Assessments make a lot of people nervous, and I’m not just talking about the students who have to take them. As a psychometrician (assessment expert) and World Bank staffer, I’ve worked on assessment projects in more than 30 countries around the world over the past 10 years. Time and again, I’ve found great interest in student assessment as a tool for monitoring and supporting student learning coupled with great unease over how exactly to go about ‘doing’ an assessment.
As the Armenian-American writer and humanitarian William Saroyan (1908-81) once said, children are “the only race of the earth, the race of man.” Indeed, young children exude a sincerity and innocence when expressing themselves – often captured so well in their drawings and paintings. They can be extremely creative – whether at painting, drawing, music, or performance – and especially before the age of 10 to 11 years, according to tutors.
Therefore, as part of our broad public consultations in designing the World Bank’s upcoming Systemic Country Diagnostic for Armenia, we decided to hold a creative contest for young Armenians.
First, we went to Yerevan’s School No. 19 and asked fourth and fifth graders to describe for us how they envisioned their “future Armenia”. To our great delight, the kids submitted over 100 drawings for consideration by a jury composed of their tutors.
It’s no surprise that kids’ drawings are often used in psychology as a tool to measure such things as emotional intelligence, confidence, and identity. Indeed, their drawings can be candid reflections of life as they see it, incorporating their unique observations of the world around them. Each drawing, it seems, is like a snowflake – no two are alike.
First confession: I am a seasoned smoker.
Next confession: I have long dreamed of adding “former” to that status. From time to time, my inner struggle reaches a crescendo, but then the momentum vanishes until the next wave of self-examination.
Smoking is the worst, if not the most stupid habit I have. I definitely understand that the damage caused to my health from smoking cannot be undone. I suspect my habit is a bit generational: my father was a smoker – until the doctors came up with a verdict – and the smell of smoke has been at home since my childhood. My son picked it up too, unfortunately. The only change between the generations is that my dad smoked at the table; these days we lean on the balcony.
April 7th is an Armenian national holiday celebrating motherhood and beauty. And it may not surprise you that, since it comes one short month after International Women’s Day, we tend to combine the two events into a 30-day celebration of opportunity.
We get a lot of oversees movies here in Armenia – conveniently located at geographic and cultural crossroads – so l discovered a charming film called Hidden Figures which has captured a lot of interest in this very scientifically-minded country. It is an inspiring story with a lesson that translates easily here – that if all Armenian students and workers are empowered with skills, opportunity, and family and community support, they too could reach for the stars!
“You can’t hold back time,” goes the saying (and the song). Indeed, the Laws of Nature dictate that people and societies get older and older, whether we like it or not.
But let me pose a question: are aging societies doomed to experience stagnation or a decline in living standards? Some might believe so, but I would argue that it is possible to address the realities of changing demographics that come from aging – through bold adaptive action!
After seventeen months in the South Caucasus, I have learnt a lot from colleagues in the countries of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia about this day, March 8th. It is considered one of the most grandiose days of the calendar – when women and girls of all ages are acknowledged and showered with flowers and gifts of various kinds. Gifts range from a handmade card or a trinket to a bunch of violets or mimosa flowers. Older women might receive a bottle of French perfume, cosmetics, cutlery, crockery or other household items.
On March 8th, it is a common occurrence to see street vendors selling flowers in abundance, and shops are mainly full of male customers. The most important gift is that, on this day, men are also supposed to do all the house chores, so that on this day at least, women can forget about dishes, cooking and childcare, and enjoy some well-deserved time off! In a nutshell, it is a day of paying tribute to women everywhere – in homes, classrooms, and workplaces.
Photo credit: Dmitry Karyshev
Armenia was faced with a slowing economy, sinking remittances, and inefficient tax administration. At the same time, ordinary taxpayers had to navigate arduous processes when paying taxes. The Armenian government was eager to reform its tax administration. Below is a transcript of what we learned when we spoke to World Bank experts working with Armenian tax officials to make things better.
Julia: I’m Julia Oliver.
Maximilian: I’m Maximilian Mareis.
Julia: And we have been talking with tax experts around the World Bank to find out about what they do.
Maximilian: So, let’s start with this project in Armenia. Why did we get involved?
Julia: Well, the global financial crisis hit Armenia and its three million people pretty hard. In 2012, when the World Bank began working with policymakers to improve the country’s tax administration, the country faced a pretty bleak picture. Foreign remittances were low, and the domestic economy was slowing. In addition the country had high levels of informal employment.
The European Summer is over. We’ve traded our sunscreen for spreadsheets and it’s budget time. Across Europe, Ministries of Justice, Courts, and Judicial Councils are preparing their budget plans for the upcoming year. With fiscal constraint still the order of the day, staff in these offices are sharpening their scalpels, trying to figure out how to do more with less.
So in the spirit of sharing, here is a Top 10 list of how to improve court performance without spending more money.