Sunday, January 17, 2010

Head Start: A $150 Billion Failure

This is one of a long line of failure reports but the idea sounds good so it seems impossible to stop repeated funding for the program

President Obama and other supporters of increasing government spending on preschool have argued that “investments” on early childhood education yield big results later in life. As President Obama told an audience last March, “For every dollar we invest in these programs, we get nearly $10 back in reduced welfare rolls, fewer health care costs, and less crime.” The president and other preschool backers generally base these claims on impressive results from one or two small-scale preschool programs that existed decades ago and that have not been replicated since.

Unfortunately, a new (long overdue) report published by the Department of Health and Human Services found that the $150 billion that taxpayers have “invested” in Head Start since 1965 is yielding zero lasting benefits for participating children. According to the Head Start Impact Study: “the benefits of access to Head Start at age four are largely absent by 1st grade for the program population as a whole.” The Heritage Foundation reviews the findings of the new evaluation in a forthcoming Backgrounder report concluding: “Head Start has little to no effect on cognitive, socio-emotional, health, and parenting outcomes of children participating in the program.”

This rigorous evaluation was published months after the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation favored by the Obama administration that would create a new $8 billion preschool program. According to the GAO, there are currently 69 federal early education and child care programs. Taxpayers are currently spending at least $25 billion annually on these programs.

Given the devastating results of the national Head Start evaluation, taxpayers should demand that Congress and the Obama administration work to terminate, consolidate, or reform existing preschool programs before another dollar is “invested” in preschool.

President Obama has stated that his administration would, “use only one test when deciding what ideas to support with your precious tax dollars: It’s not whether an idea is liberal or conservative, but whether it works.” It’s time to apply that test to the failed Head Start program. Taxpayers and disadvantaged kids both deserve to get more return on investment from a preschool program that spends $8 billion annually (or $7,300 per child served).


Special privileges for Muslim schools in Britain

Double standards row as government refuses to ban spanking at mosque schools to avoid 'upsetting Muslim sensitivities'. Yet the Muslim schools are probably the ones most likely to inflict real child abuse

Schools Secretary Ed Balls has been accused of refusing to ban Islamic schools from smacking children for fear of upsetting Muslim 'sensitivities'. Mr Balls was last week urged to close a legal loophole which gives teachers in Britain's estimated 1,600 schools associated with mosques the right to smack children - even though it is banned in other schools. He refused, prompting claims that he is allowing an alleged 'culture of physical abuse' in some of the mosque schools - or madrasahs - go unchecked.

Smacking is banned in all State and private schools. However, it does not apply to madrasahs, where pupils usually study in the evenings or at weekends, because the ban exempts schools where children attend for less than 12.5 hours per week.

Lib Dem schools spokesman David Laws, who is spearheading the campaign to close the smacking loophole, said: 'The Government needs to legislate to protect children - not leave an opt-out simply because it fears some ethnic or religious backlash.' He was supported by Labour MP Ann Cryer, who said it would be 'bonkers' if the Government did not act. She said: 'I suspect people are frightened of upsetting the sensitivities of certain members of the Muslim faith.'

A report just over a year ago warned that madrasah students had been slapped, punched and had their ears twisted. Irfan Chishti, a former Government adviser on Islamic affairs, said that one madrasah student was 'picked up by one leg and spun around' while another pupil said a teacher was 'kicking in my head like a football'. In a separate report in 2006, leading British Muslim Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui raised fears that physical abuse in madrasahs was 'widespread'.

MPs have been told some of the alleged abuse of children in the Islamic schools may be the result of ignorance of laws on the treatment of children among Muslim parents and teachers.

Mrs Cryer, whose Keighley constituency in Yorkshire has a large ethnic community, claimed some of the children being illtreated in Islamic schools were those with special needs. She said she was alerted to the problem by a local schoolteacher-I had a lot of problems in a madrasah in my constituency,' said Mrs Cryer. 'They don't seem to have any understanding of special needs children. If a kid isn't learning their Koranic verses terribly well, they think it's because they are being naughty, not because they have an incapacity. 'It isn't always a question of just beating. They have a particular punishment called the "chicken position" where a child must squat on the floor until they get very uncomfortable.'

She denied she was biased against Islamic schools and said classes run by 'strange Christian sects' should also be covered by the smacking ban. The corporal punishment exemption also covers Sunday schools, home tutors and other people who are considered to be acting 'in loco parentis'. They can still smack children as long as the punishment is 'reasonable' - the same rule as applies to parents.

But experts suspect the real problems occur in madrasahs, although they believe it also an issue with some fundamentalist Christian Sunday schools.

Last night, Dr Siddiqui said the mistreatment of children was not restricted to Islamic schools and insisted that mosques had improved. Some had now introduced 'recognised child protection' policies, he said.

A spokesman for Mr Balls' department denied that his refusal to change the law was based on fears of upsetting Muslim opinion. 'We have no evidence the law is being abused or that children are being abused in these circumstances,' he said. He also claimed that if the Government banned madrasahs and Sunday schools from smacking children, it would then have to ban grandparents and other relatives from doing the same. [Why?]


Australia: Queensland Government backflips on foreign language studies

Learning a foreign language in late primary school seems a good idea to me. It will very rarely lead to fluency in the language concerned but it will lead to an understanding of how all languages -- including English -- work. The most beneficial language in that direction is of course Latin -- as both the grammar and vocabulary of English have been heavily influenced by Latin

THE State Government has backflipped on its controversial decision to drop the mandatory status on the teaching of foreign languages in all state schools following The Courier-Mail report this morning.

Acting Education Minister Stephen Robertson moved to separate the Bligh Government from the Education Department changes, stating the "optional" approach to foreign languages in Years 6, 7 and 8 was not Bligh Government policy and was not endorsed by cabinet.

"It is not in accordance with our commitment to providing all students with a world-class education - of which LOTE (Languages Other Than English) is a very important part - and this optional approach will not continue,” Mr Robertson said. An "urgent" review has now been ordered "to ensure schools meet the requirements of Government policy".

It comes after The Courier-Mail revealed the mandatory status of foreign languages had been dropped in Queensland, with the changes implemented state-wide last year. Education assistant-director general Yvana Jones said the status was dropped because a one-size fits all approach didn’t work in state schools, with research showing children were disengaging from LOTE and resources could be better targeted. About 298, or nearly one-quarter, of state schools chose not to teach either a language or intercultural investigations under the LOTE program last year, according to figures supplied by the Department.

Ms Jones said principals had to get the permission of their school community before they could drop a foreign language. The move attracted widespread criticism from experts and critics.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The miracle of human variety is in danger of disappearing, if all of us speak alike, dress alike, eat the same food, read the same fiction and enjoy the same music. It would be a great loss to our colourful planet. Public sector needs a multilingual work force. Teachers and police officers can help with race relations in the classroom and in the community. Public sector is seeking multilingual recruits to serve multicultural Britain. The ability to speak languages from Arabic to Urdu is considered to be an asset. Linguistic skills, in addition to the usual entry criteria, will boost the number of recruits in teaching, police, medicine, nursing and the civil service. Bilingual teachers, police officers, doctors and nurses are in a better position to serve the bilingual Muslim community. The language system has been used successfully in the United States. Mary Doherty at TTA, points out those bilingual teachers can be particularly welcome in state schools for bilingual pupils. Various studies show that bilingualism increases overall intelligence. Monolingualism leads to isolationist and inward thinking.

Exposure to different languages and cultures can increase tolerance. Language learning in childhood lays the foundations for developing real fluency in that language. Every child should have the opportunity to study a foreign language and develop their interest in the culture of other nations. Languages can be seen as an important way of putting more fun into primary learning and of broadening the children experience. Learning a second language boosts your intellectual powers by physically increasing the number of nerve cells in the language centres of the brain. A study at University College London shows that the brains of bilingual people are structurally enhanced compared to the brains of people who can only speak one language. The effect is even more marked in people who learnt a second language before they were five. Speaking a second language is like having access to another world. No other subject expands mental horizons in the same way. In an ordinary inner city school in England, nearly 100 languages are spoken, yet still essentially this is still a monolingual nation. London is the most multicultural city in the world with over 300 languages spoken everyday.

Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual teachers as role models during their developmental periods. All state schools where Muslim pupils are the majority should be designated as Muslim community schools. They are in a better position to provide balanced education by teaching the National Curriculum along with Arabic, Islamic studies, Urdu and other community languages. An Islamic atmosphere will help to develop Islamic Identity crucial for mental, emotional and personality development.
Iftikhar Ahmad