World. Actually

A World In Your Hands

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Comparing primary school education around the world

Primary education provides children with the skills they need to progress through life. As every parent knows, some schools are better able to provide children with a solid foundation in maths, science and reading than others.

While comparisons between schools of the same country used to be sufficient, an increasingly globalised world means that comparisons between different countries’ educational systems are becoming more frequent.


Primary maths

Asian schools typically offer their primary school students the best education in mathematics, with Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan leading the world. In Europe, Northern Ireland is the top performing education system for maths, followed by Belgium, Finland, England and Russia.

In terms of maths, US academics say that England has shown one of the biggest improvements between 1996 and 2011. This may be attributed in part to institutions such as the IB School and its Primary Years programme.

Systems such as this succeed by instilling children with a positive attitude to learning and by emphasising their intellectual, physical, personal and social development.

Primary science

Korea provides the world’s best system for teaching primary science, followed by Singapore, Finland Japan and Russia. The next five best are Taiwan, the US, the Czech Republic, Hong Kong and Hungary. England ranks as 15th – probably due to its wide ranging performance.

While inner city schools often struggle with low resources and therefore motivation, better funded institutions provide a reliably high standard of education. For those seeking an international school, London has a number of good options, such as the IC School.


Primary reading

The top five countries for reading are Hong Kong, Russia, Finland, Singapore and Northern Ireland. If the number of pupils reaching the highest levels of ability is taken into account, Northern Ireland ranks in third place.

The next five best primary education systems for reading are the US, Denmark, Croatia, Taiwan, and Ireland. England comes is ranked 11th.  



Overall scoring

For reading, maths and science, the world’s leading primary education providers are Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the west, the best overall systems are Finland and Russia.

In these countries, teachers are well-respected and viewed as valuable assets. But while individual countries’ governments should be praised for any long-term investment in education, this isn’t the whole story. 

Success also depends on the availability of learning resources and support at home. For example, in Finland, the parents, the community, and the culture itself support reading. The combined affect is that students are genuinely interested in learning how to read.

Resource box:

Maps of World

Top ten countries with lowest primary education.

TIMMS & PIRLS International Study Centre

TIMMS and PIRLS 2011 achievement results in reading, mathematics and science.

Lego Learning Institute & Danish University of Education

International trends in primary school education.



Filed under primary schools primary school education

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Asia’s skyscrapers, Part 1

Asia is growing tall. If you are a casual architecture enthusiastic who is planning on a trip to the United States to check out their state-of-the-art buildings, you may want to give it a second thought after reading this post.

As avid architecture fans know, right now Asia is the place to be when it comes to tall structures. Not only do they dominate the list of tallest skyscrapers in the world, but they also boast the 2 tallest non-skyscrapers structures. If we ignored the United States on this list, it is revealed that the top 31 tallest skyscrapers in the world are located in Asia.


On one side of the planet, we have the Middle East oil giants like the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia. The top 2 tallest skyscrapers in the world belong to this region. The income brought in by all this oil has in turn prompted these countries to invest in renewing and improving their cities’ infrastructure. In doing so, these cities will become staple tourist destinations or financial capitals.


However, on the other side of the world, we have the Four Asian Tigers and China. These countries have maintained one of the highest growth rates in the world for a couple of decades now, and the results are starting to show. China, Hong Kong and Taiwan have a special eye for tall buildings- Taiwan’s Taipei 101 is a perfect example of this.


If these statistics haven’t made you feel even the slightest bit of vertigo, then stay tuned for the second part of this post, where we will talk about the future of tall buildings. (Hint: Asia is going to stay at the forefront in the upcoming years.)

Filed under skyscrapers asia united states burj khalifa asian tigers

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Five reasons to plan a trip to Nepal

Nepal is a unique destination for trekking, rafting, mountain-climbing or just relaxing and enjoying the sights. With eight out of the ten highest mountains in the world, Nepal is a great destination for adventurers and sight-seers alike.

There’s plenty to see and do across this colourful country, including many opportunities to live and volunteer in the bustling cities and quiet villages. Gain a fantastic experience you’ll remember for a lifetime by planning a trip to Nepal.

You’ll be visiting living history

 Because Nepal is land-locked, it’s seen little outside influence over the last few decades. Trade has to survive on foot power, with porters having to haul heavy loads through mountains and from city to city. In this way, little has changed for centuries.

In Kathmandu, narrow passageways filled with local traders make up colourful neighbourhoods which seem to have jumped straight from history.

The ancient royal capitals of Patan and Baktapur are also well worth exploring, as is all of the greater Kathmandu valley. A visit to Nepal is a visit to a variety of different time periods all in one trip.

You can see every type of landscape

 Covering only 230km, Nepal goes from 71m in its southern regions to 8,850m at the very top of mount Everest. Within this country, you can see every type of environment imaginable.

 The plains are home to wild animals such as rhinoceroses and elephants, while the forests contain lush plants and flowers for walkers. There are also stunning beaches, amazing cities and eight of the world’s highest mountains. What more could you ask for?

You’ll have the chance to make a difference

 Nepal has plenty of volunteering projects available through companies such as Projects Abroad for anyone looking to make a difference in the developing world. Choose from teaching, care, medicine and much more and make the most of your adventure abroad.

 A volunteer in Nepal will be able to live with a host family, giving them a real taste of what it’s like to live as a local. You’ll also have plenty of time spare to explore this amazing country and combine new experiences with a fantastic holiday break.

You’ll get to try some amazing food


In Nepal, there’s a dish for every traveller as the country has seen its fair share of visitors over the last 50 years. The culture of food in Nepal is varied, as Mongol traders from Tibet would typically meet with those from the Indian plains in years past to exchange spices, recipes and local produce.

 From tourist haunts to local joints, there’s more than enough to provide for every taste.


You’ll get to see the world’s largest mountain range

 The Himalayas are a truly breath-taking sight and visible from almost everywhere in Nepal. If you fancy a challenge, there are plenty of tours which will get you up close but they’re still a joy to behold from anywhere in the country.

 The Great Himalaya trail encompasses a network of treks and trails across the mountains to form one of the longest and highest walking trails in the world. Walking the mountain range is one of the earth’s true adventures and you’ll be amazed by the breathtaking landscape.

 A land of intrigue and mystery, Nepal has been called one of the top places to see before you die – so what are you waiting for? Historic sights, amazing landscapes and vibrant cities await in the country which is a constant source of inspiration for global sight-seers.


Resource box

Tourism in Nepal

Information from Wikipedia.

Tourist information for Nepal

A wealth of information regarding different regions of Nepal.

Lonely Planet guide to Nepal

Information for travellers to Nepal.

Filed under volunteering abroad volunteer nepal

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The best European winter places

Except when the weather is crisp cold with a blue sky, the UK isn’t really one of most appealing places to spend the winter. Most of the days are wet and grey and the snow is rarer every year. The good news is that there are countries a flight away where the winter is synonymous of wonderful landscapes, snow and great skies. A city break in one of them will make your winter less depressing and bland.

Ski resort, countryside or city

Whatever you want to do, whether it is skiing, walking in the countryside or simply visiting a city, Europe offers something for everyone in winter. Of course, the scandinavian countries are the best for lovers of snowy landscapes. While the sun doesn’t get out too much in Lapland, the northern swedish city of Abisko is best for cross-country skiing and seeing the aurora borealis.

Aurora Shower

The Eastern European countries become fairytale-like when covered in snow, especially cities like Prague and Krakow. After a wander through the old towns to see their castles, towers and spires, you can get a warm and welcoming cup of coffee or hot chocolate in the brasseries.

The Alps are of course the best place for ski lovers, with many resorts in France, Switzerland or Italy. There, you will rediscover that snow can be fun and not only something grey and threatening that lay on roads and pavements. The atmosphere of the resorts is unique and warm and you will quickly forget the cold with a cheese fondue and a glass of local white wine.

The Alps

Filed under Europe winter the Alps skiing Prague Krakow

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5 dating customs that’d never catch on in Britain

Here in the UK most of our dating customs have faded out over the years but across the globe dating rituals have an important role when people are choosing a suitable marriage partner. Here are five continental dating customs that’d never catch on in Britain!

1. Turkey

When you travel through certain parts of Turkey you might notice empty milk bottles sitting on the beams of some of the roofs of the houses. An old dating custom that some Turkish people still use is to place these empty bottles there as a sign that their daughter is ready for marriage.

Any eligible bachelor who manages to knock the bottle off is allowed to ask for the girl’s hand in marriage. Her father will then look at his financial situation and give his answer based on whether or not he thinks the suitor could provide for his daughter and imminent grandchildren after the wedding!



2. France 

A scary dating custom in France that you might want to be aware of is that as a general rule three kisses shared between two people means they are in a relationship! Not even three long passionate kisses – three pecks on the lips and that’s it, you’re together!

In French culture showing affection is taken very seriously and often is only used when people want to show exclusivity. If you are thinking about hooking up with a French person then take things slow!

Meeting European singles through online dating might be best because you can make sure you build a connection before you lock lips and become forced into a relationship!  Follow eHarmony on Twitter for more information.



3. Japan 

In Japan a person’s blood type is seen as an accurate prediction of their personality and future prospects. Blood type A signals creativity while type B suggests someone who is easy-going. Type AB is thought to suggest a split personality – not a good thing to reveal when you are trying to date!

This means that, much like the use of horoscopes here in the UK, blood type is an important factor when Japanese singles are thinking about dating. Yet far more people trust in this custom than we trust in astrology and many may refuse to even attempt dating someone outside of their blood type!


4. Iran

Dating is actually illegal in Iran. Boys and girls are kept separate throughout school until they have reached a suitable age for marriage. Their parents will then introduce them to a partner who it is believed they will be suited to. I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t trust my parents to find me a suitable spouse! 



5. China 

In China and many other Asian countries it is customary for a newlywed couple to live with one set of parents for a while after they are married. This often leads to problems between the families as they argue over which parents will be chosen. Living with the in-laws… sounds like a recipe for disaster to me!


Sometimes you may feel nostalgic for a time when British men were courteous gentlemen and the women were shy and retiring ladies, but after looking at some of these continental dating customs I for one am thankful that we have let go of most of our old dating rituals and are free to make our own choices!


Which dating custom freaks you out the most?

Resource box

Men’s Health

Men’s Health discusses which tradition British dating customs should still be used today


Factmonster describes some of the dating customs around the world

Health Guidance

Health Guidance discusses how dating differs across the globe

Filed under Dating customs dating Culture dating online dating Single dating

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5 tips for using technology to help your child to learn

Nowadays, children are au fait with all aspects of technology so they’ll naturally be using computers, mobile devices and the internet as part of their school work. If you aren’t used to using these devices, here are some tips for how to integrate technology with your child’s academic work, successfully.

Internet security

First of all, make sure any device that your child is using (such as a laptop or iPad) has the appropriate anti-virus and internet security software installed on it. Protecting your child from websites which are not appropriate for them is easy to do and won’t take long. It really is essential if your child uses these aids every day.

Blocking programmes can disallow websites on the basis of profanity or explicit content and make sure that your child is safe online.

Choose websites together

In order to really get involved with your child’s learning, it might be a good idea to sit down with them and come up with a list of useful websites for them to use. For example, if your child is attending an international school such as IC School (, there are plenty of websites which can help them learn a new language quickly.

Search the web together and come up with some websites which you can then look into in more detail.

Use other techniques too

While the internet can be enormously helpful in allowing your child to find facts and information they may not otherwise have found, technology should only be part of the learning process. Social interactions, teaching organisational skills and setting aside time for study are all important facets in helping your child to learn. Whether they’re studying for GCSEs or working for an IB Middle Years Programme, your child shouldn’t be spending hours in front of a computer by themselves.

Explain copyright and plagiarism

There’s a lot of information available online and explaining copyright issues to your child is important. Let your child know that they cannot copy and paste information directly from the web and claim it as their own work. Not only are the legal implications important but your child may not take pride in their work if they lean too heavily on these sources of information.

Encourage learning above all else

Your child will be able to use computers and the internet to create amazing pieces of work, but be wary of letting them spend too much time on elaborate design. It’s easy to let fancy software get in the way of learning – let them know that, while you’re impressed with their skills, it’s the learning that matters.

There are plenty of creative ways to use technology in helping your child to learn. If you’re not all that confident, try practising your own skills before lending a hand to your son or daughter.

Useful links

Improve your child’s study habits

Advice from The Complete Idiot’s Guide online

How to help your child study

Article from

BBC Schools

Educational articles from the BBC

Filed under technology for children learn with technology learn using technology technology for kids

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The beauty of Switzerland

A lot of people forget about the natural beauty of this country which is wrapped around by numerous European countries: France, Germany Italy & Austria.

Home to the Swiss Alps (AKA Central Alps), the country has such diverse landscapes. It’s a great place to hike, if climbing hills is your kinda thing.

Bachalpsee - near Grindelwald

Bachalpsee - near Grindelwald

Valley of Dreams - Interlaken, Switzerland

Valley of Dreams - Interlaken



Sanetsch Pass

Sanetsch Pass

The Matterhorn

The Matterhorn

This is just 5 examples of Switzerland’s natural beauty.
Why not book a flight and get over there and see it for yourself?

Filed under switzerland alps swiss alps central alps natural beauty hiking

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Japanese Culture and Traditions – at the Dinner Table

So you’re sitting with a Japanese family with your noodles in front of you, smelling beautiful with the steam floating up.. But you don’t just dig in to it- that would be extremely disrespectful to the Japanese culture. Here are a few things you’ll need to know if you ever find yourself in this kind of situation.

Japanese food

First thing’s first; most meals will begin with the phrase, “itadakimasu” which literally means “I humbly receive”- it’s like saying grace or something like “bon appétit” to show you’re thankful for the food that has been prepared for you.

You will see many people lifting bowls of soup or rice closer to their mouths so that they don’t spill food when using chopsticks. This is perfectly acceptable in the Japanese culture and not frowned upon. One thing that could be considered disrespectful is when the dish is not finished- you should eat everything that’s given to show your gratitude.

Although it’s very important to chew your food with your mouth closed, it’s encouraged to slurp most noodles (but not western-style noodle like pasta), as it demonstrates that you are enjoying the meal! Miso soups would also normally be drunk directly from the bowl.

Noodle slurp

If you were to pour soy sauce directly onto plain white rice or sushi, it would be like spreading ketchup on plain bread in the west- it’s just not normal. Sauces like this would be in a small bowl in which you could dip your food into.

Older traditions would say that eating whilst walking or eating in public is a no-go, although the younger generation may have become a little more flexible with this certain tradition.

So these would be the basics of Japanese dinner etiquette. You would enjoy adapting to this culture because the food is really good! You’d be able to understand the country so much more with the locals on your side after you’ve demonstrated that you understand their culture and traditions.

So why not give it a try? You could even throw your own Japanese dinner party for a bit of practise.. “Itadakimasu!”

Filed under japan food japanese culture and traditions dinner etiquette