Friday, January 08, 2010

Reading at five 'fails to boost skills'

This is just a stupid Leftist search for a "one size fits all" approach. Some high IQ kids will be reading at age 3 and others will never learn to read properly at all. Specifying age as a criterion of how a kid is taught is the stupid part. Kids should be taught according to their ability. Age should be disregarded completely.

Children forced to read from the age of five are no better than those left without books until their seventh birthday, according to research. Later readers often caught up by the time they left primary school at the age of 11, it was disclosed. Starting at a young age may actually damage pupils’ love of books as it breeds resentment among those who struggle the most, the study suggested.

The findings – in a report published by Otago University in New Zealand – will raise fresh doubts over Government reforms designed to promote literacy at an increasingly early age.

Last month, the Government said boys aged just three should be encouraged to write more in an attempt to stop them lagging behind girls. Ministers have also placed renewed emphasis on early reading following the launch of Labour’s compulsory curriculum for under-fives in England in September 2008.

The latest disclosure comes just 24 hours after Kirsty Young, the broadcaster, hit out at pushy parents who attempted to shape young children into “baby Einsteins” by forcing them into extra maths and language lessons.

Dr Sebastian Suggate, who led the research, said the view that children should read from five was now “contestable”. “Because later starters at reading are still learning through play, language and interactions with adults, their long-term learning is not disadvantaged,” he said. “Instead, these activities prepare the soil well for later development of reading. "If there aren't advantages to learning to read from the age of five, could there be disadvantages to starting teaching children to read earlier? In other words, we could be putting them off."

Dr Suggate tracked the progress of 400 children over three years. It included those from progressive Steiner schools who started at seven and others from state schools who read from the age of five. He found no difference in their reading skills by the time they finished compulsory primary education aged 11.

Sue Palmer, an author and former head teacher, said: “The evidence is clear. Children start later in Scandinavian countries and still outperform British children later on, yet we seem obsessed with doing everything at an increasingly early age. The way things are going, we will start to have phonics lessons in maternity units if we’re not careful.”

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Reading is fundamental to the rest of the curriculum and without being able to read, progress in other areas is likely to be held back. "Putting back the age at which children start to read also risks holding all children back and widening the gaps still further without any certainty that they will be reduced later. Evidence shows that the earlier the additional support, the more successful it is likely to be and the less a child will be held back academically and socially."


Did your parents choose your degree course?

I was astonished by my son's decision to major in mathematics but I was delighted too. I suspect that able students don't have much trouble with their parents

A new survey suggests that many students don't choose what they study at university. The research, by students at the University of Westminster, found that one in four London university students were "forced" into their course by parental pressure.

It's an interesting finding, especially in the current world of higher education. With fees to pay, other high educational costs and the generally uncertain economic situation, many parents are taking a very hands-on approach to their children's education, and possibly encouraging more vocational choices. There have also been reports of "pushy" parents getting very involved when it comes to UCAS forms as well as more students living at home.

The survey, of 350 London students, all of whom were under 25, and studying full-time, found that 26 percent had argued with their parents about their choice of degree. Almost half were told to "make the choice that their family thought best for them", and 85 percent of these were dissatisfied. One student told the researchers that she had wanted to study English literature, but was told by her parents to study law, as otherwise they would not support her financially.

"I wish I was stronger and had gone ahead with my choice," she said. "I am now so unhappy as law is so difficult and something I am just not interested in."

NUS Vice President for Higher Education, Aaron Porter, said, was not impressed by the research. "Its time for helicopter parents to take flight and students to take charge of their own futures," he said.

But is Porter right, especially in this day and age? Should students stand up for themselves? It makes sense to listen to their parents' suggestions, but I'm not sure it's really worth studying something you don't want to, in order to make someone else happy.


Homeschooler aged 14 offered Cambridge University place

A 14-year-old maths prodigy has been offered a place at Cambridge University - which, if he accepts it, would make him the youngest student there for almost 230 years. Arran Fernandez, who lives in Surrey, England, passed exams set by the university last year, and now need only pass his A-level physics exam to enrol. In Britain, A-levels are commonly taken by 18-year-old students, but Arran - who was home-educated - has already passed the exams in maths and further maths.

His father, Neil Fernandez, said that if he takes the place at Fitzwilliam College, he will be the youngest undergraduate at Cambridge since William Pitt the Younger studied there aged 14 in 1773 and went on to become prime minister.

"Fitzwilliam College decided to make Arran a conditional offer after considering his application very carefully," said David Cardwell, who will be teaching Arran. "The college looks forward to welcoming Arran in October 2010 should he meet his offer, and to helping him develop and fulfil his considerable academic potential," the professor said.

Arran first hit the headlines in 2001 when he took a GCSE maths exam - normally taken by 16-year-olds - at the age of five. "Maths has been my favourite subject for as long as I can remember," said the teenager, who aspires to become a research mathematician.


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