Monthly Archives: September 2011

Thanks, Suhaimi + Team!

Many thanks to Suhaimi Ramly and his team who will be working on identifying the relevant Khan Academy math video-clips that correspond (to the extent possible) for the Malaysian Forms 1 – 5 Math curricula.

As many of you might already know, Suhaimi, an MIT math graduate, is the coach of the Malaysian International Math Olympiad team that won gold, silver and bronze medals in the 2011 competition.

Your 1-Hour Gift to Many Lives over Many Lifetimes

To quote Jacintha Tagal – raised in Kuching and graduated from Harvard:
“[I] realize that the sort of person you want to be is a person whose life multiplies life for others, especially those who lack the opportunities that you have been given.”

If you believe your life can multiply life for others, please volunteer 1-hour gifts of your time to do either or both of the following (repeat as often as desired ):
  • Translate a 10-min video-clip from English to Malay, which will take approximately an hour.  John (thanks!) has drafted a translation 101 guide.  
  • Critique a translated 10 min video-clip, which will take approximately 30 mins. Thus within 1 hour, you can critique two 10 min Malay-translated video-clips.   
Making A Difference via Your Volunteer Time Contributions
The Belajar MY intiative will depend solely upon volunteer time contributions.  
As far as I can tell, money and materials will be needed only for the S2 phase: production and distribution of DVDs.   However, the S2 phase will come only after S1: Malay sub-titling of the Khan Academy video-clips on the Web has been completed (see this Google document for more information about phases S1 & S2)
Why Am I Doing This?
I have been extremely fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to study well beyond my mental capacity.  You and I have the opportunity to Enrich the Minds and Transform the Lives of our fellow Malaysians.  It’s up to us to help them, even if it’s just for 1 hour!   
How You Can Help: 
If you are an experienced math tutor, an experienced math teacher, please help us identify the Khan Academy math video-clips that correspond to the Malaysian Forms 1-5 math curricula.  Here’s a spreadsheet of the current mapping.  
If you are willing to translate Khan Academy video-clips into Malay, which should take less than an hour for a 10-minute KA video-clip, please let me know (  
Feel free to share the “Belajar MY” initiative with others.  The initial focus is upon Math, with the hope/expectation of extension into the sciences.  In the meantime, please subscribe for updates:

Thanks for the Support, TFM!

Thanks for the support, TFM Team!  We are united in helping others expand their educational opportunities!

South Korean Students: Overstudying?

Source: Yahoo, Sep 2011

… cramming is deeply embedded in Asia, where top grades – and often nothing else – have long been prized as essential for professional success. Before toothbrushes or printing presses, there were civil service exams that could make or break you. Chinese families have been hiring test-prep tutors since the 7th century.

Modern-day South Korea has taken this competition to new extremes. In 2010, 74% of all students engaged in some kind of private after-school instruction, sometimes called shadow education, at an average cost of $2,600 per student for the year. There are more private instructors in South Korea than there are schoolteachers, and the most popular of them make millions of dollars a year from online and in-person classes. When Singapore’s Education Minister was asked last year about his nation’s reliance on private tutoring, he found one reason for hope: “We’re not as bad as the Koreans.”

“You Americans see a bright side of the Korean system,” Education Minister Lee Ju-ho tells me, “but Koreans are not happy with it.”

South Koreans are not alone in their discontent. Across Asia, reformers are pushing to make schools more “American” – even as some U.S. reformers render their own schools more “Asian.” In China, universities have begun fashioning new entry tests to target students with talents beyond book learning. And Taiwanese officials recently announced that kids will no longer have to take high-stress exams to get into high school. If South Korea, the apogee of extreme education, gets its reforms right, it could be a model for other societies.

Koreans still spent 2% of their GDP on tutoring, even with the downtick. Andrew Kim, a very successful instructor at Megastudy, South Korea’s largest hagwon, says he earned $4 million last year from online and in-person lectures.

Quadratic Expressions and Equations (with Malay subtitles)

Introduction to the Quadratic Equation

Factoring Quadratic Expressions

For instructions on accessing the Malay sub-titles, please see HERE.

Still to be Translated

@ MIT : Helping Others

Source: MIT Admissions Blog, Sep 2011

We never beg for help. If anything, we are begged to ask for help more often. To quote one Particularly Enthusiastic Chemist: “YOU GUYS DON’T ASK ME ENOUGH QUESTIONS ABOUT ORGO! YOU SHOULD ASK ME MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT ORGO!!!! I LOVE HELPING PEOPLE WITH ORGO!!!!”

I guess Particularly Enthusiastic Chemist didn’t realize that he had gotten his point across, becuase he continued with “I LOVE HELPING PEOPLE WITH THEIR ORGO QUESTIONS SO ASK ME WHEN YOU HAVE QUESTIONS!”

Seriously. I’m not making this up. People here love to teach. A huge contingent of MIT students tutor, both here on campus (for our fellow undergrads) and at local community centers and neighboring schools. We teach classes on topics of our choice to middle and high school students. We’re excited about projectile motion or lockpicking or carbonyl compound reactions or how to build rockets – and we want everyone else to be, too.

This isn’t to say that you should ask upperclassmen for help all the time. They are busy, and you shouldn’t use them as a resource instead of your TAs and professors (whose job it is to help you, and whose advice will probably be more directly related to what you need to know for an exam.) However, you should know that your peers are usually happy to lend you a hand, so you shouldn’t feel shy or embarrassed.

This eagerness to help used to make me feel horribly guilty, because I felt that I had nothing to give back.

Take Particularly Enthusiastic Chemist, for example. He helps me with introductory organic chemistry. But could I help him while he studies for graduate-level chem classes? Could I help my physics major friend while he psets for Quantum II?

SURE! – if by “help” you mean “smile at”. Otherwise, I’m totally useless. These upperclassmen give, and give, and give – and I have nothing to give back.

I expressed this concern to Particularly Enthusiastic Chemist, and he laughed at me. “You have no idea,” he told me, “how often I asked [insert Math Major’s name here] for help with [some math class with a fancy name that I don’t know anything about]. Like…it was every second. I wouldn’t have been able to do a single problem on my psets without him. I didn’t even know what the problems were asking without him. I felt really bad because I could never help him with anything, so I’m paying him back by doing the same thing for others.”

“Oh, I see!” I said, not seeing at all, and thinking about how guilty I felt.

After this year, Particularly Enthusiastic Chemist and a big contingent of other upperclassmen who have been tremendously patient and generous and helpful over my first two years will be gone. I’ll never have helped them with a single pset problem. I will never pay them back. Instead, I’ll turn and face the other way: at the freshmen and to-be 2016s and to-be 2017s (AHHHH 2017? I’M SO OLD), and when one of them is stuck on a pset problem at some obscene hour of the morning – watch out, fellow upperclassmen. I will fight you for first dibs on helping.

Education: Secrets of Success

Source: The Economist, Sep 2011

there has been a change in the quality of the debate. In particular, what might be called “the three great excuses” for bad schools have receded in importance. Teachers’ unions have long maintained that failures in Western education could be blamed on skimpy government spending, social class and cultures that did not value education. All these make a difference, but they do not determine outcomes by themselves.

The idea that good schooling is about spending money is the one that has been beaten back hardest. Many of the 20 leading economic performers in the OECD doubled or tripled their education spending in real terms between 1970 and 1994, yet outcomes in many countries stagnated—or went backwards. Educational performance varies widely even among countries that spend similar amounts per pupil. Such spending is highest in the United States—yet America lags behind other developed countries on overall outcomes in secondary education.  Andreas Schleicher, head of analysis at PISA, thinks that only about 10% of the variation in pupil performance has anything to do with money.

Dan Goldhaber of the University of Washington claims that “non-school factors”, such as family income, account for as much as 60% of a child’s performance in school.

Culture is certainly a factor. Many Asian parents pay much more attention to their children’s test results than Western ones do, and push their schools to succeed. Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea sit comfortably at the top of McKinsey’s rankings.

… what are the secrets of success? Though there is no one template, four important themes emerge: decentralisation (handing power back to schools); a focus on underachieving pupils; a choice of different sorts of schools; and high standards for teachers. 

California School System Implements “Flipped Classrooms”

Source: The Economist, Sep 2011

THE 12-year-olds filing into Courtney Cadwell’s classroom at Egan Junior High in Los Altos, a leafy suburb of Silicon Valley, each take a white MacBook from a trolley, log on to a website called and begin doing maths exercises. They will not get a lecture from Ms Cadwell, because they have already viewed, at home, various lectures as video clips on KhanAcademy (given by Salman Khan, its founder). And Ms Cadwell, logged in as a “coach”, can see exactly who has watched which. This means that class time is now free for something else: one-on-one instruction by Ms Cadwell, or what used to be known as tutoring.

This reversal of the traditional teaching methods—with lecturing done outside class time and tutoring (or “homework”) during it—is what Mr Khan calls “the flip”. A synonym for flip, of course, is revolution, and this experiment in Los Altos just might lead to one. For although only a handful of classes in this public-school district tried the method in the last school year, many other schools, private and public, are now expressing interest, and the methodology is spreading.

But lectures, whether online or in the flesh, play only a limited role in education. Research shows that the human brain accepts new concepts largely through constant recall while interacting socially. This suggests that good teaching must “de-emphasise lecture and emphasise active problem-solving,” says Carl Wieman, a winner of the Nobel prize in physics and an adviser to Barack Obama.

… spend a few minutes playing with the KhanAcademy dashboard of a class in Los Altos, and you see a vision of the future. You can follow the progress of each child—where she started, how she progressed, where she got stuck and “unstuck” (as Ms Thordarson likes to put it). You can also view the progress of the entire class. And you could aggregate the information of all the classes taught by one teacher, of an entire school or even district, with data covering a whole year.

Tyler Cowen: Online Education will Move to the Mainstream

Source: FastCompany, Sep 2011

Online education will move from the add-on to the centerpiece,” Cowen told me. “Higher education will move towards a hybrid approach with top faculty teaching online, and motivational coaches working with students on a personal level.” Cowen sees the hybrid model making college education more affordable.

Education: What’s Working!

Source: The Economist, Sep 2011