Friday, July 16, 2010

Refugees and Higher Education --part six

First, a reminder. If you wish to read this entire series go to the labels down on the lower right hand side of the space under this article and click on the one that says "Getting refugees into college." This should show you the entire series.

Secondly, a correction/ clarification. In an earlier post I indicated that people with a GED do not have high school pre-requisites should they be required for a community college program. This is, at best, only usually true. If one has studied in high school, but dropped out, one does indeed have a transcript, indicating the classes one took. There's no reason this transcript cannot include high level classes that may be relevant for higher education. This was pointed out to me by an American woman who dropped out of high school in her senior year due to pregnancy, later earned her GED and then went on to higher education and used her high school classes as pre-requisites for admission to a higher level education program. Thank you! Thank you!

Thirdly, someone recently was asking "Can adult refugees get into college in the USA?" Well, let's put it this way. "Can adult people get into college in the USA?" Yes, they can, although it sometimes isn't easy. Children, job, social expectations, and several other things often present difficulties for the adult learner. What's a refugee? A refugee is "a people" --a person, like any other, save for a background that's different from most of us. (I wrote an earlier essay on this blog entitled
"Understanding refugees --four principles" that might help offer some understanding on what refugees are like.) So, the answer to the question is yes, and if you wish details please read this series.

Fourth, let me offer a disclaimer of sorts. Every college has different admission procedures. Check with the institute of higher education for exact details.

Which brings us to our next category of potential students and what it requires to get them into college.

Some refugees:
4) Finished high school and has the diploma but no transcripts.
5) Finished high school and has the diploma and acceptable, proper transcripts.

At most colleges if a student has earned a high school diploma overseas, it is necessary to give them some assessment test before admitting them. These can include, for instance, the TOEFL test (Test Of English as a Foreign Language). The TOEFL test is designed to assess one's ability to understand spoken and written English.

In some cases something called a "Compass test" is required. (See for information on the compass test. ) At at least one college, if one does not do well on the compass test you will have trouble getting student loans from New York State, as they belief is that if you lack the English language ability to pass the test, you also lack the English language ability to pass your classes.

Like most students one should check and see if they need to take the ACTs or the SATs.


If a refugee has finished high school, has a diploma, but no transcripts, and cannot get transcripts (apparently refugee camp high schools cannot supply transcripts to overseas schools) then it is, from my understanding, up to the college as to whether or not they wish to recognize the diploma. The one time I ran across this situation, the college chose not to recognize the degree and offered the potential student remedial class (which included much needed ESL classes). In fairness, the refugee camp diploma, although undoubtedly legitimate in this case, looked quite simple to forge.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Refugees and Higher Education, part five

In the previous two essays, I discussed what to do to get a refugee who has never finished high school into college. I hope it was useful. In this essay I discuss other kinds of refugees.

For instance, a refugee who:
2) Never finished high school but claims they did but says the documents have been lost.
3) Finished high school and the documents have been lost.

There are refugees will tell you that they have gone to high school but lost the papers and therefore cannot prove it. In some cases, this really happened. In others they are lying. Unless you are psychic, and I do not believe in psychics, you may have trouble differentiating the two. In other cases, you may begin to suspect the truth as time goes on and you get to know the person.

Regardless, my advice is as follows. Tell them they have two choices basically. Get those papers or else tell them to begin work on a GED or other means to get new educational certificates.

My limited experience has been that the ones who really went to high school will be much more willing to do this than the ones who were lying because the ones who were lying stand a good chance of being exposed when it comes out that they do not have the knowledge a high school graduate usually has. In one case, when I was younger and more naive than I am now, i.e. last year, a refugee convinced me to spend a great deal of time and effort helping him research how to get a job as a plumber while lying to me the whole time about his educational background. (The local Nepali-Burmese community is such a pain in the ass. On the other hand, other Burmese have assured me that there actually are many good Nepali-Burmese people. It's just that they don't live here.)

Therefore my opinion is that one should not spend time trying to get a refugee into college until *AFTER* you have agreed with him or her on how they are going to obtain a high school diploma or equivalent certificate and see that they are actually following through and working on this plan.

Don't put the cart before the horse.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Refugees and higer education -part four

In this essay, I will talk briefly about the non-academic preparation that is required to prepare some refugees for college in the United States or similiar countries. I am consciously choosing to place it in the section on getting refugees a GED. My assumption is that if a refugee has acquired a high school degree or even college elsewhere then he is much more likely than otherwise to be prepared in other ways too for study at higher levels in the USA.

Of course, this is not always the case.

For instance, I have been told that the refugee camp schools that Karen and other refugees from Burma study in in Thailand are much better than the educational resources in Burma, particularly in the Karen state. This does not mean however that one can take a Karen refugee who has spent a considerable portion of his life in a refugee camp and drop him or her into a college in the USA and not expect some interesting complications to take place. The culture and experience gap is huge between a 21 year old Karen refugee and a 19 year old American classmate even if they are placed side by side in the same classroom.

So what needs to be considered:
1. Language

Schools in the USA are generally taught in English. Students need to have a high level of English to do well. Many schools do offer ESL courses of various kinds, but the students still need to be highly skilled in English before they can do regular coursework. Additionally it needs to be understood that most ESL professionals divide English proficiency into two levels, social proficiency and academic proficiency. Just because someone's English is good enough for them to hold a job, make friends and hang out does not mean that their English is good enough for them to be able to read biology textbooks and write footnoted history papers. They need ESL training or other opportunities to improve their English and lots of them.

You need to encourage them to read and read in English. Some will do this easily. Others need prodding. Use your imagination in getting them to read. In one case, I actually helped a refugee fill out and subscribe to Playboy magazine simply because I thought it would get him reading. I made him promise to actually read the articles and I know he did in at least some cases. Many refugees are Christians and read the Bible. In such cases, I would suggest strongly that they be given or helped to acquire a copy of the Bible that is in modern English similiar to that they will encounter. (At least one local fundamentalist church popular with refugees insists on using the King James Version. Personally, I think this is stupid.)

There are tools to assess a person's English language ability. The TOEFL exam is one such tool. There are TOEFL study guides in your library.

2. Culture

This should go without saying. Refugees need to have some idea of how to live and function in a college setting if one plans to place them in it. They need some training in socialization and how to meet and greet and carry on small talk conversations in our culture. They also need some instructions on how to deal with problems. Try to teach them how to handle disputes and problems. They may occur and it is in everyone's best interest to have them able to handle serious conflicts in a societally approved manner should they occur.

Make them aware of resources and how to utilize them and choose among them.

BTW, should anyone wonder, what's the strangest thing I've seen a refugee in a classroom setting do?

Take his shirt off in the middle of an ESL class. It was hot, he was tired, he'd been working hard and the next thing people knew he started to take his shirt off and was soon sitting there, barechested, in the middle of his ESL classroom with people looking at him. Be prepared. Try to teach them how to act in the settings they will be in.

Clearly some refugee cultures will have a greater cultural difference than others in terms of adaptation to Western college life.

It also needs to be mentioned that many refugees, including many members of the Burmese hill-tribes, are basically indigenous people. Until relatively recently in terms of global history, their societies were illiterate, tradition-based, subsistence farming and hunting and gathering cultures marked by clan feuds and a relatively low level of government. This means that when it comes time for them to adjust to the expectations of the college environment they may have considerable difficulty.

Think in terms of indigenous people. Use such things as the situation and experiences of peoples like Australian aboriginals, Taiwanese indigenous peoples and the Native American Indian peoples of the United States, Canada and elsewhere to seek lessons and predict problems. [For statistics on Australian aboriginal education see: 4704.0 - The Health and Welfare of Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, 2010 EDUCATION: EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT. For Native American Education in the United States see: Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008

These people have a much lower than average rate of educational success. Societal prejudice can, at best, provide only a partial explanation for this. A fuller understanding of this problem must take into account that many indigineous people have very different attitudes to many things than the mainstream industrialized cultures that they often live among and must interact with and whose expectations must be met in order to succeed at obtaining a degree in a higher institution.

For instance, such groups often tend to have difficulty with time managment and financial management. They often have a variety of interpersonal obligations and expectations which can cause problems, particularly if their peers do not appreciate the goals that they have set for themselves and are trying to meet through school.

If one is seriously considering enrolling a Burmese hill-tribe person in a community college you have my blessings but please make sure the basic foundation of time management skills is there when you do. Also please note that although I am refering to certain ethnic groups as "indigenous," and say they tend to have certain traits, these traits are culturally and environmentally based, not genetic. Many Karen, for instance, do not share these traits. On the other hand, many of these Karen who do not share these traits, tend to be from major cities like Rangoon and often have trouble speaking Karen language. They are sort of like a Native American Indian who grew up in Brooklyn or Oakland, California, and therefore much more adapted to the "modern" world (for lack of a better term) than many other members of their ethnic group. By contrast, when I went to high school with Navajos I had classmates who divided money into two categories. "enough" and "not enough," with everything else being an unnecessary distinction. Time was divided into "now" and "some day if it has to be done." For these people "rodeo" was a great activity and a cow basically a punching bag with legs. Aside from the interest in rodeo, I've seen some of this same style of thinking among many Karen (which perhaps explains why I like them). Industrial-era living requires a while different style of thought than indigenous living and school requires the former.

Then again, by the time most of these folks get their English to a level where it seems realistic to enroll them in a higher education facility, they should have much of the required cognitive needs down too.

Refugees and Higher Education, part three.

Just to recap, --how to use this blog. I began writing about refugee concerns on this blog in order to try and improve the treatment of refugees in this country and perhaps elsewhere. This was done largely in response to an event where the management of the local refugee center, USCRI-Albany, announced they were "maxed out" and desperately in need of help such as volunteers and furniture donation. I'd worked for the organization and the first place they needed help was in training of the managment as they weren't using their resources properly and were not handling offers of volunteers and donations properly either. It was the most inefficient place I'd ever worked in my life and the refugees were suffering because of it.
Therefore I began writing "how-to" articles on this blog. Like "how to handle furniture donations" or "how to teach refugees to drive." These were written as a series of pieces and to gain a better knowledge of the subject it's best to find the entire series of posts on the subject and read them all. This can be done using the topic labels at the bottom of the page.

At this point I continue to help refugees informally and my current activity in this area is to try and get a few into college. This is the third article on this topic and it will make more sense if you read them in order, starting with the first two.

In the last post I said that before one can determine a refugee's eligibility for college, you need to assess their previous education. I divided them into seven categories.

1) Never finished high school anywhere and admits it.
2) Never finished high school but claims they did but says the documents have been lost.
3) Finished high school and the documents have been lost.
4) Finished high school and has the diploma but no transcripts.
5) Finished high school and has the diploman and acceptable, proper transcripts.
6) Attended college but denies it due to an identity change.
7) Attended college and has the documents to prove it.

Let's begin looking at these, starting with the first.

Many people around the world have not had the chance to finish high school. This is generally not a sign of low intelligence, but a sign of lack of opportunities. The world is not a fair place and resources are not distributed fairly. Since most refugees have, by definition, had their lives disrupted by war, they are especially prone to not having finished high school.

If a refugee does not have a high school degree, and you and they wish them to be prepared to go to college, they must work on two things. The first is a high school diploman or GED (General Equivalency Degree) and the second is to develop the traits, abilities and capabilities required to go to college.

Let's look at the first one. If a refugee can enroll in a high school then everything is on its way. Just keep an eye on them and see what happens. I don't know much about this but I bet that someone at your local high school can answer the questions much more fully and accurately than I can.

If they cannot enroll in a high school, then they will need a GED. A GED. is a test that if passed gives its bearer a certificate that is equivalent to a high school diploma. This is a wonderful thing, and, in my opinion, one of the things that makes America great. We are a land of second chances and hope. Its bearers should be proud and in some circles a GED is actually more impressive than an actual high school diploma because it indicates motivation and actual achievement on the part of those who have earned it. Contrast that with some public schools.

The GED can be taken in English, Spanish and French, but to the best of my knowledge these are the only languages available. Of course, should someone wish to attend classes that are taught in the English language, then they should probably take the GED in English as well.

The GED is a specialized test and it is well worth familiarizing oneself with it before taking it. Several different study guides are available in bookstores and libraries. In some cases, the variety of study guides is confusing to refugees. They might ask which one is "official" or which one is the best or even if they need to read all of them to take the GED. It is important to remember that that USA is a large and very literate country with many publishing companies each of which wants a piece of the study guide market. By contrast some nations, such as Burma/ Myanmar, are much smaller, poorer and have a much more tightly controlled educational system as well as publishing industry. If they have tests for positions, there is often only one official guide that tells people exactly what to do, know and think in order to pass the test and obtain that position. Therefore, just taking a refugee, even a very intelligent refugee, and pointing them at a shelf of books and saying "There's the study guides. Have fun!" often will confuse them and not produce the desired results.

Should a student wish formal assistance in preparing for a GED, something I think is a good idea for many reasons (including the fact that it causes them to go outside their community and make one more contact with the greater American society) then resources are available.

Another option is organizations like "Job Corp" in some cases help people, and in some cases refugees are eligible for their services, to obtain a better life (where they pay more taxes and stay out of jail, thus saving tax payers money) and their progrems usually include helping people to earn a GED among other services.

To find and access these resources, some places to look are local community colleges, the Literacy Volunteer organization (which often provides tutors for the GED) and the local public library. In New York, the Department of Labors One Stop Job Centers can help people access this information although they tend in my experience to not be "refugee-friendly" --not hostile exactly, just stupid, doing things like handing refugees who clearly speak broken English lengthy forms in English and refusing to talk to them until after they are properly filled out. By contacting these organizations, one should be able to tap into the network of resources that are available to help people earn their GED.

Of course, not all refugees who wish a GED are ready to earn or study for one, and that's a subject I will try to discuss more in my next post.

It also needs to be stated that in order for a person to enroll in many college programs, they need not just a high school diploma but also to have taken certain classes in high school. For instance, to attend a college nursing program an applicant might be required to have their high school diploma and to also have taken biology, chemistry and certain kinds of math in high school. Although a person with a GED has the equivalent of a high school diploma, they generally do not have the equivalent of such required classes. I will try to write a bit more about this later, but, again, for more details on what this means, one might do well to contact the college or other institution into which the refugee is thinking of enrolling. For instance, should someone wish to study nursing at a local community college, it is not a bad idea to contact them as soon as possible and learn about the requirements to enroll in that program particularly if the person has a GED. They may have to not just earn their GED but also enroll in some prerequisite classes before even being able to apply. The sooner people know this, the better.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

NY Madam arrested for sex slavery

Not the sort of stuff I usually share here, but seems relevant.

http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpps/news/offbeat/ny-madam-arrested-for-terrorizing-sex-slaves-dpgonc-km-20100629_8401916

NY Madam Arrested For Terrorizing Sex Slaves
Updated: Tuesday, 29 Jun 2010, 4:40 PM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 29 Jun 2010, 4:40 PM EDT

(NewsCore) - A sex slave madam who lives in a million-dollar New York City mansion has been arrested for allegedly terrorizing sex slaves in two Long Island locations disguised as nail salons, authorities said Tuesday.

One, inside a storefront, advertised a "Stimulus Plan" on the front window and offered sex acts for prices ranging from $60 up to $120.

Suffolk District Attorney Tom Spota said Jin Hua Cui, 44, of Queens, lived a life of luxury in her cash-filled home at the expense of her victims and is facing up to 25 years behind bars if convicted.

Spota said Cui admitted to investigators that she got into the business of prostitution to make a lot of money.

"I think that you can see, looking at the photograph of her house that, while she was a success, her success came at a price to the women that she enslaved," said Spota.

The DA said the women came to America in search of the American dream, but ended up ensnared in the nightmare of prostitution.

"Sex trafficking is degrading, it’s demoralizing, and rips at the very fabric of our beliefs as a society. We in Suffolk County are just not going to tolerate that," said Spota.

Spota said as many as eight women were forced into a life of prostitution by Cui after they answered employment ads in a Korean language newspaper offering fake nail salon attendant jobs.

"When the women would respond, thinking they were going to be working at a nail salon, she then forced them into prostitution with threats of violence, intimidation and embarrassment," said Spota.

Inside her Tudor-style home, investigators found numerous wallets stuffed with $20,000 in cash. Detectives also seized more than 1,000 condoms, massage oils, lingerie and other items in raids on the places of alleged prostitution.

Cui was arraigned on the charges and is being held in lieu of $10,000 cash bail.


Read more: New York Post

(This article is provided by NewsCore, which aggregates news from around News Corporation.)