Education on Earth Continued

Education on Earth Continued

The following are excerpts from interviews with 5 BVN students who attended high school in another country before coming to the U.S. This story is a continuation of the print story, “Education on Earth,” in the March issue of the North Star newspaper.


Fares Elattar, ‘16

Dubai, United Arab Emirates 


Q: Why did you come to the U.S.?

A: For education. We heard schools are better and my cousin worked here. So he told us there are good schools in kansas and we were convinced to come here.


Q: How do academics vary between the two countries?

A: We didn’t choose classes like here. We didn’t have ceramics or computer applications or stuff like that… there’s no technology…, we just had math, physics, chemistry and biology and english and arabic and Islamic, and that’s it…  if you’re not Muslim, you take life skills. We don’t have counselors there. [There are] principals, teachers, a supervisor and a head of section- a teacher that manages a grade, like the seniors or juniors. And we don’t have seniors and juniors, we just have grade 9, grade 10, [etc].


Q: In your experience, are there any differences between studying habits of high school students at your school in Dubai and at BVN?

A: We usually study before the final exam… which was most of the grade at the end; it was like ninety percent of the grade. And we didn’t study for any of the class tests, it was just like, the time we had the finals we usually studied more.


Q: I read that students are offered several career paths to choose from in high school. What are the paths, and what is this process like?

A: There’s business and economics. That’s it, I think. [You pick in] grade 7.


Q: Do you prefer education in Dubai or the U.S.?

A: Here, because I feel like teachers are good here, and I have connections to the teachers. Unlike in Dubai, we don’t have connections with the teachers…. because they’re mean.



Beenish Ali, ‘17

Haroonabad, Pakistan


Q: Why did you come to the U.S.?

A: My dad had work here and he’s been living here for 18 years, and he moved us here because he thought it was getting dangerous in Pakistan because of terrorism and he wanted us to be safe. Our school has been under terrorism threat two times- that’s why we have a barbed wire fence all around the school.


Q: What age does the typical student graduate high school?

A: Basically when you graduate out of high school you’re 15- you graduate out from like 10th grade and you go to college from 11th grade. So basically, my friends are sophomores in college right now.


Q: How long was the typical school day?

A: I had a tutor, so basically after school I would go to tutoring at 3:30ish and get back at 7. Some tutors help you with your school work, and some tutors have their own way of teaching so they would give you separate homework for their classes- you basically have two sets of homework. [Tutoring is] very common over there.


Q: How do academics vary between the two countries?

A: [Religion class] is mandatory. If you’re a Muslim you would want to study Islam, but if you’re not you can skip that. You would want to have a study of your own religion. Over there, it’s a mandatory subject so you have to take it. It’s not like you have to take Islam, but you have to take a religion class. [Also] over there, they make you memorize a lot of things… in every single subject you have a lot of memorizing… like you have to memorize all of the math formulas.


Q: What are the differences between public schools, private schools, and the religious schools- madrassas?

A: Honestly there’s not much difference between private and public, but there’s a lot of differences between madrassas and both the other types of schools. Madrassa is reading about the Holy book. Mostly it’s about the Quran, and it’s not much about studies.
Q:  I read that students are offered several career paths to choose from in high school. What are the paths, and what is this process like?

A: So there are like three routes you can take, and most of the people over there are either engineers, artists or basically [in] science. Science has a lot of influence over there. It starts when you’re in 6th grade and you decide to take either the science [or one of the other routes]. You’re still all in the same school but you have different classes.


Q: Are there any differences in classroom etiquette between schools in the U.S. and Pakistan?

A: So in schools and colleges, you are not allowed to have phones. If you want to call your parents or something you can just go to the administration and use their phone. They don’t allow cell phones because some kids do some stupid things, and they don’t want them to have their phones and not study. They’re really strict about class behavior and stuff. People have a brain so they don’t want to bring in phones, but even if they do their friends will rat them out or sometimes they do a surprise check and nobody knows and if you have something that’s not allowed they’ll call your parents.


Q: In your experience, does education seem like a priority in Pakistan?

A: Education and termination of terrorism… have the most priority right now because the Peshawar attack* happened. So basically terrorism is the main focus right now, but after that it’s education. You want to get rid of the terrorism first.

*Ali later explained the events of the Peshawar attack as follows-

“There was a public school in the city of Peshawar and the terrorists went in and they killed the principal, they burned the teacher and they opened fire on the tenth grade and ninth grade students, and all the tenth grade students were wiped out. It was a mass murder.”


Q: In your experience, is education more effective in Pakistan or the U.S.?

A: I think it’s more effective over here because there are more options. If you don’t want to take that field… there are a lot of other fields or careers you can take.


Helene Godhavn, ‘17

Trodheim, Norway


Q: Why did you come to study in the U.S.?

A: I’ve always wanted to be an exchange student… there was something about the typical American high school that fascinated me… I knew it wasn’t like the movies but…. it’s so different, like you have prom and you have school spirit… In middle school, we kind of had a prom. We didn’t have dates—you only go with your friends—and it’s not a big thing with the dress and all that stuff… it’s much less formal in general, like you eat pizza in the gym. And we don’t have school spirit at all because sports and activities are separate from the school.


Q: What are the differences in class structure, if any, between high schools in Norway and the U.S.?

A: We divide our classes depending on the New Year’s Eve, so everyone born in 2000… is in the same grade and everyone born in 1999 is in the same grade… We don’t get to choose our classes… I belonged to a class with 30 people that I get to know better because we have all of our classes together except math and [a] foreign language. It’s nice because I get to know those people more, but I like the freedom here that I get to do more classes that I want to… I didn’t have the opportunity to take all these art classes, for example, that I’m taking here.


Q: Typically, what are the options students have after completing high school?

A: In high school you can either do the pre-university path, which is most similar to what high school is here, but then you have the [path] where…  you go directly into a job after. So if you want to be a carpenter or a chef or that stuff, it’s different cause then you have two years in school and then two years in practice where you work at a company and get trained, and then after that you can go directly into that job.


Q: What are some of your favorite and least favorite parts about school in both countries?

A: My favorite part here is the freedom of the different classes you can take, because there are so many options. That’s also probably my least favorite part in Norway because we don’t get many options. Another thing I really like here is the school spirit, and I like the fact that all activities are connected to school because it gives people more opportunities to do more.


Q: How do academics vary between the two countries, if at all?

A: The tests here are super easy. You guys have a lot of homework, especially at this school, so I don’t feel like I need to study for them… I feel like [in Norway] we go more in depth in some subjects since we have more time more time to study, but here we go faster and we get though more.


Ysrael Zerpa, ‘17

Caracas, Venezuela


Q: Why did you come to study in the U.S.?

A: I already finished school in Venezuela but I wanted to finish here and see if there was an option for college here, too.


Q: What time did you typically leave for school?

A: Typically like 6:15 in the morning, because I live very far from my school. Without cars on the highway it’s like 30-40 minutes but we didn’t have that luck, so it’s always like an hour.


Q: Did you attend a public or private school, and why?

A: It was a private school. It’s just because the public schools don’t have the same level of schooling that private schools have… At least right now, all public schools are ruled by the government and they don’t teach what is right to teach. It’s like North Korea- they teach them to like the president.


Q: I read that some of the curriculum in public schools encourages socialism and loyalty to the government. Do you think this is true, and if so, in what ways?

A: Most of the books, at least the history books, in public schools don’t show all the problems or all the conflicts we had… they show it from their point of view.  [The goal is to] make them ignorant so that they can control them more easily. For the most part the teachers who support socialism are in the public schools and even some of those teachers don’t support socialism, it’s just that they needed work and they do what they’re told.


Q: Are there any differences in how public and private schools are run?

A: Normally, private schools don’t follow the rules of the government… so they can decide what they want to do. They are supposed to follow the same rules, but they don’t teach the same things the public schools teach- they teach the right way. Private schools are popular because they have better schooling and better opportunities and better teachers.


Q: What kind of extra-curricular activities are offered, if any?

A: They have extra-curriculars in the school [like] music, guitar, gym, karate- a lot of opportunities. You finish your school day and then after school you go to those activities. You need to pay for it, so it’s optional. For the most part, the guys take soccer, basketball and baseball. I did guitar for one year and I much preferred soccer.


Q: I read that students are offered two career paths to choose from in high school. What are the paths, and what is this process like?

A: When you’re in high school, at least in your last two years, you decide if you want to be a scientist or [in] humanities. I really don’t know why they have those two options, but the main reason is to concentrate what you are going to see and focus on- so if you want to be a social worker, you don’t need biology in that. I picked science because I want to do something like engineering. Science opens you more options than humanities… because if you’re in humanities you can’t try to be something involving math.

Q: In your experience, is education more effective in the U.S. or Venezuela?

A: I think it’s better in America and more effective because in Venezuela they give all the subjects, even if you think it’s not going to work for what you want. But here, you can pick- there are choices for the career you want to make.


Inhak Kim, ‘17

Gwangju, South Korea


Q: Why did you come to study in the U.S.?

A: I want to have a wide view and like I just want to meet lots of friends who are from different countries. Especially [because of] education here, because I heard education in the USA is really good compared to other countries. That’s why I applied to the exchange student program.


Q: How long was the typical school day in South Korea?

A: 8 am to 10 pm. Actually our school ends at 4 but in South Korea- in high school, not middle school- every student has an extra study time scheduled until like 10 pm. 4-6 pm is like an advisory time, and 7-10 pm is study time.


Q: How do academics vary between the two countries?

A: Actually, we can’t choose the subjects [we take] but the school district gives us subjects to learn, we cannot choose. So it’s basically ELA and history and math- those subjects are mandatory subjects that the district gives us. Zoology or biology and those kind of classes are very new for me.


Q: Why do you think that high school is this intense in South Korea?

A: I don’t know why they’re making it pretty intense, but I think politicians think that well-educated students can make a pretty good country when they grow up.


Q: In your experience, is education more effective in South Korea or in the U.S.?

A: American education is more effective. Here the teachers try to make them participate in class, but in Korea we just learn- teachers teach us and we just write in notebooks.


Q: What are some of your favorite and least favorite parts about school in both countries?

A: In Korea my favorite part is playing with friends in PE class, and least is studying until 10 pm. [In the U.S.], it’s experiencing the lots of activities like debate and playing soccer for a school team, and that kind of stuff.