Asians ace GMAT math

Americans can’t compete in math with Indian and Chinese business school applicants, reports the Wall Street Journal.  Asian students do so well on the quantitative portion of the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) that admissions officers are looking for ways to admit more U.S. applicants.


Forty-four percent of GMAT takers are Asian, compared to 22 percent a decade ago. U.S. students, once the majority of test-takers, now comprise 36 percent of the whole.

A new benchmarking tool “allows admissions officers to compare applicants against their own cohort, filtering scores and percentile rankings by world region, country, gender and college grade-point average,” reports the Journal.

“I need to be able to show my scholarship committee, which includes faculty, that this person is in the top 5% of test takers in his region,” even though that individual might not rank highly against test takers world-wide, said Sara Neher, assistant dean of M.B.A. admissions at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business,

South and East Asian students average 151 hours in test preparation, reports GMAC. U.S. students average 64 hours.

Smart phones, smarter students

As smart phones become common, smart instructors are helping students use their phones as study aids while they’re on the go.

Standardizing textbooks won’t save money and will undercut instructors’ autonomy, complain community college instructors in Texas.


Students need to learn how to study

Students don’t know how to study, writes cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham. Most “take notes in class, color the readings with a highlighter, and later reread the notes and the highlighted bits of the text.”  Unfortunately, “rereading is a terribly ineffective strategy.” Only about 11 percent of students use the best strategy, self-testing.

Willingham recommends an article on studying smart on the website of the American Psychological Association.


The college counselor is an online portal

An online portal is helping community college students identify their learning styles and study strategies.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  The Lumina Foundation is funding Latino college success initiatives.

South Korea: Kids, stop studying so hard!

South Korea is enforcing a cram-school curfew, writes Time’s Amanda Ripley, who embeds with government inspectors on a hagwon raid. Tutoring sessions are supposed to end by 10 pm.

South Korea’s hagwon crackdown is one part of a larger quest to tame the country’s culture of educational masochism. At the national and local levels, politicians are changing school testing and university admissions policies to reduce student stress and reward softer qualities like creativity.

In 2010, 74 percent of students received private after-school instruction at an average cost of $2,600 per year.  There are more tutors than teachers in South Korea.

South Korean students are the best in the world on international reading and math tests. (Mellow Finland does well too.)

But the country’s leaders worry that unless its rigid, hierarchical system starts to nurture more innovation, economic growth will stall – and fertility rates will continue to decline as families feel the pressure of paying for all that tutoring. “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 Korean students are encouraged to stay up late studying and sleep in class, Ripley writes. “The typical academic schedule begins at 8 a.m. and ends sometime from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., depending on the ambition of the student.”

When I visited some schools, I saw classrooms in which a third of the students slept while the teacher continued lecturing, seemingly unfazed. Gift stores sell special pillows that slip over your forearm to make desktop napping more comfortable.

Success in South Korea requires winning a spot in a top university.  To reduce the incentives to cram, “500 admissions officers have been appointed to the country’s universities, to judge applicants not only on their test scores and grades but also other abilities,” Ripley writes.

Still hagwons are responding to the curfew by putting lessons online so students can study late at home. Other hagwons claim to be “self-study” libraries to evade the 10 pm curfew. Accompanying government inspectors, Ripley sees 40 teenagers sitting in carrels in “a warren of small study rooms with low ceilings and fluorescent lights.” The air is stale. “It is a disturbing scene, sort of like a sweatshop for children’s brains,” she writes.


The habits of successful students

Students who go to classes, study at least 20 hours a week and use college tutoring and support centers usually earn a degree. It also helps to make friends. Slackers and loners usually don’t make it through.

But poor academic preparation — not lack of effort — explains the high drop-out rate of low-income college students, concludes a new study. Many low-income students believe they’re ready for college but earn low grades, especially in math and science.

Driven and dependent

I am honored to be guest-blogging with Michael E. Lopez while Joanne is away on vacation. Like Michael, I haven’t had much time for blogging; Joanne’s vacation allows me to make time and, with it, posts.

Do students in our hyper-collaborative, hyper-interactive environments learn to struggle with problems on their own? Or is that sort of work subtly discouraged?

The San Diego-based virtual charter school iHigh Virtual Academy recommends that prospective students take its iHigh Readiness for Online Learning Quiz to determine whether the school is right for them. Most of the questions (which are all multiple-choice) have to do with competence, organization, and drive. The points accorded to each answer are generally what one would expect, with a few exceptions, such as the following:

8. When I encounter a problem during class, or with my homework:

a) I review the directions, check my work, and try to work through the problem myself. Score 2 points. It is good to try your best to work things out on your own, but you also must be willing to contact your instructor whenever you need help.

b) I do not hesitate to ask my instructor for help. Score 3 points. Successful online students feel comfortable and confident in asking questions and contacting their instructors for assistance.

c) I skip the problem and move on. Score 1 point. Willingness to ask questions, especially asking for help when needed, is a significant success factor in an online independent study program. If your instructor does not hear from you, he/she has no way of knowing that you are not understanding the material.

Why should a student lose a point for trying to work through the problem alone? [Read more…]

Don't study, don't get ahead

In Community College Spotlight: College students are studying less and finding it hard to complete a degree.

Illiterate in America

According to a federal literacy study,  one in seven U.S. adults can’t read well enough to understand a newspaper article, follow instructions for medications or decipher a utility bill, reports USA Today.

“They really cannot read … paragraphs (or) sentences that are connected,” says Sheida White, a researcher at the U.S. Education Department.

Slate offers suggestions for parents to help your child learn to read. None of it works for parents who can’t read well, but I suppose they’re not reading Slate.

Update: Teaching content is teaching reading, says Dan Willingham on a new video (with annoying background music). Comprehension requires background knowledge.