The Growth of Online Education in China

A recent report has been published detailing the development of e-Learning and online education in China. The report, by companiesandmarkets.com, identifies that the sector has reached its “growth stage”, increasing in market scale by 20.7 percent between 2006 and 2007 (from RMB14.5 billion to RMB17.5 billion). So how is the industry set to develop from here? And what can the west learn from the success of the Chinese distance and blended learning systems?

Distance learning, online degree courses, and adult education have been popular in China for some time. This has been due to a number of factors, such as the expansive and rural geography of the country, the high competition for fewer enrolment places (comparable to the UK or US, at least), and recent government-stimulated incentives to ensure compulsory learning for all, e.g. the National Project of Compulsory Education in Impoverished Areas (established in 1995).

In regards to e-Learning and its involvement with pre/primary/middle school education, the latest report doesn’t reflect an outright consolidation of the country’s vast school system – which is something that makes it quite different to others. Those who offer online education services to pre-schoolers are private individuals and companies, whilst the most traditional primary and middle schools are said to be employing e-Learning techniques and offering distance classes. Primary and middle school teaching market scale has increased by 18.5 percent between 2006 and 2007.

For higher education and older learners, the report shows a growth and diversification of online education but an unimpressive continuation of doubts amongst members of the public as to the worth of diplomas from online institutions. Despite this, there is healthy enthusiasm for online education for vocation certification and an increased demand for customizable services. Additionally corporate e-learning is becoming more integrated with business hoping to improve services – especially over the last year. As a result, projections suggest that corporate e-learning is set to grow 40 percent year by year until 2011.

China is an interesting country to discuss when it comes to distance education – due to the rural country and uniquely provincial governance of education, as well as its huge population. Consequently, the country has pioneered certain aspects of education by use of online courses and media. This has not only included a Central Radio and TV University, but also distance institutions that specifically cater for niche markets such as adult farmers and workers – it will be intriguing to see how technological advancements and increased accessibility for education over the next few years.

Labels for Special Education Students – A Necessary Evil

The word “label” can cause many parents to cringe inwardly. They often see it as a big sign hung on the back of their child, making them conspicuously different from the rest of the population. Some parents may fear a label will stay with their child for the rest of their lives, preventing both social acceptance and employment opportunities. Others may see a label as some kind of failure in regards to their parenting skills. In fact, no parent wants his/her child to be labeled.

However, labeling may be unavoidable. Getting your child diagnosed is the single most important step in the foundation of his education. If you perform your own evaluation and red flags pop up, it’s time to take action.

Your first call should be to your child’s primary care physician. At well-child check-ups, your doctor will ask questions regarding developmental benchmarks. Benchmarks are guidelines of normal development your child should reach by a certain age. These include expressive language, receptive language, vocabulary, and fine and gross motor skills. Because language development can vary from child to child, physicians may be lax in taking appropriate action for a child who is not reaching benchmarks. As a parent, your intuition should serve you well. Call your local county Child Development Services (CDS) office and request an evaluation. Your CDS case manager will refer you to specialists more suited to diagnosing disabilities.

If your child is already attending school and you are worried about his progress, keep the lines of communication open with his teachers. Many teachers will refer students to the special education department for an evaluation. Regardless of the results of a public school evaluation, you may want to get an unbiased, independent evaluation. Tutoring centers like Sylvan use specialized testing. In this way, you have a back up should the school district decline services.

If your child does have a disability, an appropriate diagnosis is important in order for the state to recognize him as a special education student. State funds ensure support staff will be available to help your child meet the goals listed in his IEP, or Individualized Education Plan. This plan includes any therapeutic services your child may need such as speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and adaptive physical education. These services are vital to your child’s success throughout his primary and secondary education.

Sometimes the biggest hurdle is dealing with having your child “singled out” as a special education student. You fear your child will be seen as different, weird, stupid or weak. While there is no easy fix for this issue, being an advocate for your child and his education can alleviate some of those fears. At the primary level, ask the special education teacher about reverse mainstreaming. This process invites mainstream students into the self-contained/special education classrooms. Students who spend time in the specialized classrooms tend to be more accepting of differences because they are allowed to get to know special education students on a personal level. If reverse mainstreaming is promoted regularly, lasting bonds can form between students that will carry over into the mainstream classrooms and all over the school.

Finally, teach your child to advocate for himself. Understanding the cause and reason behind a label can sometimes ease anxiety about being different. Understanding how a specialized program works, even on a basic level, can go a long way in teaching your child to advocate for himself throughout the course of his education.

English As a Second Language Education Requirement For Amnesty Seekers

Both candidates running for president, McCain and Obama, have their own amnesty plan for the twelve million or so illegal aliens in the county. Historically, one of the requirements for amnesty was certification of the applicants’ level of English proficiency or a minimum number of hours of classes in English as a Second Language. This was the case, a language requirement, in the early 90’s when amnesty was given by President Bush Sr. But, eighteen years later, who is going to test let alone provide all of these people with these educational services?

Of course the tradition education system has the facilities to accommodate these people but it would take a few years of committee meetings to agree what, when and how to teach or test these new immigrants. The public education system barely handles the work load that it has before it now. Its decision making system is also very bureaucratic and therefore makes decisions very slowly with the end result leaving the decision makers not fully satisfied. It also leaves the actual needs of the students not very well met. There are also private education services that provide tutoring for students after school.

They are market driven so adjust what they teach and where they provide their services according to the needs of the market. But the teaching and testing of the new immigrants would only be a temporary niche market. Also, would it be financially viable enough for them in order to set up a bricks and mortar facility for these temporary students. The next possible option to provide theses ESL educational services for the new immigrants are the Non-governmental Organizations, NGOs, or Not-For-Profit, 501C3 organizations.

These groups range from religious groups like churches and synagogues to The Boys and Girls Clubs of America. They have facilities in place and volunteer staff that could step up to the whiteboard and teach English as a Second Language. Currently, some churches have experience providing English as a Second Language lessons to foreign students studying here in the US. Fairview Missionary Church – Angola, Indiana provides such an ESL program to the foreign Engineering students at the local University. While most of their current students’ language proficiency level is much higher than the average illegal aliens; it would be a relatively easy transition to focus on this new group. Another possible option for these new immigrants to learn English as a Foreign Language and meet the amnesty requirements would be to take an internet based ESL course. The cost of the course would depend on who was providing it. However, online education in other subject areas has proved to be very effective and popular.

It provides universal access to education. One website providing the opportunity for students to learn English online for free is English4All.net. They provide regular lessons, video lessons as well as a chat room for the student to practice their conversation skills in. English4All’s chat room is hosted by an avatar that is programmed with Artificial Intelligence. This makes the chat room open twenty four seven for as many students that want to improve their English. In the end, all of the above opportunities will more than likely be provided by various communities. While amnesty is not popular with segments of the population, it is not feasible to deport twelve million people. Whoever wins presidency will not undoubtedly provide some kind of a pathway to citizenship for these new immigrants.

5 Qualities of a Good Special Education Advocate

Are you the parent of a child with autism that is having a dispute with school personnel, and would like some help? Are you the parent of a child with a learning disability, or another type of disability, that could use an advocate to help you in getting an appropriate education for your child? This article will give you 5 qualities that make a good special education advocate

An advocate is a person that has received special training, that helps parents navigate the special education system. In some cases the advocate is a parent of a child themselves, but this is not always the case. Before you hire an advocate check on their experience, and also make sure that the advocate is familiar with your child’s disability, so that they are able to advocate effectively

Qualities:

1 A good advocate must be familiar with the federal and state education laws that apply to special education, and be willing to use them, when needed. This is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), State rules for special education (how they will comply with IDEA), and No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The advocate does not have to memorize the laws, but should have a basic knowledge of what is in them. The advocate must also be willing to bring up the laws, at IEP meetings, if this will benefit the child.

2. A good advocate should not make false promises to parents. If an advocate tells you. that they will get the services that you want for your child, be leery! Unfortunately, there are no guarantees in special education, and advocates should not promise things that they may not be able to get. An experienced advocate who knows the law and your school district, should have a sense about what can be accomplished.

3. A good advocate should be passionate about your child, and the educational services that they need. Advocacy sometimes takes a lot of time. If the person helping you is not passionate about your child, they may not be willing to help you for the length of time that it takes to get your child an appropriate education.

4. A good advocate must be willing to stand up to special education personnel, when they disagree with them, or when the school personnel tell a lie. If the advocate you pick, has every quality, but is not willing to stand up to school personnel, he or she will not be an effective advocate for your child.

5. A good advocate is detail oriented, and makes sure that any services promised by special education personnel, are put in writing. A good advocate will read the IEP before they leave the meeting, and bring up any changes that should be made. Sometimes the little details are what makes for success!

By keeping in mind these 5 qualities, you will be better equipped to finding an advocate that will be able to help you, get an appropriate education for your child.

5 Ways to Overcome the Delphi Technique in Special Education!

Are you the parent of a child with a disability who receives special education services? Do you wonder if special education personnel are manipulating the IEP team to make predetermined decisions, usually different than what your child needs? Would you like to learn about the Delphi technique and how to overcome it? This article will give you the ammunition and information you need to overcome the manipulation that is part of the Delphi technique, and finally get your child the special education services they need!

The Delphi technique was initially developed so that experts in a particular field would be able to come to a consensus. Over the years the use has been distorted so that now it is being used to pit members of one group against members of another group. This is done by the meeting facilitator who asks all members of the group what their position on the issue at hand is. They find other group members that agree with their position, and manipulate them to turn against the members of the group that do not agree with them. This is an unethical way to get the group to agree to whatever the predetermined outcome was!

This technique is being used in special education to pit IEP team members against parents and any other people that take the parents side.

Below are 5 ways to overcome the Delphi technique for your child’s benefit:

1. Recognize when the technique is being used, and expose it! Take copies of information on the Delphi technique to any school meeting especially an IEP meeting if you suspect that this technique is being used! Exposure is one way to overcome this unethical technique!

2. Always be charming-never at any point become angry! No matter how many personal attacks come or what the facilitator says stay calm! Why? Because if the facilitator or coordinator can get you angry then they look like the victim. By staying calm despite personal attacks will make you look like the victim, and not the coordinator. Other group members may them take your side because it looks like you are being verbally attacked!

3. Stay focused on the issue and your position on the issue. Use my favorite advocacy technique-repeat, repeat, repeat! If the facilitator tries and puts you on the defensive and change the subject keep repeating what your opinion or question is over and over until the facilitator actually answers the question.

4. If the coordinator begins a long dragged out dissertation on the issue listen calmly. They are trying to distract you and get you angry. When the person is finished bring up your opinion or the question again! Stay focused on the particular issue at hand and do not be distracted.

5. It is important to note that if this technique is being used in a larger meeting, say a school board meeting, it will look a little different. If the people that disagree with the meeting coordinator remain calm and keep bringing the subject back to the issue at hand; the person may ask for a break. Stay away from people that agree with you, and do a little spying on the coordinator and their group of people. This tactic will prevent them from sending in spies to your group, so that they can find out what your next step is!

I think the hardest part of overcoming this technique is to not become upset when you are personally attacked in a meeting-IEP or other type of meeting. I have been called names and told that I am stupid for caring and defending children with disabilities rights, to an appropriate education. My feeling is that if they are attacking me they have nothing to counter what I am saying, and I do not let it bother me.

The Delphi technique must be found, exposed and overcome for the good of all children with disabilities!