Archive for French

teaching in English

Posted in Kids, Travel, University life with tags , , , , on May 20, 2013 by xi'an

ENSAE, Nov. 17, 2010A strange (if very French!) debate is taking place these days in the French main chamber, where some socialist deputies are contesting an incoming change in the regulation of university studies that would allow some courses to be taught in… English! Quelle horreur!!! Since this option has been implemented by many universities, incl. Dauphine, it means that we all are acting outside the law! I do not fear in the least being indicted for teaching R and Bayesian statistics in English… However, I find the action of these deputies missing the point: just like most other Western countries, we need to attract bright students from emerging countries in order to keep our departments open. It is unrealistic to think that those students will accept to learn French in addition to English, just because our universities are that attractive (and they are not!). Plus, our own students are asking for courses in English as they realise that their English level is not that great and that this training is more efficient than regular English courses… This position was better expressed in a Le Monde tribune a few days ago signed by several university professors, incl. Cédric Villani.

Uneducated guesses

Posted in Books, Kids, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 12, 2012 by xi'an

I received this book, Uneducated Guesses: Using Evidence to Uncover Misguided Education Policies by Howard Wainer, from Princeton University Press for review in CHANCE. Alas, I am presumably one of the least likely adequate reviewers for the book in that

  • having done all of my academic training in France (except for my most useful post-doctoral training in Purdue and in Cornell), I never took any of those ACT/SAT/&tc tests (except for the GRE at the very end of my Ph.D. towards a post-doctoral grant I did not get!);
  • teaching in a French university, I never used any of those tests to compare undergraduate or graduates applicants;
  • I am very marginally aware of the hiring process in US universities at the undergraduate, even though I knew about the early admission policy;
  • there is no equivalent in the French high school system, given that high school students have to undergo a national week-long exam, le baccalauréat, to enter higher education and that most curricula actually decide on the basis of the high school record, prior to [but conditional on] the baccalauréat.

Thus, this review of Wainer’s Uneducated Guesses is to be taken with pinches (or even tablespoons) of salt. And to be opposed to other reviews. Esp. in Statistics journals (I could not find any).

My role in this parallels Spock’s when he explained `Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.‘” (page 157)

First, the book is very pleasant to read, with a witty and whimsical way of pushing strong (and well-argued) opinions. Even as a complete bystander, I found the arguments advanced for keeping SAT as the preferential tool for student selection quite engaging, as were the later ones against teacher and college rankings equally making sense. So the book should appeal to a large chunk of the public, as prospective students, parents, high school teachers or college selection committees. (Scholars on entrance tests may already have seen the arguments since most of the chapter are based on earlier papers of  Howard Wainer.) Second, and this is yet another reason why I feel remote from the topic, the statistical part of the analysis is simply not covered in the book. There are tables and there are graphs, there are regressions and there are interpolation curves, there is a box-plot and there are normal densities, but I am missing a statistical model that would push us further than the common sense that permeates the whole book. After reading the book, my thirst about the modelling of education tests and ranking is thus far from being quenched! (Note I am not saying the author is ignorant of such matters, since he published in psychometrics, educational statistics and other statistics journals, and taught Statistics at Wharton. The technical side of the argument does exist, but it is not included in the book. The author refers to Gelman et al., 1995, and to the fruitful Bayesian approach on page 69.)

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Beta translation done!

Posted in Books, R, Statistics, University life with tags , , , , on August 30, 2010 by xi'an

Introducting Monte CarloOnce my team of four translators had handed back to me all the chapters of the French version of Introducing Monte Carlo Methods with R to me, I had to go over the book to ensure some minimal consistency between the chapters. I started the editing in the plane to Vancouver but did not get much done until last Monday when arriving in Long Beach. After three days of hard work, here at home, I am now done with the beta version of the translation and I have sent it to the French Springer editor… I hope he will not ask for deep changes as I have absolutely no time left in my schedule for the coming months!

French clichés

Posted in Books with tags , , on January 5, 2010 by xi'an

There is an interesting paper in Times by Charles Bermner about French clichés found in the French press: here are the top fifteen, with their English equivalent…

– la cerise sur le gâteau [the cherry on the cake, icing]

– dans la cour des grands [the big kids' playground, the big league]

– le vent en poupe [running before the wind, with the wind in the sails]

– un pavé dans la mare [a cobblestone in the pond, set the cat among the pigeons]

– caracoler en tête [to prance in the lead, to be far out front]

– attendu au tournant [awaited at the bend, lying in wait for someone]

– revoir sa copie [revise his (exam) copy, sent back to the drawing board]

– l’ironie de l’histoire [the irony of the story, ironically]

– la balle est dans leur camp [the ball is in their court]

– ne connaît pas la crise [has not been touched by the crisis]

–la partie émergée de l’iceberg [the tip of the iceberg]

– à qui profite le crime [who profits from the crime?]

– les quatre coins de l’Hexagone [the four corners of the Hexagon, i.e. France]

– s’enfoncer dans la crise [plunge deeper into (the) crisis]

– une affaire à suivre [a matter to be followed, a story to watch],

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