Abida Mian's Blog

An outlier that's living, learning and being myself…

Archive for Education

The Code Book – Simon Singh

Clearing out my desk draw found a book gifted by the author, Simon Singh through work years ago. Very pleasant chap to deal with in a professional capacity. Might go re-read it again.

Simon Singh Fermats Last TheoremSimon Singh Book


Never Stop Learning: London International

It doesn’t matter what age you are, you should never stop learning. I thoroughly enjoyed (apart from the stress of exams) completing a distance learning programme in accountancy via LSE. It can be tricky to juggle work, chores and a family (latter doesn’t apply to me) and so with distance learning you can complete a course at your own pace, with the one I did you can take from 1 to 5 years, although, it would be very frustrating to take 5 years!

Now I’ve had a bit of rest from completing that one, I can now prepare for my next exam in December – I do like to push myself!

Exam Stress makes me happy

I feel like a teenager all over again, exams are looming and I’m frantically cramming as much as I can. Worked extremely hard over the last couple of months, and although I have no time for anything but work, study and chores, I’m relishing the challenge.

I don’t think I’ll ever want to stop learning, age hasn’t affected my memory, it’s still as sharp as ever (there are times when I wish I could just switch off from thinking too much!). An elderly gentleman on the bus inspired me the other day (a Chemistry teacher in his seventies), we frequently bump into each other, ‘never stop learning’ he told me – totally agree.

I still haven’t got my replacement phone, although I find myself less distracted without it, my nephew’s videos I’d end up playing over and over again (love watching him develop). I managed to survive my youth without a mobile, so I certainly can now. See how long I can go without it!

Passed Accountancy Exams :-)

Studying accountancy has been a walk in the park – I did study Physics at Imperial, so it was bound to be easy in comparison! The hardest part has been finding the time between working and being seriously ill, but it’s been a welcome distraction. Sooooooo happy.

Racism in higher education…

I didn’t sleep well last night. I had a call from a close friend who told me that her sister had been rejected from getting a place on a teachers training course.

I was shocked as I knew her sister well. Incredibly bright, having achieved a first-class degree in Mathematics, but not only that she came top out of all students. I understand that it’s not all about being academic, but she also had 6 months voluntary teaching experience in a school. My friend even told me that the headmaster of that school had told her sister that she was far too bright to be a teacher!

During the interview process, the interviewer kept referring to my friend’s sister as ‘Patel’ which is her surname. The interviewer at no point addressed her in the correct manner of Miss Patel but simply Patel – how patronising, I thought. I know sometimes it can be easy to pull out the ‘race’ card, but I couldn’t see why she wouldn’t get a place. Even one of her university lecturers told her that she was the best Maths student he’s ever come across. She’s polite, and passionate about education.

Not meaning to be rude, but how many people can get a first with distinction in arguably one of the hardest degree disciplines? Of those that do, how many want to be teachers (answer is none)? Most top graduates want to work in finance earning lots of money, she on the otherhand genuinely wants to help educate secondary school children.

Only recently did I read an article whose title was ‘Western Nations React to Poor Education Results’ – an international respected survey conducted found that teenagers in Shanghai to be the best educated in the world, and the British to be poor in comparison. We are poor in Mathematics & Science, in fact there are a shortage of teachers in these diciplines, yet we are happy to turn away first-class graduates who are passionate about teaching & education – can someone explain why, I don’t get it?

Luckily this is her first interview she has a few others yet, but quite rightly she feels dejected. I think she would be better off with applying for the Teach First scheme.

My advice that I passed on was that after she’s finished her other interviews, that she writes a letter of complaint to that particular university eloquently pointing out that she felt the interviewer was racist (that particular area has a low ethnic minority).

I felt appalled that in what I thought is a civilised country, racism still exists at all levels. I spoke with my dad, and he said it doesn’t matter how good you are, there will always be racist people who will prevent you from getting to the top. My dad is a first-class graduate, and a specialist in his field, but he said that he’s come across racism in his career. The worst he says are the Scots and the best people to work for are the Americans; but as I told my dad you can’t generalise and not every Scot is racist! I’ve never been the subject of racism, but I’ve heard colleagues make jokes about black people and Muslims. I maybe British born, educated at world-class universities, hard-working, brilliant at my job; but the colour of my skin is not White – does that mean that I’m not really British?

Ultimately we’re all human beings regardless of whether we’re classified as Black, Caucasian, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander, Other (if you’re mixed). Why is it though that views of race are still causing considerable suffering to the disadvantaged racial groups?



As a veteran of internet dating, I’ve come across/heard of many dating sites; from the normal/long-term relationship seeking match.com, encountersdating.co.uk, eharmony.com to the ‘I’m looking for an arrangement’ of sugardaddie.com, there are even ones specialising in adult fun, adultfriendfinder.co.uk & maritalaffair.co.uk – although, the last two wouldn’t appeal to me.  So, when I read a recent article on online dating (that I previously blogged about) where a website called scientificmatch.com was mentioned, I was intrigued…

Unlike conventional dating sites, Scientific Match is a dating site based on DNA profiling. When you first join up, a DNA collection kit is sent to you, inside this kit is a packet of cotton swabs. You’re instructed to rub the swab on the inside of your cheek and send them off to their laboratory. The lab takes about two weeks to complete their analysis, after which point they upload it for you to view your report.

Apparently finding matches that share chemical attraction with each other results in:

  • They love the smell of each other’s body odour
  • They enjoy a more satisfying sex life (with women experiencing a higher rate of orgasms)
  • There’s significantly less cheating if they’re in an exclusive relationship
  • Their children are healthier

The Theory:

The patent-pending matching system is based on immune system genes. Scientific Match’s explanation is that physical chemistry is based on the immune system. When they analyse the DNA sent to their labs, they look at the immune system genes. So, chemistry is defined when two people’s immune system genes are different to each other’s.

The theory is that nature wants us to breed with people who have different immune systems, because it creates babies with a wider variety of immune system genes, more robust immune systems and therefore, healthier babies.

They then use the analogy that people aren’t attracted sexually to their mother, brother, sister or father (unless your name is Josef Fritzl). That’s because they probably have very similar immune systems. Nature doesn’t want you to mate with them, because the health of your baby and the longevity of our species would suffer.

In addition to their ‘DNA matching’ service, Scientific Match also perform background checks of members, banning anyone who has been convicted of certain offenses, age & marital status checks and even a seven-year bankruptcy history – crikey 🙂

The Cost:

The online service costs a staggering $1,995.95 (which equates to approx £1,244.75) for a one year membership. I’m intrigued how many people would sign up for this service. Why has romance and finding the perfect mate become so complex?

BBC/Open University: The Big Personality Test

The Big Personality Test

I enjoy watching programmes with Prof Robert Winston – he comes across as incredibly intelligent and lovely at the sametime – now if only I could find someone like him (but minus the tache) 🙂

Prof Winston asks ‘do our personalities shape our lives, or do our lives shape our personalities’ After watching ‘The Big Personality Test’ on the BBC, I was intrigued to do their online personality test, but the test has had ongoing technical issues until now…


After answering a few pages of questions, these are my results of my five personality traits (scored out of 5):

Openness: (3.6/5)

You scored medium on Openness.

This trait is sometimes known as ‘Openness to experience’. People with scores like yours tend to have a fairly broad range of interests. You may be more sensitive to art than those scoring low on this measure.

You are likely to find it easy to come up with original solutions to problems.

It has been suggested that Openness is related to a person’s likelihood to hold unusual beliefs. People with low-to-medium Openness may therefore be less likely to believe in things like conspiracy theories.

Conscientiousness: (5/5)

You scored high on Conscientiousness.

Conscientiousness describes how dependable, organised and hard-working a person is likely to be. This may be the reason why, of all the personality traits, Conscientiousness is the most consistent indicator of job success. People with scores like yours tend to be extremely dependable and organised. It’s likely that your life is well-planned and you approach things in a thorough manner.

At work, you probably approach tasks methodically and thoroughly, with everything in its right place.

Some studies have shown the more Conscientious an individual is, the more disciplined they are likely to be about exercise and diet.

Extroversion: (2.9/5)

You scored low on Extroversion.

Extroversion is characterised by positive emotions and the tendency to seek out pleasure-stimulating or risk-taking activities. People with scores like your are likely to enjoy their time away from lots of people. Social activities may well leave you feeling drained rather than energised, and your quiet time is probably where you recharge your batteries.

It may be a stereotype, but there is evidence that those scoring low in Extroversion are likely to be more suited to intellectual or studious pursuits.

People with high Extroversion are more likely to lead risky lifestyles and take greater risks in pursuit of rewards. Health studies have shown they are more likely to smoke and less likely to get enough sleep than people who score less highly on this trait.

Agreeableness: (5/5)

You scored high on Agreeableness.

Agreeableness measures how sympathetic and considerate a person is likely to be. People with scores like yours are likely to find it very easy to get along with other people. You probably find that you are sensitive to the feelings of others and that people find it easy to warm to you.

As a ‘people person’ you will probably be very comfortable in situations that require teamwork.

Neuroticism: (1.8/5)

You scored low on Neuroticism.

In the context of the Big Five personality traits, the term ‘Neuroticism’ relates to a person’s response to threatening or stressful situations. People with scores like yours are often seen as being calm and even-tempered. They cope well with stressful situations and may seem tranquil despite adverse circumstances.

Some scientists have suggested that Neuroticism was beneficial in evolutionary terms. Early man may have found it advantageous to live in a population where certain individuals had a high sensitivity to threats to the group’s survival.

There is evidence to suggest that Neuroticism, when combined with high scores in personality traits such as Conscientiousness, can result in a powerful work ethic and a will to succeed.

My Conclusion:

I actually think that my scorings are very accurate – I’m highly conscientious and agreeable: I always work hard (my boss recently admitted that if I didn’t show up for work and left no message, he’d call the police – an indicator of how reliable I am!) and am a bit of a perfectionist (I infact only respect people if they have a similar work-ethic), my dad brought me up that way. The disadvantage is that because you’re an employers dream, it can hold you back as you end up doing other peoples work without any of the rewards. In terms of agreeableness, I am very sensitive and often help people even if that means neglecting my own needs, but through life experience, I’ve become a little guarded as I have been taken advantage of… As for scoring low on extroversion – well that’s certainly no surprise, and whilst I do enjoy the company of my friends (incase they read this!), I’m comfortable spending periods on my own reading or studying…