Why might you consider the alternate BTEC route to a degree?

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By Dr. Orville Leverne Clubb, Head ITS Education Asia BTEC Centre

Why might you consider the alternate BTEC route to a degree?

When the opportunity surfaced to work with ITS Education Asia (ITS) as their Head of BTEC Centre, offering the BTEC Higher Nationals qualification(s), it was a perfect fit.  Prior to taking the post, I had retired after a career of 40 years in higher education.  I began to feel I needed to continue to contribute to society as an educator and welcomed the opportunity.

I am a believer in non traditional paths to formal education. I am aware that there are many people who deserve a chance to advance themselves through higher education but due to many different reasons don’t have the opportunity for a traditional higher education path. I feel the BTEC HND is an excellent alternative to direct entry to a traditional university programme for a bachelors degree (or masters).  In Asia, a student can achieve an internationally recognised UK awarded bachelor degree in 3 years by taking  our two year full-time BTEC HND followed by a one year topping up degree. Topping up degree programmes are available either here in Asia or you can go to the UK for the topping up degree course.  Basically, the BTEC HND is equal to the first two years of a British bachelors degree and the topping up degree gives the final year for the award of a bachelors degree.  Depending on your goals, if you wish, in a place like Hong Kong, that means you can have an internationally recognized master degree in 4 years, rather than 5 using the local traditional route.

At ITS, we decided to become a BTEC Centre since BTEC qualifications are  recognized in more than 70 countries worldwide, and in 2013/2014, 2.58 million learners registered for BTEC programmes and other vocational qualifications.

My personal story; when I was a young person, I did not take high school (secondary school) very seriously, I did not achieve grades good enough for me to get university admission. For my first career, I spent more than four years on active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps as an enlisted man.  While on active duty in the military I had time to think about what I wanted to do with my life. When I left active duty as a veteran of the Vietnam War, I was given an allowance to pursue four years of education.  I decided that I would use the allowance to pursue a bachelor degree.   Not having the grades in high school to gain direct admission to university, I had to find an alternative route to reach my goal. I was able to take advantage of the Hawai’i Community College system to study for an associates degree and then, articulate to the University of Hawai’i Manoa to finish my B.A. in Psychology. Some years later, through continued studies, I was awarded a PhD from a UK university. Prior to the Marines, I was a construction worker.

My experience as a young man made me a believer in nontraditional routes of higher education.  The BTEC HND is an excellent alternative to direct entry to a traditional university programme.

 

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So you don’t think Physics is useful?

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By Chau Kwai Sum, Physics teacher, ITS Education Asia

 

Study the pictures below and read the questions that follow. Do you know their answers?

295-x-182-mm-flyers

How are three dimensional images of objects taken?

Do you know the name of the device? What are its uses?

How does electricity reach our homes from power stations?

How wavelengths of light from a street lamp are measured?

Why radiations are emitted from some substances? What are they?

Why aircraft can “float” and fly in the air?

 

If you are curious to know the answers to the above questions and how other old and new stuff works, you could certainly do worse than choose physics as one of the electives during study in high school.

Physics curriculum of IB or IAL provides basic theories and practices to the understanding of how things work. In the course of learning, students are trained to observe phenomena closely, investigate scientifically factors affecting situations, plan cautiously experiments for verification, think about the obtained results critically and draw reasonable conclusions for applications. From the history of the great physicists, they usually followed these procedures to discover new things and find their respective applications to improve our living. An illustration is the discovery of X-rays which were noted by the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen. Just two weeks after the publication of Röntgen’s paper related to X-rays, the discovery was announced to be used in the diagnosis of bone fractures in the medical field.

Physics is a prerequisite to many majors as prescribed in the university entrance requirements, examples like faculties of engineering, natural science, computing and actuarial science. Schools of law, medicine, business, building, surveying and architecture also accept students with a physics background as they consider these students demonstrate keen observational, and high analytical, abilities in matters; learn fast from new situations and derive appropriate solutions to each of them; deduce sensible and applicable conclusions from results in different trials.

Studying physics doesn’t only satisfy ones curiosity about stuff but it also equips you with a scientific mindset knowing that everything has a limitation. This concept is especially essential in the commercial sector, for instance investors shouldn’t put all capital in one business even though it is beneficial at present because numerous stressed factors can change or degenerate the business’s existing profits or cause the business becoming obsolete.

Teens having acquired the knowledge, skills and scientific mindset can definitely adapt themselves to environments in the rapidly changing and globalized world. It is all about transferable skills and physics certainly provides these. So when you next see the promotion of “STEM” education, let it  arouse your interest in science and consider how it may help different job perspectives in future and open up the opportunity for a useful and rewarding life.

 

The author teaches for ITS Education Asia both at our schools in Hong Kong and through our online school. No matter where you live, if you would like to join supplementary tutorials or take a full qualification at IGCSE or IAL, get in touch with us.

 

 

 

 

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Why study Geography (still)?

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By Danny Harrington, Founder, ITS Education Asia

why-study-geography-still

 I just came across an old article I wrote on the ITS blog in 2009 called Why study Geography? It’s always interesting to read back over things that your old self wrote. If you’re a student or indeed under the age of 30 you probably won’t appreciate that so much but as you get older it grows in interest and perhaps importance. The first thing that amazed me was that we have been running this blog for so long. But also that so much of what I wrote I still very firmly believe in today. It is as true in my mind as it was then that

Geography brings about a better and more thorough understanding of the places we live in and why they matter”

and that the knowledge and skills gained and honed by the Geographer will allow us to lead

“better lives as individuals and communities of the present, but that we can set the foundations for the betterment of generations to come”.

But I also read back and felt that there were things left unsaid and things perhaps not so clear, that the language was a bit high-brow. So, given that I still enthusiastically teach Geography to 14-18 year olds (mainly) and that studying the subject brings great value to the individual and thus to the communities they live in, I thought I would quickly revisit the benefits of studying Geography particularly all the way through degree level. This is important because Geography is best started some time in middle-secondary school, roughly age 14, and then followed through 8 years or more of study. So decisions have to be made relatively early on this.

As I hinted at in the original, Geography is about all places at all times. It is about the environments found there, the people that live there and all the processes that take place there. It allows for a truly holistic view of life as we know it (not a full understanding but as good a view as we can get). So beyond the sheer pleasure and fulfilment one may get from such an educational experience and the skills it gives you to continue to learn beyond formal education, it is a fantastic foundation for further study and for the world beyond childhood/academia, whatever that may hold.

Perhaps one of the greatest criticisms and weaknesses of academia, science, research and what-have-you in the last 30 or even 50 years, has been the retreat from inter-disciplinary research and co-operation, with ever more specialist people looking at ever narrower fields. It is the Geographer who represents the best chance to draw our knowledge gains all together and try to make sense of the real world, where nothing ever occurs in isolation. Indeed with the economic issues of globalisation and the key environmental issue of climate change (which are themselves entwined), one can say fairly confidently that the world around us has proven quite clearly that we need co-ordinated and integrated approaches to the issues we face. These are no longer idle issues either but serious species-threatening issues, ourselves included.

So when as a student you face some of those difficult questions such as: What do I want to do in life? What should I study? What jobs will there even be when I am looking for one? by answering Geography you set yourself up for success. Because whatever the jobs are, the really interesting and important ones will require people who can analyse, problem-solve, use modern tech and information systems, & be synoptic in their approach. Whether you study pure Geography or add it to one of the hundreds of other disciplines on offer, you will be positioned to join many others in the search for the solutions to the world’s contemporary issues.

The range of options mean that just about anyone can find their niche – whether you want to be a scientist in the Antarctic or off in the harshest of arid areas, or an anthropologist in urban communities or societies under threat – there is something for anyone. And if you don’t know what you want to do while you are being asked to make this decision, then Geography, as one the most all-encompassing subjects, is one of the few that allows you to defer those life-shaping decisions until you have matured a little more and have a better understanding of where you want to go without any detriment to your chances of being able to do so.

ITS Education Asia offers Geography IGCSE and IAL under the Edexcel specifications, along with many other subjects. Students can learn at our 2 Hong Kong schools or online with flexible timetables to suit different life situations and locations. Get in touch today.

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Virtual Tribalism Continued – A Virtual Facebook tribe

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By Dr. Orville Leverne Clubb, Head ITS Education BTEC Centre

 

In my blog titled “Virtual Tribalism – “The Medium is the Message” I started a discussion of social media and social networking. I introduced Robin Dunbar, famous for Dunbar’s numbers. Dunbar had used Neocortex size to accurately predicted the group size of thirty five monkey and ape species. He then used the same technique to predict the size of a personal social group of humans. To verify the number he examined hunter gatherer societies, past and present. There were several groups sizes defined by Dunbar’s research.

  • Core group – up to 5 people
  • Close Group – around 15 people
  • Acquaintance Group – around 50 people
  • Personal Social Group – around 150 people (typical size of a human small village though out the ages)
  • Clan or similar organisation entity around 450 to 500 people (a cohesive sub tribal unit)
  • Tribal Group around 1,500 to 2,000 people (a tribe)

An interesting article titled Don’t Believe Facebook; You Only Have 150 Friends makes a case for the number of 150. The Facebook allows for 5,000 friends, far more than the 150 prediction by Dunbar for a Personal Social Group. Perhaps there is a way to apply all of Dunbar’s numbers to Facebook. We could categorize Facebook friends as we “friend” a person, depending on how close they are to us, they become an online entity of a “personal virtual tribe” in one of the following categorizes:

  • Best Friends Forever (BFF) around 1 to 5 friends
  • Best Friends 6 to 15 friends
  • Close Friends 16 to 50 friends
  • Friends 51 to 150 friends (virtual village)
  • Potential Friends 151 to 750 friends (virtual Clan)
  • Acknowledged virtual tribal people 751 to 1,500 > friends (virtual tribe)

For our closest primate relatives (bonobos and chimpanzees), social relationships are maintained by grooming each other in “grooming circles”.  Contact time is the humans version of grooming behavior.  A Facebook human equivalent would be a virtual grooming circle getting together on Facebook to chat, post internet memes etc. Social media has allowed us to “groom” from afar; we still keep in touch with family and friends and make new virtual friends. so human grooming behavior has remained constant.

A further sort of related thought raised from above! Since Dunbar started his research on monkeys and apes, can we get clues to our primal behavior from the two closest relatives from the animal kingdom?  The website Bonobos and Chimpanzees states that we share close to 99% of their genome in common. The site states:

“Chimpanzees are male dominant, with intense aggression between different groups that can be lethal. Chimpanzees use tools, cooperatively hunt monkeys, and will even eat the infants of other chimpanzee groups.”

“Bonobos are female dominant, with females forming tight bonds against males through same-sex socio-sexual contact that is thought to limit aggression. In the wild, they have not been seen to cooperatively hunt, use tools, or exhibit lethal aggression.”

There is even a scientific argument that bonobos and chimpanzees should be on the same family tree genus as humans. Even though the DNA of us and the two great apes is almost identical our social structures very different.

In an article titled “warfare may explain differences in social structures in Chimpanzees and Bonobos”, it is explained that there are very different forms of social structure and cooperation in bonobos and chimpanzees. Basically, chimpanzee are very territorial and lead by Alpha males and males need to cooperate with each other when it comes to activities like territory borders patrolling, territory defense and joint hunting, and conflicts are handled by aggression. Also, all Chimpanzee communities are sexually segregated, meaning that males and females associated more with same sex partners.

Bonobo males are less territorial and associate mainly with females, most often their mothers. Aggression is mediated by sex. When a male cooperates with his mother, she helps to increase her sons’ mating success. The females of both species cooperate with each other when it comes to raising their young.

Are we starting to move from a social structure similar to a chimpanzee social structure to a social structure similar to a bonobo social structure?

 

 

 

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Virtual Tribalism – “The Medium is the Message”

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By: Dr. Orville Leverne Clubb, Head of ITS Education Asia BTEC Centre

 

                  “The medium is the message because it is the medium that

                  shapes and controls the scale and form of human association

                  and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse

                  as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association.

                  Indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium

                  blinds us to the character of the medium.” 

– Marshall McLuhan

A very hot topic when I was a university student was a book titled “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man” first published in 1964 by Marshall McLuhan. From this     book the famous quote of the day was “the medium is the message”.  When this book    was written the major forms of media were radio, movies, television, & newspapers. As   a child I remember my grandfather telling me that a television was the “devil’s box” and    we would not have one in his house.

The devil’s box has evolved in many ways since the infancy of television programming. With satellite technology live coverage world wide is possible. This enabled a major new   devil’s box medium addition, cable news channel CNN which started in 1980 with 24         hour news coverage. This was followed by Fox news which launched on October 7,     1996.  The air time of both news channels is filled with opinion and panels giving      “expert analysis” of “breaking news”.  During and after the US presidential election there  was a polarization of the viewers of CNN and Fox along political party lines.  As we       have seen by the Emory University study   in my first blog in this series  political     information not favorable to a person views or political hero is rejected without further       thought. Using Social Identity Theory from my previous blog, we can see that we have a CNN in-group vs a Fox news in-group. Perhaps they are competing to become the “Ministry of Truth” as envision by George Orwell.

In George Orwell’s classic novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, published in 1949, there was a “Ministry of Truth” for the superstate of Oceania.  So how does the ministry of truth control minds? By constantly flooding citizens of Oceania with nonstop propaganda, explaining why political candidate A is so amazing or how political Candidate B is terrible and stupid. Assume Candidate A is elected, and everything you view on media is designed to tell you why Candidate A is so amazing, has always been amazing, will be amazing until the end of time, and has never ever been wrong about anything.

smartphone_zombies

A new media is beginning to take up more of our time.  When I ride on public transportation I see most people riding with me working with their smart phone and ignoring their physical environment. This behavior is enabled by the marriage of communication and computer technology making available both the internet and telephone on a single device. The passengers that are not receiving telephone calls, are normally using “social media” and could be watching a movie, viewing a news app, communicating with a friend by a text based system,  viewing their Facebook page, etc. My brief definition of social media is “computer-enabled  technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information”.

Social networking is a new social organizational experiment that allow humans to form   interactive informal in-groups that don’t require physical presence.  The individual Facebooker views their personal in-group as the group administrator  of the membership  and selects friends.

A British Anthologist and Experimental Psychologist, Robin Dunbar, famous for Dunbar’s numbers, suggested that around 150 people is the maximum number of personal stable social relationships any one person can maintain. Dunbar’s most famous number is 150 from the above list and appears through out the WWW. Dunbar’s informal expatiation for 150 “The number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar”.

Again I got carried away and wanted to say much more on the blog topic so the next blog in this series will be a continuation  to develop the topic – Virtual Tribalism.

Catch all of Dr. Clubb’s blog posts in our Hong Kong Education blogroll.

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