Monday, February 27, 2006

Politeness still matters

E-mail etiquette for all

Emails are a relatively new form of communication – emailing emboldens writers – the medium does not discourage occasional impoliteness.  Here are some things you should and shouldn’t do:-

  • Check where your message is going BEFORE you send it.
Look at the “To” and “cc” lines, and be careful which button you hit to reply to a message – reply  NOT  reply all.

  • Keep it short and simple
Everybody who has to use emails to communicate is almost by definition very busy – go straight to your point – don’t waffle unnecessarily.

  • Learn how to get the best out of your email program
Al email programs have features that help you to manage your mail more efficiently and more effectively – keep only the most recent messages in your Inbox – a forgotten reply often offends or worse.

  • Use blind copies when sending mass messages
When sending to a lot of people, use the bcc feature to save everybody getting everybody else’s email address – save people having to scroll down to the message.

  • Use a signature
Append short  personal contact details as a courtesy.

  • Don’t send things that can’t be read or opened
Nothing makes people more frustrated than not being to open stuff that they have been sent.  Check what you are sending – leave out non-verbal symbols.

  • Don’t format
Don’t send specially formatted messages – they might not get opened – or they might find their way into the Junk Mail Box

  • Don’t overquote
When replying to a message, don’t resend the whole thing – only quote the relevant bits, starting quotes with >.

  • Don’t send junk
Don’t send stuff just because it amuses you – people have to prioritize message openings.

  • Make your web address easy to use
If you put in a web address, include the http:// bit to make it recognizable and clickable.

  • Take care with the subject line
Thr subject line should tell the recipient what the message is about – no subject lines get low priority – too general has the same effect – don’t use the word ‘urgent’ unless it is urgent.
Robert L. Fielding

Out of print - pity!

Of bygone days

Gaze at the screen of your laptop, text a friend a quick message on your mobile phone, park your car in an underground car park, turn on the TV, walk into a shopping mall – be constantly reminded that you live in the modern age – the most modern age, but remember it was not always thus.

In days of yore, olden days, days of old - life was different – it went at a different lick, as they say (sorry, used to say) – and was a foreign country where things were done differently.

Try to imagine life without electricity – street lights- neon signs – traffic lights – without computers – without TV – what would we do in the evenings?

Port out- starboard home – instead of “Window or aisle?”  Deck quoits not in-flight movies – dining at the Captain’s table – not pre-packed dinners!

Books on our shelves like ‘The Weekend Book’, first published by Random House in 1955 – not that long ago – with sections on all manner of things.

What great weekends to be had – setting forth early, a well shod party – prepared for all and any eventuality – a downpour of rain – a grazed knee – unidentified flora and fauna all around.

Picnickers ready to greet travelers, landowners, gamekeepers, rustics, landed gentry, maidens, sprig-muslin dressed – out in all weathers – aware of differences in stately homes and farm buildings, public houses and hotels, porticos, Regency and Georgian,  “the Babel of styles which characterized the reign of Queen Victoria.”

Children recognizing a pied wagtail, and calling it a trotty wagtail, polly wash-dish or Devil’s Bird, and knowing it as ‘a duodecimo editions of the magpie, both in its plumage and the inconsequence of its ways’.

It went without saying that if it was January, the farmers would be carting muck and ploughing; March, sowing oats and barley; April, planting potatoes and spring wheat; May, sowing turnips and swedes and so on and so forth till year end – December, when they would be carting muck and ploughing once again.

Even small boys could look at cultivated fields and divine forage crops like kale and clover, lucerne and vetches, from grain-crops like wheat, oats, barley and rye – would know what a water-vole or a stoat looked like, or could tell a Fresian from a Jersey, a shortwool Oxford or Dorset from a longwool Leicester, Lincoln or Wensleydale.

Children enjoyed the taste of a Cox’s Orange Pippin, a Laxton Superb, or a Newton Wonder.  They knew that no season is dead; that weeds are merely flowers out of place; that the gold under the hedgerows is the groundsel; the tiny white stars are chickweed; and that hazel catkins picked now  – in January – will soon treble their length and be spilling gold dust in a warm room.

Voyaging aunts and uncles knew the signs of the coming weather – and having sayings to foretell it – would say to the younger members of their party cheerfully:

          ‘Between one and two.
          See what the day will do.’

Or if the morning was wet, they would cheer up the children in their midst by saying,

‘Rain before seven,
Fine before eleven.’

Or warn that,

          ‘Mackerel skies and mares’ tails
          Make great ships carry low sails.’

If the weather did persist and a room somewhere had to be sought, the party might have played the game of Telegrams, and from a twelve letter word like CHIMNEY-PIECE would come up with the telegram that read:-

Churchill Has Influenza, Malenkov Neuralgia, Eden Yellow fever, Please Inform Eisenhower (signed) Conference Executive.

Time to eat, and cook has remembered that ‘however witty the talk, however shady the garden, however original the cottage and its furnishings, it won’t be by these things alone that the weekend will be judged, but also by the food you offer.

Think how delicious and mouth watering are sandwiches filled with cream cheese and grated walnut, English Cheddar with slivers of green pepper and chopped pimiento, minced corn beef and mustard butter; and later, coming home hungry after a long walk to oxtail with haricot beans, Irish Stew or Lancashire Hot-pot, Red cabbage with chestnuts or Veal matelote, and to finish off , a banana whip or an apple muesli.

After dinner, the children would play games, while the mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbours would while away the remaining hours in talk of this or that; devour wit and argument, discuss a turkey and a chine, know instinctively that a lady must never sing a song that is of a decidedly masculine character; and, following advice in The Ladies’ Pocket Book of Etiquette (1840), decide against that anti-English dance, the waltz.

In conversation, following Sir Walter Scott, each would know that,
               ‘Conversation is but carving
               Give no more to every guest
               Than he is able to digest
               And that each may have his due,
               Let your neighbour carve for you.’

Moving now to farewells, the adults of the party would comfortably observe the niceties of the handshake; the high-official (body erect, rapid, short shake); the mortmain (the flat hand introduced into your palm); the digital (one finger held out- much used by the clergy); the shakus rusticus (betokening rude health, warm heart, and distance from the Metropolis); and perhaps worst of all these, the pisces (the damp palm like a dead fish).

Excusing the vigour of the children, they would say, ‘Caroline’s still got to learn there are things one doesn’t say’, or ‘has just been promoted to grown up dinner’, or ‘has never been able to resist a moustache’.

And finally, in a letter of thanks for the whole experience of a glorious weekend in your company, they would have written, ‘Back in my little flat in town, I realize how right my doctor was when he said I should enjoy life again after a complete change.  Thank you a thousand times for that change’.  The past is indeed a foreign country.
                 Robert L. Fielding


Problem based learning

A lesson plan that includes elements of problem based learning

Part 1 – 90 minute lesson plan for a class of students, consisting of six males and six females, between the ages of 18 and 24, from five different L1 backgrounds, intending to go on to study a variety of Arts and Science subjects at postgraduate level, and of mixed proficiency in English, ranging from IELTS 5 and 6 in all skills.

Using the following text:
Shine, A.J. (1983) Loch Ness and Morar Project.  Report.  Drumnadrochit: Loch Ness 2000, at

  1. Mini project title: The Loch Ness Project Poster

  1. Brief explanation of the lesson
Students would be instructed that a poster is needed to advertise the Project.    The Project would take the form of ‘text boxes’ pasted onto a cardboard backing.
Task 1.   Brainstorm the type of information people need to know about the project.                                                                            
                                                              Time for this: 5 mins

  1. Activities of each group
Task 2. Each group decides upon which particular types of information should be given prominence on the poster.
                                                                                   Time for this: 2 mins

  1. Responsibility of each group member
Task 3. Group members agree on /negotiate each other’s area of responsibility, based upon interest shown.
                                                                                   Time for this:2 mins
  1. Research
Task 4. Each student scans the document for the particular type of information they are dealing with.
                                                                                   Time for this: 10 mins

  1. Report back to group
Task 5. Each student reports back to the group – says whether they have found what they were looking for, or not.  If they didn’t find anything, they should go back to (3) above and start again.
                                                                                  Time for this: 10 mins (29)

  1. Brief write up of each member’s contribution
Task 6. Paraphrase/summarise the text selected – sts should think about word count/size of text box – write up around these limits.  OR re-negotiate more space on the poster.
                                                                                   Time for this: 20 mins (49)

  1. Organization into a single piece of writing (done by each students, with assistance by other members – use of board to coordinate details
Task 7. Basically, a redrafting based upon what other students have written – each piece could be blue tacked to the board inside a drawn border to see how it looks, whether there is room, and if there are any gaps in the information supplied by the group.
                                                                                   Time for this:  20 mins (69)

  1. Editing individually, each student working from the work of the group, placed on charts/on the board.
Task 8. More final drafting to modify each piece so that the whole thing fits.
                                                                                   Time for this: 10 mins (79)

  1. Comments – rereading – peer group editing for form and content.
Task 9. A close scrutiny of the poster, with invitations from other groups to do the same – be critical, and praise where necessary.  Students would benefit from comparing their own group’s treatment of the Project with those of other groups.
                                                                                  Time for this: 11 mins (90)
NB. All the times given are only approximate guides and should not be regarded as absolute in any way.  A Project like this one could well stretch into several periods of 90 minutes, depending upon the depth students went into their research, and whether they were allowed or encouraged to go beyond the initial material provided in class.  The order of difficulty of each task would have implications for this timing, but it is envisaged that stronger students finishing early would be able to assist weaker ones with their work.

A lesson of this kind enables students of different abilities to work within the group and yet produce something of value by higher level students – synergy being the watchword – the group success depends upon cooperation, assistance and  coordination.

In terms of the language skills, it is envisaged that those listening work harder to speakers at lower levels of proficiency.  This works, primarily because students are usually disposed to assist each other – the difficulty imposed by the task ensures relationships within the group are strengthened, and learning is enhanced at all levels; those at higher levels probably have to work just as hard as those at lower levels because they act as editors within the group, and compensate for those with fewer language skills.

With classes of students at IELTS 5 (Modest user) and IELTS 6 (Competent user) stronger students with a greater command of the language, could assist weaker students who are liable to make many more mistakes, particularly in the written component of the mini-project, as well as acting as monitors for the group’s overall contribution and success.  With students at IELTS 5 and 6 in the class, the disparities between abilities are not glaring, and weaker students always benefit with association with stronger ones, particularly in team approaches to a mini- project like this one.

The results speak for themselves; the group produce four or five written pieces of work, all at a similar standard, having used the other language skills to arrive at the final product.  

Robert L. Fielding

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thinking about role models

Labelling role models


Robert L. Fielding

A lot is said about role models – how they are the wrong ones, mostly, or how we should all become better ones for our children to emulate.  But the probable facts are that children adopt the ones they want despite our worries, and model themselves only in part on what they see in their parents.

Let’s face it, most children probably don’t know what role models are until some well meaning social commentator labels one.  That’s not to say they don’t exist, but most likely not in the ways we think.

And people change role models as they go through life – adults might not have them – they might just fulfill the needs of impressionable minds that aren’t fully aware of their own identities, or at least their fully formed ones.

For young boys, we think footballers fill that role.  For adolescent males, similarly aged film stars could play a part.  The probable fact is that, even with today’s blanket media coverage, the young only ever get part of a celebrity’s persona.

Before the media took over our lives, we were exposed to even less – I liked Bobby Charlton, the Manchester United center forward of the 60s and early 70s when I was a lad, but I hardly ever heard him speak, let alone air his views on anything.

Now though, everybody can lip-read Wayne Rooney’s ‘comments’, listen to film stars talking off the set, and read about their innermost secrets.

All this doesn’t mean that young people are necessarily adversely affected – let’s give them more credit than they usually get – a teenager is just as likely to think someone is behaving idiotically as anybody else is.  It’s just that being older we can sometimes forget what it was like to be young.

Having said that though, youngsters have many more people to choose from than I did, I think!  But still, a person you know is more likely to be a role model for you than someone you only see for five minutes several times a week on TV.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery – youngsters mimic their peers – watch what they do and you’ll have a handle on what your own sons or daughters are getting up to.

Robert L. Fielding

Friday, February 24, 2006

The First in a Series of Observations of Problem Based Learning Classes

A Journal of Observations in Problem Based Learning
(PBL2) Classes

Week 4 (Wednesday, 22nd February, 2006)

Being present as a participating observer in a PBL2 class today, I found well motivated students working in groups and solving problems based upon scenarios outlined in the University’s PBL website (Go to ) following these links:-
           Problem Based Learning

Groups of up to four students, with roles (Math Expert, IT Expert, and so on) reported to each other on what each had been doing as homework – basically reporting to the group what they needed to know to fulfill their responsibilities to the group.

This particular scenario involved traffic problems in the UAE.

Working from forms that can be accessed online at the PBL site, students identified what aspect of the problem they needed more information on.

The next part of the lesson involved formulating research questions from these areas and using them later in actual research.

Students reported to me that they found this sort of activity useful, and their motivation to carry out the task bore this out.

With every piece of missing knowledge, each student was asked to justify wanting that particular information, citing how it would carry the problem solving exercise forward.  

The teacher – a Math teacher in UGRU – stated that prior to this type of learning, students in Faculty were returning to him asking him for help – they did not know where to begin their research.

Formulating research questions from acknowledged gaps in their knowledge is giving students much needed practical help with the puzzling questions of where to begin one’s search, what to search for, and how to refine that search in the face of a glut of information on the Internet.

These types of activities – formulating research questions – justifying the need to find out – conducting initial research – refining that search – reporting back to the group at every stage – are the basis of commercial activity in the world beyond the classroom – ‘the real world’.

Within the group, content and form – information and the language necessary to convey that information to others became indivisible, ensuring that any language learnt served the purpose of communicating ideas – the most basic function of language, and one that unreal situations in language classrooms often fail to deliver in any meaningful way.

Students quickly realize when they are being given hypothetical scenarios solely to get them to focus on particular grammar points, and just as quickly react against it, in my opinion.  The reverse was true in this particular case today; the students’ realization that they needed to communicate in ‘real’ English, as it were, to enable the group to be successful in its attempts at solving real and pressing problems meant that they were highly motivated, and that they almost certainly did not feel that they were merely jumping through hoops to please a teacher.

Language was being used to serve this most basic function, rather than the function of language being subverted to create unreal conditions in which specific language could be used – as can sometimes happen in a language classroom.

This brings me to another feature of the PBL sessions – that of the change in the role of the teacher in the class – away from a more traditional ‘font of all knowledge’ to a ‘facilitator’ – students learn what they need to learn, rather than what is inside the instructor’s head.

Certainly students need occasional guidance, prods in different directions, and assistance with language, but what they need above all is the freedom to explore the world they wish to enter.  PBL lets them experience that in the classroom – at least it did today

The next entry in this short journal will deal with other aspects of PBL in the classroom, and will hopefully shed some further light on its value, in itself, and applied to other areas of learning.

Robert L. Fielding

Monday, February 20, 2006

Links to Exercises

Exercises for students

1. Punctuation, Spelling and Paragraphs
2. All sorts of exercises at:-
3. Interesting things for students:
4. Have fun spelling:

Robert L. Fielding

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Writing is discovering - parts 1 & 2 of 12

Writing is discovering (Part 1 and 2 of 12 )

We learn how to write at school and then most of us write very little afterwards. We write letters to our friends and relatives but few of us write for pleasure. To be able to write well means practicing writing, and it also means reading more.

Writing for pleasure is a good way of finding out about ourselves. We write what we know about and in writing we also find out some things we didn’t know we knew. Reading what others have written allows us to learn about them and about writing itself – how to use words/sentences/paragraphs to communicate.

Perhaps you have recently felt the need to write something down. The act of writing a letter to a friend to say what you have been doing will make you think - make you remember something you thought you had forgotten, and make you relive it and enjoy it once more. For unlike speaking to someone, which is also therapeutic, writing is permanent; you can reread it and rewrite it. And while you are writing it you can discover new meaning, find new significance in what you have done. That is how writing teaches us something about ourselves.

Writing about something we know about but haven't actually done, or writing about somebody we know about but haven't actually met - this kind of writing - to be read by ourselves or sometimes by others, is called creative writing. You create a person, an event, an idea or whatever, and what you have created remains yours. Someone said that our mistakes are the only things that we can truly call our own, but I reckon we can claim our ideas put down in print are our very own too.

You might say that there is nothing new, that someone has written it all before, but is that really true? Shakespeare wrote tragedies, comedies and historical dramas, Agatha Christie wrote ‘whodunnits’, Charles Dickens wrote about the times he lived in, but that still doesn't mean everything's been covered; your thoughts are still unique, as unique as you are.

The things inside your head, your thoughts and our feelings, are what can make you vulnerable, and if sharing your innermost thoughts can be threatening, how much more intimidating is it to have those thoughts on paper, for all to see and confront you. Creating in writing is a bold step, but once taken can be the way to increasing self-confidence. Making a commitment to your views will bring confidence; the confidence to say what you believe. But take heart, at first, it's not vital that anybody else reads your early efforts at writing. The act of writing is the thing, it's a beginning, a start to finding out something you didn't know about yourself. Sharing that new knowledge with a partner, friend or confidant is a step in the direction of greater psychological health, for you and the people in your life, for your relationships, and for your own life.

Like you, every writer has felt a need to write. Dickens had to write to prevent himself and his family going the way of his father, into prison for debt, and because he felt compelled to comment on and criticize the world he had been born into. Hemingway was driven by his sense of adventure, expressing the things he experienced in perhaps the only way he could, and in the way only he could.

Jane Ellice Hopkins said, 'Gift, like genius, means an infinite capacity for taking pains.' Dickens, Hemingway and Shakespeare had this infinite capacity, but maybe they weren't aware they had it until they started writing. Another better known aphorism is that there's a book in everyone. Those who have already started to write have realized the truth of this, and have started to discover their infinite capacity for taking pains.
The exercise I recommend you today is to try to identify some of your needs to write, which may not always be your openly stated reasons for wanting to write. Above all, be honest with yourself. Write a dialogue between you as a writer and you as a reader. It may sound strange, but you will find out something about yourself that you weren’t fully aware of.

Learning from reading (Part 2 of 12)
To write well, you need to read, but having read something you enjoyed, the thing is not to copy but to develop your own style of writing, or should I say, styles, for different genres (types of writing) require different styles.

Within the genre of the short story, for example, it is obvious that a tale about the gold rush in the Yukon will be written in a different style to a story about a suburban dilemma in England.

I prefer to use the term 'voice' when talking about any particular style. As you write words down, you will hear them in your head, and if they sound right, and are consistent your audience will attune to them whilst reading. In the same way, whilst reading a short story by someone else, you will get used to the writer's 'voice' in the words s/he has written. The more you read, the more 'voices' you will hear, and your repertoire of 'voices' will increase.

I have no intention of telling readers which books to read. We all have our favorite authors and subjects; some people prefer detective novels, some sci fi, and some horror stories. The point in reading to improve your writing is not to necessarily move away from the kind of things you enjoy, but to notice things while you are reading them.

There are several things you will already have noticed whilst reading, and some other things you may not have noticed. The structure of the novel or short story is one thing to notice, although the structures of short stories vary enormously from those of novels, and for a very good reason; the novelist has much more space and time to develop characters, for instance, or to describe scenes and events.

The question of who is telling the story is an important one. In the marvelous novel 'Cold Mountain' by Charles Frazier, the story is narrated by two characters, Inman, a soldier returning from the American Civil War, and his former love, Ada, and the story switches from one to the other until they meet at Cold Mountain after the journey Inman takes to get back to her. This is not an uncommon way of telling a story; Dickens uses a similar technique in 'Bleak House'. But there are plenty of other ways of narrating the story, and the distance from the action can also vary with whoever is telling it. The all-knowing author is one, and this is characterised in the work of writers such as Jane Austen, or Sir Walter Scott. In these novels it is clear by the end what the opinion of the writer is.

More usually, in modern novels, the writer gives clues to the reader, rather than stating in overt terms what the reader's conclusions must be. In 'The Bonfire of the Vanities', Tom Wolfe never really offers an opinion on the central character, Sherman McCoy, but rather, through the things he says and does, the writer gives the reader pretty clear indications that the man is heading for a fall, despite his own feeling of invincibility, and the title helps too. However, plot is something I wish to deal with later in this series, so let's leave it there for the time being.

The point about who does what in anything you happen to be reading is that you notice it, notice and remember. For then you will have choice, and that is what ultimately gives a writer freedom; the freedom to tell the tale in the way she wants, to create an impression on the reader. The impression readers get from reading is their own business. There are as many interpretations of any particular piece of fiction as there are readers of it. I would say that the best a writer can hope for is to keep readers interested, and keep them turning the pages.

Besides the structure of the novel; the plot and the identity of the narrator, the next thing to notice, but probably more difficult to do is to notice the language the writer uses. At sentence level, for example, it is easy to notice that Hemingway uses much shorter sentences than Jane Austen, but within sentences, the words writers use will be different too, as will the structuring of each sentence, and this will, of course, vary from sentence to sentence. There is a great deal of difference between:
'The cat sat on the mat.'
'The mat was sat on by the cat.'
using a very simple example. But the writer could write,
'The cat matted down.'
'The cat flopped matward.'
The main difference as far as grammar is concerned is that the first two sentences are conventional, whereas the second two are not; the former uses what appears to be a new word, 'matted', and the latter, a ‘portmanteau word’ matward of my own coining. Either way, the same thing happened ; the cat sat on the mat, but all four sentences have a different feel about them, a different 'voice'. Noticing the linguistic tricks writers use is one of the steps to becoming a better writer, and a more alert reader. The different ways writers use words cannot be just put into the simplistic pigeon-holes; formal and informal. Better is how salient is the action being described, or how incidental? In the examples above, the first two sentences seem to give the cat's sitting itself on the mat some kind of prominence, whereas the second two treat the cat's action as something incidental to something else that is going on, making it sound less important.

Which way the writer chooses may depend on this salience rather than on any aspect of grammar, but more of grammar later.

A useful exercise now might be to pick up any four novels at hand, and open them at any page to read and notice any differences in 'voice' you can identify, and then, having noticed that there are some, to examine what it is that makes them different. To read through the words to get at the action is one thing, to stop at them to see how your attention is being manipulated is quite another.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Saddleworth is changing

Saddleworth is changing – bricks and mortar and people too

Of course Saddleworth is changing – everywhere is changing – it always has and it always will – it’s just that we don’t always notice some of the changes – and are powerless to stop them happening, for progress isn’t always for the better.

Returning home to Saddleworth every summer, I notice the changes more than I did when I lived right there in the middle of them.

Like a familiar face, you don’t notice the person getting older – so it is with places – Uppermill is so different from the 1960s when I went to school there – rushing in and out of The Square on my way along Rush Hill to school, pushing to get on the bus to take me back home to Lydgate – to a quick jam butty and a glass of milk before I dashed out on my paper round for Mr. Power, who kept the newsagent’s at the top of the hill at that time.

It certainly has changed since those days – the Commercial is still there, but the Milk Bar’s long gone, and other things have changed too.

As well as the buildings, habits and patterns of behaviour have also altered beyond recognition.  As the population grows, people grow more remote.  I remember in the Cloggers and down the hill in The Hare and Hounds, all age groups were catered for and enjoyed the evenings together.  

Who recalls Bill Hobson sketching his mates chucking ‘arrers’ in The Hare and Hounds?  Bill used to come in and tell us tales about when he was a signalman on the Delph Donkey (Delph Station to Oldham Mumps), and he used to sketch our likenesses – Peter Archer, myself, Graham Davis, Trevor Platt, Billy Lloyd, and a lot more that I can’t put a name to anymore, all served by Dot and Fred Oldfield.

I know it’s just nostalgia, just old memories, and good ones too, though that’s all they are for me, living such a long way from Uppermill and the days I love to remember every now and then.
Robert Fielding
Formerly of Lydgate and 5 Alpha at Saddleworth Uppermill Secondary Modern School with Fez and Dot Squash, but now in Al Ain. UAE.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Where are you going to retire?

Retire in Penang, Malaysia
If you are looking for a place in the sun to spend your twilight years, you could do no better than looking at the island of Penang, off the west coast of Peninsula Malaysia.

With a much lower cost of living than many other desirable locations nearer to home, Penang is the ideal location:

  • Penang is close to major airports
Penang has its own airport with cheap and frequent flights to Kuala Lumpur (45 mins)and beyond.  Malaysia is near Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, Japan by air.
  • Real estate is affordable and investment-worthy
Condominiums: US$ 66,000 to US$ 250,000, Bungalow: US$ 66,000 to US$ 225,000, Two Storey Bungalow (5 to 7 bedrooms): US$ 396,000 to $US 1.3 million, Luxury Villas: average US$ 925,000 upwards.(
  • Penang has excellent facilities and infrastructure
The road network is good and well maintained.  Communication networks work and medical facilities are of high quality.
  • The people of the  area are warm and friendly
Malaysians welcome foreigners to their shores, and English is widely spoken.
  • Penang’s climate is mild
It is warm throughout the year.  There is seasonal rain, but no natural dangers from typhoons, hurricanes or earthquakes.  (Penang was only slightly affected by the recent tsunami)
  • The cost of living is low
A monthly expenditure of the equivalent of USD 1000 is more than enough for two people to live well.
  • The standard of living is high
Life in Georgetown, Penang, is modern – housing is good quality – services are good.
  • Malaysia is politically stable
Malaysia has a strong, stable government and economic growth is assured in the future.
  • There are schemes in place to provide ex pats to benefit from living in Penang
Foreign residents must obtain a Social Visit Pass, (valid for 5 years) which requires proof of a minimum deposit of US$ 39,600 with a local financial institution and a monthly offshore income equivalent to a minimum of US$ 2,000 per month and US$ 2,650 if accompanied by a spouse. (
You will receive a five-year Visit Pass and Multiple-Entry Visa, renewable every five years.
You can import your car or purchase a new car, tax-free and enjoyother tax incentives.
You can invest and own businesses in Malaysia.
You can enjoy a luxury lifestyle at a fraction of the cost of living in the West. It is a very affordable place to retire early.
You maintain your original citizenship and are free to travel as often as you like.
Give it a try – make enquiries at:
Robert L. Fielding

Thursday, February 09, 2006

CONTACTS For writers

CONTACTS (For writers)

  1. Middle East/Gulf magazines on all sorts of topics:-

  2. Abu Dhabi publications:

  3. UAE Publications:

  4. Index to World newspapers with lots of topic areas and links to thousands of magazines:

  5. To create your own newspaper:

  6. CNN:

  7. The Robert Fielding Times:

  8. Gulf News:

  9. Gulf Newspapers link:


  11. 1001 Arabian networks:

  12. Freelance guidelines for Egypt Today:

  13. For UK magazines:

  14. UK magazine websites:

  15. Countrybookshop UK:

  16. Latest mp3 downloads:

  17. Mikesoldmags:

  18. Sell your story:

  19. Subscriptions to magazines:

  20. GiantExplorer for books and other things:"book"&source=go-nick-popul100k-050-book

  21. TechConnect magazine for software downloads etc:

  22. JournalismNet:

  23. Surfer for magazines:

Monday, February 06, 2006

Links to useful sites of interest to many

Links to useful sites

  1. Online etymological dictionary:

  2. An English language interactive website

  3. Blackwell Publishing – List of academic journals:

  4. Ohio State University, a place to start your research:

  5. The New York Times Knowledge Network homepage:

  6. Personal Health Advice and Information:

  7. The Phrase Finder:

  8. The UGRU Online Journal:

  9. A world of words in Ask Oxford:

  10. Guide to old poetry online:

  11. History online at

  12. Writers Room at the BBC:

  13. How to create your own blog – start here:-

  14. Dictionaries:

  15. Collocation Search (for teachers and students):

  16. Visit UGRU’s Concordance  Website at

  17. Career options:

  18. Index of English Literature:

  19. Food and Nutrition Information Centre:

  20. Resources for teachers -

  21. Spelling Courses:

  22. A great site for fun with words:

  23. Ideas For Writers:

  24. English Dictation Exercises:

  25. Links and Resources for Writers:

  26. Science collections:

  27. More on SPELLING:

  28. Stress Management:

  29. Grammar Resource for teachers:

  30. Help with writing paragraphs and essays:

  31. Website design tutorial:

  32. Word Games:

  33. Links for word sources:

  34. Writers’ News:

  35. Writers Digest:

  36. Essay Writing tips:

  37. Derbyshire – My personal favourite:

  38. Take a look at my part of England:

  39. Ginger’s Tail & Other people-Other Worlds by Robert Leslie Fielding:
Good Luck

Writing is therapeutic

Writing as therapy

Sure writing is therapeutic - haven't I always told you that. Well it is. I think writing on the computer or word processor is also therapeutic, plus it doesn't make your hands ache like using a pen does. Maybe it's that way with me because I'm getting a bit older - who knows?

I have recently been thinking about what happened to me when I started work as an apprentice at Glover Bros in Mossley. Engineering excites me - it did then and it still does - just seeing those machines making other parts for other machines makes me recall the good times I had in that industry.

However, those good times came later. I had bad times at Glovers. The only half decent times I had through the week were my lunch-breaks when I would go on my motorbike to meet Pete up at Heyhead or somewhere between where he worked in Carrbrook and where I worked in Mossley, on Egmont Street - a part of that town I still dislike.

Anyway, as soon as I began working in Glover Engineering, my life became miserable. I had to go to the shops for the men three times a day and they made my life difficult, I can tell you. Some - probably most - of the men were OK, I suppose, just kidded me a bit, but some were nasty and tried their hardest to get me upset. Coming from a village. I wasn't used to having to deal with townies and I found them very different to the men I knew nearer to home.

I remember Keith Shaw, who is probably dead now, being one of the nastiest men I have ever met. There was nothing in him you could find to like. He was relentless in his nastiness and since then I have come to realize that it was he who had the problem rather than me. I was the butt of his ill-humour but I wasn't the source of it. That was somewhere else - probably in his home life or his health or in his past life as a child.

He may have had a hard time when he was a kid and so if that was the case I can forgive him. See, that is what I mean when I say that writing is therapeutic - I have never found it in my heart to forgive Keith Shaw until now, and thinking that his nastiness was the product of something nasty in his life has meant I can let go at last. I can stop hating him and that has freed me. Hate really is a wasting disease, isn't it? From now on, I am not going to indulge in it and I don't think you should either, even though you may have excellent reasons for hating, let them go - write it out of you - do it now.
Robert L. Fielding

Applying your knowledge to solve practical problems

Wondering and discovering: Applying knowledge to practical problems


Robert L. Fielding

Walking the hills around my home in the north of England as a boy of fourteen, I found myself wondering about my height above sea level compared with the height of the hills in front of me. I wanted to know how high I had to climb before reaching the top of the next hill.

I had a map, and I had found the hill in front of me on it. What I didn't always know was my exact position on the map, and so I didn't know how high I had to climb to reach the summit.

I walked up to the top anyway, but I always wondered how I could determine my height relative to my destination.

The hills around my home had strange and wonderful names. I can still remember them. Alphin, dark and massive, looking across Chew Valley at Alderman frowning back, two giant sworn enemies, and more gentle Noon Sun basking in the afternoon sunshine.

Further into the moor, names like Black Hill, Laddow Rocks, and Kinder Scout conjured up images in my young head. I still love those names.

Although their names intrigued me, it was their heights relative to me, or to each other that really fascinated me. Standing on Laddow Rocks, Black Hill several miles away looked much higher. Bleaklow Hill in the distance looked lower, and yet I knew from the map that it was quite a bit higher.

The television aerial on Holme Moss dominated that part of the skyline, and Crowdon Great Brook fell away from my feet.

On some days, the wind buffeted us about, and we had to find shelter among the rocks to eat our lunch in comfort.

Paper was easily blown away, and we knew not to leave litter anywhere. I wanted to make a gadget that would help me determine the height of each hill, but I knew it would have to be made of something more substantial than paper to withstand the blustery Pennine weather.

So, I set about making a sort of template from the only kind of material I had: cardboard. In the days before plastic bags, in the days before supermarkets, Clifford at the Co-op put the things my mother bought into cardboard boxes.
"Do you want a ride on the bacon-slicer before you go, lad?' he would say cheerfully.
I had to carry the groceries home. By the time we reached our front door, my arms were dropping off, as we used to say.

Mum emptied the box, putting the things she had bought into their proper places. Meat and dairy products went into a kind of meat safe that was always a bit cooler than the rest of the kitchen. Tinned stuff, of which there was very little, went into the pantry with the rest. Last of all, came the potatoes. These weren't new ones. New potatoes came from my father's allotment at the back of the house. These were old potatoes, and they were dusty and brown. It was my job to take out the spuds and put them where they wouldn't get damp. My father had made some shelves with spaces between them so that the air could circulate and keep them dry.

When I had carefully placed each potato so that it wasn't touching another potato, I turned the box upside down to empty the dust and the dirt.

Sometimes, the boxes would be so dirty that they were only good for making compost to grow more potatoes, but sometimes they were practically spotless on the outside, and I used one such side to make my template. I had to make sure it was absolutely clean, otherwise I couldn't bring it back into the house. This particular day I had a nice flat piece that was clean and it wasn't creased either. It was perfect. I cut it from the rest of the box with a sharp knife my mother used to cut up vegetables. The knife was dry and it was clean. I made the cut and then used my mother's best scissors to clean up the edges.

I had a square of good, clean, stiff cardboard to work on. The next thing I had to do was to work out what I wanted to draw on it. I knew from my arithmetic teacher that a circle could be divided into 360 degrees, so a semi circle had to have 180 degrees. The semi circle I wanted to draw had to be no bigger than my pair of compasses could stretch to. They would open to about a five inch maximum. They were quite big.

I drew myself a semi circle with a base line ten inches long. Now I had to divide it up into degrees. I had to decide how many degrees between each division. I decided upon ten degrees.

This was my way of finding out how to calculate the height of the next hill. I knew a little about trigonometry, and although I didn't like it very much whenever I had to do it at school, I knew enough to be able to use what I knew to construct this template.

I divided the semi circle up into 10 degree sectors, and then used the other side of the cardboard to construct a table of numbers: distances in miles, height in feet, one for every angle on my template.

It was a bit difficult and took up all my time that evening, and the next.
I remember bedtime coming up quickly on those evenings.

I did finish it though, and showed it to my Mum and Dad. They both smiled at it as I showed them how it worked. I explained about sines, cosines and tangents. How you could find the unknown length of the side of a right angled triangle if you had either the lengths of the two other sides or one length and one angle. At least that's how I remember it.

I remember that I wrote the values down from my little red book of mathematical tables, which included trig ratios and values. At least that is what I can recall now.

After the longest week, I took my gadget, as my Dad called it, up onto the moor. I remember that it was a bit misty as it could often be that high up, about 1,700 feet above sea level, and facing the prevailing weather from the Atlantic Ocean via the Irish Sea. Anyway, visibility wasn't perfect, but the cloud cover was patchy, and every now and then a corner of clear blue sky would appear, a bright patch from the quilted autumn sky.

The brief window was enough to try the thing out. I took it out of my rucksack, and my friend, John held it steady for me as I lined it up with Pule Hill about four miles away. I got John to stand back a little to tell me if I was holding the thing level or not. I adjusted it and then took a reading. In fact, it was really quite difficult to do that, to take a reading in the wind, wondering whether the thing was really level or not. I took the reading and then we sat down in the heather and entered the numbers we had in our little notebooks. We had both made charts, with ruled lines to make it easier to enter the numbers.

We worked out that Pule Hill was either higher than Mount Everest, I think, or something ridiculous like that. We were both a bit disappointed, but laughed at our results too. There were problems with the device. We knew that. We had known that before we set out, but like the lads we were, we tried to ignore them, and convinced ourselves that they wouldn't make any difference.

Back home, I did try to think how it could be improved. I thought it might need my Dad's old spirit level sellotaping to the bottom, but I didn't dare take his tools up onto the hills. We could have done something with a pop-bottle half full of water, John said, but we both knew that it would make the thing too cumbersome and clumsy, so we didn't try it. It was a good idea but it had its faults. However, the principles behind it were sound, we both agreed.

I still have that bit of cardboard somewhere at my parents' house, and I take it out and look at it sometimes. Looking at the markings on the front, the tables and numbers on the back, and reading my junior version of my handwriting, much clearer than today's scribble, I remember that tall gangly lad I must have been. I remembered my freckle faced pal John, now a surveyor for an oil company somewhere, and I am grateful for those days, for that bit of cardboard, for the hills, the heather and the wind and rain, and most of all for the making of who I am now, up there with the wind in my face, and an idea in my head.

Robert L. Fielding

Honesty in your work at university

Honesty, logic, and rigour: the basis of academic excellence

Honesty in academic life comes first – and for a very good reason – if you are dishonest in your writing at university, it will come to be your downfall.

Plagiarism – copying or borrowing without acknowledging, or quoting without referencing the author is theft. If you were to publish something under your name with someone else’s work between the covers without mentioning your sources, you would be breaking copyright laws and be prosecuted in a court of law.

However, even though you may never publish your academic work, plagiarizing someone else’s ideas, discoveries, inventions or even their thoughts written down is still theft – you can be removed from university for it.

• Logic: arriving at sensible and correct reasoning and including such reasoned arguments in essays is at the heart of academic life. Students are called upon to ‘defend’ their dissertations for the award of PhD; if the logic of their argument is flawed in any way, they will be asked to remedy it.

• In undergraduate life, the logic of students is tested every time they write for their lecturers. If anything is not logical, the person reading the paper will spot it and marks will be deducted on the basis of the inconsistency of the argument.

Rigour, defined as strictness and thoroughness in research, is essential in any form of academic pursuit.

In academic life, a lack of rigour in research can defeat the argument being put forward – there must be no exceptions to the points being argued, or if there are, they must be explained.

Of the three; honesty, logic and rigour, it is logic that causes the most problems and has to be learnt.

Failures in logic are more forgivable, particularly early on in life as a university student.

Here are some typical errors to avoid in your thoughts and arguments.

o False cause
This type of error in reasoning comes about because two things that happen sequentially are imagined to be causally related, when in fact they are not. (Sequence is not necessarily causation.)
o Confusing causation with correlation
This is closely related to the first; again, what comes first doesn’t necessarily cause a later event.
o Causal reductionism
This error is perpetrated when a person tries to explain something using one cause when in fact there are several causes.
o Appeals to widespread belief
This error in thinking is of the type; “If everybody thinks so, it must be true.” What everybody thinks is not always correct. The golden rule at university is not to take anything for granted in an argument, and particularly in your own.
o Fallacy of division
This is close to over generalization; assuming that what is true of one item is true of the whole population of items.
o Argument by repetition
Saying something over and over again does not make it true. Unfortunately, if we say something often enough, we sometimes come to believe it.
o Argument by generalization
Again, this is similar to the fallacy of division; it is the error of drawing broad conclusions from a sample too small to be representative of the whole population.
o Argument by prestigious jargon
Trying to sound like an expert by using long and complicated words.

It is inevitable, particularly in your first year at university, that your essays may contain one or more of the errors in judgment and reasoning outlined above.

Your lecturers will help you to avoid any such errors by pointing them out to you. Using them on purpose is a far more serious affair. It pays to be honest, as they say.
Robert L Fielding

Class Survey

Class Survey: Sections 809 and 810 (Level 3 Writing) at UAE University

Students in classes 809 and 810 conducted class surveys today (2006-01-31).

Here are some of their questions concerning the difficulties students face learning English. Please feel free to comment AND/OR ADD SOME QUESTIONS!

1. Do you have any difficulty with writing?
2. Can you understand English when it is spoken quickly?
3. Do you like studying English alone?
4. Are you getting help practicing English in the ILC?
5. Would you like to get help from your friends?
6. Are you interested in English stories?
7. Is learning English vocabulary easy for you?
8. Do you like writing?
9. Do you use a dictionary?
10. Do you learn English from movies?
11. Have you met any foreign people before?
12. Can you spell words easily?
13. Have you any problems listening to English?
14. Can you write paragraphs?
15. Do you have difficulty with parts of speech?
16. Do you speak English frequently?
17. Do you have difficulty speaking in English?


Friday, February 03, 2006

The real value of an education

Achieving self-actualization: The real value of education

There are times in every student’s life when it seems that education is just the worst thing on Earth.  In the middle of revision for examinations, or worse, during exams, it seems like a great idea that has gone awry.  Everybody knows the value of education, but, like youth, it seems wasted on the young sometimes.

It’s easy to say that education is valuable from your armchair, smoking your pipe, wearing your comfortable slippers, whilst watching TV.  It’s actually taking part; being a student that is difficult.  Knowing that it is for your own good just isn’t enough sometimes.

You feel like getting someone to tell you how it really is good for you.  Will it get me a better job, you ask yourself.  Will it make my life that much better?  What exactly will it do for me?

The answer is that it should get you a better job, although a lot of young graduates will tell you otherwise: it is still difficult getting a good job these days, with or without a good education.

It should make your life better, but that’s really up to you as much as anything you learn at university.

What exactly will it do for you?  I think I can answer that question, but it will take me a little longer than you might expect.

First of all, if you want to know what your education will do for you, you have to ask yourself what you are prepared to do for it.

This is no riddle, just a question that raises the issue of your own motivation and how hard you are prepared to work for something that will change your life.

If you are serious about becoming educated, getting an education, you will have to put into it what you hope to get out of it: a lot.

You must get involved in your subjects.  Immerse yourself in them, for that is the only way you will really feel the benefit later.

Right, now that we have established that you are serious, let’s begin trying to explain what your education is going to do for you.

To do this, I would like to look at the work of Abraham Maslow, who is best known for establishing the theory of the hierarchy of personal needs. (1954)

He tried to explain what energizes and motivates us.  His hierarchy was grouped into two sets of needs.  He said that a higher level need is sought after lower level ones have been satisfied.

The first four levels are:
  1. Physiological: hunger, thirst, bodily comforts

  2. Safety/security: the need to be out of danger

  3. Feelings of belonging and love: the need to affiliate with others, be accepted by others.

  4. Esteem: being competent, gaining approval and recognition
According to Maslow, these first four needs must be met before the so-called growth needs are ready to become initiated.

These are:

  • Cognitive: to know, understand and explore

  • Aesthetic: symmetry, order and beauty

  • Self-actualization: to find self-fulfillment and realize one’s potential

  • Self- ascendance: to connect to something beyond the ego or to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.

Maslow though that as a person becomes more self-actualized and self-transcendent, that person becomes wiser and more able to cope successfully with the wide variety of situations and dilemmas that face us in life.

He believed that human beings are basically trustworthy, self-protecting, and self-governing.  They gravitate towards growth and love.  He believed also that violent or evil behavior is a manifestation that some human needs are not being met.

This view of human nature is opposed to that put forward by people like Freud and Skinner, who believed in determinism, that man is driven by urges over which he has little control.

Maslow’s view of human nature was more optimistic.  Choosing between the two is
something like deciding whether the bottle is half full or half empty: it depends upon what motives you aspire to, and what you think others aspire to.

The physiological needs constitute our very basic needs for food, air, water, sleep etc.  If these needs are not met, we feel sick, irritable, discomfort or pain.  It is easy to see that for many people in the world, the satisfaction of these needs takes a great deal of their energy, whereas in a modern, well ordered society these needs are relatively easy to meet.

The so-called safety needs have to do with achieving some kind of stability and order in what can be a frenetic world.  Traditionally, our home and our family give us this.  Without strong family ties people can sometimes drift into activities that represent the opposite of order and stability.

Unfortunately, it seems that the need for safety and security, for stability and consistency, are often the highest priority for sections of our society.  Rising crime levels do nothing to alleviate this concern.

The need to love and to feel that you belong is the next up the hierarchy.  Human beings are essentially gregarious.  We join groups throughout our lives, and we need love, acceptance, kindness, and consideration.

If you give your mother a bunch of flowers, it is the thought that she really appreciates: that you were thinking about her enough to want to show it.  The flowers are pretty, and look nice in a vase, but it is the thought that counts.

The need for esteem is two-fold.  Self-esteem comes from being able to do something to one’s own satisfaction.  The esteem of others comes from the acknowledgement of others that you are doing well.  The next time you see someone admiring their new car, think of this need, the need to gain the esteem of others.

Higher up the ladder, the need for self-actualization becomes activated.    This can be summarized by the modern slogan: “Be the best you can be!”  What that is, is out there for you to find, and in my experience of life changes, naturally.

I wanted to be a train driver when I was a little boy.  That is the very last thing I want to be these days.  Nevertheless, the desire to become something and to do something has always been with me.  This is often disparaged these days by the label: ‘wannabe’.  This is to miss the point entirely.  

The thing that points me to my ambitions is not success, but interest.  A concentration on ultimate success is an obsession with the result, whereas being absorbed by a subject or activity is to enjoy and be motivated by the journey.

The successful writer Terence Higgins once said that he wished his first novel hadn’t been the big hit that it was, because after the fuss had died down, he felt as if he didn’t have anywhere to go.  There is an expression: “Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it!”

Interest is the seeking of knowledge, and using it to create.  That is the essence of  self-actualization.  Education, particularly higher education can help to put a person on that path.  I would say that this need probably comes to be felt after childhood.  In childhood, this need most likely becomes subordinated to lower level needs.  Reaching maturity in life has as much to do with one’s need to find something beyond subsistence.  This ties in with the need for self-transcendence; to go beyond oneself, to connect with others, to reach a point where empathy is achieved by awareness of the plight of others, of the needs of others, and what is usually termed, “the bigger picture”.


  • Urbanisation

  • Essay: Rapid urbanization is causing crime levels to increase.  Give some suggestions to control this trend.


  • Introduction: The urban background to criminal activity

  • What is urbanization?

  • Effects of increases in urbanization
1) Overcrowding

  • The case of Sao Paulo, Brazil

  • The case of  ‘commuter villages’ in UK.
2) Crime
      i) Crime in Hong Kong

  • Priorities in urban areas

  • Primary causes of criminal activity

  1. Priorities in rural areas: giving people a chance by improving life and lessening the appeal of the city.

G.  Breaking the link between urbanization and criminal activity

  1. Conclusion

  1. Introduction; The urban background to criminal activity

The world we live in is changing: the effects of globalization – the urbanization of Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs) – is being felt in ways that are not always beneficial.  The splitting and separating of communities and the isolating of the individual within huge, new, urban conurbations has led to increases in crime that are unacceptable in civilized, democratic societies.

  • What is urbanization?

Urbanization is the increase in the proportion of people living in towns and cities. [1] In many countries, this increase is due to the migration of people from rural areas to towns and cities.  In any migration that is not forced by mandate, what are known as push-factors and pull-factors exert influence over those moving to the city.  Included in the so-called push-factors are things like extreme poverty, desertification and general environmental degradation, which make farming more and more difficult, ethnic pressure, and lack of resources and facilities in rural areas.

Pull-factors include the attractions of full time employment; better living conditions; more facilities such as schools, hospitals and clinics; increased security; and opportunities that are perceived to be present in urban areas but absent in rural ones.

Finally, there are factors that are neutral and regardless of push or pull-factors. Decreasing death rates and increases in the birth rate of a country, or a city contribute to increases in population in urban areas. [1] Population growth in rural areas often forces people into cities.

  • Effects of increases in urbanization

1. Overcrowding

Since most migration to towns and cities in Less Economically Developed Countries (LDCs) is unplanned, a large proportion of those coming to live and work in cities have no accommodation arranged beforehand and furthermore, often cannot afford it, if it is available.  Such people, invariably poor people, are therefore forced to build some sort of shelter to protect their families, and since local authorities have no way of knowing how many people need to be housed, they are not in any position to be able to provide even temporary accommodation for newly arriving families.  The result is an enormous increase in overcrowded, poorly built ghettoes, with few amenities and virtually no sanitation or clean water supply. [2]  

                    a) The case of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, and home to approximately 25 million people, has grown in size mainly because of the migration of people from the Brazilian countryside.  65% of the growth of the city is due to migration, the remainder being the result of the birth rate being higher than the death rate; the natural growth of the indigenous population. [2]

The rapid growth of the city has led to a severe shortage of housing, and is typical of how such cities are wholly unable to cope with such a huge and rapid influx of people.  Similarly, the newly arriving people find shelter by building their own houses.  ‘Shanty towns’ spring up on the outskirts of the city, and of course, these are unplanned and consequently have no amenities and are massively overcrowded.  In such areas – called ‘favelas’ in Brazil, things like provision of fresh drinking water and sewage disposal are practically non-existent. [2]  

The areas chosen by these settlers are on the edges of the cities, often close to industry: transportation in such areas is minimal; hence the need to be close to places offering employment.  In Sao Paulo, some of these areas are up to 40 or 50 kilometres outside the city, and only connected by a single main road.  However, whereas planned ribbon development is common in most cities, these unplanned dwellings crowd steep hillsides, principally because no one has a claim on the land there.

The Brazilian government is providing assistance by setting up ‘self-help’ schemes and by providing materials with which to construct pavements and fairly rudimentary roads, leaving other vital resources for the provision of water pipes and waste disposal facilities.

The case of San Paulo is fairly typical of cities in LDCs.  In developed countries, the migration to cities is much less common, with people moving out of town as the improving of arterial roads makes living in pleasanter, rural areas and commuting every day to work a much more attractive proposition, though this too presents problems for rural districts; the number of facilities rapidly becoming inadequate for the numbers of people who live in so called ‘commuter villages’.

b) The case of ‘commuter villages in UK.

In developed countries such as England, the migration of people to other areas does occur but it is far more controlled and the numbers involved are fewer.  As people become better off financially, they move out of the city and buy property on the outskirts of urban areas and in villages outside city limits.  Then, different kinds of problems present themselves.

The demand for housing in rural areas pushes house prices up, making it virtually impossible for young, ‘first time buyers’ to purchase a home in the area where they grew up.  In these cases, a sort of reverse migration happens with the more affluent people from the town moving to villages, and the less affluent, often younger villagers moving into the towns and cities where house prices are within their reach.

When villages become inhabited by cars owners, local shops suffer from a lack of trade as those with their own transport choose to shop in supermarkets in other areas, where  prices are cheaper.  

In addition, poorer, indigenous young adults are often marginalized, or at any rate feel that way, and this variety of alienation becomes a breeding ground for activities such as substance abuse and petty crime to finance it.

Problems associated with urbanization are not exclusively peculiar to LDCs, though such problems occurring in developed countries are different in nature, and of far less magnitude, though still very serious for those directly involved.  In both types of country though, urbanization can and often does lead to problems other than those of housing and the provision of facilities.      

ii) Crime

Unplanned urban areas are difficult to police, and in countries like Brazil, the more affluent sections of the population protect themselves by living within guarded and fenced compounds.  Crime proliferates, though, in spite of siege-like conditions in the more prosperous parts of the city.

Even in countries like Australia, for example, factors such as economic decline resulting in migration have contributed to an increase in crime. [3]  

In cities in LDCs, though, a vicious circle is set up.  It is generally acknowledged that societies that are stable and have low crime rates, secure and safe environments and rational means of dealing with conflict and ‘rule-breaking’ attract investment into their economies, with the corollary to this also being true; those countries which are relatively unstable, with environments that are insecure and unsafe, do not attract investment and this lack of financial resources impacts upon the poorest sections of population who are subject to high rates of unemployment and poor housing conditions.  In poor areas, crime flourishes as more conventional means of earning a living are denied to more and more people.  [4]

  • Crime in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, for example, which is ranked sixth in the world in terms of the ratio of police to number of inhabitants (640 police per 100,000 in 1994- [5]) criminal activity is increasing in this former British colony.  Increases in various types of crime: violent crime against persons, and crime against property have pointed to the fact that, “the effects of industrialization and urbanization weaken social control.” Dobinson.  [6]  

The effects of industrialization and urbanization, viz. the weakening of social control and an increase in crime rates, occur in Hong Kong despite what have been termed ‘the protective value of cultural and ethnic homogeneity combined with the preservation of traditional Confucionist values and extended kinship structures.’ [5]

Once such cultural norms and values have been breached or destroyed, they are hard to re-establish.  Urbanization can be and often is responsible for the relocating of families and individuals, which means that any normalizing relationships such as extended kinship structures become under great strain or rendered ineffective.  The policing of densely populated areas seems to be in danger of becoming similarly ineffective as a deterrent against crime or as the enforcement of law and order.  

D. Priorities in urban areas

  • Primary causes of criminal activity

Need and the opportunity to commit crime do not make people commit crimes.  In some extremely poor areas of the world, crime is virtually unknown.  In other, more affluent areas, crime is rife.  What makes one area crime free and another crime ridden?    Studies related to children’s behaviour, have found that setting influences behaviour. [7]  

According to Whiting (1986), there are three relevant aspects of a setting: the space and contents of the space; the characters who are present, and the activities that occur in the setting.  For children living in overcrowded, poor ghettoes on the edges of massive cities, it is easy to see how this might be true.  In studies of six populations, which include children in Okinawa, Japan, the Philippines, Northern India, Kenya, Mexico City and the United States, Whiting and her colleagues found that the characteristics (ibid) of the setting evoke and reinforce habits of social interaction, which become the “core of a child’s behavioural profile.” [7]

Living in the midst of what is often deviant social behaviour, a child’s contact with altruistic, self-reliant models becomes diminished, preventing him from learning helpful and responsible behaviour.  On the contrary, such characters in such settings force the child to increase his egotistic behaviour and his covetousness, and resort to the use of aggressive techniques when interacting with other children.  [7]

Particularly vulnerable are children who leave home to live ‘on the street’.  According to studies 8 there is a circle of experience which links street migration and behaviour on the streets to the way children are treated in the justice system. Causes of street migration are primarily poverty, ruptured family relationships, urbanization, and in certain parts of the world, HIV/AIDS. [8]

It is said ([8]) that rapid urbanization of the type discussed and described earlier, is associated with an increase in crime rates, and the disruption of social support networks.  As migrants to cities move into ghettoes where identification is lost and a postal address unknown, it is easy to see how people become removed from the types of support they are most in need of.  

Children who leave rural areas for urban ones end up living on the street, and then fall prey to criminal elements that exploit their anonymity and their vulnerability. [9]

“Municipal restructuring [including rapid urbanization] contributes to a spatial exclusion, which inhibits the socialization of the youth that live in this space and leads to specific patterns of crime.” ([9]) The socialization that young people do receive may come from the members of gangs that ‘control’ such areas and exploit the young.  

In deprived peri-urban areas (areas on the periphery of towns and cities) there is a shortage of amenities that promote appropriate leisure activities and so children hang around in groups and fall prey to older youths in street gangs.
In such peri-urban areas where petty crime proliferates, the young on the streets become criminalized often before there is any evidence that they have committed an offence. [10]
Just being on the street at night often means being taken away and locked up for the night.  Once inside a lock-up, children become abused, beaten up and generally ill-treated.  Is it any wonder then that such children turn to ways to escape capture and join gangs for some form of protection.    

From there it is only a short step to substance abuse and crimes that are associated with selling and using drugs.

According to the Undugu Society of Kenya, 60% of boys living on the streets have health problems associated with taking drugs.  The most widely used substance being glue mixed with petrol. [11]

To then further add to the plight of poor street children, they are usually all assumed to be drug addicts, which has the effect of restricting their access to basic services such as health clinics, while still rendering them susceptible to verbal abuse and humiliation at the hands of the police and the general public, and this is regardless of whether or not they are actually involved in substance abuse. [12]  

The circle of experience becomes complete as children become victims of the criminalization of homelessness. [8]

  • Removing the causes: the role of education in urban areas

Poorly educated parents invariably have poorly educated children, either because the schools in their areas are poor, or because children do not do well at school and are not encouraged to do well, or because of truancy, or due to all three.

Truancy – the staying away from school without good reason – is rife in urban areas.  Children that play truant meet other children who are also staying away from school, and boredom together with lack of supervision become the prerequisites to children misbehaving.  

The reasons why children play truant are various and range from issues that affect particular individuals, and those issues that affect most children.  In the case of the former, a child may dislike a particular teacher or lesson; he may be due for some punishment on the day he is absent, or some pressing need at home may keep him from going to school that day.   As far as the latter is concerned; truancy having more generally applicable reasons, such things as a lack of any aspirations to do well, or peer group pressure by which a child comes to think that staying away from school is normal or beneficial, or more insidious reasons such as gang activities in the daytime may be the causes.  

It is easy to see that children who come from deprived areas in which opportunities to achieve something real and lasting are scarce or practically non-existent, are drawn into petty crime and deviant moral behaviour.  To behave otherwise in such communities is often to invite censure and punishment.  

A child faces exclusion from school if truancy continues, or isolation from his peers on the streets and in the playgrounds if it doesn’t.  Faced with such a choice, a child might well opt for the former, particularly when education is perceived as a waste of time.  

A study of the links between truancy, school exclusion and substance abuse has been conducted by the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transition and Crime and reported by Lesley McAra. [13]

The key findings of the report were as follows:-

  • Truants have a significantly higher drug use, underage drinking and smoking than pupils who do not play truant.

  • Long term truants exhibit a higher incidence of all forms of substance misuse in comparison with other categories of truant.

  • Illegal drug use and smoking significantly predict truancy, taking into account other variables such as school experience, victimization, parenting, and a range of personality characteristics such as low self-esteem and impulsivity.

  • Pupils who have been excluded from school display higher incidence of illegal drug use, underage drinking and smoking than do pupils who have not been excluded.

  • Substance abuse is less strongly associated with exclusion than it is for truancy.

  • Early intervention targeting health risk behaviour plays some part in lessening truancy rates.

  • Substance abuse is only one part of a complex set of behaviours and adverse circumstances associated with both truancy and exclusion.

  • Future policies need to take into account gender differences: early truanting is predominantly a male activity, while in secondary education, girls truant more than boys.  However, where exclusion is concerned, boys form the overwhelming majority of those excluded from schools. [13]

The study also found that truancy and exclusion are closely connected to low educational attainment, and are particularly prevalent amongst children from deprived areas.  Again, this has the ring of a vicious circle with low achievers coming from deprived areas, and being either excluded or truanting from school and thereby significantly lessening their chances of attainment at school, which means that ultimately they have less chance of finding employment later on.  In short, the very children likely to go wrong before, during, and after schooling, are those same children who are placed in the position in which they are most susceptible to getting involved with criminal elements in society.

The vexing question of how to break this cycle; perception – action – reinforcement of perception can only be achieved by educationalists working with parents and community leaders, and sponsorship by local and national government in the form of the provision of financial resources and expertise.  

The ‘truancy and exclusion’ study ([13]) concurred that policies are likely to be effective when aimed at discipline in school, and fostering pro-school attitudes among young people as well as their parents with the aim of increasing parental involvement in school.

In addition, some form of community policing seems to be the best way of tackling the problem of children committing petty crimes outside school when they should be sitting in a classroom.  Recognizing that one thing is symptomatic of another rather than just something to incur punishment for would surely be a helpful way of beginning the sensitive policing of such areas. [13]

Of course, a greater involvement on the part of parents would be a necessary prerequisite too.  Initiatives in which parents are encourages to become involved and discover the roots of problems in their own way and using their own language (rather like the Freirian model of tackling problems of adult literacy) are more likely to be successful than those schemes where parents are told what to think and how to bring up their children.

Of course, any educational programme must, if it is to be effective, be tailored to the context of those being educated.  In developing countries, such educational schemes invariably include a large amount of practical assistance, particularly where women are concerned.  Typical goals of such schemes include:-
  • Learning to b assertive

  • Learning to form their own opinion and express it

  • Learning to listen to others

  • To build a stronger self-image

  • To achieve competence in human relations and practical knowledge [15]

In such course, for example, women are empowered; encouraged to tackle things they haven’t done before. [15]

Of course, in an urban context in, for example, Newcastle Upon Tyne, some of the things women haven’t done before might include standing up at a parent teacher evening and making a point in public.  This type of learning would typically involve all or at least most of the categories outlined above.

In Khartoum, Sudan, it might involve learning how to recognize and treat the early stages of malaria or dysentery, with the practical knowledge taking priority over issues such as gaining self-esteem.

  1. Priorities in rural areas: giving people a chance by improving life and lessening the appeal of the city.

If life in the situation in the large urban areas we call cities, but which now might be termed something else, several things have got to happen.  First, the numbers still migrating from poorer rural areas will have to diminish considerably.  Already stretched social services and amenities could not cope with more people arriving to be housed, fed, and generally looked after.  Second, the situation for those already living in these urban areas will have to improve if crime is not to increase.  Lastly, life in rural areas will have to improve to the temptations the city holds for many rural dwellers; the ‘push’ factors will have to be reduced.  The massive problem of poverty in rural areas means that city life appears more attractive, even though reality does not bear this out.  Education and the provision of facilities like clinics will go some way to helping people feel less likely to want to uproot and move to the city.

G.  Breaking the link between urbanization and criminal activity

In urban areas in which people are susceptible to criminal activity, increasing the involvement of parents in schooling, home education, and monitoring children’s behaviour on the streets seem vital if the criminal activity of the young is to be stopped.

As far as children who live on the street are concerned, closer ties between communities and police and security forces would seem to be the answer.  In some cities curfews have been authorized in an attempt to ensure that children do not break the law under the cover of darkness.

The setting up of supervised hostels for homeless children and mandatory schooling to educate such children into more socially acceptable patterns of behaviour would surely alleviate the problems encountered by children on the street.

Lastly, re-educating police and security officials and a changing of attitudes towards children at risk would be a necessary prerequisite to a more humane way of dealing with children whose only crime may be that they do not have a roof over their heads or a family to share it with.  

H. Conclusion

The measures outlined above: educational, social and attitudinal, would have to become part of government initiatives in areas where criminal activities are linked closely to the conditions in which people live.  Such schemes need financial resources and planning; they need trained personnel and facilities, and they need time for implementation and sustained effort that will yield results that enhance the lives of everyone in our cities.

However, if nothing is done in rural areas to remove the temptations that living in the city is perceived to offer, then any work in urban areas will be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of those still migrating to our bigger cities.






  6. Dobinson I. (1994) ‘The Measurement of Crime’, in Gaylard M.S. and Travers H. eds.  Introduction to the Hong Kong Criminal Justice System, Hong Kong University Press  Hong Kong

  7. Whiting B. (1986) Effects of urbanization on children’s behaviour  From
      8.  Petty C. and Brown M. (eds), Justice for children      Save the Children  June 1998  
      9. Urbanization, social exclusion of youth and street crime.  From
10. Human rights Watch, Police abuse and killing of street children in India,
      November 1996
12. Human rights Watch, Children of Bulgaria: Police violence and arbitrary
      confinement,  September 1996
13. McAra L. (2004) Truancy, school exclusion and substance abuse
      Centre for Law and society.  University of Edinburgh
14. Making learning attractive and strengthening links to working life.  In
15. Preventing crime and creating safer communities  in