Saturday, February 03, 2007


If attitude does not matter, how come immigrant blacks do better than native-born ones? Could it be that immigrants try harder etc.?

Black students with U.S. ancestry appear to be less represented in college than race-based statistics indicate, as immigrants make up a disproportionate share of admissions, a Princeton University analysis found. First- or second-generation immigrants made up 27 percent of black freshmen entering 28 top-ranked colleges in 1999, according to the study released Tuesday. Such immigrants accounted for only 13 percent of all U.S. blacks aged 18 or 19 that year, the researchers found.

'Double their share'''In other words, the representation of immigrant-origin blacks at selective institutions of higher education was roughly double their share in the population,'' said the report by Princeton sociology professor Douglas Massey and his colleagues at the New Jersey school and at the University of Pennsylvania.

The findings may revive claims that affirmative action designed to help the descendants of slaves are more likely to benefit high-achieving immigrants from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Jamaica, the authors wrote.

Goes beyond race preferences''It's a very complicated, messy issue,'' said Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education.''If it were easy, we would have figured it out a long time ago.''

The study highlights a problem with college admissions that extends beyond disputes over racial preferences, said Harvard University law professor Lani Guinier. ''This is not a debate about affirmative action; this is a debate about the very core mission of higher education,'' Guinier said. ''I want them to tell me what their graduates are doing to serve the larger society, not what their applicants got on a timed test.''

OK, Lani. How about Colin Powell and Barack Obama? Are they "serving society"? They are of black immigrant origin. Disproportionate success among black immigrants is not confined to the exam room. That bad attitudes are a problem among American blacks is also shown by the way black females do much better than black males


The evolution of education

Australian education writer Kevin Donnelly states the argument for a traditional education in specific knowledge, as opposed to the prevalent approach that simply learning anything is better than nothing

In arguing that the school curriculum should be centred on particular subjects such as mathematics, history and English. the American Federation of Teachers draws on a view of education closely associated with the rise of Western civilisation that can be traced back hundreds of years. Where the approach known as outcomes-based education - especially the various versions adopted in Tasmania, the Northern Territory, the ACT and Western Australia - gives priority to so-called competencies and generic skills, the AFT approach is to place the disciplines centre-stage. Yet the Australian Education Union and other local professional bodies are staunch advocates of OBE.

In part, the reason for the AFT arguing its position is that after experimenting with OBE during the early to mid-1990s, all American states dropped it in favour of what is termed a standards approach. Similar to a syllabus approach to curriculum, a standards approach is year-level specific, focuses on traditional subjects, regularly tests students, and gives teachers a clear and concise road map of what students should know and be able to accomplish after a set period of time.

Since the time of the early Greek philosophers and sophists, evolving over the centuries and incorporating aspects of the Judeo-Christian tradition and historical movements such as the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment, a liberal-humanist view of education is concerned - to use English 19th-century poet and schools inspector Matthew Arnold's expression -- with "getting to know, on all the matters which most concern us, the best which has been thought and said'".

As noted by Australian former educationist academic and writer Brian Crittenden, while subjects have evolved, there is also much that has remained constant: "In any area of systematic knowledge there is a range of key concepts, basic theories and method. They are not immune to change, but are relatively long term. They are the defining features of a discipline or area of systematic knowledge. In several areas (such as the physical sciences) content has changed fairly rapidly, although methods have tended to be more enduring and, in all cases, there is at least a core of relatively stable knowledge. The acquisition of a discipline's skills of inquiry needs to be closely related to the learning of its key concepts, theories and other content."

While OBE is consumed by the tyranny of relevance, a liberal-humanist view of education acknowledges and values the past. The reason for studying history is not simply so we are saved from repeating the same mistakes. As important is the recognition that, as individuals and as a society, we are involved in an unfolding narrative that began thousands of years ago and which continues to unfold into the future. Being part of that narrative promotes a sense of belonging to something more lasting and significant than the often mundane routine of day-to-day existence.

One of the strengths of a liberal- humanist view of education, in an era of social dysfunction, alienation and loss of meaning, is that there is a strong and life-affirming story about how Western civilisation has evolved and how, while being far from perfect, we are no longer ruled by superstition, bigotry and ignorance.

David Green, an analyst at the London- based Institute of Economic Affairs, in summarising an address to the Mont Pelerin Society given by historian Max Hartwell, describes a liberal-humanist view of education as follows: "The content of a liberal education, he [Hartwell] says, should embrace civility, morality, objectivity, freedom and creativity. By civility, he means respect for other people; by morality, the elementarv maxims such as honesty and fairness; by objectivity, belief in the disinterested examination of facts and arguments, without fear or favour; by freedom, the principle that children should be equipped to exercise personal responsibility; and by creativity, belief in the advance of knowledge: not the perfectibility of man, but the possibility of progress.

"Hartwell points out that a liberal education can be more easily defined negatively than positively: it is not utilitar- ian or interest-serving; it is not vocational or professional; it is not specialist or one-sided; it is not conformist and uncritical: it is not education for doing: it is disinterested, it is general and universal, it is critical and inventive, it is education for thinking and understanding."

Bruce Wilson, the man partly responsible for Australia's adoption of OBE, acknowledges that any curriculum must recognise the importance of particular subjects. After referring to the research associated with an American publication, How People Learn, undertaken by the National Research Council of the US, he says: "The report offers powerful confirmation of the key idea in this paper: that transferable, higher order learning, what I am calling deep understanding, is inseparable from a well-organised body of content knowledge which reflects a deep understanding of specific subject matter."

A liberal-humanist view of education values the aesthetic, the moral and the spiritual, as well as the rational. A well-rounded education should encompass the spiritual and moral value of the literary canon represented by Greek tragedies, Shakespeare and the romantic poets as well as great artworks and classical music. As noted by 20th-century US writer and child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim, young children need a steadv diet of those myths. fables and legends that tell us so much about emotions such as betrayal, love and bravery and, as a result, help to develop psychological maturity and resilience.

It is also the case, contrary to the belief that all learning is subjective and relative, that there are certain interpretations of the world that are closer to the truth than others. Ptolemy's version of the heavenly movements was superseded by Copernicus, and William Harvey dispelled many of the beliefs about the heart's operation and how blood circulated around the body.

Contrary to the criticism that the traditional academic curriculum is unchanging, history shows us that disciplines evolve, and what is accepted as true at one stage is open to scrutiny and debate. As noted by Tony Gibbons, when discussing science as a subject: "The purpose of science is to seek explanations of the physical world. Proposed explanations are tested against the physical world and. depending upon the success in accounting for that physical world, may be accepted as a step in the search for truth. The matter is a search, a quest, for the condition of scientific inquiry is one in which there is progress from one theory to the next."

One of the most strident criticisms of a liberal-humanist education is that it is used to reproduce capitalist societies, where those already privileged are able to maintain and consolidate their power and control. If such were truly the case, then why is it that members of the Left have been so successful in their long march through the education system? The reality is that the very system attacked as socially unjust and closed has granted them the freedom to mount their critique and to subvert the school curriculum. A traditional education, instead of simply reinforcing the status quo, provides a vantage point from which to criticise and improve the world.

In relation to literature. for example. one need only read poems such as William Blake's Holy Thursday, novels such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and the plays of Bertolt Brecht for evidence of the conservative curriculum's powerful and damning critique of society. When studying history, in particular the advent of popular sovereignty, the rule of habeas corpus, the abolition of slavery, the Chartist movement and the movement to universal franchise, it soon becomes obvious that the education system provides an independent site to measure our freedom. Instead of stifling debate and preserving elitism, a liberal-humanist education provides the very knowledge, understanding and skills needed to improve society.

While many politicians, bureaucrats and teacher educators seek to use the education system to further their own agendas, often based on short-term political expediency, ideological bent or self-interest, one of the strengths of a liberal-humanist education is that it is based on the belief that schools and universities should remain autonomous and free of outside interference. Education should not be used as a handmaiden for those either on the Left or the Right who are seeking to impose a form of managerialism that reduces learning to what is cost effective.

The above edited extract from "Dumbing Down" by Kevin Donnelly appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on January, 27, 2007

(Conservative) Australian Federal government push for national High School curriculum

Labor premiers have been challenged by the Howard Government to embrace a national education framework, after a high-level report found "bewildering" inconsistencies across school curriculums. In the latest challenge to states' rights, Federal Education Minister Julie Bishop yesterday promoted a unified system - and signalled she would push the national agenda at a key meeting in April.

"I am concerned that students, teachers and parents are being let down as many aspects of school education get hijacked by teachers unions and state education bureacrats," Ms Bishop said. "Instead of learning basic facts in subjects like history, children are being taught according to an ideological agenda." ....

Ms Bishop, addressing a business audience in Brisbane, ramped up her push for national consistency as she released a report highlighting the depth of the problem across five subject areas. The Australian Council for Educational Research study portrayed an alarming jigsaw of Year 12 curriculums. In one of the most glaring cases, the study found 27 different types of maths classes for pre-university students, and 20 different history courses, with only two called "Australian history".

There was only 25 per cent consistency in English courses, while 50 per cent of history classes used the same material. The results were more positive in more challenging subjects such as chemistry and physics, where there was up to 95 per cent consistency across the nation.

Flagging a showdown with the states at the national meeting of education ministers in April, Ms Bishop cited the growing number of remedial English and maths classes being taught in universities as evidence that the states were failing on standards. "There is nothing to stop the state and territory governments from adopting a nationally consistent approach at any time in the past," she told the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia. "The differences are grounded in history of the states and territories and their education systems, and in the different sets of compromises that have had to be struck by curriculum and assessment agencies with their respective stakeholders over the years."

With a population of just 20 million people, Australia had nine different senior secondary certificates with a "bewildering array of variations", Ms Bishop told the conference. "There are differences in the number and types of subjects that are offered, assessed and certificated; differences in assessment methodologies and differences in the codes used to report results."

ACER chief executive Geoff Masters said the findings reinforced the need for common subject content across the nation's schools. "There's a pretty strong case for having a very significant proportion of courses common across all states and territories," Mr Masters said.

But state ministers hit back at their federal counterpart, saying her national agenda was politically driven and out of date. They had been working together towards greater national consistency for several years. "NSW already has a rigorous, highly regarded curriculum and end-of-school credential, and we are concerned that any move to impose a national system would result in a lowering of standards for NSW students," NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt said. "Where it can benefit students and the wider community, NSW supports moves towards greater national consistency, something we have been working co-operatively towards for several years."

Victoria treated the proposal with scepticism. "What Victoria doesn't want to do is lower the high quality educational standards in Victoria just to meet some artificial target proposed by Ms Bishop to satisfy a political agenda," Education Minister John Lenders said.

South Australian Education Minister Jane Lomax-Smith said the federal Government had commissioned many reports into curriculum issues without serious financial investment. "This is just another distraction to take attention away from federal Labor's funded education plan for real improvements in science and mathematics."

The ACT welcomed alignment of curriculum standards provided it did not compromise its education system. Federal Labor education spokesman Stephen Smith said he favoured a national curriculum "with the obvious and sensible local and regional variations".



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"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Friday, February 02, 2007

See no dissent, call it science

It is a sign of how politicized global warming has become when a father's push for his daughter's junior high school science class to present both sides of the global warming controversy becomes a national story -- with the father being portrayed as the villain. To recap, Frosty Hardison, the parent of a seventh-grader who attends school in Federal Way, Wash., was troubled to learn that science teacher Kay Walls had planned on showing her class Al Gore's global-warming pic "An Inconvenient Truth" -- without presenting any contrary information.

Hardison is an evangelical Christian who, as the Washington Post reported, sees global warming as "one of the signs" of Judgment Day. That is, Hardison fits the sort of stereotype bound to attract national media attention under the rubric: religious zealot fights science in schools. The school board put a moratorium on showing the movie -- since lifted -- while it investigated whether Wells was violating a school policy that requires that when class materials "show bias," that educators "point out the biases, and present additional information and perspectives to balance those biases."

On the one hand, it is a sad commentary that districts see a need to restrict teachers' ability to communicate -- and that this country has become so sensitive that parents feel a need to muzzle what teachers can say in class. On the other hand, we've all seen teachers who think their political views are gospel. In this case, Walls told the Washington Post that she could not find any authoritative articles that counter "An Inconvenient Truth" -- other than a 32-year-old Newsweek article. CNN apparently went to the same school as Walls, as it aired a segment in which University of Maryland professor Phil Arkin asserted, "I don't think there is legitimately an actual opposing viewpoint to the 'Inconvenient Truth' film."

Allow me to present a few names. Massachusetts Institute of Technollogy's Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Meteorology Richard S. Lindzen complained to the Boston Globe about the "shrill alarmism" of Gore's flic. Neil Frank, who was considered authoritative when he was the director of the National Hurricane Center, told the Washington Post that global warming is "a hoax." Hurricane expert William Gray of Colorado State University believes the Earth will start to cool within 10 years.

University of Virginia professor emeritus Fred Singer' co-authored a book," Unstoppable Global Warming -- Every 1,500 Years," that argues that global warming is not human-induced but based on a solar cycle. Last year, 60 Canadian scientists signed a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in which they argued that there is no consensus among climate scientists.

Odd, isn't it? Global warming believers heap scorn on religious zealots for not valuing science and knowledge. Yet the thrust of their argument to prove apocalyptic global warming relies on denying the existence of views and scientists who clearly exist.

A Boston Globe editorial mischaracterized the controversy as the mischief of some parents objecting "to having their children see 'An Inconvenient Truth' " -- despite the fact that Hardison had told the Seattle Times that he wanted the teacher to present "a whole broad spectrum of facts." Buying into the teacher's argument that she cannot find heterodox articles, the editorial suggested that Walls find her "balancing 'data' in Michael Crichton's novel 'State of Fear.' It's science fiction." That was supposed to be clever.

It is fascinating to watch Gore's acolytes belittle Crichton for being a novelist, apparently undaunted by the fact that they getting their science from a movie and a politician. At least Crichton is a Harvard Medical School graduate -- which suggests that he has some appreciation for the scientific method. When Gore took natural science classes at Harvard, the Washington Post has reported, he received a D as a sophomore and a C+ in his senior year.

Over the phone Monday, Lindzen remarked on Gore's grades, as he noted that global warming believers have tried to argue that there is consensus since 1988 -- when fewer scientists believed in climatic apocalypse. And those who deny that credible scientists have opposing views are "expressing their will, not their finding. They want this to be so, so they'll ignore anything else." So who is the real zealot -- the father who said he is happy both sides will be shown? Or the teacher who denies the existence of scientists with heterodox views?


More British schools fail to make the grade

A quarter more primary schools were failed by inspectors last term under tougher inspections, according to Ofsted. Overall, the number of England’s schools judged not to be giving children a decent education rose by almost a fifth between last August and December. By the end of last year, inspectors had put 243 schools into special measures, Ofsted’s worst category, which threatens a school’s closure unless it improves.

The latest figures were released after Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of England’s schools, said that one in eight secondaries and one in twelve schools overall was inadequate. Of the 2,942 inspections last term, the results were particularly bad for primary schools, with 171 in special measures — a rise of 25 per cent since the end of the summer term. Another 367 schools in England were found to be inadequate and served with notice to improve, the education watchdog said. It noted that 82 new schools had been put into special measures, and a further 113 were given a “notice to improve”. Another 91 schools had “serious weaknesses”.

Ofsted put the rise down to inspectors asking more of schools. “Ofsted has been clear, since a new inspection framework was introduced in September 2005, that we have raised the bar of expected performance for schools because what was considered good ten years ago is not be considered good any longer,” a spokesman said.

Jim Knight, Minister for Schools, said that the number of schools in special measures still remained below 1 per cent of the total, half the number that were in special measures in 1998. He said: “The number normally increases at the end of the autumn term when there are more inspections, before returning to previous levels in the summer. But we’re not complacent and are turning these schools around more quickly.”

“We have raised the bar, so that schools which previously would have avoided attention now find themselves in special measures. We make no apology for this tough stance against failing or coasting schools.”

Alan Smithers, director of education and employment research at Buckingham University, said that the rise in the number of primary schools in special measures should be a serious cause for concern. “At the very least it indicates that the Government’s natural wish to improve primary education has stalled,” Professor Smithers said, adding that a shortage of primary head teachers could be contributing.

Teaching unions said that ministers had scored a “a spectacular own goal” but that it was not surprising schools were struggling with the bureaucratic burdens heaped on them. “In ‘raising the bar’ the Government has given the impression that standards of education in schools are going down, whereas the reverse is true,” Mick Brookes, of the National Association of Head Teachers, said.



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"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Thursday, February 01, 2007

New British curriculum will 'make every school lesson politically correct'

Children will be taught race relations and multiculturalism with every subject they study -from Spanish to science - under controversial changes to the school curriculum announced by the Government. In music and art, they could have to learn Indian and Chinese songs and instruments, and West African drumming. In maths and science, key Muslim contributions such algebra and the number zero will be emphasised to counter Islamophobia. And in English, pupils will study literature on the experiences of migration - such as Zadie Smith's novel White Teeth, or Brick Lane, by Monica Ali.

One critic accused Education Secretary Alan Johnson of 'politicising' lessons with the new agenda. Tory MP Douglas Carswell, a member of the Commons education select committee, said schools will be vehicles for multicultural propaganda and classrooms turned into 'laboratories for politically-correct thought'. Mr Johnson was also attacked over attempts to put Britishness on the curriculum as it emerged that suggested core values are so woolly they could apply to many countries.

With concerns that standards in the three Rs are unacceptable, ministers will also face accusations that they are diverting attention away from vital subjects. Under the recommendations - put forward in a report by former headmaster Sir Keith Ajegbo -teachers will be expected to make 'explicit references to cultural diversity' in as many subjects as possible. A new central theme covering 'identity and diversity' will be added to citizenship classes, which have been compulsory since 2002. Pupils should be encouraged to discuss topics such as immigration, the legacy of the British Empire, the Commonwealth and the EU.

Teaching on immigration, including recent population movement from Eastern Europe, should touch on the benefits it brings to the economy and society, while also bringing 'political discontent and criticism'. Pupils could even be tested on their attitudes to diversity in A-level and GCSEs, which will be redrafted to ensure they include 'issues related to diversity'.

But Professor Alan Smithers, of the University of Buckingham, asked: 'Do the Government have in mind a Britishness test for youngsters born in this country, as they do with people who arrive from other countries?' Meanwhile, information technology lessons would involve joint Web projects or video-conferencing with youngsters around the world.

Sir Keith, whose report was commissioned following last July's suicide bomb attacks in London, warned that pupils could become 'disaffected' and 'alienated' if they felt unable to discuss cultural issues in subject areas. 'Education for diversity must be viewed as a whole-curriculum focus,' he said.

However, Mr Carswell said: 'This report is prescribing precisely the wrong medicine to heal the wounds of a society that multiculturalism has divided. This is a stark example of the politically-correct lobby hijacking the citizenship agenda. 'Recent arrivals to this country have all the more reason to be given a sense of what we are all about so they can become part of it and share it. But instead this will give the green light to every politically-correct Left-Wing educationist to further undermine our society.'

Teachers' unions warned that the curriculum is too crowded already to cope with extra demands. John Dunford, general secretary of the headteachers' union ASCL, said: 'Once again, the burden is falling on schools to fix a problem which has its roots in the wider society.'


More cash fails to budge school scores

A familiar phenomenon in America: Now in Australia too: More money leads to WORSE education

Literacy and numeracy levels have fallen in NSW public schools despite increased government funding per student. The proportion of year 3 students achieving national benchmarks dropped 0.8 of a percentage point for reading and 0.9 of a percentage point for numeracy between 2003 and 2004, the Productivity Commission's annual report says. In that period the Government increased its expenditure by $686 on each full-time primary student and about $500 on each secondary student.

The literacy and numeracy skills of students in years 3, 5 and 7 are measured against national benchmarks each year, but the results are not released until more than two years later. These most recent figures show there has been little change among NSW students, with variations of less than 1 percentage point in each of the categories, despite the increased spending. The performance of year 5 and 7 students was better, with slight improvements from the previous year in their numeracy skills, but fewer students in both groups met the reading benchmark than had done so the previous year. Just over 92 per cent of year 3 students in NSW achieved the reading benchmark, and nearly 96 per cent met the writing and numeracy benchmarks. By year 7, less than 80 per cent of students could meet the numeracy benchmark.

The NSW Government spent $9,546 on each primary student and $12,024 on each secondary student in 2004-05. The best performers in NSW were those who lived in metropolitan or provincial areas, girls and non-indigenous students. Indigenous students were closest to the state average in year 3, but dropped in each subsequent year and most dramatically in numeracy, where close to 90 per cent achieved the benchmark in year 3, but less than half by year 7. The commission's report shows the proportion of students achieving the writing benchmark rose in all groups.

The federal Education Minister, Julie Bishop, called for a national curriculum last year to arrest what she said were falling literacy and numeracy standards in schools. But her department admitted it did not have figures on literacy and numeracy beyond 2004, and therefore lacked the proof that standards were falling. Last year's basic skills test saw primary school children's literacy scores slip by 0.1 of a percentage point since 2005, a tiny negative fluctuation after 10 years when scores had been mostly consistent.

The State Government said then that three out of five pupils who failed to reach minimum literacy standards in year 3 had raised their performance to acceptable levels by year 5, but gave no data to support the claim. The NSW Government commented in the commission's report that it planned to invest more than $616 million in literacy and numeracy programs.



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"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Wednesday, January 31, 2007

British top-grade graduates who aren't worth hiring

Lots of Brits with university honours degrees now "don't know nuffink": Poor social skills, poor mathematics skills and poor ability to write correct English. The universites are now teaching less than High Schools once did. But I guess they know that they have to save the planet and love Muslims, blacks and homosexuals

Half the country's leading employers are unable to fill graduate vacancies because studentss lack basic work skills, a survey revealed. Bosses are forced to leave prized graduate jobs open every year even though universities are turning out soaring numbers of students. Employers blame their continued recruitment difficulties on the low calibre of graduates - even those armed with first and 2.1s in their degrees. Many have such poor communication skills that bosses are worried about allowing them to answer the phone, sit in meetings or give presentations. One graduate going for a job at an investment bank began his interview saying: "You alright mate?"

The survey of 211 leading employers, including Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Government departments and GlaxoSmithKline, reveals that bosses are finding it increasingly tough to recruit capable candidates - despite repeated warnings to students to work on "soft skills" such as team-working and commercial savvy. Forty-three per cent of employers polled by the Association of Graduate Recruiters said they had unfilled graduate vacancies last year, against fewer than a third in 2005. And 55 per cent of bosses are anticipating facing recruitment shortfalls in 2007. Of these, 62 per cent are not expecting to receive sufficient applications from graduates with the necessary skills.

In its winter review, the AGR says employers feel there is an "inadequate supply of applicants of sufficient calibre". It adds: "They go on to explain that candidates are normally academically proficient but lacking in soft skills such as communication as well as verbal and numerical reasoning." One telecoms company reported: "We received more than sufficient applications but I think whilst the candidates have the academic ability they didn't have the communication and soft employability skills so weren't getting through the assessment centres. "We lost quite a few students through the psychometric testing stages because of a lack of numerical and verbal reasoning skills."

Among organisations failing to fill their graduate posts last year, the average number of vacancies was 12. However five per cent left more than 50 jobs unfilled. The shortfalls forced bosses to call in expensive contractors to get the work done, the survey found. Carl Gilleard, AGR chief executive, said: "Much more effort needs to be made in schools to get the message across that going to university and coming out with a 2.1, while an achievement, is not enough to land a graduate level job. "You have to develop your skills and experience, and learn to demonstrate you have got those skills and experience. "People who put in applications full of spelling mistakes on online application forms deserve what they get. "Over the last few years, employers have raised the stakes. Their requirements have grown because of the demands of their business "They are looking for people of a higher calibre and graduates have not really caught onto that."

He added: "There are also some serious issues around science and technology courses as there are not enough students taking them. "The engineering and construction sectors are really struggling despite having some great career opportunities." Despite the difficulties recruiting top graduates, employers will be offering lower-than-inflation rises in graduate salaries this year. Starting pay packets will average 23,431 pounds, a rise of just 2.1 per cent on 2006 - the smallest increase in six years. This may be down to a predicted surge in the overall number of job opportunities available this year. Employers polled will offer 15.1 per cent more graduate-level posts in 2007. Mr Gilleard said: "Once again, we are seeing an increase in the number of graduate level vacancies which is great news for anyone applying for a graduate job this year."


Nutty Britain to discriminate against educated families?

University applicants will be asked to declare whether their parents have a degree. The Government wants the information for its campaign to attract more working-class students into higher education, but critics say that it could be used to discriminate against middle-class candidates and raises suspicion of social engineering. The new question, asking whether parents "have been through higher education", will appear on application forms from next year. The Universities and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) will use it to build up a detailed picture of every applicant's background.

A spokesman for UCAS insisted that the information would not be used in the allocation of places, but would merely help universities to collect data on how successful they have been at broadening their intake. "It's just another attempt to establish the background of applicants for statistical purposes," he said. He added that applicants would not be forced to provide the information, but would merely be asked to tick a box, indicating "yes/no/don't know/decline to answer".

A compulsory question on the UCAS form already requires applicants under 21 to "give the occupation of your parent, step-parent or guardian who earns the most". Nick Gibb, a Tory education spokesman, described the new question as unwise. "At the very least it allows suspicions of social engineering to enter into the application process," he said.



But Australia's Leftists don't seem to know what is going on around them

In the campaign for the 1997 general election in Britain the then Labour Opposition leader Tony Blair famously declared that his three highest priorities were "education, education, education". In 1999 he unveiled a 10-year reform agenda. Blair said that previous governments had neglected education, and promised to significantly increase funding as a percentage of gross domestic product. He said investment in education was essential to ensure the workforce was highly skilled to boost productivity gains and promised an "education revolution". Sound familiar?

Australia's Labor Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, has promised an "education revolution" underpinned by funding increases to raise expenditure as a percentage of GDP to boost productivity gains. Blair's so-called "Third Way" has become a template for democratic socialist parties around the world. Given Rudd has unashamedly lifted Blair's education terms and rhetoric, it is instructive to examine the Blair "education revolution" for the likely directions Rudd will take.

At the heart of the British reforms has been a much stronger focus on accountability and measurement of school performance. League tables which rank school performance were introduced in 1992, but Blair has expanded them and used school performance data to apply pressure and target funding. He said there would be "no hiding place for schools that were not striving to improve". The tables now include an "improvement index" to show which schools have shown steady improvement, or decline. More recently, Blair has added "value added" tables which show the average progress pupils make while at individual schools. This type of performance reporting has been introduced into Australian schools but has been fiercely opposed by education unions as well as state Labor governments.

School report cards are one of the most important performance indicators. In response to complaints from parents that they could not decipher the jargon on school report cards, it is now a condition of federal government funding that parents be provided with report cards in plain English and with children rated on a five-point scale. Unions have fought this at every turn.

One controversial aspect of Blair's reforms has been the involvement and funding support of the private sector in some government schools, contributing about a fifth of the capital cost and having a say in how a school is run, with limited influence over curriculum. Blair is reported to be considering plans to provide government schools with much greater autonomy through "radical reforms" that would give "more power to parents". This would involve giving school communities greater control over the hiring and firing of teachers and school principals and allow greater flexibility to innovate. It would mean parents being given a fuller picture of the individual progress of their children.

The Howard Government has consistently called for parents to be given more information about the performance of schools, teachers and students. The funding agreement also requires state governments to provide greater discretion at the school level to hire teachers, and requires a range of school performance data to be provided to parents.

With universities, the Blair Government introduced a scheme closely modelled on the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) introduced by the ALP. It has since introduced variable fees and received a report that recommended students pay about a quarter of the cost of their studies, the same average rate as for HECS. In recent times, the Blair Government has urged universities to reduce their reliance on public funding.

On January 7 Blair announced plans for tax relief for property owners if they donate their homes to their former universities, as part of efforts to create endowment funds for higher education. He also outlined plans for a scheme where cash donations to universities will be matched by government funds, to promote a culture of philanthropy. As the British Minister for Higher Education, Bill Rammell, said last year, "the UK Government is already a minority shareholder in universities" and "we should not worry if over time public funding continues to reduce as a proportion of the total funding the higher education sector is able to generate".

If Rudd is serious about a Blair-style education revolution, he will be disappointed to find that most of these reforms have been introduced by the Howard Government, and in some cases are further advanced than in Britain. These reforms have been resisted by state Labor governments and education unions. The key challenge for Rudd will be to deliver on the hype. No matter what form his education agenda takes, he will be confronted by staunch opposition from the all-powerful education unions and state Labor governments. Already the unions are threatening to withdraw election campaign funds from federal Labor. Rudd can steal the rhetorical clothing from Blair. He is yet to demonstrate he has the courage for the battle.



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"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

White students 'do better' in British universities

Below is a brief summary from a Leftist newspaper of an official British government report that does not appear to be online. It is difficult to dissect the sort of "massaged" statistics one has to expect from official Britain but I expect that the following is going on:

1). Blacks do badly as usual because of their low average IQ.

2). Chinese do badly because of their poor English skills. Most Chinese probably are not born in Britain and mastering English is very difficult for Orientals -- as mastering oriental languages is for us. Most immigrant blacks, by contrast, would come from places where at least a form of English is spoken (e.g. Nigeria, The Caribbean).

3). The "whites" include Jews -- who usually perform very well indeed and who are disproportionately present in higher education.

4). The female advantage comes from the black component. Black females are normally much better motivated than black males and take full advantage of the official and unofficial favouritism that is given to blacks.

5). Amusing that South Asians (Indians etc.) are not mentioned. The obvious inference from the omission is that they did as well as whites overall. So skin colour or "xenophobia" was not a factor.

Black and Chinese students are less likely to get top university degrees than their white contemporaries, a government report has found. The study suggested that ethnic minority undergraduates faced "a considerable cost" as a result because students who get first-class degrees increasingly command higher salaries.

The Department for Education and Skills report also found that students living at home were more likely to get firsts, women performed better than men, and older students tended to get better degrees.

Analysing data for 65,000 students, the researchers predicted the odds of different ethnic groups getting first-class degrees, 2:1s, 2:2s or thirds. The gap was widest for black Caribbean, black African and Chinese students. The analysis took account of factors such as gender, prior academic performance, subject studied and deprivation levels.

"A number of studies have found that attaining a 'good' degree carries a premium in the labour market, and that this premium has been increasing over time, as the higher education system has expanded," the study said. "As a result, there is a considerable cost attached to this attainment gap identified in relation to minority ethnic students."

It cautioned that the findings did not "automatically" imply "ethnic bias". The Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said the Government was committed to ensuring people of all backgrounds could thrive in higher education."


School curriculum outlines need to offer clear guidance

And the latest approach to an Australian national curriculum is too vague to be useful, writes Kevin Donnelly

Arguments in favour of a national curriculum are not restricted to Australia. While the US is also a federal system and responsibility for education rests at the local level, groups such as the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation argue for a national approach to detailing what students should learn and the expected levels of achievement. In a recent paper published by the Fordham Foundation, "To Dream the impossible Dream", four approaches are put forward to achieve a national curriculum.

The most aggressive approach is for the central government to enforce a national curriculum that replaces state-based models. The second approach is voluntary and states would be invited to opt into a national svstem designed by the federal government. A third approach is to allow states to continue to develop local curriculums, but to ensure that in each of the different syllabus or framework documents there is common content and skills. The final approach is to allow states to develop their own curriculum documents but for the central government to evaluate them against an agreed benchmark.

Given that both major Australian political parties, at the Commonwealth level, have signalled education as an election issue - in particular, concerns about standards, the quality of the curriculum and the possibility of a national curriculum - it is useful to relate the above four models to the Australian scene. In the same way that the Howard Government has mandated student report cards in plain English and with A to E gradings, the Commonwealth Government could try to force states and territories to adopt a national curriculum by threatening to withhold federal funding.

But Australia's Constitution makes such a course of action problematic and unlikely, as education is the preserve of the states, and the danger is that adopting a one-size-fits-all approach will enforce mediocrity if the model adopted is dumbed down and politically correct. Imagine Western Australia's outcomes-based education approach or Tasmania's Essential Learnings writ large across the nation.

During the early to mid-1990s, we attewmpted the second model, represented by the Keating government's national statements and profiles that detailed learning outcomes in various key learning areas and the expected levels of performance. Such was the substandard nature of the Keating national statements and profiles -- based, as they were, on the experimental and new-age OBE approach -- that the July, 1993, Perth meeting of education ministers refused to endorse the national curriculum.

Now, concerning Statements of Learning, the states and territories, in collaboration with the federal Government, are involved in implementing a variation of the third model. Statements of Learning are defined as "the key knowledge, skills, understandings and capacities that all students in Australia should have the opportunity to learn and develop in a domain, irrespective of the state or territory in which they live". Instead of coercing the states and territories or going to the expense of developing a comprehensive curriculum, a lighter approach is being adopted. The Statements of Learning do not cover a school's entire curriculum, restricted as they are to elements of core subjects such as English, mathematics, civics and citizenship, information and communications technologies and science. The statements relate only to years 3, 5, 7 and 9 and, while states and territories are being asked to integrate them into their own curriculum documents, there will still be a good deal of local variation as states and territories have the right to develop their own curriculums.

Given that the Australian education ministers endorsed the various Statements of Learning in August 2006 and states and territories have until January 2008 to implement the new curriculum approach, it is surprising that there has been no public debate about the usefulness and academic rigour of the statements. The first point to make about this third approach to developing a national curriculum is that it is low-risk and it plays safely into the hands of those responsible for the current parlous state of Australian education.

Whereas the practice in places such as South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and the US is to benchmark local curriculum internationally in order to ensure what is developed is of the highest international quality, the Statements of Learning are based on what exists within Australia. Instead of clearly defining essential knowledge, understanding and skills that all students are expected to learn, the statements are generalised and vague on the whole and in line with Australia's adoption of OBE.

The refusal to stipulate clearly what all students should learn, regardless of where they go to school, is based on the mistaken belief that schools and teachers must be given the freedom to relate what is taught to the special character of a student. As argued by those responsible for the Statements of Learning, the strength of the approach is that it "leaves systems, sectors and schools with flexibility and autonomy to integrate these statements into their own curriculums in a manner which suits the diversity of students' needs and types of schools across the country".

Again and again, research suggests that what teachers need are clear, concise and unambiguous syllabuses, or road maps, of what they are expected to teach. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel. teachers are thus freed to focus on improving classroom practice, mentoring one another and professional development. Neither the Keating government statements and profiles nor the Statements of Learning are syllabuses and, as such, are not of much practical use to teachers. If governments are serious about a national curriculum, year level-specific syllabuses in key subjects should be developed. Such syllabuses should be internationally benchmarked, academically sound, concise and teacher friendly and, if developed at the federal level, offered to schools on a voluntary basis.

Details about the "Statements of Learning" can be found here

The above article appeared in "The Australian" newspaper on January 27, 2007

Rubbery Australian university standards

MORE than a third of overseas students are completing their degrees at Australian universities with English so poor that they should not have been admitted to tertiary study in the first place. The results of a study by the demographer Bob Birrell confirm widespread concerns expressed by academics over the past decade that the Federal Government's focus on drawing fee-paying students from overseas has led to a collapse in university academic standards. They have complained about the way fee-paying students - who now number 239,000, and who contribute 15 per cent of tertiary income - have brought pressure on universities to ensure pass levels, and an epidemic of plagiarism among some groups of foreign students.

The study showed that 34 per cent of graduating students who were offered permanent residence visas last year were unable to achieve a "competent" English standard in their test scores. Among Chinese students, who are driving much of the growth in export education, the figure was as high as 43.2 per cent. More than half of South Korean and Thai students could not meet required English levels.

"It does raise serious questions about Australian university standards," said Professor Birrell, a Monash University academic and author of the report, published in today's People and Place journal. "How do they get in in the first place? The next [question] is, how do they get through university exams with poor English?"

The Department of Immigration will only issue higher education visas to students who reach band six - a "competent" standard - in the International English Language Testing System. But other types of visas only require students to reach band five. Many students arrive on these visas and use them as a back door to universities.

"We've got mountains of anecdotal data from individual lecturers complaining and people expressing concern [about standards], but this is the first time that confirms those concerns are correct," Professor Birrell said. Professor Peter Abelson, a visiting scholar at the University of Sydney, said universities often turned a blind eye to plagiarism and ineptitude among international students because they relied on their income. "[These figures] are a very stunning result, but not entirely surprising to people who are in tertiary education," he said. Students with poor English were able to pass through university because so much of their assessment work was not done under examination conditions, he said.

But universities said the data did not necessarily prove standards were softening. Professor Gerard Sutton, the president of the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, said it was possible the foreign students who had failed to reach a score of six on the International English Language Testing System had scored poorly in the speaking component of the test, which may not have been a critical skill in the course they were taking. "I don't accept that there's a problem in universities in terms of soft marking of international students," Professor Sutton said. [How much evidence does he need?]

Professor Birrell said the results were an indictment on the professional associations that accredited students and allowed them to proceed with residency visas. The report said the Australian Nursing Council would not accredit graduates unless they scored seven in the language test. Dennis Furini, the chief executive of the Australian Computer Society, said his members had not complained about English standards. "In IT, it's more important to know the programming language than the English language."



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"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Monday, January 29, 2007

University: Who needs it?

Britain: As more and more pupils go to university – and pay ever more for the privilege – many are questioning whether they are getting a fair return

When Anthony Kluk set off for Leeds University to read physics with two As and two Bs in his pocket he thought it was going to be the first day of the rest of his life: a bright new start in a brave new world. It didn’t quite work out like that. “Once I got to university I found myself repeating the material I had studied for the last two years. I was forced to spend hours in the laboratory doing what can only be described as watching paint dry. It was so tedious that going back to halls and doing homework was the last thing on my mind. “And since Leeds was filled with alcohol-fuelled distractions, as well as my complete lack of motivation, I started every day with a hangover. I decided to cut my losses and start my career.” One year into his course he dropped out. Two years on he is happily employed as a corporate banker.

Similar self-doubt has also crept into the cloistered quads of Oxbridge. By the end of her first year reading English Lucy Tobin found herself sitting on the manicured lawns of Lady Margaret Hall on the banks of the Cherwell and wondering why. A year earlier the main thing on her mind had been not Alfred Lord Tennyson but Tanya from Footballers’ Wives, as she did a gap year on a tabloid newspaper. “The allure of Oxford swung my decision towards academia, but there are still times when I’m sitting in a crowded lecture theatre and wonder if I did the right thing swapping a salary for Malory.”

None of this is what Tony Blair wants to hear with his vision of a country where half the population is university-educated. At first glance the need for a degree is a no-brainer. Professions allow entry only to graduates, and many companies insist on recruits with a degree — or even two. Yet employers also insist that a degree alone is not an accurate measure of employability; indeed 40% of them believe the qualification has become devalued. Some of the most important skills — numeracy, literacy and communication — are supposed to be instilled in school but are still lacking in many students emerging from university.

So does a degree really mean anything any more? At £3,000 a year in most cases is it worth the mock-vellum it is inscribed on? Increasingly students and their parents (who usually have to stump up for the fees) don’t think so.

THE number of students starting university in the current academic year fell by 3.6% from 2005, although because the figures were up on 2004 it is not yet clear if it represents the beginning of a downward trend. What is certain is that it reflects the leap in tuition fees from just over £1,000 a year to £3,000. And with the top universities now lobbying for fees to rise even higher, possibly doubling to £6,000, those who are taking up what was once seen as a prestigious privilege are beginning to see it as a risky business proposition.

Eytan Austin, 20, saw his experience in those terms before pulling out of what he calls a “poor quality” course at Thames Valley University. “I enrolled in events management, but I quickly realised I would be better off learning independently,” he said.

“There was a day and a half of lessons per week, but they were teaching us how to be employees when I want to be an entrepreneur. I’m sure it was helpful for some people; but for me the course fees were not worth it. Now I’m in the real world I’m learning from my mistakes rather than sitting through lectures. Since dropping out I’ve got no regrets at all. I’m just really happy with life.”

Drop-out rates, particularly among the “new universities”, mostly former polytechnics, are disturbingly high and rising. London South Bank and East London universities as well as Bolton University all have projected drop-out rates of more than 27%.

It is not just those who drop out who are challenging the value-added nature of a university education. Those who are eager to stick it through are wondering if they are getting their money’s worth.

When Bristol University cut teaching time in history for third-year undergraduates from six hours a week to two last year, it triggered protests from both the students and their parents. Etan Smallman, 20, a history student, reckoned he was being short-changed. “We expect better services for more money, not reduced ones,” he said.

One Bristol undergraduate told the university’s student newspaper: “I thought I was paying to be educated by leading academics, not for a library membership and a reading list.”

There is evidence now of a student revolt that has more in common with a consumer watchdog campaign than the campus politics of the 1960s. A maverick website called rates universities on student-to-tutor ratios and produces some damning comments. Several universities are rated by their own students as “rubbish” or “shocking”. The academic departments concerned are talking about legal action. But so are some students and parents. Jack Rabinowicz, an education lawyer whose daughter is a student at a northern university, complains that the number of seminars and tutorials seems to be decreasing drastically. Rabinowicz would like to see legally binding contracts spelling out what students are entitled to in return for their fees.

“Some students have one-sided contracts with the obligations on the student not to break university rules,” he said. “What is needed is a contract that the university has an obligation not to employ crap lecturers. I had a land law lecturer who was usually drunk. These people still exist.” Rabinowicz suggests that “mass actions for compensation — a hundred students getting together and claiming the return of £1,000 each — could be worthwhile”.

THE question is how much of this growing malaise is due to the government’s 50% target for pupils in higher education and how much is the result of a school system that does not teach students how to cope before they are herded into university.

“Now that kids are more force-fed at school and less educated to work independently, they need tutor-time,” said Alex Farquarson, who has one child studying in London and another at Sheffield. “I get cross when my daughter comes home and says she is sick of trying to work out what an essay question means while her tutor reads a book somewhere.”

Alison Wolf, professor of public sector management at King’s College London and a respected authority on tertiary education, agrees that universities are accepting people who haven’t been prepared well enough at school.

“There is an issue here about whether our system encourages universities to accept people on courses who can’t cope with them,” she said. “Universities are under tremendous pressure to fill places if they don’t want their business model to go down the plughole.”

She disagrees with the target of 50% of young people going to university and challenges the idea that it is necessitated by “the supposed skills needs of the workforce”.

“I think the market should find its own level,” she said. “Graduates are coming out and getting jobs that do not need graduate level skills. I am really opposed to the idea that the government should decide how many people should go to university.”

Wolf’s own son read classics at Oxford but is now “an extremely poor” self-employed musician. “If and when he gives up being a self-employed musician will he be better off with a degree? I don’t know.” The American sociologist Charles Murray argues that only people with an IQ of 115 or better, which he puts at 15% of the population, are equipped to do well at university. According to Murray a good university education should teach “advanced analytic skills and information at a level that exceeds the intellectual capacity of most people”. Struggling students, he suggests, are like someone “athletically unqualified” trying to cope with top-level sport.

Murray suggests the other problem is social pressure: middle class kids go to university because it is what their parents want rather than what society needs. “Finding a good lawyer or physician is easy. Finding a good carpenter, painter, electrician, plumber, glazier, mason — the list goes on and on — is difficult . . . ”This is a lesson that the influx of skilled eastern European craftsmen is rapidly teaching us in Britain. Yet the old class-driven attitudes prevail and can lead to traumatic mistakes.

Philip Kitcher liked his job as a senior nurse earning £28,000 a year, but he thought he might improve himself by training as a lawyer to become a nurse advocate. With no A-levels, he applied as a mature student to six universities.Three accepted him. He chose the University of Greenwich, which in 2001 offered him a place on its LLB course over the phone, saying his nursing qualification was the equivalent of two A-levels. A year later, he felt badly misled, having lost his place through an external exam.

“I am £15,000 in debt, have no job and have just failed my first year exams,” he said at the time. “My confidence has been knocked sideways. So has that of many of the people on the course. The university is being cagey about just how many failed the exams, because some people are now doing resits, but last year one-in-three first years [30%] didn't go on to the second year.

“Since I now know that at the end of the second and third years there are further failures, I feel angry. I was never told that there was such a low probability of actually getting the qualification I need. And I don't think any of the other students who failed were told either.

“If I had been told that the failure rate was so high and the chances of success so questionable I would have thought very hard before turning my life upside down. It is a big con. I feel that I have been duped. Every year Greenwich takes lots of [law] students who will fail. It takes their money and they run up huge debts.”

Kitcher said that some tutors were unacceptably rude. “When I asked how we did in our last piece of coursework, one tutor said, ‘You were all crap’. I said, ‘Could you be more specific?’ and the answer was, ‘No, wait for your marks’.” Since leaving Greenwich, he has gained a vocational degree in emergency nursing and is now back doing what he likes best. Greenwich said it was reviewing the curriculum and support offered to law students.

Readers of Tom Sharpe (sadly not yet on the compulsory list for undergraduates studying English) might hear echoes of “Wilt” syndrome, the brutal apathy acquired by his hapless polytechnic lecturer required to give poetry lessons to “plumbers II and gasfitters III”.

There is a growing dysfunction between the teachers and the taught that reflects flaws in the structure of the higher education system. A prime reason for reduced teaching time is the requirement, set by government, for universities to produce more research. This, rather than time spent on teaching, significantly determines a university’s state funding. When it comes to a university’s income from students, the prime requirement is quantity.

At the same time the conveyor belt is fed by the fact that a degree is increasingly a basic essential for young people looking for almost any sort of job. According to Bah-ram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, “there is not a career left you do not need a degree for. I don’t know about chiropody or massage but physiotherapy you need a degree for, likewise nursing”.

Paradoxically, it is these new degrees that have the most obvious value as proof of a skill. If a “degree” is another name for a vocational diploma, we don’t want to be messed around by unqualified physiotherapists or masseurs.

Do such skills have to be taught in a “university”, however? Traditionally they were learnt through apprenticeships and day-release courses at technical colleges. They still are in Germany, France and Switzerland, where the proportions of young people at university are between 30% and 40%, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

And then there are the unskilled degrees, which equip students for nothing in particular except passing the first barrier in getting some sort of job. As Murray puts it, a university degree today, particularly in the arts, is simply “a screening device for employers”. Without one, your application is simply binned.

The second screening device is quality. Since the rebranding of polytechnics in 1992, employers put stock not only on how good a degree is but on the subject and the university at which it was earned. Under those circumstances it might be reasonable to expect higher student satisfaction and better job prospects from the members of the Russell Group, the 20-strong self-appointed “premier league” of British universities. Yet they are keen to call themselves “research-in-tensive” — which, as the Bristol experience has shown, does not automatically result in the best teaching.

Many academics, perhaps particularly those at Oxford and Cambridge and other top-flight universities, regard general degree-level teaching even to bright undergraduates as “a bore”. Nurturing the young is far less important to their own careers than publications on South African tort law or Renaissance theatre techniques. This is a world in which John Reid’s epithet “not fit for purpose” comes to mind. WHAT about the value of a university education in assuring future personal prosperity? The government would like us to believe that a degree buys a higher salary. Yes, this is valid as a rule of thumb, but it depends on whose thumb. As Wolf points out, the degrees with a high return are the quantitative ones: “Maths, physics, chemistry, the hard sciences, law, medicine. They earn you money . . . An arts degree is not the thing to do if you want to make a fortune.”

According to the government’s 2003 white paper, The Future of Higher Education, a degree can bring an additional 50% to 64% in salary. Even today, however, 41% of members of the Institute of Directors do not have a university degree. Furthermore, the government’s determination to push more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into the best universities does not always pay off. The Council for Industry and Higher Education has found that graduates from poorer backgrounds go on to earn less than graduates from professional families with identical qualifications — by as much as 16% in the case of Oxbridge graduates.

Increasingly, large numbers of graduates emerging even from the Russell Group universities are finding themselves just one of the crowd and are drifting before they sort out what they can do for a living.

Hannah Fletcher signed up for a degree in Chinese at Cambridge but dropped out because her course “bore little relevance to the real world”. Part of her disillusion set in with seeing the finals-year girl in the next room spend months dressed in grubby tracksuit pants eating pasta in her room, swotting away and winning a first — only to end up burnt out and taking a job as a cleaner while she waited for decent offers.

Fletcher has seen “one bright, articulate graduate after another wave their devalued degree in front of indifferent employers”. Of her contemporaries, “one friend is working in a cider factory. Another has gone to teach English in Japan on a second gap year, while a third, with nothing better to do, has gone to visit her”. The most steady job any of them has is as an NHS administrator, taken to pay off debts.

So was it all a waste of time, effort and money? Wolf thinks it is still rational to go to university as “having a degree still pushes you up the potential shortlist for jobs”. She added: “In a society where lots of people have got degrees it is likely to go on being rational.”

The tipping point will be when so many people are going to university that “just having a degree does not earn you very much. Then the question will be — is it worth it? Will I be just as likely to do well getting three years’ work experience?” THE old idea of university education was to broaden the mind and to build independence and character; but it was also absolutely and unashamedly elitist. Evelyn Waugh defined this dream in Brideshead Revisited: “The truth is that Oxford is simply a very beautiful city in which it is convenient to segregate a certain number of the young of the nation while they are growing up.”

Students continue to find university rewarding and fun, a place for social and sexual adventure. But the dream was over long before Waugh wrote it. The real truth was glimpsed decades ago in Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim and Malcolm Brad-bury’s The History Man, both the products of bitter experience.

Universities today are driven by government targets, employers’ requirements, high fees and financially pressed students looking for a return on investment.

The Blairite concept of educational democratisation has turned the ivory towers into degree factories, turning out a product that has lost its niche status in a flooded market. Ironic when a factory was what the gifted young once went to university to escape.



Why must non-Muslims be barred from them?

A row has erupted over Muslim-only washrooms at La Trobe University [Australia] that can be accessed only with a secret push-button code. Muslim students have exclusive access to male and female washrooms on campus, sparking claims of bias and discrimination. The university and Islamic leaders have defended the washrooms as vital to Muslim students' prayer rituals.

A university student, who did not want to be identified, raised the issue with the Sunday Herald Sun this week. Australian Family Council spokesman Bill Muehlenberg said concerns over the exclusive facilities were valid. "Do we have a Christian washroom or an atheist washroom?" he said. "The whole thing is madness." Mr Muehlenberg said the separate facilities were divisive. "If Muslims are saying 'we are good Australians and want to integrate', why are they insisting on separate washrooms?" he said.

Victorian Muslim community leader Yasser Soliman said the washrooms were necessary. He said the separate facilities were also due to concerns from non-Muslim students. "Muslims need to wash their feet before prayer and in the past there have been complaints about them washing their feet in sinks, so this is a happy medium," he said. Mr Soliman said most universities provided Muslim-only prayer and washrooms for students.

A La Trobe University spokesman said the washrooms were established with the advice of senior Muslim religious leaders. He said the university also had a Christian chapel with a meeting room and four chaplains from major denominations had offices. La Trobe University Christian Union vice-president Richard Thamm backed the washrooms. "It's part of their religion, they need to wash in a special way before they pray," he said.



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"

Comments? Email me here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here. My Home Pages are here or here or here.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

The PC campus - politically corrupt

I'm kind of tired of hearing about our "politically correct" colleges and universities. There's nothing "politically correct" about them. They are politically corrupt. Let me give you a personal and very recent example of what I'm talking about.

My eldest daughter was mostly homeschooled. Later, she found she had a love for art and interior design. She decided she wanted to pursue a career in that area. To enter the art school of her choice, she needed to take some basic educational courses and decided the easiest and most economical choice would be through the Northern Virginia Community College system.

As a graduate of the "public university" myself, I expected the worst in political indoctrination - even in this so-called "red state." But nothing could prepare me for the horror story my daughter told me after her first class in the fundamentals of design materials - a required course for her to advance to the prestigious art school she hopes to attend in a year or two.

The professor began the four-hour class by showing Al Gore's new movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." That's right. That's what I said. The taxpayer-supported professor at this taxpayer-supported institution abused her students on the first day of an art class by showing them Al Gore's propaganda flick on "global warming."

But it gets worse - a lot worse. Following the two-and-a-half hour Al Gore presentation, the students were treated, according to my daughter, to 30 minutes of weeping by the professor who carried on about the terrible threat to the planet posed by this global warming menace. Keep in mind, this is an art class.

Next, students were told they would have to see the movie at least two more times and write a paper about it. Did I mention this was an art class?

Next, students were given their homework assignments: Change incandescent light bulbs to fluorescent, plant trees, etc. Maybe you're asking yourself: "What does this have to do with art?" I was wondering the same thing. I asked my daughter. She explained that a few paragraphs of the material they would be reading in their textbook on design materials had to do with the environment. Thus, it wasn't a stretch for this activist masquerading as an art teacher to turn her entire class into a training center for eco-whack jobs.

I feel sorry for my daughter. She knows what's going on here. Imagine what it is like sitting through this kind of forced re-education because you are at the mercy of this professor if you want pursue your dreams? I'm so mad I could spit.

I wanted to call up my state legislator and complain. But then I remembered, this is not the exception, it is the rule! This goes on every day in colleges and universities across this country. It's just that I haven't been exposed to it firsthand in this way since I was a student myself. So, instead I vented on my brother, who thinks much like I do about such matters. He had a great line: "I always suspected libs needed a course on how to change a light bulb. This pretty much confirms it." He added: "And aren't they opposed to cruel and unusual punishment? Sitting through Gore's movie three times would certainly qualify even by Gitmo standards."

Unfortunately, all we do is laugh about outrages like this. We have to start seeing it for what it is - corruption, abuse of taxpayer dollars, government abuse of authority. Dismissing it as "political correctness" is just way too polite


Australia: Phonics still being ignored by "unscientific" teacher-training colleges

Education faculties will have to abandon their unscientific ideology of reading if children across the nation are to be guaranteed basic literacy. This claim is made by Max Coltheart, a leading member of the group of 26 academics, mostly psychologists, whose open letter to former education minister Brendan Nelson inspired a national inquiry into how reading is taught. In his first assessment of the outcome of the inquiry, which reported in 2005, Professor Coltheart of Macquarie University has warned that unless Dr Nelson's successor, Julie Bishop, takes on the education academics he holds ultimately responsible for poor literacy, the inquiry will have been wasted.

Professor Coltheart, an advocate of the phonics method of teaching reading, said as far as he could tell not a single education faculty had shown any sign of heeding the reformist recommendations of the inquiry. The faculties were wedded to the failed whole-language method, he said. "They're so defensive, they won't do it unless they're compelled to," he told the HES. "Most of them are of a very unscientific frame of mind. They hate the idea that you can even measure reading. Is (Ms Bishop) going to compel them to (reform) or is she going to shelve (the report)?"

Ms Bishop said the commonwealth did not have the power to force education faculties to adopt the report's recommendations. But she pointed to the requirement that states submit from May next year to annual national literacy and numeracy testing for students in years three, five, seven and nine as a condition of the federal funding agreement. "This testing will place significant pressure on university education faculties to produce teachers with the skills to more effectively teach reading, grammar, mathematics and other key skills," she said. It was up to the states, as employers of most teachers, to insist that education faculties turn out graduates with the right skills to teach literacy.

Terry Lovat, from the Australian Council of Deans of Education, disputed Professor Coltheart's image of education academics as captive to the whole-language method and hostile to phonics and the Nelson inquiry. "I think that if the whole-language approach ever dominated, it has not done so for 15 years: it's a straw man," Professor Lovat said. He said the inquiry, on which he sat, had been influenced by the education deans in finding that classrooms needed a balance between direct instruction phonics and indirect "literacy saturation". Education faculties, including his own at the University of Newcastle, were well aware of the report's recommendations and were taking them into account in regular internal reviews.

The debate about teacher training is expected to reach a new pitch this year. A federal parliamentary inquiry into teacher education is expected to report before March. Labor's education spokesman Stephen Smith has unsettled teacher unions by endorsing "a rigorous assessment" of teacher performance in the classroom.

Professor Coltheart said the public debate about reading tended to assign blame to teachers but they themselves were victims of the unscientific culture of education faculties. "Somebody's got to be blamed for (poor literacy) and it looks to me it's the faculties, and if Julie Bishop does nothing she can be blamed, too," he said. He said surveys suggested that up to 20 per cent of children and adolescents emerged with very poor literacy.

With Melbourne University's Margot Prior, Professor Coltheart has written a 5000-word analysis of the Nelson inquiry and its aftermath. It is expected to be published soon by the Australian Academy of the Social Sciences. "(The inquiry found that) the whole-language approach to the teaching of reading, currently the most widely used approach to the teaching of reading in Australian schools ... is not in the best interests of students, especially those students who are having difficulty learning to read," they write.

They say this method disapproves of direct instruction in rules for translating letters of the alphabet into sounds. They say the method holds that children learn to read and interact with texts to create meaning for themselves, just as they learn to talk without any explicit teaching. They say that any successful reading program has to begin with so-called synthetic phonics, in which children are taught to read by matching letters with sounds and putting them together into syllables. They say a thorough overhaul of teacher training is necessary. "(But) we know of no plans for the universities to improve the training of teachers in the science of reading, and in evidence-based methods for teaching reading and assisting children with difficulties in learning to read. "This is despite the fact, noted in the Nelson report, that it is currently possible for Australia's future teachers to complete a bachelor of education course with less than 2 per cent of total credit points devoted to instruction in the teaching of reading."



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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