Sunday, February 27, 2011


Come on, show me some sign that you're serious about education.  USSR was over when I was two. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I just saved 753819752 hours of labor

Writing report cards is a bitch without a computer.

Grading itself is an extremely laborious task, but transforming exam results to individual report card is even worse.  Due to its immense work, it was completely neglected back in 2009.  In other words, the parents did not get their children's report cards.

Having participated in this week-long exercise, I knew even some knowledge of the computer will help.  I was given the task to fill out report cards from last year, so I put some daydreaming into action.  If you are wondering now in the middle of the school term, it is because the Form II students' national examination results were not posted until early 2011. 

The task would have been easier on Java or Matlab, but I don't know Java, and I didn't want to install 2GB of Matlab just for this purpose, so I turned to the more pedestrian Excel.  From here on it's a bit technical, so you should read on only if you are teaching at a secondary school in Tanzania, suffering from similar forms of inefficiency, or bored.

So this is the report card for my school.  As you see the "zoezi" is the average of weekly tests and the mid-term exams, and the "jaribio" is the final exam. Then they are added, and averaged.  "Maoni" means comments, ranging from very bad to very good.  The sections with 1-11 on the right are character assessments, which is where students are arbitrarily judged on their cleanliness, morality, and ability to answer dumb questions.  They're also ranked within the class, the rest below are comments from the teacher, what the students owes the school, and other stuff like that.


This is the "zoezi" section.  I got the results from the Academic Office, and inputted all the data points manually.

This is the similar "jaribio" section, also manuallly inputted data.

 This is the bs character assessment, also manually inputted.

With the information on the previous three, and some excel functions, most of the imformation will be automatically filled in after writing in the name of the student.  There are some parts of this section that needs some manual inputting as well, but they're quite minor.

I want to share this with as many people as possible, so if you're interested I'll email you the file.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Corporal Punishment 2

A year ago I never thought I'd turn into a corporal punisher.  I admit that I use the stick because my words aren't good enough to motivate my students to do their homework.  Some who oppose corporal punishment in Sabasaba say "it doesn't work," "the ones who get lashed are used to it," and "i just talk to them."

Well, it works, and the result is INCREDIBLE.  A lot more students are doing their homework just because they fear the violence I would inflict on them.  Sure they copy each others' work, and sure only three weeks in the semester there are daily culprits.  Well, what I'm seeing is better than last year, and it's not like I have a miracle whip. 

I also have a lot of fun out of it by teasing those who give me lame excuses and those who try to dodge in a funny manner.  I usually hit them on the hand so sometimes it looks like they're dancing like MJ as they dodge.  I hit pretty hard, but the pain doesn't last too long.  I've been hit before in '96 when corporal punishment was legal and widespread in Korea.  For about three months I managed to avoid the violence, but afterwards I was borderline regular / occasional, and I began to feel less pain.  Thus, based on this extremely biased experience, I don't feel guilty when I hit them.

I feel bad for teachers in developed countries who can't use corporal punishment, how do they motivate bad students?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Sabasaba Secondary School

This post is designed to make my blog come out in the first page of google when searching "sabasaba secondary."

It doesn't work.


The Sachs - Easterly Debate

This one's dedicated to two of my dear friends who have walked similar paths of TCK, Macalester Academics, and awesomeness as I did, KabCity and ADT.

I wonder if Sachs and Easterly really hate each other.  Sachs is up in Columbia, while Easterly is in NYU.  They have different opinions on their visions of development, and was quite open about their disagreements publicly via book reviews / rebuttals / etc.  I'm not quite aware of the full extent of the debate, as I don't have a crush on either one of them.  What is similar though, is that they are authors with serious Economic backgrounds, making their books quite dull and overly reliant on statistics - i.e. hey I did this regression and it shows that i'm correct, disregarding the reliability of the measurement, the direction of casuality, blablhallbstuffstatisticsnerdsliketotalkaboutblabh.

Ah, I digress, the joy of writing without a coherent outline.  Though problematic in its parsimony, I'd like to present this debate using the metaphor of a tractor.

1. Jeff works in the development industry, and upon a survey of a dirt poor village, claims that what those people need is an awesome tractor.  Upon return, he pulls out all these population statistics all over the world, uses various ratios to find out how many tractors are needed to save the world, finds out that it's about three times more than what the rich countries spend on ODA, and then holds hands with Bono to yell "we can do this."

2. William works in the development industry, and upon a survey, sees that tractors are used as playgrounds.  In another case, he sees a farmer who learned how important a tractor is, took up loans, bought a tractor, used it for a while, fixed it a couple of times, and managed a living. 

I would describe Sachs' approach as detached materialism.  His vision of development clearly focuses on material goods - buildings, products, tractors, and most importantly, capital.  He often ignores the role of people, institutions, outsiders, governments, culture and other non-material entities, as if the reason for poverty is what is most visibly evident - the lack of material goods.

Sachs' approach is also detaced, much like a scientist experimenting on his subjects.  The scientist, the observer, is not part of the project, not accountable to the results of the petri dish, and partially deaf to what the petri dish is saying.  This is quite evident in the various Millenium Village Projects, the product of Sachs' visions.  The website boats its efficiency and cost-effective measures, but it never mentions how many UNDP staff are employed - possibly millions in wages, insurance, air fare, living stipend, education stipend, etc, compared to the peanuts spent in the village.

Easterly envisions development to be integrated to the economy.  The economy endures and continues.  Material goods are part of the economy, but so are maintenance, sellers, advertisers, and regulators.  More importantly, it also includes concepts such as incentive, long-term planning, personal investment/effort, and ownership.

Much reptition has been made on the Sachs - Easterly Debate.  It's its first appearance on the Tomzanian, so I give the score:

Sachs 0 - 1 Easterly.

I am unfair with the use of imagery, but so is my commentary.