Tuesday, April 28, 2015

This school in Norway abandoned teaching subjects 40 years ago

Finland has announced that in their new national curriculum, they will emphasize phenomena-based project studies instead of traditional subjects.

The Ringstabekk school—with 425 students aged 13 to 16 years just outside Norway’s capital, Oslo—has been doing this for 40 years with great success. It all started in the 1970s when the teachers realized that their students were not truly engaged in what they learned at school. These educators were inspired by the Danish pedagogue Knud Illeris and his ideas of cross-curricular project work, and in the 1980s, the fundamental concept and organization of the school was revamped. Although the pedagogy of the school has been developing ever since, the basic idea of learning through multidisciplinary studies has endured.

The lower secondary school is organized in a way that supports this multidisciplinary learning. When teachers are hired at this school, they know very well that they will have to cooperate with other teachers—and not just the ones who teach the same subjects as themselves. They will have to work in multidisciplinary teacher-teams.

Each teacher-team, consisting of 4-6 teachers, is responsible for the education and growth of 60-75 students. The teachers together craft the students’ schedules from week to week, and make their own plans based on the national curriculum and the expectations of the school leaders. The school uses different cross-curricular methods, and is constantly refining methods like storyline, project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, simulations, etc. The teachers pick up ideas from each other and share their experiences ensuring that although the school does not have a local specified curriculum, all students experience the same learning methods and multidisciplinary themes.

Students in the 8th grade, at age 13, will often study earthquakes, volcanos, and other forces of the earth—topics usually taught in natural science and geography courses. Instead of working with this subject in fixed lessons, teachers have to come up with different storylines that incorporate several different subjects. In one of the storylines, the students pretend that they are going to climb Mount Everest. In preparation, they have to study maps, weather, and climate. As the story moves forward, they are assigned different tasks from the teachers—such as suggesting the best route to the top of Mount Everest, making a list of the equipment they need, calculating the time they will use, making a budget, and applying for funding in English, which is a foreign language to these students. As they solve these tasks, the students have to find a lot of information and discuss their findings within the group.

The students at the Ringstabekk school work in small groups most of the time. This is based on the theory that most of our learning happens when we think, talk, and solve tasks together instead of on our own—and the idea of “learning by doing,” theories developed by the late Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky and the late American philosopher and psychologist John Dewey.

Another cross-curricular theme, often executed in the 10th grade, focuses on the environment and sustainability. This is done in different ways by different teacher-teams. One way is to give each group of students a unique area of their local municipality and let them work as consultants. They produce a report and perhaps some models on how one should develop their specific part of the local community—with special focus on transportation, energy, waste, etc. If they are to produce models, they have to work with ratios and other mathematics, as well as design. They will need to investigate different kinds of energy and corresponding pollution outputs—which is part of the natural sciences—and produce and present their report both written and orally. The first year this project was run, the teachers cooperated with a local consultant company that was doing these kind of jobs. The consultants and engineers were impressed when the students, aged 15, were able to inform them of a new technology that they were not aware of.

During cross-curricular work, the students don’t have a fixed weekly plan—one that segregates English to one lesson, and science to another. They stay in school for at least the specified number of lessons given in the national curriculum, and they work on their task through the weeks, receiving guidance and instruction from their teachers.

The Ringstabekk school has to follow the national curriculum and national assessment-systems, so every student still gets individual grades for each traditional subject. They also complete the same national tests and exams as all other students in Norway. On these tests, they are performing on the top national level, indicating that multidisciplinary learning gives students the knowledge and skills they need. Not only that, but it also motivates students to learn for the sake of learning. Students become very engaged in what they do at school—sometimes they don’t want breaks, because they are eager to continue the work they have started.

Most parents are very satisfied with the school—they realize that it actually is preparing their kids for a future working-life, helping them develop necessary competencies both when it comes to skills and knowledge and also when it comes to personal growth. The head teacher at the school puts it this way: ”We are not just developing calculators, we are developing human beings.” More


Sunday, April 26, 2015

Economic Legacy of Lee Kuan Yew: Lessons for Aspiring Countries

Developing countries have much to learn from Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore who transformed the republic from a third world economy to one of the most advanced countries in one generation.

Lee Kuan Yew

The lessons for countries aspiring to learn from the Singapore development model are clear – strengthen institutions and improve governance.

But this is much easier said than done. To begin with aspiring countries need to improve the rule of law so that no one is above the law of the land. Equally crucial, they need to reduce corruption as corruption is regressive – small and medium-sized firms pay higher amounts in bribes than large firms.

Thirdly, they need to reform public institutions such as the civil service, bureaucracy, and public administration. Fourthly, they also need to improve the environment affecting the private sector through regulatory reforms, reforms of labour markets, and provision of clearly-defined property rights.

The dilemma is that such reforms generate benefits only in the longer term, making them hard for policymakers and politicians with a shorter time horizon to set as priorities. Yet without them, other policy measures to support sustained economic growth will become less effective and ultimately unravel.

Importance of good governance

Strong institutions and good governance – the economic legacy of Lee Kuan Yew for aspiring countries

The Singapore model of good governance is well-recognised. Development theorists of the past were of the view that economic development could be explained solely by factors like the availability of natural resources, high levels of saving and investment, and openness to foreign trade and investment.

More recently, the Growth Report published in 2008 by the Commission on Growth and Development headed by Nobel laureate Michael Spence has found that an additional factor has also to be good governance, based on mainly Singapore’s development experience under Lee.

As Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who participated in the Commission, puts it, for a delicious dish “besides having the right ingredients and the right recipe, you must have a master chef”.

Economic development does not just happen. It must be consciously chosen as an overarching goal by the government.

Good governance means a government that delivers political and economic stability, implements the correct macroeconomic policies, articulates a vision for the country and implements it.

This requires a capable, committed, and credible government, governments that people can trust in, and leaders who are above the board. An abundance of natural resources is neither necessary nor sufficient for a country’s economic development. What is required is good governance.

A case of good governance is Lee’s choice of the Singapore development model in the 1960s and beyond.

The Singapore Development Model

After the separation from Malaysia in 1965, Singapore was similar to a typical developing country of today. GNP per capita was about US$300, unemployment rates were high, and racial disharmony was rife. The announcement by the British in 1968 that they would withdraw their forces from Singapore was also expected to aggravate the unemployment situation further. How should jobs be created?

As the prime minister of a small country, Lee was always thinking big and making bold decisions in the interest of the country. Mr Lee adopted a development model based on export of labour-intensive manufactured goods to world markets. Lee invited multinational companies from all over to invest heavily in Singapore. Produce in Singapore and sell to the world, he told them.

To provide an attractive investment environment, the government built the appropriate infrastructure, cut tariffs and quotas, offered tax incentives, and implemented appropriate macroeconomic policies. The Economics Development Board (EDB) Singapore was established in 1961 to provide a business friendly environment to foreign investors and to convince them that Singapore was a good place to invest.

The National Wages Council (NWC) was also established in 1972 to make sure that the benefits of foreign investment were shared and also to accelerate Singapore’s move up the development ladder. Mr Lee also met foreign investors regularly and listened to them and their grievances.

Although pragmatic, Lee’s choice of an export-oriented development model driven mainly by foreign investment was a risky strategy at the time. This is because in the 1960s and 1970s, foreign investment was not welcome in the developing world.

The dependency theorists, in particular, argued that foreign investors from developed countries typically exploit cheap labour and extract natural resources of the developing countries. It is only after the success of the Singapore development model that export-oriented development strategies driven by foreign investment has been popularly adopted all over the world.

‘It’s not how you start but how you arrive’

In the 1980s and the 1990s the type of investment Singapore sought to attract shifted gradually from labour-intensive industries (eg, garments, textiles, and wigs) towards more high-tech and knowledge-based industries (eg, chips, wafer fabs, and disk drives).

Lee noted that, since the unemployment problem had been overcome, the new challenge was “how to improve the quality of the new investments and with it the education and skill levels of our workers”.

Lee’s attempt to make Singapore the Asian financial centre and global business hub is also bold. Unable to compete with Hong Kong then, Lee tried especially hard to convince foreign bankers and international financial institutions to come to Singapore by establishing integrity, efficiency, the rule of law, reliability, and stability.

In his words, “[the] history of our financial centre is the story of how we built up credibility as a place of integrity, and developed the officers with the knowledge and skills to regulate and supervise the banks, security houses and other financial institutions….”

Overall, Mr Lee’s development strategy which focused on strengthening institutions and improving governance was successful. Other developing countries will, however, face difficulties in adopting this strategy.

A case in point is South Asia. Countries in this region had begun their reform programmes in the early 1990s by focusing on macroeconomic areas – monetary and fiscal reforms, and industrial deregulation – which had contributed to a more rapid economic growth.

These reforms, however, eventually ran out of steam – because of red tape, endemic corruption, and lack of rule of law – and have contributed to the recent economic slowdown. Lee’s model followed his dictum, which he shared with the King of Bhutan: “It’s not how you start the journey that counts, but how you arrive.” More


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Why cities need a new way of handling waste

Alan Berger from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) talks about the holistic city. He says we need to start thinking differently about urban growth, and design innovative cities that use ecological processes to clean and reuse waste water, so we can grow more food for the future.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

China's wealthy are fleeing the country like crazy

Last year, Chinese millionaires maxed out the quota for EB-5 visas under the U.S.’s Immigrant Investor Program, and recently it was reported that 90% of Australia’s Significant Investor visas were given to Chinese nationals. All over the world, immigrant investor programs are being flooded with applicants from China.

Since 1990, China has gone from being the 7th largest exporter of immigrants to the 4th largest, an increase of more than 125%. Chinese people are emigrating in ever greater numbers, particularly the wealthy. Meanwhile, a recent survey from Barclays shows that 47% of wealthy Chinese would like to emigrate. The response rate for the survey was 29% worldwide.

As more Chinese become wealthy, the number of people who want to emigrate is increasing. So where do wealthy Chinese want to go? Rich Chinese Want to Go to North America

According to the Hurun Report’s "2014 Immigrant Investor White Paper," the U.S. and Canada are the first choices for wealthy Chinese looking to emigrate.

Top Destinations for Wealthy Chinese Emigrants

Since most high-net-worth Chinese accumulate their wealth in China, from a business perspective it is advantageous for them to remain close to China. So what is involved in getting an immigrant visa to a foreign country?

Requirements for Getting an Immigrant Investor Visa

Types of immigration include immigrant investor programs, skilled worker programs, study abroad, and irregular immigration. Most wealthy Chinese immigrate through investment.

Minimum Investment Required to Immigrate, by Country


Should the Cayman Islands be activly be trying to attract this type of investor tot he Cayman Islands? See http://www.scmp.com/business/companies/article/1677989/li-ka-shing-restructures-group?page=all>

Li Ka-shing yesterday added fresh grist to rumours about his waning interest in Hong Kong as he unveiled a sweeping restructuring of his business empire, switching its base of incorporation to the Cayman Islands from Hong Kong.

Li - the chairman of Cheung Kong (Holdings) and its subsidiary Hutchison Whampoa, which together have a total market capitalisation of HK$661.68 billion - said all of his two flagship companies' non-property assets, including ports, telecommunications, retail, infrastructure and energy, would be injected into a newly formed company, CK Hutchison Holdings (CKH Holdings), incorporated in the Cayman Islands.

As part of the reorganisation, all property businesses including those overseas in the two companies will be injected into another new entity, Cheung Kong Property Holdings, which will seek a separate listing on the Hong Kong stock exchange by introduction.

CK Property will be one of the largest property companies listed in Hong Kong.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Li, the richest man in Hong Kong, said the restructuring would be good for all shareholders.

According to a 70-page announcement filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange, the move is aimed at creating shareholder value as it will enable all the group's assets to be fully reflected and remove the "layered holding structure" between Cheung Kong and Hutchison.

That would allow shareholders to directly invest in the two separate listed vehicles.

Li, however, rejected suggestions that the proposed reorganisation is a sign of his withdrawal from the city.

"More than 75 per cent of companies that have listed in Hong Kong in the past 10 years or so are incorporated in Cayman Islands, including state-owned enterprises. Have they also lost confidence in Hong Kong?" said Li, adding that the company was just "following the trend". More

Should the Cayman Islands be trying to fast-track investors like Li Ka-shing in order to spur inward investment and the economy of the Cayman Islands? Editor





UNEP Report Proposes Pooling Facilities as Solution to Micro-grid Financing

April 2015: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched a study on mini-grids that proposes ‘Mini-grid Pooling Facilities (MPFs)' as a solution to overcoming key investment barriers. Presenting mini-grids as a critical solution for improving energy access globally, the study examines the challenges of associated investment risks and transaction costs, and proposes addressing these through project and capital pooling.

The report, titled ‘Increasing Private Capital Investment into Energy Access: The Case for Mini-grid Pooling Facilities': provides an overview of mini-grids, including ownership models; identifies and examines two key investment barriers, namely risks to investment in emerging markets and project costs in developing economies; assesses the benefits and drawbacks of project pooling facilities; and explores MPF structures and stakeholders.

On risks, the study notes that mini-grids in emerging markets present a complex risk profile. In addition to discussing perceived risks, such as political or fuel cost volatility, the study examines risks to investment in mini-grids during the development, construction and operation phases, as well as across phases. The study also identifies high transaction costs in developing countries in the areas of project identification, evaluation and diligence, and platform development.

According to some estimates, achieving universal electricity access by 2030 will require mini-grids to serve over 65% of off-grid populations globally. Arguing for the need to develop new financing models to reach such levels of deployment, the report presents MPF as conceptual framework for private-sector financing that pools projects and capital to support the development of mini-grids internationally. According to the study, MPFs can diversify risk and increase capital requirements by strategic selection of projects into portfolios.

The report suggests that MPFs can also help: lower transaction costs through centralizing fixed expenses; decrease technology costs; attract previously unavailable capital; and leverage philanthropic investment, among others. The study stresses the need for developers, investors and researchers to work jointly, conducting proper analyses and determining the appropriate structures for each working context. [UNEP Publications Webpage] [Publication: Increasing Private Capital Investment into Energy Access] More




Monday, April 13, 2015

Coal-Tar-Sealant Runoff Causes Toxicity and DNA Damage

Runoff from pavement with coal-tar-based sealant is toxic to aquatic life, damages DNA, and impairs DNA repair, according to two studies by the U.S. Geological Survey published in the journals Environmental Science and Technology and Science of the Total Environment.

Pavement sealant is a black liquid sprayed or painted on the asphalt pavement of parking lots, driveways and playgrounds to improve appearance and protect the underlying asphalt. Pavement sealants that contain coal tar have extremely high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Coal tar is a known human carcinogen; several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and some are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

Rainwater runoff collected as long as three months after coal-tar-sealcoat application caused 100% mortality to minnows and water fleas, which are part of the base of the food chain, when the test organisms were exposed to ultra-violet radiation to simulate sunlight. The full study, reported in the scientific journal Environmental Science and Technology, is available online.

Exposure of fish cells to coal-tar sealant runoff damaged their DNA and impaired the ability of the cells to repair DNA damage. “The simultaneous occurrence of DNA damage and impairment of DNA repair has important implications for cell health,” said Sylvie Bony, who led the study at the Ecole Nationale des Travaux Publics de l’Etat (ENTPE), a French research agency in Lyon, France. The study is reported in the scientific journal Science of the Total Environment.

The studies were done to address the concern that rainfall runoff occurring within hours or days of coal-tar-based sealant application might be toxic to fish and other organisms in streams. The two studies collected and tested simulated runoff at various times beginning just hours after coal-tar-sealant application.

"The USGS has been studying coal-tar-sealcoat as a source of PAHs for 10 years, and findings from these two studies are consistent with what is known about toxicity and genotoxicity of these chemicals," said USGS scientist Barbara Mahler.

A previous publication detailed the chemical concentrations in runoff from coal-tar-sealed pavement at a range of times following sealant application. The results, reported in the scientific journal Environmental Pollution, are available online.

Coal-tar sealants have significantly higher levels of PAHs and related compounds compared to asphalt-based pavement sealants and other urban sources, including vehicle emissions, used motor oil, and tire particles. Previous studies have concluded that coal-tar sealants are a major source of PAHs to lake sediments in commercial and residential settings, and that people living near pavement sealed with coal-tar sealant have an elevated risk of cancer.

To learn more, visit the USGS website on PAHs and sealcoat.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Excluding complacency in Small Island Developing States

MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga’s six lessons on leadership

Ajay Banga

What I want to focus on is leadership. How do you take the leadership potential all of you have and cultivate it. Here are some perspectives around leadership that I can offer.

1. A sense of urgency: Today’s world of rapidly-advancing technology and ever-shortening innovation cycles have no space for procrastination. It’s that urgency that makes me say to colleagues in my company that "if you have good news for me, take the stairs. If you have bad news, take the elevator." I need that information fast, so I can do something about it.

2. A sense of balance: A lot of people think that urgency and patience are contradictory. And they could not be more wrong. You need to be patient enough to listen to everybody, but yet, you must have a sense of urgency to take a decision and to execute.

3. Courage to take thoughtful risks: Rarely are you going to have perfect information. The willingness to take a decision at that time will depend on your ability to take a thoughtful risk. The thoughtful part depends also on your humility and realising that you don’t have all the answers—that you can learn something from everybody. You get a good dose of humility as soon as you arrive here. You come from a school where you were the top gun. You get here and everybody’s a top gun. Humility is practically a rite of passage.

4. Be competitively paranoid: I don’t mean be fearful. What I mean is constantly ask yourself if you’re missing something. Is there more to the problem? If you don’t question everything, if you’re not competitively paranoid, you will not have the sense of self-introspection that you need to be a real leader.

5. Develop a global view: Leadership attributes are tremendously facilitated if you surround yourself with people who don’t look like you, don’t walk like you, don’t talk like you, and don’t have the same experiences as you. Admittedly, when I’m in the US, I’m suddenly diverse. In India, I’m obviously not. But it’s not where you come from or what you look like that matters. What matters is what you do and how you do it. That’s the true essence of diversity.

What makes diversity so important? Diversity is essential because a group of similar people tends to think in similar ways, reach similar conclusions, and have similar blind spots. To guard against that, you need to harness the collective uniqueness of those around you to widen your field of vision—to see things differently, to fail harder, to innovate, and to question everything. Widening that field of vision means widening your worldview

Increase your connectivity to the world around you. For example, once you get acclimated to your new jobs, consider getting involved in organisations outside of your work but that connect back to it as well. Explore avenues like the World Economic Forum. The key is to go beyond looking at the world through the lens of your company or your organisation or even your country.

6. Do well and do good: It’s the highest form of leadership. It’s the idea that you can pursue what is in your best interest as well as what is in the interest of others. It’s the recognition that your success is tied to the success of others. You know the saying, it’s lonely at the top? It’s only lonely at the top when you don’t bring other people along with you.

This principle of doing well and doing good holds true for any one person or organisation, but it’s an especially powerful principle for business and the private sector today. In a business sense, it’s the idea that the private sector can be a force for growth and a force for good. That business can make money and make a difference.

Both the private and the public sector have a role to play in the following: Bring more people into the financial mainstream—at a time when half the world’s adults don’t have a bank account, guard against a future where we have the Internet of Everything, but not the Inclusion of Everyone, give women same opportunities as men.

Of course, this very school was founded, not just on the idea of public-private partnerships but literally by public-private partnerships. It was the government of Gujarat, the government of India, local businessmen, Harvard Business School, and the Ford Foundation—all coming together, not only to help build industry in India but to help build India herself.




Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Lie We Live: Can we create a better world?


Exposing the truth about our corrupt world. My name is Spencer Cathcart and this is a short documentary film I made & wrote. In the video I question our freedom, the education system, corporations, money, the American capitalist system, the US government, world collapse, the environment, climate change, genetically modified food, and our treatment of animals.

If you'd like to see more videos I'd appreciate if you click subscribe!

My email if you want to contact me is freshtastical@gmail.com






Monday, April 6, 2015

What Do I Do: First Steps To Get Into Solar Power

Step 1 Solar/Wind Power: Determining your electrical requirements

Published on Aug 19, 2012 • I apologize for this video taking longer than it should have. I didn't know I had to jump through 3 hoops, say 20 Hail Mary's, and toss a flip to get a video on longer than 15 minutes.

This video primer will help you to determine you electrical needs for solar/wind power. DON'T go look at your kwh usage from your bill, or it will just convince you that it can't be done. Just measure each item in your home. If your kids have TV, game console, stereo, etc. in the same location, buy a power strip, plug everything into the power strip and then the power strip into the meter. That way you don't have to measure everything individually.

Don't worry about big electrical items such as water heater, heat pumps, welders, or anything else that is 220v.

If you have a well, you can determine it's wattage by calling the company that installed you pump and asking how many amps it draws and calculate your wattage from the formula in the video. Mine draws 9 amps at 220V, so the wattage for my house well is 1980w (1.98kw). It runs for a total average of 15 minutes per day (Wife likes two long showers each day). My water situation requires 0.495kwh per day.

Please comment and subscribe if you haven't done so yet.

Next week we will have a look at sizing a battery bank for your needs. If time permits, we'll have a look at inverters as well. Things will move along more quickly now that we're done with overview.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

It's time to talk about what's next


It's time to talk about what's next."

This statement also applies to the Cayman Islands, in fact is is more crucial to a Small Island Developing States (SIDS) than anywhere else. "It is time for Caymanians (Americans) to think boldly about... what it will take to move our country to a very different place, one where outcomes that are truly sustainable, equitable, and democratic are commonplace.'

Caymanians ask yourselves

'Do we want cheaper energy generated by solar and wind'?

Ask 'how will climate change affect us?'

Ask 'how will sea level rise affect us?'

Ask 'how will Cuba opening to US citizens affect us?'

These are questions that very few people or organizations in these islands are asking.

Those are the words of academic and author Gar Alperovitz, founder of the Democracy Collaborative, who—alongside veteran environmentalist Gus Speth—this week launched a new initiative called the "Next Systems Project" which seeks to address the interrelated threats of financial inequality, planetary climate disruption, and money-saturated democracies by advocating for deep, heretofore radical transformations of the current systems that govern the world's economies, energy systems, and political institutions.