Tuesday, September 29

What factors drive Mathematics Achievement of students?

Quite an interesting paper, this one. The chaps analysed more than 100000 15 year old students and what did they find? Well, quite interestingly, they found that your scores in mathematics are better when:

  • richer or more egalitarian countries;
  • when living with two parents,
  • without grandparents,
  • with fewer siblings (especially fewer older siblings);
  • with higher family SES,
  • more books,
  • cultural possessions,
  • or cultural communication;
  • or when they had greater interest in mathematics,
  • more effort and perseverance,
  • and higher self-efficacy or self-concept

Quite an interesting medley of factors, eh? Some surprises were there obviously. What on earth is the connection with grandparents? And nothing direct on teachers?

Arabs bear brunt of gene disorders

I am not sure if I mentioned this before but in the dim and distant past, i worked in the magic kingdom of Saudi Arabia and there, the wife of a friend of mine used to work in a maternity hospital. My friend is an expatriate with an international bank and has worked around the globe so his wife has experience of birthing internationally. Something that she said to me stuck to my mind, that she has never experienced the level of genetic disorders that she found in Saudi Arabia. I knew they usually go about marrying their cousins and frankly incestuous marriages are quite common, but…..

Here’s a more medically accurate report on this issue. I quote:

Arabs suffer from one of the highest rates of genetic disease in the world, according to a research institute. Some 906 genetic disorders have been identified in Arabs and their descendants, reports the Centre for Arab Genomic Studies (CAGS), and about 200 of those are prevalent among Arabs in the GCC alone.

So how big is this consanguinity problem?

About 63 per cent of the genetic conditions in Arab populations are due mostly to marriage between close relatives such as first cousins, clinically known as consanguinity.Such marriages, deeply ingrained in Arab culture, are on the rise in the UAE, where the rate is the fifth-highest in the Arab world. In Dubai, 40 per cent of marriages are between relatives, according to the latest statistics. In Al Ain that figure reaches 54 per cent, and in Abu Dhabi 32 per cent. Across the Arab world, Sudan and Mauritania have the highest rates, amounting to two-thirds of all marriages. However, consanguinity is on the decline in, for example, Egypt and Tunisia.

Will it change? I doubt it. In any case, I am sure it will turn out to be just a crusader or Zionist plot (just joking, for crissake!)

Are female students 'a perk of the job'?

Ouchie. The man is in trouble. I quote:

"Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do?

"Enjoy her! She's a perk."

Flashing a few literary allusions, he continued: "She doesn't yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife."

Displaying a more surprising familiarity with the etiquette at lapdancing clubs, Kealey added: "As in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch.

And the chap is a Vice Chancellor at a British University. Horny old goat. Well, there you go. BTW, no, its not allowed and most certainly one shouldn't do anything of this kind. Bad mistake and doesnt help out at all.

Monday, September 28

Does teacher quality affect student performance?

Yep, it sure does. As the old quote goes, the influence of a teacher ends at eternity. So what exactly is the impact? This paper investigated the impact of teacher quality on 1000 students in one Italian university. Guess what they found?

the researchers found that there is a statistically significant impact on student performance in subsequent courses. In other words, if you have a good teacher in the first year, then your performance in the later years would be much better than students who had crap teachers in the first year.

Another interesting result they found was that doing research doesnt really make that much of an impact on the students, and worse, if you are a teacher who does too much research, then the performance of a student actually gets impacted negatively.

Pretty sad, no? Our universities are rather mucked up, we drive our best teachers into the damn research organisations where they are worse for the students. And all the best teachers rarely teach the first years.