriculum in the absence of books till February or March.

Sandipan Basu made fun of the situation:

এখনকার পোলাপাইনগুলা অভাগা। আমাদের কালে আমরা বই না পাওয়ার অজুহাতে পুরা জানুয়ারি স্কুলে যাইতাম না। আর পোলাপাইনে এখন বছরের প্রথমদিনই বই পাইয়া যায়। ক্যামনে কি !!

Today's students have no luck. We could skip school for the whole of January because we did not have new textbooks. Now they get new books at the beginning of the year. How is it possible?

Students rise up textbooks during the

Students celebrating the “Textbook Festival Day” in the capital's Government Laboratory School. Image by Firoz Ahmed. Copyright Demotix (2/1/2014)

Bangladesh is advancing despite its problems. The distribution of books on the second day of the year is one such example. Blogger Arif Jebtik wrote:

যাঁরা ভাবে বাংলাদেশ এগুচ্ছে না, তাঁরা আমাদের বাংলাদেশ দেখেনি। আমি জানি এই দেশ কীভাবে কতটুকু আগাচ্ছে। [..]

আজ বই হাতে পাওয়া প্রিয় প্রজন্ম, তোমরা সুখে থাকো। তোমাদের যখন পিছু ফিরে দেখার সুযোগ হবে, সেই বয়েসে তোমরা যে বাংলাদেশে দাঁড়িয়ে থাকবে, সেই সুন্দর বাংলাদেশের কথা ভেবে আমি মাঝে মাঝেই তোমাদের ঈর্ষা করি…

Those who think that Bangladesh is not progressing, they are not aware of Bangladesh. I know how it is leaping forward. [..]

Please be happy that the new generation received new books on time. When you look back at this moment one day, like I am doing, you will have lived through that progressive Bangladesh, and I am very much jealous.

Political violence has been a feature of many people's lives in Bangladesh, including children. Freedom fighter and activist Akku Chowdhury wrote:

this is the kind of Bangladesh we would like to see…Children happy with new books seeking knowledge….not Children with gun powder learning to make human BBQ….we want violent free democratic and peaceful nation moving forward with the spirit of liberation war….we want leaders ready to walk the talk…leaders who lead by example….we want politicians who considers power as a public service but not self service to become wealthier….joi manush (hail humans)

January 11 2014

China and Hong Kong: Mocking The Motherland's Wind

A netizen uploaded a poem from primary school textbook which praises the wind blowing from China to Hong Kong as blessing. Very quickly the so-called brain washing poem has turned into a subject for mockery. Details from Dictionary of politically incorrect Hong Kong Cantonese.

January 10 2014

No Girls Allowed at New Cosmology Public School in Japan

Photo taken at Jaxa Space Center in Tsukuba by Phil Knall (CC BY-NC)

Photo taken at Jaxa Space Center in Tsukuba by Phil Knall (CC BY-NC)

In collaboration with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), a new public school specialized in cosmology education in the southernmost peninsula of Kagoshima prefecture is set to recruit students from all over Japan.

The school sits 20 kilometers away from Uchinoura Space Center and will educate from 7th grade to 12th grade starting from the April of 2015. It is going to be the first public school to require all students to live in a dormitory.

Reaction to the news among Web users has been very positive. Twitter user ririri, who is a student, commented with excitement:

A school that teaches “cosmology”, that's awesome. Sounds exciting. I hope a school like this will help Japan lead the future of the space age! 

Some users drew connection between the school and a comic book series called Twin Spica, a science fiction story of a group of Japanese high school students training to become astronauts. In the comic book, main character Asumi Kamogawa, a female student, enters the Tokyo Space Academy:


Cover art of the first Twin Spica manga volume featuring lead character Asumi Kamogawa (image from Wikipedia, ©mediafactory)

It reminds me of Twin Spica.

Looks like many people were reminded of the Twin Spica like me. 

However, there is one significant difference between the school in the sci-fi comic book and the new public school: The latter will be only open to boys.  

Twitter user APICa wondered [ja] in disappointment:

The school is so romantic, but why does it have to be only for boys when we have female astronauts, and there are other high schools that have co-ed dormitories?

Hatena bookmark user Unimmo commented [ja] with suspicion whether the school is intentionally discriminating against women:


Are you saying that space is not for women?

Yuki pondered if the decision was less about gender and more about economics:

It's sad when there are female astronauts out there. Maybe it's only for boys due to cost?

The news, however, did not fuel a gender issues debate online, though many users did continue to express their disappointment with the limitation. Despite the boys-only rule, the unique school will likely carry on gaining the attention of space-loving netizens.

The post including the headline was sub-edited by L.Finch

January 09 2014

How Should Middle Eastern Women Dress in Public?

How should Middle Eastern women dress? The way they want

How should Middle Eastern women dress? The way they want

This question, posed by a University of Michigan study, is drawing laughs – and criticism online. Most reactions came after this report on the Huffington Post.

The survey, conducted in seven “Muslim majority countries”, details what people think is an acceptable dress code for women in public in their countries. According to the poll, the majority of people in those countries, “do not think a woman should fully cover her face.” In Saudi Arabia, for example, 63 per cent of those polled said a woman should wear the veil which covers the face, but reveals the eyes – a common dress code for women in the conservative kingdom. Respondents from Lebanon and Turkey preferred women not to cover their faces – or hair.

On the Washington Post blog, Max Fisher notes:

Veiling is such a sensitive issue in much of the Middle East because, in many ways, it's about much more than just clothing. It's about religious vs. secular identity, about the degree to which women are or are not afforded equality and about embracing or rejecting social norms that are seen as distinctly Islamic.

On Twitter, the reactions are more fierce.

Palestinian Lena Jarrar asks:

M Ibrahim adds:

Hend, from Libya, takes several jabs at the poll. She tweets:

And Egyptian Mohamed El Dahshan joins the fray, saying:

And Siddhartha Chatterje wonders:

Silent Treatment on Violence against Women in Guinea

Boubacar Sanso Barry for Guinée Conakry Info wrote an in-depth report on the undercovered issue of violence against women in Guinea. Even though the National Agency on Gender reports that 80% of Guinean women were victims of psychological or physical abuse [fr], the topic seems to be too often ignored by national media. His report underlines one of the factor [fr] for the lack of coverage : 

La question de la violence conjugale ne fait pas partie des politiques publiques. Je n’ai jamais entendu un homme ou une femme politique faire de cela un sujet de débat. Plusieurs informations non officielles font état de violences conjugales au sein des familles de ceux qui dirigent ou qui ont dirigé ce pays. En fait, dans le paquet des droits que les femmes de Guinée revendiquent, il n’y a pas la question des violences conjugales. On parle surtout de l’accès à des postes de responsabilité, de la représentativité au niveau des institutions..

The issue of domestic violence is yet to be fully integrated in the public policy discussion. I never heard of any politician make this a topic of debate. Several unofficial reports indicate that domestic violence exists within families of those who lead or have led this country. In fact, in the ensemble of women rights that Guinean women demand, there is mention of the issue of domestic violence. The topics mentioned are mostly about rights such as access to positions of responsibility, representation in political institutions etc..

January 08 2014

A Mobile Phone Based Virtual School System In Pakistan

Rehan School: Now everybody can learn for free

Rehan School: Now everybody can learn for free

Sri Lankan blogger Nandasiri Wanninayaka writes:

Rehan School is a mobile phone based virtual school system that allows anyone who has a mobile phone access the prerecorded video lessons free of charge. With expanding mobile coverage in Pakistan, this will be an exciting way to reach the rural illiterate communities. Since this is a free service, millions of Pakistanis can benefit. [..]

The price of this content is free, but the mobile shop keeper may charge a small fee of 50 rupees to transfer the content in the required format on the mobile phone’s memory card. Later on, this video content can be given by that phone user to anyone else, using Bluetooth for free.

Brazil's ‘Silent Revolution’ in Education, Inspired by Portugal

Espetáculos de Circo do Projeto Âncora

Show in celebration of Circus Day

Eighteen years ago a true revolution in the Brazilian educational system was started when Project Âncora launched in the town of Cotia, São Paulo. It took the form of a space for learning, practising and enhancing principles of citizenship with the aim of developing and transforming the reality of the local community. Since 1995 this non-profit project has catered to over 6,000 children, teenagers and their families through extracurricular activities such as music classes, theatre-circus, crafts and professional courses.

In 2012 an old dream was accomplished with the opening of the Project Âncora School of Infant and Primary Education (pdf). Following the methods of Escola da Ponte from Portugal, which challenges the traditional concept of education and the world’s prevalent standard model of schooling, the Project Âncora School follows an “educational philosophy which proposes that self-knowledge and experience are the key tools for learning, centred around the learner, his or her particularities and his or her transition from heteronomy to autonomy”.

Around 300 children and teenagers attend the school, which is structured round three parallel curricula: the individual, the social and the communal. This innovative model was inspired on democratic education and has been implemented in Brazil with the help of Portuguese language teacher José Pacheco, who has been known worldwide for having created the Escola da Ponte (School of the Bridge) in Portugal by making use of a revolutionary methodology (pdf). Marusia Meneguin, author of the blog Mãe Perfeita, has been enthralled by the original proposal:

Imagine uma escola sem classes, horários, provas. Um currículo que é decidido pelas crianças, em consenso, e inclui matérias como circo e meditação. Não há lista de chamada nem ponto, mas estudantes e professores não faltam. Tudo de graça. Agora imagine que esses estudantes provêm de lugares violentos, e já foram expulsos de diversas escolas. Pode parecer utopia. Até o dia em que você conhece a proposta da Escola da Ponte.

Imagine a school without classrooms, schedules or exams. A curriculum which is decided upon by the children, through consensus, and which includes subjects such as circus and meditation. There is neither roll call nor punching the clock, and yet no absences on the part of pupils or teachers. Everything is free of charge. Now, imagine that these students come from violent environments and have been expelled from several schools. It may seem like utopia. Until the day when you get to know the proposal for the Escola da Ponte.

In an interview with G1, Pacheco states that education in Brazil, whose model ignores the contribution given by Paulo Freire and other great educators from the country, squanders resources and produces 30 million illiterate people. The results achieved by means of the alternative model, on the other hand, become visible within the community itself:

Os ex-alunos da Ponte – alguns já com mais de 50 anos de idade – são a prova da boa qualidade do projeto. São seres humanos plenamente realizados, com elevado nível de consciência cívica, éticos, empreendedores, solidários. Deverei acrescentar que a Ponte recebe alunos que as outras escolas jogam fora, e os recupera. Aluno que não aprende em outra escola, ou aluno que põe professor em estado de coma em outra escola, vai para a Ponte.

The former pupils from the School of the Bridge - some who are now over 50 years old – are living proof of the good quality of the project. They are fulfilled human beings who display a high level of civic awareness, are ethical, entrepreneurial, supportive of others. I should add that the Bridge welcomes pupils who are discarded by other schools, and recovers them. Pupils who do not learn in another school or pupils who put teachers is a state of shock in other schools, they come to the Bridge.

Campanha de arrecadação

Fundraising campaign for Project Âncora

Whereas School of the Bridge has been in existence for nearly 40 years, the results of Project Âncora School in Brazil, which is just over a year old, will take a bit longer to become obvious. Nevertheless, the project has already attracted attention and has inspired other schools, receiving visits from educators from different parts of the country. After one of these visits, Talita Morais described the differences she finds in this utopic educational model:

O grande diferencial do Projeto Âncora, assim como na Escola da Ponte em Portugal, é que as crianças são conscientizadas a trabalhar o coletivo, o respeito e o amor ao próximo, e a autonomia em seu processo de estudo. Dessa forma, passando pelos níveis – na Escola não há divisão por salas ou séries – os alunos vão se tornando cada vez mais autônomos na sua aprendizagem, escolhendo o quê, como e a que momento deve aprender determinado conteúdo, tudo com o auxílio e orientação de professores e tutores, que vão desde funcionários até voluntários da própria comunidade. Além dessa autonomia na escolha do estudo, eles também participam ativamente das decisões e gerenciamento da escola, por meio das assembleias semanais, que re-definem as regras da instituição.

The big difference of Project Âncora, as well as of the School of the Bridge in Portugal, is that the children are made conscious of the collective perspective, of respect and love for others, and of the value of autonomy in the pursuit of his or her studies. This way, going through the different levels – since there is no division by classes or grades in the school – the pupils gradually become more autonomous in their learning process, choosing what, how and at which moment they learn a certain subject, all done with the aid and orientation of teachers and tutors, who are made up of the schools personnel as well as volunteers from the community itself. Besides such autonomy surrounding the choice of study, they also take an active part in the decisions and management of the school by means of weekly assemblies which redefine the rules that guide the institution.

Teacher Fernanda Rodrigues compared the Âncora with other traditional schools:

Lá, fomos recebidos por uma menina de 11 anos, super esperta e comunicativa! Ela nos contou que estuda lá desde que nasceu e foi nítido o quanto ela era sentia um verdadeiro orgulho de fazer parte do dia a dia do Âncora. Os olhos dela brilhavam e era nítido o profundo sentimento de pertencimento que a educanda tem em relação a tudo o que ali acontece.

Aproveitando, vale dizer que é impossível não se encantar com o espaço, que além de amplo, inspira a Educação em sua magnitude. Pudemos presenciar diversas cenas não muito comuns em escolas tradicionais como garotos zelando pelo espaço, bolsas penduradas na entrada da escola, mural com a pauta da assembleia e muitas pessoas conversando sem aquela típica gritaria que é comum nos ambientes escolares.

There, we were welcomed by a very lively and talkative 11-year-old girl! She told us that she had been studying there since she was born and it became clear how truly proud she was for being part of the day-to-day life of Âncora. Her eyes shone and it became clear there was a deep feeling of belonging that the student holds in relation to everything that happens there.

It is worth saying as well that it is impossible not to become enchanted by the place, which is not only broad, but also inspires education in its greatness. We could witness several episodes which are not very common to find in traditional schools, such as boys taking care of the place, bags hanging on the entrance of the school, notice board displaying the agenda for the assembly and many people talking without giving way to that sort of screaming which is so commonly found in school environments.

Comunidades de Aprendizagem do Projeto Âncora em Cotia, São Paulo.

Communities of learning from Project Ancora in Cotia, São Paulo.

The next step of the project is to expand this experience beyond the walls of the institution and reach the whole town by integrating the pupils into “learning communities”. Once a week, the pupils must visit communal places, such as public health clinics and churches, in order to study local issues and talk directly with the residents. Following Pacheco's formula, called “MC² – change enhanced by contamination and context”, the pupils must grab hold of the reality of the place where they live and seek solutions for the issues that they confront:

Comunidades de aprendizagem são práxis comunitárias baseadas em um modelo educacional gerador de desenvolvimento sustentável. É a expansão da prática educacional do Projeto Âncora para além de seus muros, envolvendo ativamente a comunidade na consolidação de uma sociedade participativa.

Learning communities are communal praxis based on an educational model that generates sustainable development. It is the expansion of the educational practices of Project Âncora beyond its walls, and which actively involves the community in the consolidation of a participative society.

When Project Ãncora turned 18 years old in October 2013, João Carlos, from the blog Soliarte, declared that a dream that has become reality “reached adulthood a long time ago”:

Um novo Brasil que nasce. Viva! Viva!
Obrigado Pacheco pela revolução silenciosa que ocorre na educação do Brasil.

A new Brazil is born. Hail! Hail!
Thank you Pacheco for the silent revolution which is taking place in Brazilian education.

Not only the children benefit from this revolutionary model of education. As she recalled the anniversary celebrations, volunteer educator Johana Barreneche-Corrales pondered the importance of the playful and the emotional ties between the teacher:

Finalmente podemos pensar que para que um projetocoletivovingue, é preciso que um grupo seja construído, e o grupo é grupo, não pela quantidade de pessoas que dele fazem parte, mas pela força com que os laços entre eles são tecidos.

Lastly, we may think that for a project to be successful, there is the need for a team to be put together, and that the team be truly a team, not by the number of people who join it, but by the strength of the ties between its members.

Project Âncora was one of the alternative education schools in Brazil that were visited by the documentary team Quando Sinto Que já Sei, a film made financially possible by means of crowdfunding through the website Catarse and which shall be launched in the beginning of 2014. The objective is to start a discussion about the present state of education in Brazil by exploring new ways of learning based on children's participation and autonomy, values which are emerging and being put into practice throughout the country.

Quando Sinto que Já Sei

“Everything is solved with two simple propositions: replace “to” with “with”. With “to” there is a transference, with “with” there is a search for understanding.” José Pacheco on the banner of the film Quando Sinto que Já Sei (When I feel I already know) on Catarse website.


Four short links: 8 January 2014

  1. Launching the Wolfram Connected Devices Project — Wolfram Alpha is cognition-as-a-service, which they hope to embed in devices. This data-powered Brain-in-the-Cloud play will pit them against Google, but G wants to own the devices and the apps and the eyeballs that watch them … interesting times ahead!
  2. How the USA Almost Killed the Internet (Wired) — “At first we were in an arms race with sophisticated criminals,” says Eric Grosse, Google’s head of security. “Then we found ourselves in an arms race with certain nation-state actors [with a reputation for cyberattacks]. And now we’re in an arms race with the best nation-state actors.”
  3. Intel Edison — SD-card sized, with low-power 22nm 400MHz Intel Quark processor with two cores, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
  4. N00b 2 L33t, Now With Graphs (Tom Stafford) — open science research validating many of the findings on learning, tested experimentally via games. In the present study, we analyzed data from a very large sample (N = 854,064) of players of an online game involving rapid perception, decision making, and motor responding. Use of game data allowed us to connect, for the first time, rich details of training history with measures of performance from participants engaged for a sustained amount of time in effortful practice. We showed that lawful relations exist between practice amount and subsequent performance, and between practice spacing and subsequent performance. Our methodology allowed an in situ confirmation of results long established in the experimental literature on skill acquisition. Additionally, we showed that greater initial variation in performance is linked to higher subsequent performance, a result we link to the exploration/exploitation trade-off from the computational framework of reinforcement learning.

January 06 2014

#ShamlesslyHaitian on Haiti's Independence Day

January 1st is special for Haitians not only because it is the first day of the new year but also because it the date Haiti declared its independence. To commemorate Haiti's 210th anniversary of independence, Bertin Louis (@MySoulIsInHaiti) started the hashtag #ShamelesslyHaitian as a way for Haitians to express pride and educate others about their history and culture. Global Voices spoke to Louis to find out more about the hashtag and his academic work.

Global Voices (GV) : Let us know more about your background.

486882_10151399159407592_721448874_nBertin Louis (BL) : My name is Dr. Bertin M. Louis, Jr. and I am an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Africana Studies at the University of Tennessee.  I am also the son of Haitians who migrated to the United States in the mid-1960s. Growing up in Staten Island, New York I didn’t really identify with my Haitian heritage until I went to Syracuse University for my undergraduate studies. In the first semester of my junior year, I took a course called “Caribbean Society Since Independence” taught by Dr. Horace Campbell, a Political Scientist of Jamaican descent and a Pan-Africanist. The first book we read was “The Black Jacobins: Toussaint Louverture and the San Domingo Revolution” by Trinidadian labor historian C.L.R. James. The book had a deep impact on me. When something has a big impact on you, we say in Haitian Creole “Li frape m fò (literally “it hit me hard”). To know that the only successful slave revolt in human history was part of my heritage made me confident in who I was, at the time, and I became more interested in studying more about Haitian history and culture. It really put on the path that I am on today researching and studying the Haitian diaspora and Haiti.

GV:  Were you born in Haiti or are you part of the diaspora? How much of a difference do you think it makes?

BL: I am part of the diaspora who was born in the United States. This makes a big difference because I live in the Colossus of the Western Hemisphere, which has its advantages and drawbacks. For example, I currently study religion (Evangelical Protestantism) and statelessness in the Haitian diaspora of the Bahamas. I interviewed many Haitian migrants as well as their children, who were trying to find a way to live in the United States, where they had family and better prospects for employment and better opportunities to lead dignified lives. My American citizenship is a privilege that they don’t have. Since I am in a privileged position, as a University professor and an American citizen, I feel that it of utmost importance to use my voice, to use my privilege to speak up on the behalf of those whose voices are silenced, like Haitian migrants and their stateless children in the Bahamas, in order to draw attention to their plight. So it makes a big difference as to where I was born because if I was born in the Dominican Republic, I would be stateless and unable to take advantage of the opportunities I currently benefit from as an American citizen.


GV: Could you please tell us something about your academic area(s) of interest?

BL: My teaching and research interests span the African diaspora and I interrogate the concept of diaspora through my transnational study of the Evangelical Protestant movement among Haitians in the Caribbean (Haiti and the Bahamas) and the United States.  Specifically, I combine multi-sited ethnographic research (in the United States, Haiti, and the Bahamas) with a transnational framework to analyze the practice and growth of Evangelical Protestantism in the Haitian diaspora of the Bahamas.  This research has resulted in my first book, My Soul is in Haiti: Migration and Protestantism in the Haitian Diaspora of the Bahamas,” which will be published by New York University Press in 2014.

My next research project is about stateless Bahamians of Haitian descent, sometimes referred to as “Haitian-Bahamians.” Statelessness refers to an individual who is not considered as a national by any state and affects an estimated 12 million people worldwide.  Stateless people do not have a country that they can call their own, lack access to basic political and social rights, such as the rights to vote, marry, and own property, and are also denied access to employment, educational services, and health care. My research will produce a book and articles that should advance theory in citizenship, diaspora, human rights, and statelessness studies and contribute to current Bahamian public policy debates.

GV: What particularly inspired you to create this hashtag #ShamelesslyHaitian?

BL: On December 21st, I participated in a hashtag called #ShamelesslyCaribbean and people tweeted interesting and funny comments about the shared experience of being Caribbean/being of Caribbean descent. As the days drew closer to Haitian Independence Day (January 1), I thought about doing #ShamelesslyHaitian to draw attention to Haiti, which is not respected by other nations, and people of Haitian descent, who are not treated like human beings in other nations, as the Dominican Republic’s recent court ruling demonstrates.

Much of the news we learn about Haiti and Haitians is wholly negative. We learn on the news that Haiti is in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with no explanation of how it got that way in the first place. Haitians are denigrated, excluded, and, in some cases, criminalized in the Bahamas, Canada, the Dominican Republic, and the United States (remember the AIDS crisis in its early years in the U.S. and Haitians were one of the 4Hs identified by the CDC as HIV-carriers?). And I thought that there was some potential in creating and circulating a hashtag that gave people of Haitian descent, and their allies, the opportunity to present a different and informative narrative about Haiti and Haitians, that didn’t focus on natural disasters, coup d’etats, governmental instability, stark poverty, AIDS, etc.; a narrative that celebrated Haitian achievements, recuperated the importance of the Haitian Revolution to humanity, and also as a way to educate people about a place and a diaspora that has been grotesquely distorted, demonized, in some cases, in Western history and Western media.

So I floated the idea of contacted some people of Haitian descent to some Twitter friends, asked them if they would participate, and chose the 210th anniversary of Haitian independence to launch #ShamelesslyHaitian at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time.

GV: What has been the impact of social media on the issues you are most concerned about?

BL: I find that social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter offer opportunities to learn about issues that are important to me. It’s also a way to be part of a larger community, albeit virtual, based on similar interests and ideas, as these Twitter hashtags demonstrate.

GV: What is your reaction to the way the hashtag took off? Were you surprised by the way it grew? What does it tell you about the Haitian Diaspora?

BL: I was hoping for some participation with the hashtag and I am glad that it took off in the way that it did. I was mildly surprised but not shocked by its popularity. Based on my research and work in the Haitian diaspora, there’s a sameness of experience, a similarity of experience among people of Haitian descent that forces them to draw on their heritage in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Many tweets dealt with being proud to be Haitian despite the discrimination and teasing kids in the Haitian diaspora experienced growing up.

I think the popularity of the hashtag demonstrates that whether it is in the Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, the United States, Canada, Haiti, or anywhere else we find Haitians, 210 years after Haitian independence, after the Haitian Revolution, Haitians are still trying to lead dignified lives and that they are struggling to do so.


The image in this post is courtesy of Bertin Louis.

January 05 2014

More Than 100 Schools Torched in Anti-Election Violence in Bangladesh

Guards carry ballot boxes and equipment to a polling station that will be used for the 10th parliamentary elections. Image by Naveed Ishtyak. Copyright Demotix (4/1/2014)

Guards carry ballot boxes and equipment to a polling station that will be used for the 10th parliamentary elections. Image by Naveed Ishtyak. Copyright Demotix (4/1/2014)

The eve of Bangladesh's 10th national parliamentary elections saw a wave of violence as more than 100 schools turned polling stations in 20 districts were set fire by protesters and a polling officer on duty was beaten to death in Thakurgaon.

The elections scheduled for 5 January 2013 are particularly tense, with many opposition parties led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) boycotting the vote and their supporters engaging in violent protests throughout the country

Web users have harshly condemned the torching of schools. Farhana Azim Shiuly wrote on Facebook:

নির্বাচন প্রতিহত করার জন্য দেশে অনেক ভোট কেন্দ্র পুড়িয়ে দেয়া হচ্ছে। এমন খবর শুনে টিভির সামনে বসে দেখলাম আগুনে যা পুড়ছে তা তো ভোটকেন্দ্র নয়। আগুনে জ্বলে যাচ্ছে সারি সারি স্কুল ঘর। বছরে ১ দিনের জন্য যাকে আমরা ভোটকেন্দ্র নামে ডাকি, বাকি ৩৬৪ দিনই তার নাম স্কুল। রাজনীতির নামে মানুষ পুড়েছে। এখন পুড়ে যাচ্ছে মানুষ গড়ার কারখানা।

Many polling stations across the country are being burnt to halt the elections. I heard the news and sat in front of the TV only to find that the burning houses are actually local government schools. Fire is engulfing an array of schoolrooms. What we call a polling station one day in some years are actually educational institutions. We have seen that people are being burnt for no reason in the name of politics. Now the labs for forming people are being burnt.

Writer and educationist Joydeep Dey Shaplu denounced the arson and reminded that Bangladesh already does not have enough schools for its huge population:

যুদ্ধক্ষেত্রে স্কুল পোড়ানো হয় কিনা আমার জানা নেই। তবে যাই করা হোক, একবার ভাবা হয়, যুদ্ধের পর শান্তির সময় কি করে দেশ চলবে। এই বোধটাও আজ আমাদের নেই। দু'দিনের রাজনীতির জন্য তিল তিল করে গড়ে ওঠা শিক্ষাব্যবস্থাকে ধ্বংস করে ফেলা হচ্ছে। চোট পেলে সেরে যায়, বিকলাঙ্গ হলে তো কিছুই করার থাকে না। আন্দোলনের নামে পুরো জাতিটা বিকলাঙ্গ হয়ে গেলে কাদের নিয়ে দেশ চালাবেন আপনারা?

I don't know whether schools are burnt during war. But whatever is done, there is a thought, how the country will progress after the war. In our country, the developing education sector (in its own war of decreasing illiteracy) is being destroyed. A little sickness heals, but if you are crippled, you will suffer for life. If you cripple the nation in the name of protest, how will you take this country forward?

On Twitter, media worker Jabed Sultan Pias (@piasbd) wrote that he lost his first school in his hometown to fire:

1. My first school, Madanpur Government Primary School, Netrokona. Yesterday they torched my beloved school.

Lawyer Shah Ali Farhad (@shah_farhad) tweeted that this time the target are the schools by the opposition protesters:

Opposition party supporters set a van on fire at Shanti Nagar in Dhaka, ahead of the Bangladesh National Party led 18-Party Alliance’s countrywide 84-hours strike. Image by mamunur Rashid. Copyright Demotix (9/11/2013)

Opposition party supporters set a van on fire at Shanti Nagar in Dhaka ahead of the Bangladesh National Party led 18-Party Alliance’s countrywide 84-hours strike. Image by mamunur Rashid. Copyright Demotix (9/11/2013)

Trees also became a target for protesters. Hundreds of trees across highways were cut down to use as road blockades during recent political violence across the country. Sheikh Rokon wrote in Facebook:

Yes, enjoy the ‘politics’ my friends. They had cut thousands of roadside trees for ‘blockade'. Now they have started burning the schools to ‘block’ the election. Claps! Claps! Claps!

Bangladesh has witnessed such opposition-less elections before, but the protests was not as violent. Arif Jebtik reminded violent protesters:

[...] এরশাদের ১৯৮৮ সালের নির্বাচন ঠেকাতে আলাদা আলাদা অবস্থান থেকে চেষ্টা করেছিল বিএনপি, আওয়ামী লীগ, জামায়াত, বামদল সহ সবাই-কিন্তু সেই নির্বাচন ঠেকানো যায়নি।

খালেদা জিয়ার ১৯৯৬ সালের ১৫ ফেব্রুয়ারির নির্বাচন ঠেকাতে আলাদা আলাদা অবস্থান থেকে চেষ্টা করেছিল আওয়ামী লীগ, জামায়াত, বামদল-কিন্তু নির্বাচন বন্ধ হয়নি।

সুতরাং আগামীকালের নির্বাচন ঠেকাতেও বিএনপি-জামায়াত পারবে না।

কিন্তু এর আগের ঘটনাগুলোয় স্কুল পোড়ানো হয়নি।
এবার স্কুলগুলো পোড়ানো গেল-এটাই নগদ লাভ। জামায়াতকে কোলে তুলে নিয়ে রাজনীতি করে বিবর্তনে এই জায়গাতেই পৌঁছাল বিএনপি!

[..] In 1988 during President General Ershad's time, all the main political parties (Awami League, BNP, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and the leftists) tried to stop the elections but could not succeed.

During BNP's 15 February 1996 one-sided elections, Awami League, Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami and the leftists all tried to resist the election but failed.

So BNP-Jamaat will not be able to stop this election.

But in all previous incidents no schools were burnt.

This time BNP has gained this accolade. This is their politics of promoting Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami's cause.

Journalist Fazlul bari blamed Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami for the arson of schools:

নির্বাচন ঠেকানো নিয়ে বিএনপি হাল ছেড়ে দিয়েছে’ এমন একটি রিপোর্ট ছাপা হবার পরই ‘হাল’ পুরোপুরি নিজের কর্তৃ্ত্বে নেয়া শুরু করে দিয়েছে যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের দল জামায়াত-শিবির! পেট্রোল বোমা, মানুষকে পুড়িয়ে মারার সন্ত্রাসের পর ভোট কেন্দ্রে আগুন দেয়া সহ অকল্পনীয় নানান সন্ত্রাস শুরু করে দিয়েছে দেশ বিরোধী এই অপশক্তি! [...]

There was a report published recently that BNP has given up on resisting the elections. After that, the party of war criminals Jamaat entered the charade of showing who's in control. They have already used petrol bombs on people in buses, houses and are not below such extreme violence like burning schools.

January 02 2014

Innovation: A Solar Energy Powered PC Made in Mali

Limmorgal, a low power PC made in Mali via Tech of Africa with permission

Limmorgal, a solar energy powered PC made in Mali via Tech of Africa with permission

As part of our series on innovation made in Africa, we recently showcased the 3D printer made from E-waste in Togo and a spell checker for Bambara language. Today, we present the first low-power PC made in Mali. The PC called Limmorgal (Calculator in Peul language) is the brainchild of two Malian groups, Internet society Mali (ISOC Mali) and Intelec 3. Mamadou Iam Diallo, president of ISOC Mali, explains the needs they want to fulfill with this PC to Bamako Blog [fr]:

Nous avons conçu cette machine pour contribuer à la réduction du fossé numérique, mais également à la vulgarisation de l’outil informatique surtout en milieu scolaire. Limmorgal est aussi un ordinateur adapté à l’alimentation par l’énergie solaire grâce à sa faible consommation d’énergie.

We designed this PC to help reduce the digital divide, but also the expansion of the use of computers in schools. Limmorgal is a computer adapted to be powered by solar energy and requires low energy consumption (24 Watts required).

The basic specifications of the PC are :

  • Operating system: Ubuntu (open source) 
  • 1.4 G Hertz microprocessor
  • 1GB RAM
  • Unit pricing : 171000 Fcfa (260 euros)

January 01 2014

Spain: A Summary of 2013 in 10 News Stories and 10 Photos

1. Princess Cristina de Borbón, charged

Princess Cristina. Image from Diego Armario's blog.

Princess Cristina. Image from Diego Armario's blog.

In April, Princess Cristina was summoned to appear in court by the judge hearing the Palma Arena case. The Spanish population watched the first accusation of a member of the royal family on a corruption charge with a mixture of surprise and incredulity. Their incredulity [es] was born out by the almost immediate lifting of the charges against the Princess. The anti-corruption prosecutor himself, Pedro Horrach was, ironically, Cristina de Borbón's best defence attorney [es]. The affair did irreparable damage to the royal family, increasingly isolated from a population which observes time and again that the King's declaration last Christmas that “justice is equal for everyone” was merely empty words.

2. The Prestige disaster, without convictions


Oil spill on a Galician beach. Photo from Wikimedia Commons under CC licence by SA 3.0

The shipwreck of the Prestige oil tanker off the coast of Galicia and subsequent oil spill which caused the worst ecological disaster ever seen in Spain and prompted one of the largest popular mobilisations in the country's history was settled without convictions following ten years of legal proceedings and a nine month long trial. The politicians implicated in the case, whose decisions were broadly criticised, did not even reach the dock. The Spanish citizens will have to foot the 4,328 million euro bill which this disaster has cost – so far.

3. The Parot Doctrine, annulled 


View of the Plaza Colón in Madrid occupied by a protest organised by the Association of Victims of Terrorism. Photo uploaded to Twitter by Isabel Durán (@IsabelDuran_).

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg issued its final decision on the so-called “Parot doctrine” [es] on October 21st, ruling that the increase in prison sentences could not be applied retroactively. This ruling had the immediate effect of liberating several ETA terrorists and dangerous common criminals, which prompted furious reactions on the social networks both in support of and in opposition to the European Court. The Association of Victims of Terrorism (ATV) organised a protest march [es] on October 27th.

4. The Citizens’ Security Law


Greenpeace activists unfurl a banner from the top of a building in Plaza de España in Madrid. Photo uploaded to Twitter by @thomsh1.

The end of November brought to light the new Citizens’ Security Law which the government intends to pass. This law reclassifies certain misdemeanours as offences, allowing the government to fine citizens directly without taking them to court, thus avoiding a process which frequently decides in favour of the accused. If the law is passed, attending certain unauthorised protests could result in fines of up to 600 000 € and “offences” against Spain would be punished with fines of up to 30 000 €. Various political parties and lawyers’ associations have questioned the constitutionality of the new law.

5. The “escrache” protests


PAH escrache protest in Zaragoza. Photo from the blog El ventano.

In March and April, the Platform of People Affected by Mortgages (PAH) carried out a campaign of “escraches” [a type of direct action protest] targeting politicians, banks and party headquarters while the mortgages law was being debated in Parliament. The escraches were angrily criticised by politicians from the PP and like-minded media outlets, which went as far as to accuse the PAH of being “nazis” and “pro-ETA”. However, in June the European Parliament awarded the 2013 European Citizens’ prize to the PAH.

6. Wert, against the world


The Spanish Minister for Education, José Ignacio Wert. Photo from the blog

The education minister is implementing the worst campaign of cuts in education which the country has ever seen. But he also has time to anger the entire population with his mottos, which have become something of a classic on the social networks. In October, the minister was on the verge of leaving hundreds of students “stranded” in Europe when he drastically reduced the Erasmus scholarships, and shortly afterwards he was publicly discredited by the European Commission, whose education spokesperson described as “rubbish” declarations made by Wert in which he claimed that the funds designated by the EC to Spain for Erasmus scholarships would see a significant reduction in 2014.

7. The right to be forgotten

Online privacy

EU statistics on internet privacy. Image from the European Parliament website, used with permission. Source: European Parliament.

Spain took Google to the EU Court of Justice to defend the right to be forgotten, which would give European citizens the option to demand that any personal information which they do not wish to be made public be deleted from the Internet. This right to privacy clashes frequently with the right to information, creating controversy between those who support access to information and those who support privacy. In the end, the court ruled in Google's favour.

8. The advance of the far right


Far right protest in Spain. Photo from Xavier Casals‘ blog.

With the approach of the European Parliament elections, many European citizens are worried about the resurgence of far right groups and political parties, which take advantage of the economic crisis to launch their aggressively populist and xenophobic discourses. The Greek group Golden Dawn was banned following the death of a young man, allegedly at the hands of its members, but in some European countries, far right parties are reaching levels of power unseen since World War II. In Spain, the governing People's Party systematically justifies its members’ behaviour each time the media demonstrates that they have links to the far right.

9. Eurovegas


Construction project for the Eurovegas city. Image from Eurovegas Spain on Facebook.

In a country with almost 5 million unemployed, the overambitious Eurovegas project, which promised the creation of more than 300 000 jobs, arrived in Madrid like a true panacea. But alarm bells soon began to ring: Las Vegas Sands, the company owned by Sheldon Adelson, the project's architect, demanded numerous exemptions with regard to labour rights, taxation and even public health, attempting to create a bubble of alegality within Spanish territory. Although some politicians appeared ready to grant LVS's every desire, the armour-plating of the investment which Adelson intended to impose and poor forecasts by the ratings agencies meant that the project ground to a halt and was definitively abandoned in December.

10. «A relaxing cup of café con leche»

Madrid made a bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games. In order to argue the city's case, a huge delegation – more than 200 people – travelled to Buenos Aires in September. Although the bid was rejected [es] in the first round, the lamentable English spoken by Ana Botella, mayor of Madrid, and the theatrical nature of her speech prompted a collective outburst of laughter around the country and left us with a phrase for posterity: «a relaxing cup of café con leche in Plaza Mayor».

Ana Botella's speech to the IOC. Video uploaded to YouTube by BEGO DANGER

China's Six Trends in 2014

TeaLeafNation has analyzed six trends in 2013 that will continue to transform China in 2014 both socially and economically. There are:

1 Political discussions are retreating back into private sphere such as WeChat. 

2 Mainland Chinese shows and products have become popular in Taiwan.

3 Fewer Chinese people will learn English.

4 China’s massive urbanization project is shifting its focus. 

5 China’s domestic film industry is fighting Hollywood competitors — and winning. 

6 China’s small town folk are changing e-commerce.

December 31 2013

Malagasy Genius Seeking Happiness off the Grid

Arthur Ramiandrisoa at 11 via Dinosoria CC-License-BY

Arthur at 11 via Dinosoria CC-License-BY

Arthur Ramiandrisoa has been under the spotlight his life. That comes with the territory when you hold the record as the youngest french high school graduate ever [fr] at the tender age of 11. The precocious boy whose father is from Madagascar and mother from France obtained his Masters in Mathematics at 15 from the University of Paris VI. Books were written about him, and TV and radio channels wanted to know the teaching method that got him so successful early on. He seemed destined for great achievements when he decided that what he wanted more than anything is a normal life, away from all the public attention he garnered early on, as E. Pineau explains [fr]: 

Présenté comme le “champion des surdoués français”, l'étiquette se révélera trop encombrante. Depuis son doctorat, obtenu à 19 ans, Arthur Ramiandrisoa n'a qu'un souhait : se faire oublier. Contactés à plusieurs reprises, ses proches n'ont pas donné suite à nos sollicitations. Se contentant de nous indiquer qu’“Arthur a gardé un très mauvais souvenir de plusieurs reportages” et “souhaitconserver l'anonymat dans lequel il vit actuellement”

Billed as the French “champion of the gifted children“, this label will prove too cumbersome in the end. Since he obtained his PhD at 19, Arthur Ramiandrisoa has only one wish: to be forgotten. Contacted several times, his family did not respond to any requests for interviews. They say that “Arthur has bad memories from several reports about him” and “wishes to remain anonymous from now on.

A Ramiandrisoa, now an IT architect, was also a pioneer of XML modeling for urban planning.

December 24 2013

4 Women Journalists Defying the Odds in Mexico City

This post is part of our series on gender and sexuality in Latin America and the Caribbean in collaboration with North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA).

Despite the low salaries and the dangers that come with being a reporter in the most dangerous country for journalists in the Americas, some Mexican female journalists continue working and thriving in this profession.

In this post, we introduce you to four of these brave female journalists. With anecdotes about migration, politics, dreams and gender equality, these reporters have given us a glimpse into their lives to see what it's like to be a female journalist in Mexico City. 

Nicole Medgenberg

nacla_nicNicole, a journalist born in Germany, moved to Mexico City when she was starting her bachelor's degree. Today, she works for a non-governmental organization during the day, and at night she works as a freelance journalist covering mainly food and travel. She also started her own recipe blog, called La cocinera con prisa [es] (“A cook in a hurry”).

Her first encounter with journalism happened at age 12, when she designed a magazine with a friend. Nicole explains that her friend would look for pictures in magazines, while she wrote imaginary stories for each image. “I still keep that magazine with me”, she says proudly.

Nicole says that Mexico City has given her the same opportunities given to any man: “I was born in a generation and within cultures in which I no longer question whether I can vote, study or practice my profession any different than men. I am fortunate to have German and Mexican roots, which [my parents] are very open and supportive with my career.”

For her, the main problem journalism faces is low pay: “Some people need to understand that if they want someone who is dedicated and that has good experience, she or he should be treated as such, getting paid at the right time and [the right] amount. It is a profession that requires commitment and self-sacrifice, and sadly, it is not well paid”.

Follow Nicole on Twitter: @NicMedgenberg

Elia Baltazar

nacla_elia“I cannot say I've ever been subjected to any discrimination or preferential treatment for being a woman. I believe it has more to do with the consciousness of my own rights. I would not allow that to happen”, Elia replies when asked if she's been treated differently as a female reporter.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Elia works as a freelance journalist. She starts her day between 4:30 and 5 a.m., when she dedicates 30 minutes to reading a book of her interest (she does not have time later). She then reads the news and prepares her daily schedule. At 10 a.m., she is already interviewing people and investigating possible stories. She stops working at 10 p.m.

Elia always dreamed about being a journalist. She saw journalism as one of the most exciting jobs in the world, always relating it to far-away lands. During high school, she worked in her school's newspaper, and she got her first job as a journalist at age 18.

In her work with the network Periodistas de a Pie, she writes with a human rights and gender perspective: “I always prefer to write from the perspective of equal rights for all, and I just emphasize gender when it is clear that there was a violation of women's rights”. In her organization, they opt not only to write about complaints, but also to find examples of success stories that break the tradition of victims’ misfortune and empowers citizens with their own success stories.

Elia declares herself a feminist; although she's not convinced about all feminist theories, they are a part of her personal and professional growth. For her, the biggest challenge that journalists, both male and female, face in Mexico today are low salaries and labor conditions, “which make it difficult to do real investigations”.

Follow Elia on Twitter: @eliabaltazar

Sandra Apolinar

Nacla_sandyOriginally from Toluca, a city 40 minutes from Mexico City, Sandra is the editor of the music and technology section at Swagger [es]. A normal day for her in the newsroom consists of editing the articles for the website. She also investigates topics to suggest them as possible stories for journalists on her team.

“I am not a big fan of covering music scandals, things related to Justin Bieber or Miley Cyrus, but our audience is very interested in that and I have to write about it”, she confesses. Sandra wants to continue her career by reporting on sports. She is a big fan of the local football team Diablos Rojos, but she knows it might take more time to pursue a career as a woman in that field.

Sandra knew she wanted to be a journalist since she was in high school. She says she always wrote for herself, and when she was 16 she started to feel interested in writing for others. For more than six years, she has been traveling every day from Toluca to Mexico City and back, and even if she doesn't live in the city, she says she feels from ‘DF’ and there is no other place she would rather work as a journalist.

“The greatest challenge I see for journalists in Mexico City is that sometimes they forget to be truly objective, at least as much as they can. Journalism in Mexico will not have a big improvement if the ego of journalists keeps on growing”, she concludes.

Follow Sandra on Twitter: @sandiapolinar 

Daliri Oropeza

nacla_dali“I always try to balance the voices I write about. If I have interviewed four men, I try to look for the same number of women. I like to bring justice to my texts in those matters”, Daliri explains.

Born and raised in Mexico City, Daliri comes from a family that has worked in the circus industry for generations. She is the only journalist in her family, and she feels proud about it. Daliri has lived in many neighborhoods in Mexico City, from San Rafael to La Roma, from La Tabacalera to Buena Vista. She is in love with Mexico City, and even if she travels to other cities to study, she confesses that she will always come back to DF.

“I am a woman who likes to experiment with her work. I want to try new things, and I am always looking for new stories, new voices to represent.” Sandra has written several stories about the indigenous people from southern Mexico in the state of Chiapas.

For Daliri, trying to bring an equal number of male and female voices is her contribution to gender equality. “I am not a feminist, but I always want to write about women in my stories”, she says. One of her favorite and most recent stories looks at daughters of politicians who are also working in politics, an investigation she pursued to explore a “minority of a minority.”

“There are differences between men and women when we talk about journalism. Sometimes some men think you can't do a good job as a reporter, but you should not let those comments affect your work. These people are ignorant”, she emphasizes, concluding that working as a journalist is her passion and that there's no other thing she'd rather be doing.

Follow Daliri on Twitter: @Dal_air

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