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In a move that heightened competition in online education and brought more prestige to the still-fledgling field, Harvard University and MIT announced a partnership Wednesday to offer the public mainly free Internet classes.
Harvard and MIT are each donating $30 million to create a nonprofit organization, to be called "edX" that will develop an Internet platform for the classes and design new ways to teach and learn with technology, according to the two Cambridge, Mass., schools. They will join an emerging arena in which other research universities, Stanford among them, and private ventures around the world are trying to stake out territory.
The first five or so free classes are expected to be offered in the fall, and the number will expand in subsequent years from the Harvard-MIT partnership and other universities that may join it, officials said. The classes will not earn online students academic credits, although students may receive a certificate of completion, for which they might be charged a fee. In addition, other online education courses that already charge tuition may also become part of the effort and continue to require fees.
"MIT's and Harvard's mission is to provide affordable education to anybody who wants it," Anant Agarwal, an MIT computer science and artificial intelligence expert who is edX's first president, said in an interview. "Millions of people in the world don't have access to quality education."
The project will decide later whether to raise revenue through related job placement services and advertising. "It's definitely a work in progress," Agarwal said.
Many for-profit schools offer online programs for tuition, while the nonprofit Western Governors University is carving out a niche for low-cost degrees.
Given the institutions' prestige, the Harvard-MIT collaboration is a significant development, according to Barry Toiv, vice president for public affairs at the Assn. of American Universities, the organization of top research campuses. "Clearly there have been increasing efforts to understand how to provide high-quality education online and what produces a good learning outcome," Toiv said. But he added that the future remains murky.
Stanford also has been a pioneer in free online education, offering 13 classes this school year. The Stanford courses are mainly offered through a company and website called Coursera, founded by two Stanford professors and also joined by Princeton, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. Another Stanford professor, Sebastian Thrun, founded Udacity, a website offering free online classes.
"We are all trying it out and see where it goes," said John Mitchell, a Stanford computer science professor who is heading that school's global online education efforts.
In contrast to paid online degree programs that Stanford and other schools offer, the university's free online courses do not carry credit. Still, tens of thousands of students have completed the courses, he said.
The University of California is in the early stages of a different model, partly as a way to reduce instruction costs. So far this year, UC has started six undergraduate online courses but only for UC students, according to Daniel Greenstein, UC's vice provost for academic planning. Greenstein said the Harvard, MIT and Stanford efforts for free classes are exciting because they represent "an opportunity to educate the world."
Los Angeles Times
"Gunmen armed with explosives killed at least 34 people in northeastern Nigeria when they attacked a cattle market and burned it to the ground, residents and officials said Thursday. The attack Wednesday night in the city of Potiskum was said to be in reprisal for an incident earlier in the day, when a gang sought to rob the market but were fought off by traders who caught one of the attackers, police said. The man who was caught was doused in petrol and a tyre was placed around his neck before he was burnt to death, according to police and residents." - AFP
Nigeria map Potiskum Dikwa [Al Jazeera]
Dead cows lie amid burned posts Thursday, May 3, 2012, following a raid by gunmen in a cattle market in Potiskum, Nigeria. (AP Photos/Adamu Adamu)
Dead cattle seen Thursday, May 3, 2012 following a raid by gunmen in a cattle market in Potiskum, Nigeria..(AP Photos/Adamu Adamu)
blast at Gombomru local market in Nigeria's northern city Maiduguri on February 7, 2012. press tv
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The country’s inflation rate is not subsiding and with March's surging inflation rate at 12.1 percent, the partial removal of fuel subsidy has begun to clamp down on the economy. The inflation rate of February was at 11.9 percent, and the new number for March (12.1 percent) shows that inflationary trend is gaining momentum as expected.
Food inflation rate increases from the February 9.7 percent to the 11.8 percent recorded for the month of March. The price of food stuff and products are getting higher due to transportation cost, which can be attributed to higher petrol price. Another contributory factor to higher food prices is due to poor access to urban areas where most of the food products are consumed. As a result of bad roads and poor transportation routes, farmers and commodity brokers accumulate more expenses which aided to spike the price of food.
The analyst at National Bureau Statistics (NBS) stated that "The increase in the headline index, composed of the core and food indices, partially was due to the planting season which increased the price of food products in the market, and an increase in prices in the economy,” but that cannot be factored without acknowledging the higher cost of transportation. Fuel cost more due to the partial removal of subsidy and the market is therefore adjusting to the new development and reality.
Reuters reported that "Nigeria sold a total of 140.61 billion naira ($893.33 million) in treasury bills ranging from three months to one year, with yields fell across the board after a heavy subscription by local and offshore investors, the results of the auction by central bank showed. Nigeria sold N34.88 billion worth of the 3-month bond at a return of 13.84 percent, lower than the 14.0 percent same tenor paper was issued at the previous auction, while it sold N45 billion of the 6-month bills at 14.59 percent, compared with 14.94 percent at the previous auction."
Traders and analysts attributed the fluctuation of the bond yields, market sensibility and not performing as expected was due to increasing inflation as food and petrol geared up as a result of subsidy removal. But digging a little deeper, the rising communal insecurity due to restive Boko Haram is sending a shockwave to the market that is not being absorb quickly and easily. The GDP of the country is not affected by the unrest and the Nigeria economy is projected to grow up to 7 percent in 2012 even with the projected 14-15 percent inflation rate. Nigeria at the moment is the third fastest growing economy among the emerging nations. Nigeria was picked as a 'Breakout Nations' in a new book written by the head of Morgan Stanley’s emerging markets division, Ruchir Sharma.
The Monetary policy Committee led by CBN Governor Sanusi retained the interest rate at 12 percent and it is expected after they have raised the monetary interest rate by six percent points. The Sanusi's Central Bank of Nigeria was aggressive in the battle to rein in the upward inflationary trends. The IMF in the last report it issued on Nigeria's economy has asked Nigeria to cool-off on ditching-up the interest rate after the six percent points that kept the rate at 12 percent.
Source of Table and Graph:Ernst & Young
The CBN ambition of keeping and maintaining inflation rate at ten percent by tightening monetary tool has been elusive to CBN. The Reserve Bank and its managers together with its policy makers must look beyond the limited arm of the monetary tool. For at a certain point raising interest rate to tighten and mop-up money supply may have intended consequences. It may slow economic growth and may result in credit crunch.
The inertia and intellectual limitation occupying the policy makers’ mindset that inflation projection must approach 14-15 percent as a result of subsidy removal cannot be accepted. It should not be necessarily fits into that pattern when a sound decision is formulated that looks beyond the limitation of the monetary tool.
Instead of dwelling on the shortfalls of tightening of the monetary tool by frequently spiking the monetary interest rate, a new fiscal pact can be made between the presidency and legislature that employed fiscal policies that will complement the monetary application coming from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
"The naira retreated against the dollar after Central Bank of Nigeria Governor Lamido Sanusi said an increase in March inflation was within estimates, adding to speculation that rates will be kept on hold. The currency of Africa’s biggest oil producer fell 0.2 percent to 157.405 per dollar on the interbank market as of 11:53 a.m. in Lagos, the commercial capital. The naira has gained 3.1 percent against the dollar this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg," as was documented by Bloomberg’s Chris Kay.
The point must be succinctly made that the value of a nation's currency is chiefly determined by the economic wellbeing which is principally the nation's GDP. Although Nigeria's economy is steadily growing with a reasonable foreign debt but the economy is not sufficiently diversified. In this case, Nigeria’s source of revenue comes primarily from export of oil and with limited foreign reserve the speculators are having a field day with naira. At the moment the value and recent appreciation of naira is attributed to the selling of dollar by CBN and oil companies. Therefore naira value is conditional and does not rest on sound strategic planning and outlook.
The recalibration or rebasing of Nigeria's economy by 40 percent with a methodological calculation that "would bring Nigeria's economy up from a current IMF estimate of $270 billion for 2012 to about $375 billion — just behind South Africa's, expected to be around $390 billion by the end of 2012," as reported by Reuters cannot rectify the fundamental problems of naira, inflation and unemployment. It enhances the image of the nation without much of anything.
The executive arm of the government could utilize fiscal policy tools including taxation, import duties and others to control inflation and the value of naira. Moreover, the provision of infrastructures especially electricity, roads and security apparatus should attract investments and capitals that can have a positive effect on inflation and on the value of naira.