Guessing my nationality, is something which I’m pretty sure no one has ever done correctly. Being one of the most third-culture kids people have ever met, I have grown quite used to it. To explain my background and the languages I speak is definitely more complicated than one would assume. Being born in Japan and having learnt the language since a very young age, I am now happy to say that I can consider myself a fluent every-day speaker. I am doing very well in my Japanese B SL class, and love the convenience of being able to speak the language of the country I live in. However, when most people see me they guess half Japanese. This makes sense since the majority of “halfies” (a term used to describe someone who is half Asian and half Caucasian) in Japan are American and Japanese. But my mother is actually from Hong Kong. This gets even more confusing when people assume I can speak Cantonese or Mandarin. However due to my upbringing in Japan, my Japanese happens to be a significantly higher level than either of these languages.
When I lived in Australia for three years during high school, my Japanese was appreciated even more. The language level in Australian high schools is significantly lower than in Japanese International Schools, and all my peers regarded me as some sort of linguistic genius in French and Japanese. I took French in ISSH (Japan school) for three years, however the course was so intense that when I went to my school in Sydney I was way above everyones level. My ability to speak every day french and use past and future tense was apparently way ahead of their curriculum, which was still focused on the basics like colours and numbers.
I am very lucky to have been brought up in such a multi-lingual environment. Hearing Japanese, Mandarin, French, English around me from a young age have made my ability to pick up foreign languages much better. I believe that going to an international school opens you up to more languages, as with such a multi-cultural community and environment you learn to accept others cultures and pick up a few phrases from them.
Appreciating different cultures and languages has made me able to take the best parts of each and combine them into myself. The politeness of the Japanese society and language is entrenched in my personality just as the spirit and humour of Australians is. Being able to communicate and pick up foreign languages is a valuable skill for the future, and will allow me to be comfortable no matter what country I go to.
In November 2014, I participated in a public speaking event at my school called “Student Inspire”. This event was designed to allow those participating in the GCD to meet their Communications requirements, as well as to offer an opportunity for students to practice their public speaking skills. I decided to join this event as not only did I need to fulfill my GCD requirement, but also because I wanted to practice my speaking skills in front of an audience (which would be valuable for me in the future- e.g. MUN). I hoped that in doing so I would gain confidence in speaking up, as well as improve my abilities to write an engaging speech. The audience/speakers were mostly year 11’s, however there were a few year 10’s and 12’s as well.
I have never volunteered to be part of a public speaking event. In fact in year 9, not too long ago, I was offered an opportunity to be in a public speaking contest and I turned it down, as I was not sure of my abilities. Participating in this event was very stressful for me, and the days leading up to the event had me extremely worried. I only finished my speech on the day of the event, and I even considered pulling out last minute, as I was so nervous. However thanks to encouragement from both my family and friends I went through with it.
The speech went much better than expected. Being given the freedom to choose any topic made a great difference, as I talked about a topic that I was passionate about (Generalised Testing). Being passionate meant I truly believed in what I was saying, and therefore made an extra effort to engage with the audience. This topic also suited the audience, who all understood where I was coming from in regards to the difficulties teenagers face with tests like the SAT.
After the speech friends and other students I weren’t even closed to congratulated me, and my confidence in public speaking has grown significantly since. Knowing that people listened to what I was saying and enjoyed my speech surprised me, and now I know that I can speak in front of an audience and that all I have to do is prepare beforehand, and believe in myself. This has allowed me to become more engaged in Model United Nations, where I am now not afraid to speak up.
If I were to repeat this activity I would focus more on having fun rather than being nervous. I believe that once I get past the point of stage fright I will be able to truly enjoy public speaking. Next, my goal is to speak in front of a larger audience, hopefully for a cause.
I did not follow this script exactly, and in order to increase my eye contact and fluidity of my speech I improvised some parts.
The Abolition of Standardised Testing: What’s wrong with the SAT’s
Most of us have or are planning to take a standardised test sometime in our life, whether it be the SATS or ACTS. However how beneficial actually are these tests?
(Talk about personal experience with PSAT’s, fears etc.)
Standardised testing has not necessarily improved student achievement, that is, students having to take these test have not done any better academically than they would have without having to take them. On May 26, 2011 the National Research Council’s report found no evidence that testbased incentive programs are working. A quote from the report states “Despite using them for several decades, policymakers and educators do not yet know how to use testbased incentives to consistently generate positive effects on achievement and to improve education.”
So taking standardised tests does not lead to higher academic achievements. But that’s okay, they’re main use is for universities to easily compare students right?
But heres the thing: standardized tests are an unreliable measure of a students performance. How can students be compared, when the results do not accurately reflect their abilities? Tests measure only a small portion of what makes education meaningful they measure isolated skills, content knowledge, specific facts, all of which can be considered the least important aspects of learning. They can not measure your initiative, critical thinking, resourcefulness, or resilience. Are these qualities not important to consider when deciding whether to accept a student into a school? They also evaluate your performance on one particular day, with no account for external factors that could be influencing your marks.
Even focusing on the subjects they are testing, standardised tests fail to capture the full spectrum of a students abilities in English, or mathematics, as there are too few questions to allow meaningful withinsubject comparisons of student’s strengths and weaknesses. Multiple choice format is an inadequate assessment tool, as it encourages a simplistic way of thinking where there are only right and wrong answers. Getting the one algebra question on the test incorrect does not mean you are necessarily bad at algebra. Essentially, standardised tests fail to accurately demonstrate the abilities and knowledge of students. There is much more to a good education than is shown on a correct answer of multiple choice.
The pressure of one test score determining your future, leads to immense stress for all of those in the education system including school officials, teachers, students and parents. That feeling before you have a test is definitely not one that present or future students should have to deal with. It’s not normal for us to face such extreme anxiety and emotional stress from just one exam. In some countries, such as in the U.S, government funding for schools are impacted by the schools average test score. The problem with this is that there are three factors that affect the student’s scores on standardized achievement tests: 1. what’s taught in school 2. a student’s native intellectual ability 3. what a student learns out of school. Schools that are labelled as “failing” are left out in the cold with much less funding that would enable them to Teachers and schools only have control over one of these factors and so standardised tests are an unreliable measure of teacher performance. This makes rewarding or punishing teachers based on their class scores unfair and detrimental.
The pressure of these tests have created a vicious cycle, and lead to teachers “Teaching the test”. This form of “drill n’kill” rote learning leads to a decline in teaching high order thinking, the amount of time and effort spent on complex assignments, and the amount of high cognitive content in school curriculums. Curriculums are being planned around the content in these tests, and therefore teachers spend lessons teaching students the content and format of the test leading to a loss of dynamism and creativity that would make school more effective and enjoyable for students. This excessive testing teaches how to be good at tests, but doesn’t not adequately prepare students for life after school. What is most valuable to us are the lessons we learn that can be applied everyday or in future professions and will help us succeed.
So in conclusion, yes we will most likely still have to take these standardized tests as part of the admissions process into universities. However, if theres one thing I want you to take away from today, it’s that your score on these tests are not an accurate reflection of your academic ability of personal qualities.