For us, the race is (not) on

I remember reading an article a while ago on Newsweek and according to it, the race is on between universities around the globe in getting the most number of foreign students. That means now it’s not just between US institutions like Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. According to London’s Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), although the Western universities are still the clear winner with the US taking all the top 8 slots, the rankings are more diverse. No less than 30 countries are represented in the top 200. Unless US colleges keep reinventing themselves, they will lose their lead in the global game. Beijing University, the National University of Singapore and the University of Tokyo are all in the top 20.

A friend of mine from high school is now studying in Japan. She’s very lucky to get a higher education in one of the most competitive countries in the world. It’s not hard to envy her. Sometimes I wonder how it’s like to study in a global university, where facilities are the most modern, faculty is top notch, and the environment is most conducive to learning. Sadly, we don’t and I doubt if we will have – even in the next 100 years – universities like Harvard nor Yale. Even in Asia alone, we are lagging behind our counterparts. And unless the government wakes up and makes education its number one priority, we’ll keep lagging behind. Today, other Asian countries are pouring resources to homegrown schools in a bid to prevent brain drain. China is planning to spend a portion of its annual GDP (that is higher than Europe’s or US’) on higher education. Earlier last year, Malaysia announced that by 2010, they will become an international education hub with 100,000 foreign students. India plans to create Vedanta University which they claim will raise standards throughout Asia with 100,000 students and 40,000 faculty.

If you remember, last year’s THES rankings showed that 4 institutions from the Philippines (University of the Philippines, La Salle, Ateneo and UST) made it to the top 300. Yes, it’s something to be proud of but it’s not something to be complacent with. While other Asian countries strive to have a cutting-edge global educational system, the Philippines is still yet to make education a top concern.


Cell phone novels, anyone?

In Japan, the 10 best selling novels of last year included five which were originally cell phone novels. In a country where people’s habits consist mainly of manga and comic books, that is far from being surprising. In 2000, Maho no i-rando, a home page making Web site, allowed its users to upload works and readers to comment after it realized that many users write novels on their blogs. The number of its listed novels ballooned to 1 million last month. One of the famous cell phone novels was Love Sky (or Sky of Love) by Mika. It was read by 20 million people on their cell phones/computers and was made into a movie last year.

I think I might have heard about Love Sky before. But most Japanese/Taiwanese/Korean romantic movies don’t interest me. The plots are too simple and predictable and I would bet a month of my salary (and it’s not that much..LOL) that these Japanese cell phone novels are of no difference. The lack of depth and poor development of plot and characterization would kill me. That is why I was also never a fan of fan fictions.

At least, these budding young Japanese “novelists” now have a new source of income. That is, if their novels get published as a book. If not, they don’t get paid no matter how many millions of people read their novels online.

As for me, I’d stick with the traditional novels.

Sharapova wins Australian Open 2008

Maria Sharapova has won this year’s Australian Open women’s finals against Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic (7-5, 6-3). It was a well anticipated finals between the two glamour girls of tennis with the latter being the crowd favorite. This was her second grand slam finals appearance since Roland Garros in France. I was also rooting for Ivanovic, but Sharapova was merciless on the court today. Last year she also reached the finals but didn’t win the title. This year was a different story. Without dropping a set she showed the world why in such very young age she already was able to win two grand slam championships: Wimbledon and the US Open respectively. Despite her win Sharapova will remain as No. 5 in the world rankings.

As for her part, Ana Ivanovic has nothing to be ashamed of. Although she lost she now moves to No. 2 in the world rankings from No. 4. World No. 2 at 20 years old? I’d take it. The Australian Open is just the first of the exciting grand slams to come this year. I’m sure we will see a lot of Ivanovic in the coming months. There’d be a lot of opportunities and being a future No. 1 is not far-fetched.