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‘Global learning crisis’ continues says Guterres; millions still hit

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Students at a primary school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on the second day after their school reopened. The students, teachers and school administrators wear masks while at the school and maintain physical distancing. UNICEF/Seyha Lychheang

Almost two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures continue to disrupt the lives of over 31 million students, exacerbating what the United Nations’ Secretary General called “a global learning crisis.”

“Unless we take action, the share of children leaving school in developing countries who are unable to read could increase from 53 to 70 per cent”, António Guterres warned in a video message marking the International Day of Education, on Monday.

The UN chief remembered the “chaos” that COVID-19 caused in education worldwide, noting that, at the pandemic’s peak, some 1.6 billion school and college students had their studies interrupted.

Despite the improvement, he believes the crisis is “not over yet”, and the turmoil goes beyond questions of access and inequality.

World changing

The theme for the day this year, is “Changing course, transforming education”. 

For Mr. Guterres, the world is “changing at a dizzying pace, with technological innovation, unprecedented changes in the world of work, the onset of the climate emergency, and a widespread loss of trust between people and institutions.”

In this scenario, he believes conventional education systems are “struggling” to deliver the knowledge, skills and values needed to create a greener, better and safer future for all.

Because of these challenges, he is convening a Summit on Transforming Education in September. 

“The time has come to reignite our collective commitment to education”, he said. 

For him, that means “putting education at the heart of broader recovery efforts, aimed at transforming economies and societies and accelerating progress on sustainable development.”

It also means financial solidarity with developing countries and understanding how national education systems can be reformed, between now and 2030.

Mr. Guterres noted the Summit will be the first time that world leaders, young people and all education stakeholders come together to consider these fundamental questions.

Assembly, Abdulla Shahid, also stressed the need to reflect on the impact of two years of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Highlighting the challenges created for the empowerment of children and youth, Mr. Shahid mentioned a UN joint publication showing that students worldwide could lose a total of $17 trillion in lifetime earnings as a result of these constraints.

For him, this number is a call to close the digital divide, to empower girls and boys, in particular those in rural and isolated areas, and to strengthen support for persons living with disabilities, as well as other vulnerable groups.

In a world of increasing complexity, uncertainty, and precarity, knowledge, education and learning need to be reimagined”, he argued. 

Mr. Shahid also believes the world needs “an education system that could leverage humanity’s collective intelligence.”

“A system that advances, rather than subverts, our aspirations for inclusive education based on the principles of justice, equity and respect for human rights”, he concluded. 

Lessons learned

According to new data released by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on Monday, schools are currently open in 135 countries, and in 25 nations, it has been temporarily suspended by extending the end-of-year break.

Only a dozen countries have opted to close schools and pivot to fully remote rather than in-person learning since the outbreak of the Omicron variant.

This is in stark contrast with the same period last year when most schools were closed, and learning was fully remote in 40 countries.

For the UN agency, this shows that a large majority of countries are using lessons from the past two years to keep classrooms accessible, with reinforced health and safety protocols.

“Education continues to be deeply disrupted by the pandemic, but all countries are now keenly aware of the dramatic costs of keeping schools closed as UNESCO said for the past two years”, said the agency’s Director-General, Audrey Azoulay.

Changes

A dozen countries surveyed – including Brazil, France, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Palestine and Ukraine – now use traffic light monitoring systems that trigger different measures according to levels of infection: mask wearing, hand washing, ventilation, but also indoor and outdoor distancing, and class closures on a case-by-case basis to avoid impacting all students.

Other countries, including Canada, France, United Kingdom and Italy, are also using mass rapid test-to-stay policies.

Once again, UNESCO called for more efforts to vaccinate educators, noting teachers were not included in any priority group in up to a third of countries.

Students underperforming

For the UNESCO chief, more action is needed to bring back to school all the children who have moved away from it and to recover learning losses.

“Without remedial action and focus on the most vulnerable students, the COVID-19 pandemic will carry dramatic long-term consequences”, Ms. Azoulay warned.

In fact, more than 50 per cent of teachers state that students had not progressed to the levels expected, according to a large-scale survey conducted by UNESCO and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

In the study, conducted in 11 countries, most teachers agreed that it was difficult to provide necessary support for vulnerable students. And over 50 per cent of students said they were anxious about the changes taking place.

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Mastering Writing Skills: Write Effectively for Academic and Professional Success

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Most people underestimate the importance of knowing how to write. In school, students are assigned paper after paper. The results help teachers grade their knowledge. But, that’s not the main reason why these are assigned. Essays and other papers give students practice, and a chance to learn effective writing. It’s a lifelong skill that not only serves to land them a passing grade but can also help them boost their professional success later on.

How to Master Your Writing Skills

If you want to make sure that you learn how to write better, both for academic and professional success, here are some tips and tricks for you.

1.Ask Someone to Write for You

The best way to learn how to write is to read what you need to write. If you aim for academic success but don’t know how to craft a paper that gets you an A, get some writing help from a reliable service. Today you can simply go online and request to write my essay and you’ll receive a top-notch assignment. This isn’t just to help you meet a deadline or land a high grade. You can also use it for college learning – to read what a good paper should look like.

When you have a finished piece of writing, this can be your guide. Students often order papers online to meet deadlines or make sure they get a high grade. Even if this is the case, use the opportunity to learn, too – next time you need to craft a similar paper, refer to the one written by an expert to boost your writing skills.

2.Read What You Like

Reading is an amazing way to boost your writing skills. How is this possible, you wonder?

For starters, reading books, articles, other papers, or anything else – can boost your vocabulary. When you read, you also come across different writing styles, giving you ideas for when you need to write.

Even though it might not seem this way when you actually read, reading gives you a lot of useful information that is stored in your subconscious.

3.Practice Writing

If you want to master writing, truly master it, you need practice. Those essay assignments are not enough. You should do some free writing, too. Start your blog or journal, write letters to your peers, join a writing workshop, etc. Just write for the sake of it – practice is very important!

4.Don’t Skimp on the Editing Part

Editing is as important as writing itself – maybe even more important. While some mistakes might be acceptable in school, these are never welcome in professional circles. A single, unintentional mistake can have a devastating effect and ruin the quality or the message in your writing.

Research and writing are tiring, but this is no reason to skip the editing part and submit the work in a rush. If you want to learn to write better, you need to start by editing your work. When you proofread and edit it, you can find the most common mistakes you make and learn how to avoid them.

5.Focus on the Structure

The first draft is often a result of free writing. It’s good to write with the flow without focusing on the details, the mistakes, or the structure. This allows your thought to run without interruptions.

But, you can’t submit the first draft of any writing – not if you want it to be good.

In addition to editing the mistakes out of your writing, focus on the structure, too. Structure makes sure that your ideas get across to those who read the content.

Outlines are very useful for this. Many students see them as a waste of time since they aren’t formally required. However, a good outline can actually cut down the time you spend on editing and formatting your task. It will also make sure that the information in your essay flow and are clear to the reader.

6.Ask for Feedback – and Use It!

Unless you’ve mastered the skill of writing, you’ll make mistakes. This is how you learn, and there’s no shame in it. It’s also the time when feedback can really help you. Ask your mentors, your peers, your parents, and friends to take a look at your writing. Ask them to be blunt and tell you what flaws they find in your writing.

You might not accept all of their notes and feedback, but learning how others view and understand your writing is very useful.

Wrapping Up

Writing requires some talent but most importantly, it requires practice. It is something you learn in time, which is why it’s assigned at every academic level.  So, practice, practice, and practice some more. This is how you’ll master the skill!

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FORBES: Where is the Russian banking crisis?

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“Sanctions were supposed to kill the Russian financial sector. It did, and it didn’t. Where is the Russian banking crisis?” – FORBES is perplexed.

Yes, sanctions have hurt Russia’s financial institutions. But a Russian banking crisis, one that looks like we have seen in the U.S. recently with Silicon Valley Bank and in Switzerland with Credit Suisse, has not occurred.

There were never any runs on Russian banks. The ruble strengthened. And while most banks are protected by the state – led by Sberbank and VTB – the Russian Central Bank has spent much of the last decade working to clean up the financial system.

For this reason, Russian banks have survived the West’s sanctions regime and stock market delistings better than anyone would have imagined. For a cynical Russian, watching Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse burn down while their bankers are gainfully employed is like smirking before the camera lens in front of a burning building.

Had the sanctions come at the time when the Russian Central Bank was cleaning up its “zombie banks” – all hell would have broken loose. But seeing how much of that mess was swept away prior to the 2022 sanctions regimes taking hold, Russia’s banks remain safe and sound, even if Russian investors in those banks have lost their shirt.

The sanctions policy, the hardest ever taken out on Russia, is 13 months old. New ones pop up regularly. It is unclear what can possibly be next, as Russia’s financial institutions have already been largely cut off from the Western system.

Russia’s financial sector, and its banks at home, aren’t making headlines like banks in the U.S. and Europe are. They have withstood the onslaught of sanctions.

They’ve lost their European and U.S. assets, which will not be recovered for years to come, if ever. Sberbank CEO Herman Gref said in press reports that Sberbank is “the most attacked entity” in the country, which experiences “unprecedented challenges in terms of complexity and power.” He said Sberbank lost nearly all of its assets abroad, leading to massive write-downs.

Yet, Russian president Vladimir Putin smirks at the burning buildings of Credit Suisse and the lost $200 billion in Silicon Valley Bank deposits, needing unprecedented FDIC support to protect account holders. The bank is now insolvent. His biggest banks remain only because most of Russia’s banks over the years have been folded and rendered insolvent. And a danger to the Russian financial system was liquidated.

“Thanks to the professional actions of our banking community, government agencies, and the efforts of the central bank, I want to emphasize that we managed to overcome all these (sanctions) difficulties in general,” Putin reportedly said in Moscow earlier this month after meeting with Sberbank’s CEO. He said that Sberbank’s current stable position was “a good signal for the whole economy.”

With sanctions expected to remain for a long time to come, will Russia’s heavily sanctioned banks fold one day, too?

“Who knows what will happen in Russia, because we all only know what we read in the press and what we read in the press is that Russia did a smart job handling their banks pre-sanctions and so after sanctions they have managed okay,” says famous commodities investor Jim Rogers from his home in Singapore, who has been a director of Russian fertilizer company PhosAgro. “We saw the ruble go down when sanctions were first imposed, then it went up. So in that case alone, the market tells me that somebody in Russia did something right,” he says.

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Factors to Consider When Choosing Funeral Chairs for Memorial Services

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The loss of a loved one is devastating for the entire family. For churches providing funeral and memorial services, it’s important to ensure grieving family members are as comfortable as possible throughout the service. The right funeral chairs can help you achieve this goal. To find the right chairs, there are several factors that you must consider.

Comfortable Seating: Enhancing the Memorial Experience for Attendees

Comfort is of the utmost importance when choosing chairs for funerals and memorials. Grieving attendees are already facing hardship. Providing a comfortable place to sit during the service will provide them with some comfort during this difficult time. Comfortable seating will also enhance the memorial experience because attendees can stay fully focused on the service.

Look for chairs with foam seating and comfortable fabrics. Chairs that offer full back support will allow attendees to rest or reflect without being distracted by discomfort.

Dignified Seating: Reflecting the Importance of the Occasion

For first memorial funeral services, it’s important to choose seating that is dignified and respectful of the occasion. Choose plain, solid fabrics. Patterned fabrics can be distracting or distasteful in some cases.

Acceptable colors for funeral chairs include (but are not limited to)

  • Gray or charcoal;
  • Black;
  • Dark plum;
  • Beige or brown;
  • Dark red;

Choose your color and style wisely to ensure you’re providing dignified seating for attendees.

One advantage of choosing these colors is that it allows you to use these chairs for a variety of purposes. Rather than having to invest in a new set of seating for services and events, you can use the same seating for all occasions. 

Improved Concentration: The Impact of Comfortable Seating on Focus

Those who attend funerals and memorial services should remain focused on the service and nothing else. Providing attendees with comfortable funeral chairs will allow them to stay focused on the service. During the funeral and memorial services, family members often share stories and thoughts about their lost loved one. A formal service may also be given.

Often, services last between 30 minutes and one hour – sometimes more. Because attendees will be asked to sit for long periods of time, it is crucial to ensure they have a comfortable place to sit.

When chairs are poorly constructed or have uncomfortable seats, attendees will be more concerned about their discomfort than listening to the service. They may become distracted or find themselves fidgeting and distracting others in the process.

However, when you invest in comfortable seating, attendees can sit quietly, reflecting on the words being spoken during the service.

Health Benefits: The Positive Impact of Comfortable Seating on Physical Health

One thing that is often overlooked when selecting funeral seating is its impact on physical health. Pain and discomfort are two common complaints when funeral attendees sit in pews.

If you have the option to offer individual seating, attendees will be much more comfortable. Cushioned seats will also ensure that guests with mobility issues can be present during the service without feeling uncomfortable.

Comfortable seating is an essential part of a memorial service; it not only provides guests with places to sit but also helps create a warm and inviting atmosphere where people can come together to honor the memory of their loved one.

When seats are uncomfortable or poorly made, guests may experience pain or other forms of discomfort that will make it difficult to be present during the service. Seats with foam padding can provide much-needed support and cushioning, allowing guests to sit comfortably even for long periods of time.

Chairs with solid, durable metal frames will also ensure that your seating stands up to frequent use. Providing safe seating is essential, and quality, durable chairs will help you achieve that.

Customizable Seating: Personalizing the Experience for Attendees

Another important factor to consider when choosing funeral seating is customization. Providing a personalized experience for attendees will allow them to experience the service in the way they envision.

Individual chairs will allow the family to choose the layout for the seating. Some chairs interlock to form pews, and some families may prefer this more traditional option.

Traditionally, the family of the deceased sits in the first row or first few rows. If the family wishes to maintain this convention, chairs of different colors can be provided, or additional space can be placed between these rows and the remainder of the seating.

When chairs are provided instead of traditional pews, there are more opportunities for customized layouts and seating for attendees. Being able to provide this level of customization may bring a small amount of comfort and peace to the family.

In Conclusion

When providing funeral and memorial services, churches and sanctuaries should not overlook the importance of providing comfortable seating for attendees. The right chairs will ensure attendees are comfortable during the service, allowing them to stay more focused on the message and less focused on discomfort or pain.

What is your experience with choosing and providing funeral chairs? Share your thoughts and comments.

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