Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Where does the US education rank in the world?

I came across this interesting report this morning from MSNBC website:'Wake-up call': U.S. students trail global leaders       

            Out of 34 countries assessed, U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science, 25th in math

WAIT a minute!!! That's funny... I used to think that, since America is a developed country, the government should be able to provide better and higher standard of education system compared to European and Asian countries.  Unfortunately, it isn't true. Based on the latest statistics, the standard of the US education system is falling behind some of the top scoring countries such as Finland, Shanghai (China), South Korea, Japan, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand. 
Here is the news extracted from MSNBC website on 7th December 2010:
Image: Students in a classroom in Arnsberg, Germany
Julian Stratenschulte  /  EPA
The PISA exam is one of a handful of tests that compare educational levels across nations, and is considered to be the most comprehensive.

United States students are continuing to trail behind their peers in a pack of higher performing nations, according to results from a key international assessment.
Scores from the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment released Tuesday show 15-year-old students in the U.S. performing about average in reading and science, and below average in math. Out of 34 countries, the U.S. ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.
Those scores are all higher than those from 2003 and 2006, but far behind the highest scoring countries, including South Korea, Finland and Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China and Canada.

'Brutal truth'
"This is an absolute wake-up call for America," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in an interview with The Associated Press. "The results are extraordinarily challenging to us and we have to deal with the brutal truth. We have to get much more serious about investing in education."

The PISA exam is one of a handful of tests that compare educational levels across nations, and is considered to be the most comprehensive. The test focuses on how well students are able to apply their knowledge in math, reading and science to real-life situations. Some 470,000 students took the test in 2009 in 65 countries and educational systems, from poor, underdeveloped nations to the most wealthy.
Student performance on international assessments is considered especially relevant as today's high school graduates enter a global job market, where highly skilled workers are in increasing demand.
The United States' mediocre scores on the PISA exam have repeatedly been highlighted by the Obama administration and others pushing for education reform. A number of countries have made significant improvements in recent years, while the U.S. has made only incremental advancements.

Grim figures
Between 1995 and 2008, for example, the United States slipped from ranking second in college graduation rates to 13th, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Paris-based organization that develops and administers the PISA exam. Of 34 OECD countries, only 8 have a lower high school graduation rate.

Responding to the grim figures, President Barack Obama has set a goal for the U.S. to have the highest proportion of students graduating from college in 2020.
"We live in a globally competitive knowledge based economy, and our children today are at a competitive disadvantage with children from other countries," Duncan said. "That is absolutely unfair to our children and that puts our country's long term economic prosperity absolutely at risk."
The impact of improving math, reading and science scores could be radical: A recent OECD study with Stanford University projected that if the U.S. boosted its average PISA scores by 25 points over the next 20 years, there would be a gain of $41 trillion in the U.S. economy over the lifetime of the generation born in 2010.

The 2009 exam had an extra focus on reading, and looked at how factors such as family background, equity of resources, and governance influence educational outcomes.
The top performers in reading were South Korea, Finland, Hong Kong and Shanghai in China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and Australia.

The gap between the highest performing countries and the United States is stark — students in Shanghai, for example, had an average score of 556 points in reading, 56 points higher than the 500-point average reached by United States students. Shanghai students also posted the highest score in math, with an average of 600 points, 113 points higher than the 487 point U.S. average.

 OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria cited ongoing evaluations, an emphasis on the importance of education, and a curriculum that is relevant to everyday life as reasons for the Chinese success.
"They don't only produce children who know the matters by heart," Gurria said. "They're educated to understand and face the challenges of real life."

He noted that the Chinese scores were strong in all three subject areas.
"That speaks about who is going to be leading tomorrow," Gurria said.
The Shanghai and Hong Kong results are certainly unrepresentative of China as a whole — additional results from other regions will be released next year, but Andreas Schleicher, head of the Indicators and Analysis Division at the OECD said he didn't expect much variation.

The report also notes that the GDP per capita in Shanghai is well below the OECD average — highlighting another finding of the study: Low national income does not necessarily signify poor educational performance. South Korea, another top performer, also has a GDP below the OECD average.

"While national income and educational achievement are still related, PISA shows that two countries with similar levels of prosperity can produce very different results," Gurria said. "This shows that an image of a world divided neatly into rich and well-educated countries and poor and badly education countries is now out of date."

The United States spends more per student, on average, than other countries. In the 2009 PISA study, only Luxembourg spent more per student. The report notes that countries like Estonia and Poland perform at about the same level as the United States, while spending less than half the amount per student.
"I think we have to invest in reform, not in the status quo," Duncan said.
The PISA study does not look to draw cause-and-effect relationships, but does highlight some findings about what the top performing countries tend to have in common.
Schleicher noted that some of the top systems are centralized, while others are very decentralized. There was also much variation in class sizes, with some of the best performers finding success in putting quality teachers in larger classes. But in each case, teachers are subject to evaluations and have a high standing in society. Also, schools have a degree of autonomy in determining their curriculum — but are also held accountable.
"In other words, autonomy without accountability would be a very bad outcome," he said.

Common academic standards
He said many of the things the United States is doing, such as developing common academic standards and smarter assessment systems, are important, positive changes.
"What we have seen from other countries doing similar things is those initiatives do pay off in the longer term," Schleicher said.

The study found that the best school systems were also the most equitable, meaning students from disadvantaged backgrounds were just as likely to do well academically. In the U.S., 17 percent of the variation in student performance was found to be related to a pupil's background — compared to 9 percent, for example, in Canada.

The report notes that Canadian 15-year-olds, on average, perform more than one school year ahead in math than 15-year-olds in the United States, and more than a half year ahead in reading and science. Canada, like the U.S., has a decentralized education system.
"Canada's experiences raise questions about why the United States has so far not equaled the performance of it northern neighbor," the report states.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed

(Source: Associated Press dated 7th December 2010)

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween Day

I had never seen a huge pumpkin in my entire life. How big is it?

Just look at the pictures and judge them by yourself.. I even compare the size of the pumpkin with my small dogs


Happy Halloween Day from Baby and Max ^.^

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Monday, October 25, 2010

High Unemployment in California

A well-researched documentary based on the current unemployment situation in Silicon Valley, California, which was shown on CBS 5 yesterday. Most of the time, I heard about blue collar workers were being lay-off due to stiff competition outside the United States. However, this is the first time that the CBS 5 features the unemployment stage from the professionals who have diploma and degree qualifications in Silicon Valley, California.

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Friday, October 15, 2010

San Francisco Fleet Week (Air Show) 2010

San Francisco Fleet Week held once a year during the weekend of Columbus Day where, the tourists and the locals are able to enjoy free air show and tour on the navy ships.

San Francisco Fleet week poster

US Carrier docking in San Francisco

US Navy

Child performer during San Francisco Fleet week

Street Performance: Wanna be Jonahs Brothers....


Performer at San Francisco Fleet week

Street Performance by Brass Bands


US Navy Blue Angels

US Navy Blue Angels

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Unique Bumper Sticker at Fleet Show (Air Show) San Francisco

Spotted this unique bumper sticker during San Francisco Fleet Week. 
Can you recognize them?

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

World's Toilet Crisis in India : Vanguard

"According the U.S. State Department, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF, the world's greatest infectious killer is not malaria, AIDS, or TB but poop. An estimated 2.6 billion people, about 40% of the world's population, including 1 billion children, have no access to toilets of any kind and must practice open defecation. The result is a continual pandemic of intestinal afflictions that kill 2 million people a year." (source: Vanguard)

How often can you watch a documentary which highlights the issue of SHIT that the world is facing now? An estimated of 2.6 billion people, about 40% of the world's population don't have access to toilets. Thus, they practice open defecation at field area and riverside. Adam Yamaguchi, the reporter of Vanguard, with his strong willpower, travelled to India and Indonesia for this assignment.

It may be a taboo for some people but I highly recommend you to watch and understand how the poor poverty from these countries are suffering.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The U.S Economy is Falling

Something to share .....
An article is entitled "The U.S Economy is Falling. Towards another Credit Collapse?" which reflects the current situation and economy in the USA. It is written by Bob Chapman from Australia.to New.


Are we heading to another world recession soon?

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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Disney Princess

Have you ever met the real beauty who resembles the characteristics as a Princess? Well, I did. I managed to take pictures with the real beauties who posed and talked with sweet voices like the real Princesses :) Seriously, they really look alike from the characters in movies and storybooks. If you don't believe me then, why don't you judge these pictures by yourself...

Cinderella Fairy God Mother Of course, she isn't a princess. She is a Fairy Godmother to Cinderella.

Castle Guard This was a rare chance to take picture with Disney's Castle guard.

Ariel Pricess Ariel Princess

Snow White Snow White: Doesn't she look alike the character in the storybook?

Cinderella Cinderella... I was shocked to see the similarity of Cinderella from the storybook

Cinderella posingShe taught me to pose like her... it was cute :)

Sleeping Beauty Princess
Sleeping Beauty Princess


Beauty and the Beast - Belle Belle from Beauty and The Beast. Don't you agree that she looks the same Belle from the movie?
Now, do you agree that they are really beautiful?

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

California will suffer severe budget cuts

Last Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed the revised budget in California. He said: "California no longer has low-hanging fruits. We don't have any medium-hanging fruits, and we also don't have any high-hanging fruits. We have to take the ladder from the tree and shake the whole tree." This is a meaningful phrase when we relate it to business and finance.

For details, you can read the news from the link below:

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Food Inc. - How much do you know your food source?

It is disturbing to me after watching the documentary entitled Food Inc. The documentary was compiled to create some awareness among the publics about the source of our daily food. We used to perceive that the industry of crops and poultry were managed in healthy ways. Unfortunately, they are not appeared as they are. In order to make more profits and meet the demands from the residents in the United States, the companies become greedy in producing the food within the short term without thinking the consequences.

(update) Unfortunately, the full version of Food Inc. documentary have been removed from youtube due to copyright issue.Thus, I am only be able to share the trailer of this documentary to give you some insights of the current food production which is produced faster than the traditional methods in order to accommodate the demand of food supply. However, adopting highly technology in order to produce food faster will cause more harm to our health at later stage.

We should appreciate the hard work and efforts by the production crews since they did thorough research so that we will realise what kinds of food we are eating currently.

Even though this documentary is produced in the United States, we should realise that there are many greedy businessmen who want to make big money and monopolize the industries without thinking people's health out there.

What can we do now? My advise is, "Take more balance and healthy meals and do support our small food operators and local farmers so that we can have more quality food produced.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Yosemite National Park

"Yosemite National Park, one of the first wilderness parks in the United States, is best known for its waterfalls" (www.nps.gov/yose/). It is also listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Since it takes approximately a 4 hour drive from our home, we decided to travel to Yosemite National Park over the weekend with our dogs.

Some of our close friends advised us that we should visit Yosemite during the Spring so that we can see the magnificent scenery and waterfalls. The waterfalls are derived from the melted snow at the top of the mountains and they will be dried when they reach the Summer.

We were driving along the steep entrance of Yosemite National Park before reaching the first point which was Bridalveil Falls. It took us at least a half an hour to reach Bridalveil Falls.

Even though I was standing farther from the waterfall, I had the difficulty to take this shot when my camera lense was wet. I had to keep wiping the camera lense while taking these shots several times. When I left the scene, I realised my whole body and camera body were totally soaked due to the strong current of the splashing water mist from the steep hill.

At last, I managed to capture this beautiful shot of Bridalveil stream through trial and error with my camera. This picture shot looked like the actual painting.

After that, we went to Mariposa Grove. Vehicles were not allowed to be driven into Mariposa Grove as it was covered with packs of snow. Therefore, we parked our car near the entrance of Mariposa Grove and walked at least 2miles (3.2km) for about 2 hours before reaching Mariposa Grove. Mariposa Grove is the main attraction area at Yosemite National Park. You can find many Giant Sequoias here. A Giant Sequoia can grow up to 368 feet (112 meters).

Let's compare the heights between this Giant Sequoia and William's. Based on his height, his head was touching the root of this giant tree only.

These Giant Sequoias surrounded us as we were walking along the paved road of Mariposa Grove.

Then, we just took an hour in order to return to our car. It became easier since we didn't use much energy when we walked down the steep road of Mariposa Grove. We drove to the next stop at Mirror Lake. We had to walk for 1.8miles (2.9km) from the parking lot to Mirror Lake. It was sunny and windy but we didn't feel tired at all. Baby and Max looked tired but they enjoyed walking and exploring the smell of the bushes. Baby didn't crave William to carry her throughout our journey. She enjoyed everything as much as we did.

Mirror Lake is famous for its reflection. If we were able to get the shot at perfect timing, then we were able to see the reflection of the trees and mountain clearly.

By the time we went to the parking lot, it was almost 5pm. We had to get out from Yosemite National Park before dark. The road is narrow and steep and thus, it is dangerous to drive at night for those drivers who are unfamiliar with the road condition. On the way out from Yosemite National Park, we stopped our car in order to take nice pictures of Half Dome and Lower Yosemite Fall.

Half Dome

Lower Yosemite Fall

As we were about getting into the tunnel of Yosemite National Park, we saw a lot of vehicles parked along the road. Many of the tourists were taking pictures of this scenery. We also stopped and took this opportunity to take a family picture with our dogs.

(L to R behind us): El Capitan, Half Dome (partially seen), Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Falls

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Wonderful Birthday week

I always look forward to my birthday each year. It is not because of my important day but I also celebrate the same birthday with my favorite well-known celebrity.

Yes, he is Jackie Chan. We share the same day and month of our birthdays but of course, we are not born in the same year. LOL... :D

During my birthday week, I became lazy and restless. I didn't participate in my volunteer jobs but lounged around the house with my dogs. When I was in Malaysia, I had colleagues and close friends who celebrated my birthday. However, I miss this kind of warmth and affection among the locals in California. I believe it is because of the cultural differences between westeners and asians.

Anyway, I didn't do much during my birthday week. I spent most of my time, watching my favorite Japanese and Chinese series as well as reading Manga comic books. I became addicted to Manga, not because of the story plots but I liked the drawing which allowed me to imagine as I read the characters. I was very impressed with the talented Manga writers. They could connect the realistic story and emotions to readers with pictures only.

Apart from that, I wasn't in my mood for baking my birthday cake. Thus, I decided to make some simple food which is also my favorite treat on my big day.

I had pancake with kiwi and coffee for my breakfast.

I had flan custard with caramel sauce for my dessert.

This was a simple dessert from Jell-O yet, it was tasty too.

I had lemon gelatin with mango for my dessert.

This is another simple dessert from Jell-O too.

Once again, I wish myself a Happy Belated Birthday ^_^

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Baylands (Open Park) at Palo Alto

When you are in California, you do not have the urge to shop a lot because there are not many shopping malls around, unlike in asian countries. We were frustrated at the beginning because we didn't know how to spend our weekends without using a lot of money. When we were in Malaysia and Singapore, we spent half of the day at a shopping mall every weekend. "Shopping" became my hobby as I enjoyed observing other shoppers and looking at latest fashions without buying at all.

In California, the locals spend their weekends with outdoor activities during sunny days. The outdoor activities vary from jogging, cycling, hiking, kayaking, etc., at parks. We are becoming accustomed to the culture and weather here. When it is sunny, we want to stay outside of the house for a longer time. We really miss sunshine a lot :)

Last Sunday, it was a beautiful day. It was sunny but also windy too. We brought Baby and Max for walking at The Baylands at Palo Alto. The Baylands is an open space for recreation and wildlife habitat preservation. It is beautifully maintained and managed by the City of Palo Alto.

I had never seen so many colourful ducks on the lake.

Baby was tired after walking at this park for more than an hour.

She requested her daddy to carry her home.

We didn't realise we had taken a long walk for more than an hour at this park. I guessed, it was because of the weather. We felt some warmth and cold at the same time.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Air Pressure in California

We had some difficulty turning the wheels from left to right because the tires were low on pressure. Thus, we went to the gas station to put air in the tires.

As we read the instructions, we became surprised to read that we needed to pay for air! Yes, it is not free unlike in Malaysia and Singapore. We need to pay 75 cents into the coin slot for air which will last for 3 minutes each cycle.

Out of desperation, I went to the gas station in order to get quarters. While I was search for money, the owner of the gas station was nice and offered me air for free. All I had to do was key in the code beside the machine.

Was it my lucky day? I wished I had the luck to win some lottery.....

Thien Long Restaurant (a Vietnamese cuisine)

We decided to get away from Sunnyvale once in a while. So far, we spent most of our weekends going grocery shopping, dining and driving within Sunnyvale only. Thus, we decided to drive to San Jose in order to try Vietnamese cuisine for our first time since we moved here.

According to Wikipedia, San Jose is the third-largest city in California. It is commonly known as Silicon Valley and is located a 30 minute's drive to the South from Sunnyvale. A majority of Asian Americans live there, hence we can find a variety of Asia's cruisine such as Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Hong Kong, Vietnamese, etc. On top of that, Santana Row is a popular shopping mall, located in San Jose as well. Most of the brand-name clothing and accessories can be found there. I haven't been to Santana Row yet but I heard a lot of good reviews about this shopping mall off of the internet. I hope I can visit Santana Row someday.

It was not easy to find a well-known Vietnamese restaurant within Sunnyvale and San Jose. Many of these restaurants offered Vietnamese noodle soup which were not our favorite dishes. William preferred to get some typical Vietnamese rice dishes. We managed to find a Vietnamese restaurant which served noodles and rice dishes after spending 20 minutes of internet research.

I never realized that it was a long drive to this Vietnamese restaurant. Our GPS system guided us to two highways which were US-101 S and Capitol Expressway. If we missed the exit at Capitol Expressway, we would be heading to Los Angeles instead. As we reached the exit of Capitol Expressway, the lane was very congested with vehicles. We crawled for 10 minutes before reaching the traffic light at West Tully Road. We saw many Vietnamese shops on our left and right sides. We perceived this small town as a Vietnamese Town. How did we know they were Vietnamese shops? We couldn't read the words but we could recognize the characters.

Anyway, we finally reached the restaurant which was located just outside of town. There were some sufficient parking lots outside the restaurant. It was read as Thien Long Restaurant.

As we walked into the restaurant, it reminded me of the typical small Chinese restaurants that I had been to in Malaysia.

A waiter came to serve us. We were seated and given the menu as below. We also got the complimentary Chinese Hot Tea.

After looking at the menu for some time, William decided to get a can of coke while I had a can of soya bean milk. This was my first time seeing Yeo's brand in California. Yeo's is the popular drink brand in Malaysia and Singapore.

We didn't have to wait for long time. The food was served within 5-10 minutes. We had

Banh Bot Chien Trung (means Fried flour cake with egg)

Com Suon Bo Dai Han Trung Op La (means BBQ beef rib over rice)

Hu Tieu Thap Cam (means Combination of rice noodle soup with shrimp,

crab, chicken, beef balls, pork & squid in a regular bowl)

As usual, you will be served with a plate with the combination of bean sprouts and Thai Basil leaves separately when you order a bowl of noodle soup. All you have to do is to add as much of the bean sprouts and Thai Basil leaves into the bowl of noodle soup as you like. This is how it should look like:

Hu Tieu Thap Cam (means Combination of rice noodle soup with shrimp, crab,

chicken, beef balls, pork & squid in a regular bowl)

We really enjoyed our lunches very much. It was a huge portion and cheap too. Our bill came up to the total of US$25 for all the above meals and drinks we had. There was a slight difference in services between this restaurant and other restaurants. The waiter/waitress would not get the bill for you. You have to walk to the cashier's counter and pay your bill by cash. Moreover, you do not have to tip, which gives you an advantage of savings if you come with a group of family members or friends for lunch/dinner or meals in general.