Foreign Students in China Hit Record Numbers

Posted: March 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

China’s Ministry of Education is reporting that the number of foreign students in the country reached a record high of more than 260,000 in 2010. Statistics from the ministry carried by the official China Daily on Friday showed that 265,090 students from 194 countries were studying in China. That represented a jump of 8 percent from the 240,000 students in 2009.

This will have a direct impact on the admissions frenzy across many elite colleges and universities across the world, as talented Chinese students flood the ‘college market’ that has already been growing in ‘demand’ with competition and number of applications increasing steeply by the year, and acceptance rates ever lower.


I didn’t prepare enough for the test.

The Cuban Economy

Posted: February 3, 2011 in IB Economics: Section 5

Overview of the Economy:

The government continues to balance the need for economic loosening against a desire for firm political control. The government announced it would eliminate 500,000 state jobs by March 2011 and has expanded opportunities for self-employment. President CASTRO said such changes were needed to update the economic model to ensure the survival of socialism. It has rolled back limited reforms undertaken in the 1990s to increase enterprise efficiency and alleviate serious shortages of food, consumer goods, and services. The average Cuban’s standard of living remains at a lower level than before the downturn of the 1990s, which was caused by the loss of Soviet aid and domestic inefficiencies. Since late 2000, Venezuela has been providing oil on preferential terms, and it currently supplies about 100,000 barrels per day of petroleum products. Cuba has been paying for the oil, in part, with the services of Cuban personnel in Venezuela including some 30,000 medical professionals.


GDP (per capita):

$9,900 (2010 est.)
$9,800 (2009 est.)
$9,700 (2008 est.)
note: data are in 2010 US dollars
Cuban HDI: 0.863

I find the new glossary on moodle quite useful. In particular, “Branches of economics” seemed pretty useful, because it provides a simple outline of the key economics frameworks like Keynesian, neo-classical, and laissez faire. I also find the “Famous economists” section pretty interesting.In the Games section, I find the flashcards most useful, but I think the other ones don’t help much as educational tools to be honest. If this glossary were to grow–as in, increase the amount of data collected–I see no problem why it can be used as a major tool for revision and studies.

  • Do not include ‘evaluation’
  • Mention the impact ‘high currency’ can have on a country’s current account, and therefore its balance of payments
  • Mention that speculation reducing inward investment can also have a negative
Before paying to volunteer overseas, ponder the potential harms you may do. A damning investigation claims that well-intentioned volunteers do little to mollify the destitute children in developing countries.

This is the most direct attempt to lure tourists. They seduce you with wide eyes and heart-warming, and heart-wrenching, tales of desertion and solitude. They rely on websites with images of happy but unfortunate children. Some have hooked up with taxi-drivers, guest-houses, and even western tour companies that offer volunteer opportunities in conjunction with the vacation of your lifetime.

And beneath those innocent smiles lie untold misery. For example, in Cambodia, as in many other beleaguered regions of the globe, orphanages are a booming business enterprise – trading on guilt. Some are even claimed to be kept deliberately squalid. Why? Westerners take pity on these kids and actually end up creating a grotesque market that capitalizes on their concerns. This is the darkest side of our desire to help the developing world.

Look again at those cute children. Some of these so-called “orphans” and “homeless” are often bought from impoverished parents who are willing to sell their kids to put food on their table. An official report, published recently, found that just over a quarter of these so-called orphanages have, in fact, lost both parents. And these private enterprises are flourishing and proliferating fast – incredibly fast. The numbers increased by 70% over the past few years.

Again, clumsy attempts to do good actually end up harming communities we want to help. We’ve seen it with foreign aid, corrosive in innumerable countries by propping up dictatorial leaders and regimes, fostering even more corruption and destroying local communities and enterprises. We’ve seen this with the dumping of cheap clothes and food, devastating industries, as well as creating a dependency culture. And now we are seeing this old pattern repeat itself with “volun-tourism”, one of the most rapidly emerging sectors of one of the fastest-developing industries on earth.

Philanthropy: small change, small wonders.

The insiders themselves call these “guilt trips”. All those children heading off on gap years, fired with up energy and esprit; those middle-aged working professionals, tying to spend a chunk of their fortune to “give something back to the larger community, society”; there are also new retirees with the modest wish to expend their downtime spreading a little bit of happiness.

Well, the flipside of these well-intentioned dreams has been laid bare in an incendiary investigation by a group of English and South African academics who focused on “Aids orphan tourism” in the southern region of Africa; they challenge many cherished beliefs we hold about these good-intentioned “volun-tourism”.

The report asserts that short-span volunteer activities, such as Habitat for Humanity, can do more harm than good. Wealthy tourists prevent local workers from getting much-needed jobs, especially when they pay to volunteer. Also, hard-pressed institutions, at times, squander time looking after these wealthy foreign volunteers, not to mention capital and other resources upgrading their own private facilities; and abused, or abandoned, kids from emotional attachments to the visitors, who increase their post-voluntourism trauma by disappearing back home. The more I delved into the report, the more disturbing I found this to be.

True Philanthropy, Effective Philanthropy: Gates and Buffet at a press conference for the 'Giving Pledge'.

Development philanthropists offering working professionals these glittering opportunities to utilize their skills overseas have raised many such similar concerns. Voluntary Service Overseas even condemned this burgeoning world-class money-making business industry as a new form of “colonialism”, although I think that was too much of an exaggeration. This organization asked what right unqualified British teenagers had to impose their desire to do good at schools in developing countries. Though slightly absurd, this criticism got one thing correct: the more you look beneath the surface, the more these trips raise profound questions about misplaced grandeur and misconstrued sensibilities.

Over the past many years, a grotesque form of slum-tourism has taken off, with affluent tourists sold this snapshot of the livelihood of the impoverished. In Asia, as preposterous as it may sound, visitors pay for trips to hand out food to destitute rural families. In Africa, tour companies organize events in which they throw in a brief visit to a local orphanage alongside a few days on the beach or watching wild animals. I would like to argue, rather cautiously, that dropping in to take photographs of these kids, who are seriously hurt from having seen their own parents  recently waste to death, makes a complete mockery out of some of these children, reducing them to the status of lions and zebras in a zoo.

Philanthropy: leading by example

A multitude of these orphanages allow wealthy tourists to work with children directly. But what would adults of our cultures say if unchecked foreigners went into our children’s homes to cuddle and care for the kids? They would be shocked, wouldnt’ they? So why should standards be so lowered in the developing world? Are there not other, more efficient, ways to go about helping these people out? Yes, I admit, resources are almost always in short supply, but just as in our home cultures, experts want children in the family environment or fostered in loving homes, not in the exploding number of sub-standard institutions.

As I’ve pointed out, the harsh reality is that this form of “volun-tourism” is often more about the self-fulfilment of the wealthy rather than the true needs of the impoverished. Maybe this is no big deal in a pathetic world in which Madonna and Angelina Jolie believe it’s completely fine to just take children from African families.

Philanthropy: hope for a better future

For instance, in Ghana, just as in the aforementioned example of Cambodia, there’s been a ‘boom’ in unregistered orphanages. Last year, the local police forces undertook a comprehensive investigation on this one institution after the rape of an 8-year-old kid, only to discover that a whopping “27 of the 32 children” were not “orphans”. What the hell? A government study from the same region discovered that, in fact, up to about 9o per cent of the estimated 5,000 kids in orphanages had at least one parent and only 8 of the 150 institutions were actually licensed. One official reported that the kids’ welfare took a complete backseat to private profit, and it has been found that much less than one-third of the gross income is spent on caring for the kids.

Too many students carry with them this naively romantic and idealistic notion of ‘doing good’ alongside their fat luggage. It’s not their completely their fault. Part of the blame goes to an industry that has corroded the very sanctity and spirit of philanthropy, of human compassion. But rather unfortunately, they’re being led by their hearts and not by their heads. And knowingly or not, they end up supporting environments that may be abusive to kids who have already lost too much to lose more. Several months back, I read on BBC of an owner of an orphanage near Siem Reap who was charged with sexual assault of a teenage boy; up to a hundred kids were moved to a safe house by investigators.

Philanthropy: success

The true needs of the impoverished families are subverted by the unintentionally asinine demands of wealthy voluntourists. Why is it happening? Simple. These orphanage-shop packages sell the best and are the most tear-jercking and heart-wrenching projects to pitch to the media. Students and adults come away with the classic picture with an orphan and share with their friends the peak of their experiences – the tour companies couldn’t be more thankful. But we must begin to question their very validity.

The will to engage directly with the world is commendable, I must say, as is the passionate desire to do volunteer work. And of course, there’s a fine difference between orphanage visits and Habitat for Humanities. But the underlying concern is the same. I think we have to tread more cautiously. Unless we have a ridiculous excess of time or solid, transferable skills, we might do better to travel, trade and expend some money in these developing countries. Or, more simple, we can donate money to credible aid organizations that know precisely what they’re doing. We can also donate directly to those we seek to help without the middle-man. The rapid “volun-tourism” as an industry has been like the expansion of the aid industry: it salving our own morality, without truly assessing the ramifications for those we seek to aid. In fact, all too often, our heart-felt desire, and effort, and hard work, to help only make matters worse. Far worse.

The European Union

The G-20 declared at the summit that currency wars need be avoided. External imbalances too, they claimed, should be monitored carefully and maybe mitigated through a coordinated effort.

Such resolutions sound mild at best. But there’s no good reason to tackle these issues differently. In fact, there is no instrument to enforce strict rules on a global level, and today’s account imbalances might be only a matter of time.

The E.U’s internal imbalances nonetheless are a much knottier conundrum. The G-20 decided not to deal with the issue and agreed to treat the 27-member E.U. as a single block. Defined thus, the conundrum disappears, since the Union’s Current Account Deficits are only about .35% of its GDP, even though each member state has vastly differing situation.

The political sensitivity of E.U.’s Account imbalances, coming  from eurozone’s inability to rely on exchange rates to recapture equilibrium. If internal E.U. imbalance were to be fixed, the deficit-nations need to deal with real output losses, while surplus countries ought to support their growth.

The European Central Bank claims that its macroeconomic imbalance is due in large part to the consequence of widening competitiveness gap. Therefore, deficit nations need to manage price levels and wage growths to enhance competitiveness; meanwhile surplus natins might have to accept some inflation.