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Posts tagged ‘Education’

Urban and Rural Girls’ Job Aspirations

Because I’ve found a greater difference between urban and village life in the same country than between urban dwellers in different countries, I wanted to hear about a girl’s daily life in a rural area. Reading over 65 survey responses from educated Pakistani girls, none of them mention wanting to be housewives. Typically they want to help the poor, teach, design clothes, or be in business. I asked Hassan (a university student there) about this: “Deep down, 80% of them would get married and remain housewives or have a very nominal job at the most. This is how the role of women shapes up as they grow in this society to take care of their homes, have a wonderful family and are well-settled so their parents feel satisfied.” I asked about his two sisters. “One of my sisters finished her Masters in Business Administration and currently working for a non-profit organization in Human Resource section. She earns well and her husband is very supportive. (Her husband is my first cousin). My other sister just started university. My father believes in education-before-everything policy. We’ve faced some hard times but education has always remained our priority, even before food.”

Aspirations are very different for rural girls, as you’ll read in an interview with Mashal, an illiterate girl in northern Pakistan where 71% live in villages. Half the school-age children don’t have access to government schools and 41% of young women ages 15 to 24 are illiterate, one of the lowest country literacy rates in the world. Only one-third of Pakistani young people are in primary school, so extremist Muslim Madrassas provide an affordable alternative for some boys but not girls of course. Pakistan is second- to-last place in worldwide rankings of gender equality, according the to Global Gender Gap Report 2012. Hassan points out that some “ghost schools” exist in the records but don’t have teachers who come to class. A popular singer, Shehzad Roy (born 1977), rides on a motorcycle around Pakistan filming schools to show his TV viewers the deplorable condition of schools. His show is called Chal Parha, meaning “Come, Teach.” However, even village girls I’ve Skyped with there mentioned wanting to be nurses or teachers.

 

Understanding How the Brain Works to do Well on Tests

Since your brain is your main tool in achieving test success, let’s identify the various parts and how to use them, as explained in The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel Siegel, MD and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. The brain is so complex it takes until the mid-20s to mature. It has around 100 billion neurons, each with an average of 10,000 connections to other neurons. When they fire together they grow new connections that rewire the brain throughout our lives: “Neurons that fire together wire together.” This means repeated experiences imprint the brain and we are able to change it. The ability of the brain to change with new stimuli is called plasticity. The lower brain, called the reptilian brain, acts instinctively to keep us safe from danger and controls basic functions such as heart rate and breathing. It developed first in fish. The amygdala, about the size of an almond, is in the mid-brain mammalian or limbic area that records memories that are responsible for our emotions. It processes emotions, especially anger and fear. If it kicks in during a test, we can lose contact with the thinking neocortex. The neocortex behind the forehead developed in primates and has two large cerebral hemispheres united by the corpus callosum nerve fibers. Only a few million years old, the neocortex allowed for human language and culture and is where we need to focus while studying or during tests.

The right hemisphere sees the big picture and is nonverbal but picks up information and emotions. It allows us to communicate as by noticing facial expressions. The left brain develops when we’re around three-years-old and start asking “why?” It is logical and connects thoughts in a linear way to do math or use language. Test-taking is primarily a left hemisphere activity. Mental health is characterized by balance between the two hemispheres. We want to stay centered when an upset occurs rather than feeling like we’re chaotically out of control or going to the opposite pole of rigid control.

The brain stores “implicit memories” that we may not be conscious of, such as Chris taking a test when he was 12 and started to get sick to his stomach. He may not remember the experience but still associates taking tests with feeling bad and doesn’t know why. The hippocampus pulls images and emotions from different parts of the brain like putting together a puzzle that creates an explicit memory that we can work with consciously. If Chris processes his memories of past unpleasant test experiences and makes them explicit, he can use his left hemisphere to take a positive approach and not be thrown off center by old fears.

We want to take a test from the left hemisphere, not letting the amygdala run the show with fear. If someone has test anxiety, the feelings and memories in the right hemisphere need to be acknowledged and brought into awareness. This can be done by writing about the fears in a journal, painting them, or telling a friend your anxious moments test taking. Telling stories helps integrate the two brain functions as the feelings and memories are right hemisphere, while the words and arranging events are left hemisphere. Naming and understanding a fear can deflate its power. Logic can kick in and say, “Now I have new strategies to use to stay calm and focused. I’m focusing on my deep relaxed breathing rather than my fear. I can use my simple tools as by counting from 10 to 1 and use my senses to look around the exam room, or moving the body.”

If the amgdala’s fear kicks in during a test, know that you can change your focus to the frontal cortex. To move attention away from fear, connect with it by naming it and acknowledging it, then redirect your focus by paying attention to your senses. What do you hear? Notice your breathing and take a drink of water. Touch your forehead to remind it to be the boss. Work on cleaning out old negative memories before you take an important test.

 

Low-Cost Literacy Program for Pakistani Villagers

 

Please take a look at the photos of illiterate young villagers learning to read and write in villages where there are no government schools. Our Open Doors Literacy Program is in NW Pakistan the area of US drone attacks.  With no administrative costs, please help us offer group 11 of the 100-day course, taught by a university student.

 

http://opendoorsliteracyproject.weebly.com

 

Now is the time to send your check to Open Door Literacy Project and Annie B’s: “Checks will be made out to “Annie B’s” and the name of our organization and sent from the donor directly to:

North Valley Community Foundation
3120 Cohasset Road, Suite 8
Chico, CA 95973”

Thanks so much for your help, Gayle Kimball

 

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