Friday, December 30, 2005

Mandate, The Arab Society for Quality Assurance in Education

Mandate for the Arab Society for Quality Assurance in Education

The vision of ASQAE is to mobilize all stakeholders in the Arab education community to adopt a culture of quality; to create an environment where academic knowledge, critical thinking and professional standards are applied to support successful interaction between the educational institutions and Arab society, and to promote research, professional development and communication on quality in education.

The mission of ASQAE is to enhance and promote a culture of quality in education in the Arab world through quality assurance technical advice, standard setting, capacity-building, networking and information dissemination.

ASQAE aims
- to promote the development and/or adaptation of current and effective institutional practices and models on educational quality assurance
- to encourage and support setting quality assurance benchmarks based on internationally accepted education quality standards
- to seek alliance with regional and international quality assurance organizations and networks.

ASQAE will achieve its objectives by
- providing expert support through its members to education institutions and quality assurance agencies
- organising seminars and workshops
- supporting research on educational quality and standards
- participating and contributing in international quality assurance networks
- disseminating its activities by reports and on its website
- establishing a database of quality assurance experts in the region

As members will be invited:
- Ministries of Education of all representing countries
- education institutions of all representing countries
- quality assurance agencies of all representing countries
- business and professional organizations and associations (e.g. parental associations),
- educational media
- other interested individuals (e.g. staff, students, experts, etc.) concerned with quality assurance in education.

Kinds of Air Pollution

What is Air Pollution?The air we breathe is made up of a mixture of gases and small particles. Pollutants in the air are chemicals or substances that are harmful to humans, other species, or ecosystems as a whole. These such pollutants can come from human (anthropogenic) sources, or from natural sources such as volcanos or dust storms. For more information visit the Weather Underground's main air pollution page.
What are the major classifications of Air Pollutants?There are two basic types of pollutants: gases and aerosols. Aerosols consist of either solid materials or liquid droplets such as sulfuric acid. Most air pollutant gases are invisible to the naked eye, with the exception of nitrogen dioxide, which has a brownish color. Even air that appears to be clean and clear contains a multitude of small solid particles. One cubic foot of air can contain millions of air pollution particles! Scientists have observed that cities can have hundreds to thousands of times more particles than rural regions.
What is ozone pollution?Ozone forms in both the upper and the lower atmosphere. Ozone is helpful in the upper atmosphere, called the stratosphere, because it absorbs most of the harmful ultraviolet light coming from the sun. Ozone found in the lower atmosphere, called the troposphere, is harmful. Ozone found here is the prime ingredient for the formation of photochemical smog. This pollutant can irritate the eyes and throat, and damage crops. Visit the Weather Underground's ozone pollution page, or our ozone action page for more information.
What is particulate matter pollution? Particulate matter (PM) pollution is composed of very small solid or liquid particles suspended in the air. Many man-made and natural sources emit PM directly or emit other pollutants that react in the atmosphere to form PM. PM is the most noticeable pollutant because it dramatically reduces visibility in urban areas. For more information, or to learn about the health effects from particulate matter, visit the Weather Underground's particulate matter pollution page.
What is carbon monoxide pollution?Carbon Monoxide (CO) is also a major urban air pollutant. It is a colorless, odorless, poisonous gas that forms during the incomplete combustion of carbon-containing fuels. Scientists estimate that in the U.S. alone, over 60 metric tons of CO enter the air annually. The Weather Underground has compiled a page that deals specifically with the topic of carbon monoxide pollution, visit this page for more information.
What is sulfur dioxide pollution?Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) pollution is produced when sulfur containing fuels are burned. High concentrations of SO2 can aggravate respiratory problems, such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. In high quantities, SO2 can harm plants and cause rain to become acidic. Visit the Weather Underground's sulfur dioxide pollution page for more information.
What is nitrogen dioxide pollution?Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) pollution forms when nitrogen in the air reacts with oxygen during the high temperature combustion of fuel. High concentrations of this pollutant can lead to heart and lung problems, as well as lowering a body's natural immune system. NO2 is a key component in producing photochemical smog and ozone pollution. The Weather Underground's nitrogen dioxide pollution page has all the information that you need to further your knowledge on this topic.
What is lead pollution?Lead has long been known as a harmful environmental pollutant, and has been called the most harmful pollutant to small children. People are easily exposed to lead pollution through the ingestion of contaminated water, food, air, soil, deteriorating paint and dust. Lead pollution is formed and emitted during the processing of metals. The highest concentration of this pollutant can be found in the vicinity of nonferrous and ferrous smelters, battery manufacturers, and other sources of stationary lead emissions. According to the American Lung Association, exposure to lead pollution can cause neurological impairments such as seizures, mental retardation, and/or behavioral disorders. Even in low amounts, exposure to lead is can cause damage to the nervous systems of fetuses and young children. The National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead is 1.5 micrograms per cubic meter of air, averaged over a three-month period. In 1998, the EPA monitored these 5 US counties to be in violation of this standard: Philadelphia Co, PA (1.64µg/m3), Shelby Co, TN (2.02µg/m3), King Co, WA (2.03µg/m3), Madison Co, IL (2.59µg/m3), and Jefferson Co, MO (11.54µg/m3).
What cities in the world have the worst pollution?Beijing, Shanghai, Tehran and Calcutta follow Mexico City on the list of cities whose air poses greatest risk to children. Respiratory disease is now the leading cause of death for children worldwide, according to

Earth As A Weapon

At the Peoples' Health Assembly in December 2000 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, Dr. Bertell revealed to a shocked and incredulous audience that 'the latest weapons in the arsenal of the US military is Planet Earth itself ... and weather will be one of the worst destructive weapons by the year 2025'. Dr. Bertell was referring to how engineered earthquakes and tornadoes could wreak havoc on populations and nations

According to her book, electromagnetic weapons 'have the ability to transmit explosive and other effects such as earthquake induction across intercontinental distances to any selected target site on the globe with force levels equivalent to major nuclear explosions'.

For the past 40 years, the US military has conducted experiments on the earth's atmosphere using waves and chemicals. Attempts to gain control of the weather, through environmental engineering with experiments involving laser and chemicals to ascertain whether they could damage the ozone layer over an enemy; cause damage to crops and human health through exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, have been carried out by the military According to Dr. Bertell, 'changes in the earth's atmosphere bring about corresponding changes in the Earth's weather and climate'.

Another method is the use of very low frequency electromagnetic waves in weather modification experiments. These waves can pass through solid earth and oceans and have been used by the military to probe the upper atmosphere and the inner structure of the earth. They can manipulate the weather, creating storms and torrential rains over an area.

These waves have the potential to generate earth movements. 'It has the capability to cause disturbance of volcanoes and tectonic plates, which in turn, have an effect on the weather,' she states. For example, earthquakes are known to interact with the ionosphere (the atmosphere 50-373 miles above the earth's surface). In fact, many of the earthquakes that occurred in recent years were preceded by certain unexplained phenomena, says Dr. Bertell. … 'These strange coincidences have never been explained ... it seems highly probable that some of these earthquakes have been a result of human activity, not natural forces,' said Dr. Bertell.]

A Christmas Tree Threat

Did you find the perfect tree this Christmas? If it was a Fraser fir, consider yourself lucky. As this ScienCentral News video explains, one of America's favorite Christmas trees is under attack… by a fungus.
The Cadillac of Christmas Trees
Picking just the right Christmas tree can be as much of an art form as decorating it. Some people go for the short bushy ones, while for others it's a tall, slender tree with small needles that fits the bill. For those who want a pleasing aroma, dark green color, and needles that don't fall off as soon as your ornaments go on, the Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) is a top choice.
"Fraser firs are considered one of the premier Christmas trees species in the U.S.," says Christmas tree geneticist John Frampton.
But hundreds of thousands of these North Carolina natives are dying. A microscopic fungus called Phytophthora cinnamomi rots away the roots of the trees, and spreads from tree to tree through moisture in the soil. 87 species of Phytophthora have been identified around the globe, and they attack a whole array of plants.
"We estimate that it causes direct losses every year of one and half million dollars," he explains. "Once the Phytophthora is in the soil it makes it impossible to go back and replant Fraser firs in that area."
Frampton and his colleagues from the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University are looking for ways to fight back.
Grafting Fraser seedling onto resistant rootsStudying fir trees from all over the world, Frampton has found several species that have a natural resistance to the fungus. He grew seedlings and inoculated them with Phytophthora cinnamomi to look for resistance. "The most resistant species was Momi fir which is from Japan. Two other fir species that we're interested in are Pindrow fir, from the Himalayan Mountains, and Turkish fir from Turkey," he says.
Frampton has shown that "grafting" Fraser fir seedlings onto the stem and roots of a resistant tree passes on some of the resistance to the Frasers. He has since begun teaching the grafting techniques to local growers.
But, even among the resistant species, some trees are more resistant than others. "We still need to do research to ensure that we can get material that is consistently resistant," he says. So now he's searching for the most resistant trees to use for grafting — based on both genetic makeup and the environment in which they grow. Something he hopes to find by studying the seeds of the Turkish and Trojan firs he recently collected in Turkey.
"We're assembling a collection of seeds with as much genetic diversity of these two species as possible… to understand how resistance to this disease varies geographically. So that we can in the future go back and reliably get resistant material of these two species," explains Frampton.
He plans to grow out trees from the seeds and inoculate them with Phytophthora cinnamomi to look at resistance among the offspring, or progeny, of those trees.
Not Just a Christmas Problem
While a threat to one of the America's top selling Christmas trees is daunting, the stakes are even higher for Frampton's home state. Growing more than 50 million Fraser firs in the mountains, North Carolina is the nation's second largest Christmas tree producer, with a $100 million industry.
Fraser firs dying from Phytophthora root rot.image:North Carolina State University"Fraser is our most important crop in North Carolina. Unfortunately it is also the most susceptible to Phytophthora root rot," explains Frampton's colleague, horticultural scientist Eric Hinesley. "If you get Phytophthora root rot into a field, you are pretty much out of luck. Fungicide is so expensive that it would cost so much to try and get rid of the fungus that you could pretty much buy a new farm."
Phytophthora is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia and have arrived in the U.S. through southern seaports in the 1800's. But it only became a problem for the North Carolina Christmas tree industry in the 1960s when the industry went from using trees from natural groves to plantations.
But this has been a particularly bad year for root rot in North Carolina Fraser firs. The tough hurricane season of 2004 — seven hurricanes and tropical storms hit the state — brought heavy rains and widespread flooding. "We had a lot of flooding that spread the spores of [Phytophthora] around, so this past growing season, this summer of 2005, we've seen a lot of mortality due to Phytophthora root rot," Frampton explains.
Frampton hopes his grafting strategy could make such problems a part of the past, and allow the replanting of Fraser firs in areas currently spoiled by the fungus, preserving what some consider the Cadillac of Christmas trees.
On the other hand, he says the Turkish firs also make some good-looking Christmas trees, so we could one day be adding a bit of an international feel to the holidays.
Frampton's work was presented at the Southern Forest Tree Improvement Conference, June 21, 2005; Limbs & Needles, Vol. 27 (1), 2000; and Limbs & Needles, Vol. 26 (4), 1999. The work is funded primarily by the State of North Carolina, with additional contributions from the Christmas Tree Growers Association and competitive grants.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

حسن إدارة المعلومات وسيلة من وسائل التنمية البشرية

نتيجة لثورة المعلومات والمعرفة ، وطوفان التغيير الكاسح الذى ترتب عليها والإيقاع السريع الذى تتميز به ،أصبحت الدول تتسابق فى تسخير الإمكانات اللازمة للتأقلم مع الوضع الجديد وتخطط للمدى الطويل فى الاستفادة من المعلومات والمعرفة فى تنمية مجتمعاتها وعلى وجه الخصوص مواردها البشرية التى لايمكن أن تتحقق التنمية بدون تحسين مستواها الثقاقى والمادى. ولأن الإنترنت هى البوابة الملكية لعالم المعرفة ، أصبحت هى المدخل الطبيعى لأى دراسة تعنى بتفعيل دور الدولة والقطاع الخاص معا فى النهوض بتكنولوجيا المعلومات وانتشارها .

ولعل نظرة سريعة لتقرير التنمية الإنسانية للعالم العربى والصادر عام 2002 عن الأمم المتحدة يعطينا مؤشرات محددة لما أقول . لايزال أجمالى عدد مستخدمى الإنترنت فى القارة الإفريقية قد وصل إلى 4 مليون مستخدم ( نصيب منطقة الشرق الأوسط كله منها 5ر1 مليون مستخدم ) ولكننا إذا استثنينا جنوب إفريقيا وإسرائيل من هذا الإجمالى لتبقى لدينا 2 مليون مستخدم فقط مقسمين على باقى دول المنطقة . ومصر باعتبارها أكبر دولة عربية ، لاشك أنها وعت تلك الحقيقة فسارعت بالانضمام للنادى تكنولوجيا المعلومات فى خطى متسارعة منذ عام 90 على النحو التالى :
· أتاحت الدولة ( مركز المعلومات والمجلس الإعلى للجامعات) الإنترنت مجانا لمن يريد منذ عام 93 لخلق ثقافة معلوماتية .
· تلا ذلك دخول النظام العالمى للموبايل GSM عام 96 ووصل عدد المستفيدين أكثر من 5ر4 مليون مشترك فى الشركتين الحاليتين اللتين تقدمان الخدمة .
· بدأ استخدام التجارة الإلكترونية عام 98 وإن كان من الصعب بعد قياس مدى حجمها لعدم توافر المعلومات الموثقة ولمحدودية مستخدمى كروت الإئتمان على الأنترنت فى الوقت الحالى.
· إنشاء وزارة للاتصالات وتكنولوجيا المعلومات عام 96 لقيادة برنامج قومى يطور الاستراتيجيات والسياسات والبرامج والمشروعات التى تحقق التقدم التكنولوجى الذى نأمله فى مصر .وبديهى أن تحسين جودة التعليم لدينا وتشجيع البحث العلمى لابد وأن يواكبا ثورة المعلومات إذا كنا نريد أن نستفيد منها أقصى استفادة ولكى تكتمل منظومة " حسن الإدارة " لهذا المورد البالغ الثراء والتجدد ، فلا يزال العالم العربى كله ( ومصر جزء منه ) يمثل أكثر المستويات انخفاضا بالنسبة لدول العالم التى تخصص مابين 2 – 3 % من دخلها القومى للبحث العلمى فى مقابل أقل من نصف فى المائة للعالم العربى كله .

Technology Of The New Age

Average is Good
How smart are you? Are you an excellent driver? Odds are you think you're above average, but, odds are, you're not.
Cornell University psychology professor David Dunning not only studies how we assess our abilities, he witnesses it every finals week. As students leave the exam hall most think, "I think actually I did above average," or even "I think I did pretty well."
"Everybody thinks they're above average. Obviously not everybody can be above average. Somebody has to be below average," Dunning says.
Dunning has conducted numerous studies of people's ability to assess their abilities. He found the great majority of us overrate ourselves at every task you can think of, from sports to driving to academic achievement.
"If you ask people, for example, how they compare against everybody else, like how disciplined are they, they say they're more disciplined than the average person… the average person says they're more idealistic, ethical, moral, giving," he explains. "A typical American says they're less likely to get the flu than everybody else, and these things just can't be. We can't be more invulnerable than other people on average, we just can't be."
And as he and others wrote in Scientific American Mind, the poorest performers are also the poorest at self-evaluation. For example, the bottom 25 percent of students tend to think they're doing better that 65 percent of the class.
"People who are doing really badly, they're performing really poorly, tend to think that they're doing quite well," he says. "Which is really interesting because if you ask them to predict how other people will behave in general they're largely accurate. They actually get other people in general right more or less but they really get themselves wrong dramatically."
On the other hand, the select few students at the top of the class who are doing as well as they predict, tend overrate the abilities of their classmates. "They're rather accurate at knowing how they've done," he explains. "But because the test is so easy for them, they think it's easy for everybody… they're often surprised at how poorly other students do, they had no idea."
Dunning says his studies have uncovered no gender or age differences in our incompetence in the area of assessing our competence, except one — scientific ability. Giving a group of male and female students a pop quiz about science, Dunning says he expected the women to think less of their science talent than the men in the study would. So, it wasn't surprising that at the end of the session when the researchers asked the group to estimate how well they'd done, the women underestimated how well they'd done, while the men didn't.
"But there was no difference in reality. They did equally well," he says. "But it mattered because also at the end of the session, we asked all our subjects whether they wanted to take part in a science jeopardy contest... for fun and prizes. And what we found was that the women in our study were less likely to volunteer and the only reason they were less likely to volunteer was because they thought they had done worse on that test they had just taken. No difference in performance, but a difference in perception and that difference in perception drove whether or not they wanted to do more science."
image: ABC News"Our data suggests that these perceptions can drive what you're interested in doing in the future much more than your actual performance, the actual skill you're demonstrating," says Dunning.
Throughout their lives people will make thousands of decisions based their perception of their own skills, knowledge and moral character, he points out.
Dunning says many of our misperceptions are understandable because people tend to compliment us — at least to our faces.
"If you're a bad boss, people aren't necessarily going to tell you you're a bad boss. Because after all, you are the boss," he says.
But by only hearing good things about ourselves from other people we're left with a biased set of information about ourselves. "So, yeah, we're going to think we're wonderful, that's what the world has told us, that's what other people have told us," Dunning explains. "It's what our parents have told us, that's what our colleagues have told us. Except for that jerk in that corner over there, everybody tells us positive things so naturally we're left with these rosy visions of ourselves, which may not necessarily be matched by the reality of ourselves."
So has writing the book on self-insight improved Dunning's own self-insight?
"I don't think I'm any better at assessing myself, but I do respect the possibility that on some days I'm going to find out that what I think about myself is just flat wrong. And I think the way I approach life now is when those days happen I'm just not surprised anymore."Dunning suggests that one way to think about remedying misperceptions about yourself is actually to lean on other people. "Often the road to self-insight runs through other people, and that can happen a lot of different ways," he says. "So you can ask people directly for feedback about yourself. And one of the things I tell people is that if two people give you the exact same piece of negative feedback, to at least consider the possibility that it might be true."
Another way, he says, is just to compare how you handle situations with how other people handle the same kinds of situations. "You might see ways in which you can be doing better," he explains. "The key is, don't rely just on yourselves, don't remain in your own private world."
This work was featured in the December 2005 issue of Scientific American Mind, and "Self-Insight: Roadblocks and Detours on the Path to Knowing Thyself," David Dunning, Psychology Press, New York, 2005. Dunning's work was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health.