Thursday, July 08, 2010

Survey: 26% flub question on US independence

A new poll gauging American knowledge on a basic question about the nation’s history — “From which country did the United States win its independence?’’ — is either good news or bad news, depending on your expectations:

Twenty-six percent of those surveyed did not know that the United States achieved its independence from Great Britain, according to the poll, conducted by the nonprofit Marist Institute for Public Opinion.

Six percent named a different country, including France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain. Twenty percent said they weren’t sure.

The pollsters broke down the numbers and found gaps in knowledge according to region: 32 percent of Southerners weren’t sure or named the wrong country; 26 percent of Midwesterners were in the same category, as were 25 percent of Westerners and 16 percent of Northeasterners.

More depressing results — depending on your expectations — were found in a 2007 poll conducted by the US Mint.

It showed that only 7 percent of those surveyed could name the first four presidents in order: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

Thirty percent knew that Jefferson was the third president, 57 percent identified Jefferson as the main author of the Declaration of Independence, and 57 percent knew that Washington led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War.


British teachers To Get Tough On Unruly Pupils

Teachers are to get tougher powers to deal with unruly pupils as part of a bid to improve school discipline, the Government will announce. Courts will be told to heed clearer guidance that force can be used to remove youngsters from classrooms or restrain them.

Search powers are to be beefed up too, allowing kids to be checked for mobile phones, fireworks, cigarettes and legal highs, as well as weapons and drugs.

Teachers will also be granted anonymity if complaints are made about them in a bid to prevent careers being ruined by "malicious" claims.

The raft of measures will be unveiled by Schools Minister Nick Gibb in an effort to give schools "the powers and freedoms they need to maintain discipline".

Official figures show 2,230 pupils were permanently excluded last year for physical assaults on teachers or fellow pupils and tens of thousands more suspended. One in five secondary schools is rated "satisfactory" or worse by Ofsted for behaviour and two in five teachers have witnessed physical aggression - a quarter of them being the victims of it.

Anyone handling complaints about teachers will be "made aware that teachers can apply discipline in the classroom for the safety of all the pupils... and in the interests of maintaining order", the Department for Education said.

Under present search powers, authorised staff can only force pupils to be searched if they suspect them of carrying knives or other weapons, drugs or alcohol. Mr Gibb wants to extend the list to include electronic devices like mobile phones and music players, pornography, fireworks, tobacco products and so-called "legal highs". He will also say he wants to make the power even wider to cover any item which teachers believe could pose a threat to safety or order in the classroom.

The National Union of Teachers' Christine Blower said: "There are rare occasions when young people may be carrying and concealing dangerous materials. "In those situations, teachers have to make a judgment call on the spot. In doing so, they should not be subject to the potential for accusations that they are acting illegally."


Don't bother applying for job without 2:1 degree, say British bosses as 80% admit they turn down all graduates without such a qualification

The only consolation is that many British universities hand out top degrees like salted peanuts these days

A 2:1 degree is becoming the basic qualification for a graduate job as employers are swamped by applications for a diminishing number of posts. Eight in 10 bosses now demand at least an upper second-class degree and will refuse to interview applicants with a 2:2 or lower, according to a survey of 200 graduate recruiters.

Employers are increasingly relying on the 2:1 to narrow the field of candidates following a surge in applications driven by the recession. Just 66.7 per cent insisted on an upper second-class degree last year.

Firms say that the ranks of 2010 job-hunters have been swelled by rejected candidates from the past two years. Desperate graduates are also increasingly taking a 'scattergun' approach to sending out applications.

Employers are also more likely to insist that candidates achieved degrees from elite universities, according to a survey of members of the Association of Graduate Recruiters. A total of 6.8 per cent this year are seeking graduates from specific institutions, up from just 2.5 per cent last year. [As well they might. Lots of Britiash "universies" are just jumped-up technical colleges]

Launching the survey findings today, AGR leaders admitted employers' growing reliance on 2:1 degrees to filter candidates risked unfairness to applicants.

Seventy-eight per cent of bosses now cite it as a minimum job requirement yet universities vary wildly in the criteria used to award 2:1s, with some giving them out far more readily than others.

But reforms to the 200-year-old classification system are still at trial stage. A detailed record of achievement containing a breakdown of course marks and employability skills is being piloted by 18 universities for those graduating in 2012.

AGR chief executive Carl Gilleard said: 'Recruiters are under intense pressure this year dealing with a huge number of applications from graduates for a diminishing pool of jobs. Those of our members who took part in the survey reported a total of 686,660 applications since the beginning of the 2010 recruitment campaign. 'It is hardly surprising then that the number of employers asking for a 2:1 degree has shot up by 11 percentage points.

'However, while this approach does aid the sifting process it can rule out promising candidates with the right work skills unnecessarily. 'We are encouraging our members to look beyond the degree classification when narrowing down the field of candidates to manageable proportions.'

The AGR survey finds that employers in the survey are fielding a record 69 applications per vacancy - up from 49 last year and 35 in 2000. It comes as organisations offer seven per cent fewer jobs this year than last.

Despite the overall downturn in vacancies, some industry sectors are hiring significantly more graduates than last year, including banking and financial services, insurance, consulting and business services, construction, and accountancy. However investment banking, the public sector, law, engineering, retail, telecommunications and IT and large consumer firms will all have fewer positions.

Despite the surge in applications, not all employers expect to fill all their vacancies amid concerns over the quality of some candidates and lack of appropriate qualifications. One in three respondents to the survey - conducted in May - reported likely shortfalls in graduate recruitment. Just 66.8 per cent said they would fill all vacancies.

Meanwhile starting salaries have been frozen for two years' running for the first time since the AGR's surveys began. New graduates stand to earn £25,000 on average - the same as in 2008.

A separate study last week of 100 graduate employers, by High Fliers Research, found that the most over-subscribed sectors, such as consumer goods, are attracting 270 applications per vacancy.

Meanwhile official figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency found that one in three graduates is on the dole or working in stop-gap jobs such as stacking shelves and pouring pints. Nearly 20,000 of last year's graduates - one in 10 - were unemployed six months after leaving university - up from eight per cent in 2008.

A further 50,000 failed to land graduate-level posts and resorted to roles for which they are likely to be over-qualified, such as secretaries, waiters, bar staff and factory workers. In total, 34 per cent were jobless or in non-graduate roles.


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