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The difference between instant evaluation and improving recognition

Raymond Cheng

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend Dr. Justin Barclay's seminar on exploring positive social change in AEA. Dr. Barclay was both highly professional as well as very knowledgeable in terms of the various techniques and know-hows on the identification of purpose and approach for program evaluation, evaluation for social change, as well as ensuring accuracy to elicit, and hence implement, such changes. His seminar on social change in AEA led me to re-think some of the issues I encountered just earlier this month when I was lecturing to a class of some 20 business PhD students from Vietnam.

But before I start, I will need to make a point first. Maybe you'll find the following rationale of mine a bit weird but I have always believed that true learning has nothing to do with the degree that the student receives when he or she graduates. Instead, if a student does learn the good side of the material by heart to become (not his knowledge but) his virtues – I know you might think virtues cannot be taught but let's not debate on this for now – the virtues will change him to be a better man with better working relationships (as well as the personal ones) with people and which also in turn will bring him, in most of the cases, better and more prosperous results in his future endeavours. On the contrary, if he or she learned the material with an unethical intention, he might turn himself into one of those people who came up with freaking ideas like producing the melamine milk in China back in 2008 or those fake eggs, fake pork, fake beef (oh yes, the rat-burgers), toxic foods (see video), etc., not to mention those genuine yet dirty foods or the garbage-fed cattle (also see below).

Fake foods in China, 2013. Source: The Run List Channel

Food safety in China: Noodle factory's dirty secrets. Source: Apple Daily

China's garbage-fed beef scandal. Source: NTDTV

But why am I saying this? Think about the following. If you graduated from a 4-year government-funded degree program, studied and learned the stuff, passed the examinations, just to find out that your degree is not recognized anywhere, what would you think, especially when you might have spent the money and invested the time you have on your education? I am not saying that when people's degrees are not recognized they will turn bad. What I am saying, is that by denying people what they have struggled and fought for could be a very nasty way to disappoint them – and disappointed citizens in a socialist country is the last thing you would like to see, particularly if you are in power. After all, it's all about finding an exit for the talented: who would want to make fake foods if one could use his knowledge for the good of his people, or even the mankind?

Back to my PhD students. The issue they had was whether the Vietnamese government would recognize the academic programme in which they were enrolled. Well, I was kind of puzzled at first because the unversity is state-funded and the programme is properly accredited so how could the government not recognize it? But wait, it was the subsequent evaluation from the local authorities that they were worrying about. In fact, I can always understand why students are so nervous whenever it comes to evaluation of foreign credentials. Over the years, I have seen perfectly legitimate, quality academic credentials not being evaluated as it should be simply because of various non-academic factors, including but not limited to political issues, lack of reciprocal recognition, or even differences between education systems. I have seen honours degree level diplomas from world-class universities being downgraded to useless certificates, serious postgraduate studies in acute fields being label as non-academic practioner's training, master's degrees from a same university being evaluated differently as a result of local evaluation practices, and even doctoral level qualifications being ignored (or downgraded) merely because of differences in education systems [1] – so their worries were actually justified. And what's more is that even the locals (in Vietnam) were not very happy or confident enough with their own education system [2] despite continuous improvement being made over the years (see below) which means the evaluation outcome does seem to mean a lot to them.

Modern face of Vietnam education, dated Sept 14, 2010.

Improving education quality in Vietnam 2010. Source: Vietnam Television, VTV1

So the question I had in mind was what could I possibly do to help these worried students? The answer was simple because, obviously, the students were just a bit over-worried about the evaluation issue. What they were really unaware of was the difference between instant evaluation and improving recognition. Instant evaluation is what you get on the evaluation report at the time you filed for an academic evaluation. Results of evaluations (even with the same qualification) vary with the time of filing, socioeconomic factors, current trends, and even the political atmosphere. Think about the distance learning degrees back in the 1990s. If you have ever filed for an evaluation of any distance learning degrees (let alone online degrees) back then, you would likely be told that these degrees were not evaluated or simply not recognized unless one could provide proof of residency (which then makes the degree on-campus, not DL). But if you do so today, you will likely find that most evaluators will accept them. Evaluation practices evolve with time and by the time you have graduated things could already have changed – which is what improving recognition means. If you believe that what you do is on the right path, justified and correct, then it is just a matter of time that the evaluation report will "evolve and change" to what you anticipate, provided that's the global trend. What really matters is that the course of study should be properly accredited at a recognized institution. Take China as an example, who would ever, back in the 1980s, foresee that degrees from this country would be so widely accepted by universities worldwide?

Studying is an interesting investment. The longer you have graduated, the more prestigious your degrees become. Think about this – when was the last time you questioned your grandparents' degrees? You don't (even if you think it's completely outdated and obsolete). Not because the quality must have been better back then, but because we all evolve and value-add various other experiences on top of the knowledge we acquired. Had it not been for such a value-added effect, we would all have been constantly re-doing our degrees one after another, particularly when the pace of technological advancement is happening so fast these days that those who are doing a 4-year technical degree would already find what they have learnt in the first year quickly becoming obsolete even before they graduate.

November 20, 2013


Raymond Cheng, PhD DPA FRSA, is the founder and chief editor of He is an adjunct professor in international business and in marketing, an independent policy analyst as well as a language and cultural briefing consultant.

Email Raymond at raymond {dot} cheng {at} kellogg {dot} oxon {dot} org

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Note 1: Local equivalence of foreign credntials is normally not granted for degrees obtained in the field of medicine, nursing, denitry, homoeopathy, pharmacy, physiotheraphy, veterinary, animal husbandry, etc. and also for some engineering or technical degrees.

Note 2: See the Financial Times report, "Vietnam gets to grips with its business schools" by William Barnes, accessible at

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The RendezvousBuildersCommentatorsContributorsReadersResearchers
Reflection Pages • Miscellaneous Stuff
The difference between instant evaluation and improving recognition – November 20
Freddy Krueger revisited: Politically correct education? – October 23
From the evaluator's perspective: Justified conclusions and decisions – October 8
Online and distance learning degrees – evaluator's perspective – September 25
The moment fake degrees turned recognized and appraised – September 9

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COUNT ON THE STATISTICS  100% Towels (c) Daniel Chittka
Photo © Daniel Chittka

This new section contains some interesting statistics in bribe and corruption, please check back for more as we pile up our numbers!

It's statistics time!  Using n-gram: kickback, graft, bribe and corruption - Comparison of their historical occurrences from 1810 to 2009 A.D.

  The word guanxi (collocation) and meanings of bribe: Deeply rooted, disgusting, sad endings

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Photo © Doug Logan
tagged by area of interestBY AREA OF INTEREST
Pragmatics: Politeness trends from the historical perspective of global trade
Computer mediated communications: Social network – Came riding the waves of amazing coincidences
Language acquisition:
A critique on "A corpus driven study of the potential for vocabulary learning through watching movies"

Grammatical analysis: "When a linguist stumbled upon a Buttonwood"
Lexicon and the corpus: "John Sinclair's lexical items – an introduction"
tagged by regionBY REGION • Anything AsiaUS Presence in Asia
ChinaTaiwanHong Kong and MacauJapanKoreaSingaporeMalaysiaPhilippinesPakistanIndiaAfghanistanVietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and MyanmarTimor-Leste and IndonesiaMongoliaNew Zealand and Australia
tagged by topicsBY TOPIC • BiofuelRhino and elephant poachingAmerican movies hit China marketChina Internet censorshipChina's outward FDI opportunitiesGlobal rice yield
Island disputes in Southeast Asia | Senkakus-Diaoyu and historical findings | Dokdo-Takeshima | Spratly, Paracel, Scarborough | Kurils

For those you who don't have time to read all our news excerpts about the Asian island disputes (links above), you may find the following video, "The economic impact of a war between Japan and China", very enlightening.

© Minute MBA: More from

Free Pussy Riot!
Free Pussy Riot!

Photo © Igor Mukhin, retrieved from Wikipedia

"This trial is another example of the Kremlin's attempts to discourage and delegitimize dissent. It is likely to backfire." John Dalhuisen, Director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Programme

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11/16 Merkel challanges Putin on imprisonment
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01/15 Masha's sentence deferment denied
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The Knife supporting PR at Pukkelpop

08/17 Against verdict on PR – Day of Solidarity
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GLUCK ON SOCIALISM AND CHINA Asia (c) Robert Churchill
Photo © Robert Churchill

Professor Sidney Gluck (c) Sandi BachomI am honored to have obtained Professor Sidney Gluck's (right) permission to allow me to repost here some of his work and interview related to China and socialism. Professor Gluck is professor emertius at the New School University in New York. A classical Marxist, Gluck has been studying China for 60 years in history and modern development. He has lectured all over the U.S. and still welcomes engagement at the age of 94 – photo © Sandi Bachom


Usman Khurshid on Mike McCune's HD Monitor with Paths logo with Maartje van Caspel's Public Space
I am proud to announce that the website is now carrying the technology updates from Usman Khurshid's Usman is a network consultant and works in a mixed environment of Windows and Linux platforms. He likes to study about the latest advancements in computer technology and shares his views on his blog.

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Photo © Usman Khurshid, Mike McCune, Maartje van Caspel
COMING 2019 – COMPUTING CORPUS Active Network Hub (c) Phil Sigin-Lavdanski
Photo © Phil Sigin-Lavdanski

Oh, please do not get me wrong. This new section is not about computers, electronics or any engineering stuff, but rather I am currently constructing a new corpus based on Spectrum, the monthly publication from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers USA, from July 2007 to date. Having been a member for over 20 years since 1992, I am always fascinated by some of the terms scientists use when they talk about or envision their new inventions or methodologies. How many of them eventually come into practice? Could there be some insights we could possibly derive, from the linguistics perspective?


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