Friday, November 03, 2006


English literature students who reduce Hamlet's agonies to "2b or not 2b" will not be penalised so long as they display an understanding of the subject, an examinations authority has ruled. While the use of text message jargon would not achieve top marks, it would be accepted if the answer was right, a report by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) said.

The SQA report on Standard Grade English - the equivalent of English and Welsh GCSEs - reveals that examiners are becoming increasingly concerned about literacy standards among pupils. Many students have a grasp of English so poor that they resort to the stunted shorthand of the text message. The assessor's report says that candidates are failing to achieve good grades because the quality of their English does not match the quality of their answers. The SQA said yesterday that while text shorthand was "not acceptable" in exams, the positive-marking philosophy of the Scottish system meant that marks would still be given for correct answers, even if they were written in text message.

"In English the candidates need to show knowledge [of the subject] and express it appropriately. Text message language is not considered appropriate," a spokesman for the SQA said. "However, an answer written in text would be accepted if it was correct, but the candidate would not get top marks. To get the best marks they would have to write in standard English."

The liberal approach is not echoed in England and Wales where GCSE candidates lose marks for failing to write in standard English. Edexcel, one of England's largest exam boards, said: "We acknowledged that text language has its own lexicon, but students need to know why it is inappropriate within a report, an exam or a business setting. "If in geography students used short forms of words and were rushing towards the end of an essay, and had used the words correctly earlier, they would be forgiven. "But in English text language would be frowned upon and they wouldn't be given marks for it."

Dave Smith, of the Plain English Campaign, said that it was no wonder more and more employers were complaining about the poor literacy skills of school leavers. The SQA report concluded that teachers should emphasise to pupils the importance of avoiding "informalities of talk and text language in written submissions except during direct speech".


Tough jobs and education policy from an Australian LEFTIST

Young people who drop out of school and stay at home "twiddling their thumbs on PlayStation or Xbox" would be kicked off the dole after six months if they did not return to study or training under a reform plan from Labor backbencher Craig Emerson. The radical policy to be released today aims to prevent the formation of a permanent underclass in Australia that cannot find a job even in a boom. Dr Emerson, who last month called for school to be compulsory until Year 12, will use new research to identify the problem group in the community at risk of becoming unemployable.

More than half those of working age who failed to finish Year 10 are out of work - despite the economy achieving a generation-low unemployment rate of 4.8 per cent - according to official data commissioned by Dr Emerson. "This is not about punishment, it's about getting young people the education and skills needed for them to have a prosperous future," Dr Emerson said. "This is a learn-or-earn program where there is no third option of sitting around doing nothing."

His paper will be presented to the economic and social outlook conference in Melbourne this morning. Co-hosted by The Melbourne Institute and The Australian, the Making the Boom Pay conference will run for two days, with tonight's keynote dinner address being delivered by Treasury Secretary Ken Henry. Opposition Leader Kim Beazley will outline more of Labor's reform agenda in tomorrow's main luncheon address.

The Emerson plan is likely to upset many of his own Labor colleagues because it echoes the Fightback proposal of former Liberal leader John Hewson to remove the dole for all recipients after nine months. Labor's workforce participation spokeswoman Penny Wong said she supported the central idea behind "learning or earning", but would not go as far as Dr Emerson. "People should work if they can, and young people should be either learning or earning. Labor does not support time-limited social security," Senator Wong said.

Dr Emerson argues that if a variety of schools were funded - including "second chance" schools that help students not academically inclined - there would be "no excuse and no justification for leaving school early to sit at home on the dole". "Australia cannot afford to have up to 54,000 long-term unemployed young people neither working nor studying to improve their skills," he will say today.

Dr Emerson says that, in addition to working, studying or training, long-term unemployed young people should be given the option of doing military or community service. "As an alternative to military service, a peace corp could be established to help build community infrastructure in our Pacific island neighbouring countries. "When the range of alternatives that I am advocating is put in place, the dole should not be available to unemployed young people beyond six months. They would receive income support payments for studying or training, but not for sitting at home, twiddling their thumbs on PlayStation or Xbox."

Australian Council of Social Service director Andrew Johnson attacked Dr Emerson's idea, saying such plans had failed in the US. "Time-limited payments are both unfair and ineffective in helping disadvantaged people get into education or work. In the US, one of the few nations who cut off all payments after a time period, child poverty rates are high and levels of youth employment participation are lower than here in Australia," Mr Johnson said.

Dr Emerson says his research, which relies on unpublished figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, rebuts John Howard's claim that leaving school early is the best option for students not academically inclined. The ABS figures show that of those who finished Year 10, more than one-third are unemployed. More than 60 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds who left school before finishing Year 10 are not employed. In the mining boom states of Western Australia and Queensland only about half of boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are finishing high school, while three-quarters of boys from more privileged backgrounds are doing so. In the Northern Territory, 13 per cent of boys and 18 per cent of girls from disadvantaged backgrounds are finishing high school.



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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