WENR, December 2015: Americas
Latin America English proficiency initiatives pay off
Government-backed initiatives to improve English proficiency in Latin America are paying off as the region improves its results in the latest English Proficiency Index (EPI) from EF, an international education company that specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degree programs and cultural exchange.
Released this week, the fifth edition of EPI is based on a survey of 910,000 adults. This year seven new countries were added to the index, bringing the total surveyed up to 70. The report states that worldwide English proficiency is becoming less tied with the UK or the US and is also less associated with the elite classes. Worldwide, however, Europe still claims the highest level of English as a second language.Worldwide, however, Europe still claims the highest level of English as a second language.
The case is most obvious in Latin America where all countries, with the exception of Colombia, have shown an increase in score, and for the first time, only three countries are ranked in the lowest proficiency category – Colombia, Venezuela and El Salvador. Argentina ranks the highest in this region at number 15, with a score of 60.26 – an increase of 1.24 from last year.
Minh Tran, the report’s co-author, attributed the rise in English proficiency in Latin America to government initiatives to raise the standard of English in the region. Last year the president launched the Panama Bilingual Program with the aim of creating 25,000 bilingual teachers and 260,000 bilingual students over the next four years.
– The Pie News
November 4, 2015
Is the Canadian brain drain at an end?
In the 1990s, Canada was consumed with the specter of a “brain drain”: the loss of scientific, engineering and medical talent to the U.S. in an era of Canadian belt-tightening.
A slew of programs, old and new, have reversed the brain-drain narrative. University of British Columbia physicist Jenny Hoffman, who was lured away from Harvard, may be the poster child for their combined effects, and their success at cultivating deep reservoirs of talent.
In the year 2000, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) program created 2,000 funded positions with the explicit purpose of attracting and retaining the world’s top minds. The CERC program is an outgrowth of that, providing a bigger pot of money to an even smaller and more selective pool: 24 researchers each receive up to $10 million over seven years.
Hoffman was offered a CERC position; she returned to Canada.
Observers say that today, Canada’s research-excellence ecosystem is better than it ever has been at retaining and attracting top talent. But there are still holes: even as mature researchers stay, academics voice concerns about losing young people to the U.S., especially to Silicon Valley, currently awash in venture capital.
Brain drain “is going to continue to be a threat,” says Alan Bernstein, president of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR). “We’re always churning out really smart young people, and we need to make sure they have opportunities here in Canada.”
– The Toronto Star
November 22, 2015
Petition calls for release of Colombian academic
More than 5,000 academics have signed a petition calling for the release of jailed Colombian academic Miguel Ángel Beltrán, whose detention has been labeled an attack on scholarly freedom. The petition – presented to the Colombian Embassy in London on November 19 – calls on the South American state’s supreme court to make a swift decision on whether it will prosecute the dissident sociologist.
Dr Beltrán, a lecturer in sociology at the National University of Colombia, has now spent more than three months in Bogotá’s notorious La Picota maximum security prison since he was arrested in July. The reinstated charges of “rebellion” relate to the same evidence – emails said to have been discovered on a computer in the jungle base of guerrilla commander Raúl Reyes – that was used to detain Dr Beltrán for two years until June 2011 when all criminal charges against him were dropped.
Dr Beltrán – whose academic research has critiqued the government’s strategy against the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) group – now faces another indefinite period of imprisonment while authorities decide what action they intend to take against him. The latest petition calls on the Colombian authorities to ensure due process is followed during Dr Beltran’s appeal process, attracting signatures from academics in more than 20 countries, with many stating that they regard his treatment as an attack on free speech.
– Times Higher Education
November 20, 2015
Calls to increase faculty diversity
Increasing faculty diversity has long been a priority on college campuses, but the recent, widespread student protests over race relations have made the issue all the more urgent. And while a number of institutions have already pledged additional resources to increasing faculty diversity, questions remain about how realistic some of these goals are – at least in the near term.
That’s because black students remain under-represented in a variety of PhD programs. Even trickier, experts agree, is getting more black students to stay in academe after they earn their PhDs, given climate concerns and the fact that they are also in demand elsewhere, including the much better paying corporate world. So any successful diversity plan, those experts say, will involve not only bringing more black faculty members to campus, but also addressing the climate issues that will influence whether they stay there.
Shaun Harper, a professor in the Graduate School of Education and executive director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said that he was less interested in specific faculty diversity targets than broader questions about how to eliminate bias in hiring decisions and fixing climate concerns.
“Conversations concerning faculty diversity are terribly lopsided,” he said via email. “Emphasis is often placed on hiring more faculty of color, which is incontestably necessary. But not enough attention is paid to raising the consciousness of white faculty members about how their implicit biases shape their interactions with students and colleagues of color.”
Targets aside, accountability for diversity initiatives is also necessary, since “investing financial resources into recruiting more faculty of color is only a small part of the solution,” Harper said. “It is entirely possible that only a tiny fraction of funds committed will be spent, especially if deans and department chairs are not held accountable for taking advantage of faculty recruitment and retention resources that have been made available.”
– Times Higher Education
November 30, 2015
US sees 10% increase in international students
The number of international students studying in the US in 2014-2015 increased by 10%, the largest growth the country has seen in more than three decades. International students on US campuses now total 974,926 students with international enrollments at eight institutions across the country exceeding 10,000, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2015 Open Doors report on international education.
New York University, University of Southern California, Columbia University, Arizona University, University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne, Northeastern University, Purdue University and UCLA all hosted more than 10,000 international students last year. Meanwhile, according to data collected by NAFSA, international student spending totaled $30.5bn and supported more than 373,000 jobs to the US economy during the 2014-2015 academic year. This is a 9.8% increase in job support and creation, and a nearly 14% increase in dollars contributed to the economy from the previous academic year.
The report also shows that more students from the US are going overseas as study abroad numbers increased by 5% from last year. Outbound students continue to be attracted mostly to European countries as figures show top destinations, the UK and Italy, were each up 12% and 10% respectively.
– The Pie News
November 16, 2015