Is This The End To Homework?

I can’t say as a child that it was all fun, but I do appreciate all that my parents sacrificed in order to give us a ‘proper’ education. That said, I often feel I’ve let them down as the hours of extra maths lessons, violin and piano, swim, dance and language tutoring didn’t exactly lead me to their idea of success. But I guess you could say I’m a well-rounded person!

Photograph: Klaus-Peter Wolf/Alamy

Although I agree with finding a balance in children’s education, you can probably understand my surprise when French President François Hollande recently announced plans to abolish homework and return to four and a half days of school rather than four. Hold on! Four days of school was the norm? And now no homework? To be fair, primary school children in France spend more hours a year in school than many other developed countries, as they are often there all day, starting early in the morning and ending as late as 6 p.m. The ‘lengthened’ school week would hopefully mean shorter overall days for children.

So what is Hollande trying to accomplish with all this? As reports,

“Education is priority,” Hollande said at Paris’s Sorbonne University on Wednesday. “An education programme is, by definition, a societal programme. Work should be done at school, rather than at home,” in order to foster educational equality for those students who do not have support at home., he added.

I can’t say that I agree with Hollande’s approach to fostering educational equality. It’s like punishing the entire class when one child has misbehaved. Wouldn’t it be better to help those who might be struggling with their schoolwork? Repetition and trying out a problem on your own is all a part of the learning process, especially when it comes to subjects like maths, reading and spelling. I can’t recall my parents helping me that much with my homework, as they were too busy working (and when it came to English, it wasn’t exactly their first language). I certainly don’t agree with giving children so much homework that they don’t have time to play, but a wee bit of independent thinking ought to be a part of every child’s education.

Dreaming of Mont Saint-Michel

This post is dedicated to one of my favourite travel and photography bloggers Ana Silva. Please take time to check our her amazing travel photographs and prepare to be inspired! I was caught off guard by one of her recent posts, so much so that I just had to share a part of it with you here.

There are already so many places I want to visit in France but her post inspired me to add photographing Mont Saint-Michel to my bucket list. At this rate I may just have to move to France as I had once wanted to do! Perhaps I’m just in a dreamy mood but I hope you enjoy this clip as much as I did. If these shots were taken on a cloudy, rainy day, just imagine what it’d be like on a sunny, clear one!

Viva la FIFA (Part 5)

The consolation of having multiple loyalties from living in several countries still does not take away the pain of watching your favourite teams “lose.”  A fellow tweeter reminded me that “it’s not about their final score but being proud of their performance.”  I must admit, however, I’m gutted that my top teams have all been ousted from a chance at the world cup title and all too early in the game!

Although not quite as bad as Team Le Sulk, I wish England had pulled it together to beat Germany.  Still, I should say well done England for making it to Stage 2. And let’s not forget the great performance Japan gave against Paraguay!  They’re a tough team to beat and I think Japan played well.

Having said all that, the games must go on and I’m sad that before we know it we’ll have to wait another 4 years for the world cup to come again.  Pigs may fly if Ghana emerge the champions, but I think I’ll still adopt them as my team to cheer for.  Realistically, I think Spain or Brazil will win the title.  Either way, the last few matches will be exciting to watch.

Catastrophic Review: From Paris, with Love

It just so happened that France beat out Brazil in the 2006 FIFA World Cup semi-finals while on my first journey on the Paris Metro.  I can’t say that it was pleasant; in fact, it was incredibly daunting.

I understand that all of the World Cup crazed fans painted in white and blue, chanting and singing “Allez Les Bleu!” were not exactly going to kill me but it did feel like they were going to topple the car I was squished in.  That said, it was probably one of the most exciting ways to experience the Paris Metro.

The Metro is not as complex as it seems, once you get used to it.  Built at the start of the 20th Century, all the Metro entrances that I’ve come across are decorated in Art Noveau style and this gives Paris (and the Metro) one of its many charms.

The trains themselves are not particularly clean, often covered in graffiti, and I must admit there were times where I felt we might derail.  The tracks also seemed to run very close to each other.  However, like the London Underground, it is the most cost effective and efficient way to travel around the city.

Rating: 4/5

Viva la FIFA (Part 4)

Aside from having skill it takes real confidence and sometimes even a bit of arrogance (nod to Italy and Brazil) to be the best at any sport.  I would say this is especially true of football.  Footballers around the world are infamous for their flaring tempers and showboating and much less known for their gentlemanship.

I’m sure we all remember the ugly incident provoked by Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA World Cup that resulted in an awkward exit to France’s Zinedine Zidane’s international football career.  Of course, Zidane shouldn’t have lost his temper, but I still think that Materazzi (and a long list of others) could do with a lesson on good sportsmanship.

With only 4 days left until the start of Stage 2 matches, tensions are running high and trouble seems to be brewing amongst the English and French camps.  My original picks are now far off reality but I’m sure I’m not the only one in shock about France’s performance.  Now if only England can just pull it together, there might still be hope yet.

After coming across an article by ESPN’s Jemele Hill, I think I ought to give the U.S. team some credit here.  Whether or not the U.S. goes through, in a game where they have long been deemed the underdog, the team has so far done its part in showcasing good sportsmanship and representing their country with dignity and respect.

Viva la FIFA (Part 3)

The FIFA World Cup is now underway with its first match involving host country, South Africa, and Mexico in a Group A match-up in Johannesburg, resulting in a tied score of 1:1.  If you still haven’t picked a team to cheer for, there is still plenty of time!

I’ve come across another innovative look at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, this time a project by the World Development Movement (WDM).

Offering a fun and different way to look at more serious issues, visitors to the site can compare teams based on their social justice indicators.  The indicators include factors such as happiness index, carbon emissions per person, and women in government, etc.

The teams are given a mean score based on their ranking for each indicator and somehow unsurprisingly, the USA came in last.  This is due to the country scoring badly for its high carbon emissions, high military spending and high inequality.

South Africa is ranked 28 and oddly, Japan is ranked 14 even though it almost equals South Africa in low carbon emissions per person.

Of course this is all in good fun, but the site does offer a look at issues that I think inadvertently shape and form the spirit of each team (or perhaps more so, the supporters).  England is also ranked quite low, but it won’t stop me from supporting my No. 1 team!

Viva la FIFA (Part 2)

Bloomerg Businessweek’s Roger Bennett gives an interesting take on how to pick a team to support during this year’s FIFA World Cup (June 11- July 11).  The article offers advice to the “typical American spectator” on who to support based on each participating team country’s GDP, fan base, on and off-field talent, and more.

I don’t think the tips should necessarily be limited to Americans, as anyone new to football would benefit from reading it.  The article has further piqued my interest in football and now I’m even more upset that I will have limited access to this year’s matches.

I never thought of picking a team based on its country’s credit risks or political turmoil, but it does give some food for thought.  All in all, the article is insightful and offers a different perspective on the World Cup that we don’t often hear about.  I will, however, admit that I do believe having a stylish team jersey has its advantages.

Below are my own picks underlined in bold for which teams I think will advance to the next round:

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, South Korea, Greece

Group C: England, U.S., Algeria, Slovenia

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon

Group F: Paraguay, Italy, New Zealand, Slovakia

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast, Portugal

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile