Back to work…

forrest man

So I’ve just got back from training in Hamburg where we looked at how to analyze international large-scale assessment databases like PIRLS, TIMSS and PISA (watch this video by the master of PISA Andreas Schleicher). I’m planning on using prePIRLS and TIMSS for one paper of my PhD so this was really useful for me. For those interested in an exhaustive list of papers published with IEA data – you can find it here – very useful resource!

Germany was great – public transport is ubiquitous, as are public parks and rain. The Stadtpark in Hamburg and the Tiergarten in Berlin were two of the highlights of my trip. If I had to be honest about what I enjoyed most about Berlin (and there is a lot to enjoy) it would be one particular cafe called St Oberholz. Just as my envy was rising, thinking that these awesomely trendy working-cafes were two-a-penny in Berlin, a local told me that even by Berlin standards this cafe was uber cool and the current place to be. The thing that made it cool for me wasn’t so much the decor or the food or the coffee (all of which are above average), it was the people who frequent it and the reason they go there [can you tell I’ve been taking a sociology course?!]. The best way to describe it is to say it is a young working-cafe. There are as many plug-points, iPads, Moleskines and MacBooks as there are people or places to sit. It’s open until midnight and is packed with young people and their earphones who are clearly doing something worthwhile – writing plays, sketching in a journal or poring over some canonical text in their chosen field. This was like a uni-cafe on steroids. As someone who loves to work in cafes and enjoys being in a productive environment it was cafe heroin. The closest thing I can think of in Cape Town is probably the coffee shops at the Woodstock Exchange.

Anyways, as usual I am more than happy to be back – travelling is awesome, but South Africa is awesomer 🙂 Time to get back into the groove and get my research back on track…onward and upward.

For those interested here’s some interesting reading…

  • Useful list of short bios of eminent thinkers in education (written by top-notch academics).
  • Who are the middle class in South Africa? Does it matter for policy?” – nice 3×3 article by my friend Justin Visagie. The actual middle group in South Africa earn between R1520 and  R4560 for the entire household. Basically when we talk of the “middle class” in South Africa we usually mean the elite. Let’s be a little more circumspect in our nomenclature folks.
  • The benefits of early childhood stimulation are hugeThis new JPAL study which is a 20-year follow-up to a randomized trial in Jamaica shows that stimulation increased the average earning of participants by 42%. Just read the abstract if you’re not a fan of technical wizardry.
  • Thoroughly interesting chapter by Henri Nouwen titled “Pentacostalism on campus” – written in the ’70s and asking questions which too few of us are currently asking. Highly recommended. (Sorry for my annotations – I wasn’t planning on scanning it but it was just too good not to).
  • Short video explaining the benefits of an extended school day in one school in America (Thanks Johan Fourie).
  • The latest Economist is on poverty trends – note to self: find time to read it!

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