Crossroads

At the intersection of technology, finance and the Pacific Rim.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A new way to learn English as practiced in Saudi Arabia is cited below. It struck a chord with me as often I have felt that I have so much to teach but so little to offer each student. The reason is that while I have a breadth of experience to bring to the table, each student has their own interest or specific reason for enrolling in the course--some because they are interested in inbound investment; others because they want to invest outside the country; and still more because FDI just sounds interesting. The overlap of each student in class is much smaller than the combined interests of the students with the result that maybe 10-20% of the class time is spent for each individual in an area that is relevant to him/her.

Just as management is moving away from a "Boss" to a "coach" so must the learning business. And the teacher must move from "the center of Knowledge" to a Coach for gaining knowledge and insight. This is quite radically new, I think, for the way colleges and universities do it. But with the internet where information is instantly available, too much time is spent in the classroom on conveying information that is not relevant or instantly available. Some will say that the purpose of the class is to teach a framework for viewing the topic at hand--yes, absolutely true. And the application of that framework is the difference between book knowledge and real knowledge.

I encourage you to take your learning matters into your own hands. One theme of this course is that investment very much depends on the value add by the investor (especially private direct investments) and so what you invest in depends entirely on your skills and your ability to marshall the skills of your organization. A second is that there are no "red lights" or "green lights" in investments--it very much depends on you, your risk appetitie and your ability to price. A high return/low risk investment is usually too good to be true--and what is too good to be true usually isn't.

There are very few excuses these days for "not knowing"--that is the double edged sword brought to us by the internet and instant communications globally. It means that investment decisions can be done more quickly and perhaps at less risk. It also means the competition is more fierce, with a premium placed on speed and the ability to act. There is a fine line between speed and haste--be quick, but don't hurry is the advice and this means that you need to fill the map of your investment framework before pushing ahead and releasing the funds. The era of instant information also means that investors, if they know the basics, can move from one investment terrain to another, quickly.


LETTERS to the editor]A novel way to teach English (from Joong Ang Daily)
July 03, 2008
I have read with interest several letters and columns about the need to change the methods of teaching English in Korea. One issue that keeps cropping up is the need for new textbooks, especially in the universities.I wish to relate my experience while teaching English to university-level students.I have taught English in Korea for 12 years, but took a break and decided to do a year in Saudi Arabia. The system employed there is unique and takes time to implement, but once understood and embraced, produces incredible results.Let me begin by saying what is not done in the classroom. There are no textbooks, no tests, no lectures and grammar is not allowed to be taught.The linguistics theorist S.P. Corder talks about a language learner’s built-in syllabus. This refers to the language that the learner is interested in and ready for. Usually this is in conflict with the teacher’s syllabus or the school syllabus.In my Saudi class I had no syllabus. The first week was spent having each student write his own syllabus. It was submitted and approved by the teacher. The student was then responsible to keep to his syllabus.The course was divided into two sections, reading/writing and speaking/listening. Each section was two hours per day, five days a week, for a total of 20 hours of English per week.Let’s examine an example of one section: reading/writing. A student decides he needs academic writing so decides to write eight essays of 1,500 words. In addition, he chooses to read two short stories and one novel as pleasure reading. The teacher agrees to this syllabus and sets the rules regarding references, in-line citations and bibliography styles. The teacher also refers the student to Web sites or online materials about outlines, styles, etc. The student submits his work. The teacher highlights problem areas but does not correct errors. The student must discover what the problems are and correct them. When the teacher enters the classroom, students are all working on different things. One may be reading a book, another editing an outline, another writing poetry. At the end of the semester a student is either passed onto the next level or has to repeat the level until the teacher is satisfied with his progress.I ran the course as a paperless classroom. Each student brought a laptop computer to class. All their work was “blue-toothed” to me or given on a flash memory stick. There is constant interaction between teacher and student as well as student to student, who would send their work to a classmate for proofreading or help. Proofreaders got credit for their work as well. Students love the high-tech approach to English learning and threw themselves into the paperless classroom.The final result: Students were exceptional in their English writing growth. I would love to see a pilot project like this in Korea. This is a big change and will take time for teachers and students to adjust to, but the fruits of the effort will be sweet.The bottom line is that we have to get away from teacher- and book-centered teaching and focus on a student-centered approach. We need to help students discover English in a heuristic and natural manner. David Woelke, Youngsan University, Busan

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