Thursday, November 02, 2006


Being a swot was once the quickest way to lose friends. Now researchers have found that teenagers who are top of their class are just as popular as athletic "jocks". Girls or boys who combine academic success with a friendly approach and good fashion sense are the most liked by their peers. The jocks were seen as bullying, cocky and more likely to take advantage of others.

Daniel Muijs, a professor of education at Manchester University, said: "There has for some time been an image of clever children in schools being these swotty, geeky, nerdy type of kids, but this is clearly not the case any longer." Researchers at the University of Amsterdam, asked almost 300 14-year-olds at two Dutch high schools to identify the characteristics of their most widely liked peers. Three-quarters of the children said the athletic types were arrogant and half found them threatening, while just 7% considered them intelligent. But their rebellious behaviour, such as talking back to teachers and even being expelled, meant they were still seen as "cool".

But swots were admired, too. More than half were prepared to help others with homework, and 59% were considered friendly. Many pupils also admire their cleverer peers for their ability to master new technology and gadgets quickly. Eddy de Bruyn, a professor of education at the University of Amsterdam, who led the study published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, said: "These children have social intelligence. They are not nerds, they know how to get on with people and they understand the politics of a social group. "The jocks, on the other hand, can be very controlling and bitchy. It's all about them being the top dog, about them being the centre of attention. They are popular because they are powerful, but their friendships often don't mean very much."

Alain de Botton, the philosopher and author, recalled that intelligence was rarely an asset when he was at Harrow school in the 1980s. He said: "Sport was definitely the only route to popularity and academic success was likely to get you beaten up fast. "I survived by making the brutes laugh, and doing their homework." He added: "The influence of academic success as a way of increasing popularity suggests another triumph for the bourgeoisie, who have always put intelligence way above other things, so it isn't surprising this ethos has gradually filtered back to the school system."

Alex Bagenal, 12, from Oxford, agreed with de Bruyn's findings. He said: "At my school you get the rockers, the sporty ones and the nerds. But you also get people that can move between groups, who are popular because they have the knowledge and can fit in. That's how I see myself."

The study also showed differences between "alpha" boys and girls. In jock groups, girls were more likely to find it "cool" to be expelled than boys, and were less likely to help others with their homework. Boys were seen as verbally and physically aggressive, and threatening.

De Bruyn said: "If you take a class of 30 kids and ask them to choose the most popular . . . usually pretty girls will come out on top. The boys who are most interested in fashion are more popular but also more anti-social."



Undergraduates who study for as little as 20 hours a week are more likely to be awarded a first-class degree at a newer university than those at older institutions, a survey says. Scientists at Cambridge have to work 45 hours a week to obtain a top-class degree; those studying physics and chemistry at the University of Central Lancashire have to study 19 hours a week for a 2:1 or a first.

The Higher Education Policy Institute survey of 15,000 first-year and second-year undergraduates questions the true value of a degree, showing that some students work far harder than others, depending on the subject. Although tuition fees are now paid upfront in a loan by the Government, graduates must pay them off once they earn 15,000 pounds. Banks estimate that by 2009 a student's debt will be approaching 30,000 pounds, which most will be paying off until their mid-thirties.

The survey, published today, shows that while, on average, students claim to be working 25.7 hours a week in lectures, seminars or private study, medics and dentists are apparently working ten hours a week more. Overall the study shows that undergraduates on courses in mass communications put in five hours fewer than the average each week. The differences were more pronounced between subjects than between different universities, although those at older universities studied more.

Bahram Bekhradnia, of the institute, said: "If students are putting 32 hours a week into engineering and 21 hours a week into business studies, is a degree telling you the same thing about the universities and the experience the students have had? You can get a 2:1 with different amounts of effort." The authors say: "This report does not prove that the degree classification system is flawed, but it certainly raises questions that need to be addressed." They note that 60.9 per cent of students of physical sciences at Plymouth University receive a 2:1 or first-class degree for working 20 hours a week. At Cambridge, where students may have twice the A-level points, they work 45 hours a week for the same class of degree.

About half of students were disappointed by some aspect of university - mostly with the quality of teaching. Nearly 30 per cent of overseas students - who pay much higher fees than British and other EU students - said that their university experience did not represent value for money.

Drummond Bone, of the vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, said: "There is no national curriculum in higher education, and so we should not be surprised that different courses at different institutions involve different use of facilities, contact hours and so on."

Oxford University plans to open a research centre in India next year, to exploit funding and talent in the fast-growing economy. The Said Business School is in talks on opening at least one centre, probably in Bombay or Bangalore, and hopes to open several. They will not offer degrees, but will link Indian policymakers, corporate leaders and researchers with experts at Oxford.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL schools should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the poor and minimal regulation.

The NEA and similar unions worldwide believe that children should be thoroughly indoctrinated with Green/Left, feminist/homosexual ideology but the "3 R's" are something that kids should just be allowed to "discover"

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