Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Australia: Should Italian and Chinese lead the new national curriculum?

Foreign languages are an enthusiasm of mine and I have some qualifications in three of them -- but I cannot for the life of me see why everybody should study them. Learning a foreign language is a huge task (and really huge if the language is Asian) and that diverts energies from the large range of other important subjects. And for what? I doubt that 1% will become translators as we have plenty of naturally bilingual people in Australia anyway (children of immigrants) -- JR

Should all students have to study a second language before year 7 as planned under the new national curriculum? The curriculum will cover 11 foreign languages with Italian and Chinese the first to be developed.

Latin and other classical languages have been left out, raising concern. Language teachers say this is a major omission because a knowledge of Latin and Ancient Greek underpins understanding of literature, art and the English language. The sign language Auslan has also been left out, also raising concern.

Italian and Chinese have been given first priority because the national curriculum authority says they "represent languages that cater for the greatest range of learners". "Chinese is a national priority, and Italian is learnt by the largest number of students in the primary years and the second largest number of students enrolments over all." Indonesian, Japanese and Korean are also deemed national priorities as part of the second stage of the language curriculum development.

Traditional European languages including French and German and Spanish will also be included because they are among the most commonly taught languages in Australian schools. The national curriculum authority has included Spanish as a "language of global importance".

Parents are hotly debating these priorities, with some saying the options are too narrow and locking their children into choices too early. Some say they want their children to have wider language choices until at least year 10.

Parents have been telling talk-back radio this morning that they disagree with the national priorities given to some languages over others.


Israel Supporters Denied Entrance to Anti-Zionist Event at Rutgers

On Saturday night, January 29, anti-Zionist organizations barred hundreds of Jewish and pro-Israel gatherers from attending an event on the New Brunswick campus comparing Israeli actions to those of the Nazis. The program, titled “Never Again for Anyone,” was intended to coincide with the UN sanctioned International Holocaust Remembrance Day and “honor” the victims of the Holocaust. I, along with Rutgers University Hillel President Sarah Morrison and many others, viewed this event as an outright minimization of the Holocaust and defamation of the Jewish people.

Upon circulating information pertaining to this event around the tri-state area, the Jewish community along with those who seek to preserve the righteous memory of those murdered at the hands of the Nazis sought to audit the event. BAKA – Students United for Middle Eastern Justice, the host of the event, printed on the event page on Facebook that the event was free and open to the public. In addition, the group Never Again for Anyone, which is the host of the abhorrent tour, printed on the website for the event that a suggested donation of $5-$20 would be asked for at the door. Only after 200-400 pro-Israel supporters showed up did the event–held in a state school, paid for by both tax dollars and student fees–begin to discriminate who could enter the event free-of-cost.

First, the organizers of the event asked all of those who gathered together in opposition to the event to stand in a separate line and wait for seating to take place. Meanwhile, those in anti-Israel apparel, keffiyahs and hijabs were taken aside, given green wristbands, labeled as event “staff” and given free entrance. At one point, the hosts of the event, which ranged from groups like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network to the International Socialist Organization, tore apart a suggested donation sign leaving only the admission fee visible. The group then said students could attend free-of-charge if they became members of BAKA. However, this policy once again did not apply for the Jewish students hoping to attend. In fact, at one point, I signed my name and the woman behind the desk read it and furiously crossed out the information I had just posted.

This event demonstrates better than any protest or counter-rally ever could the vehement anti-Israel and concurrently anti-Semitic sentiment growing not only on the campus of Rutgers but across the country. The organizers of the program did not want any recording devices to be inside the event, continuing a recent trend among anti-Israel organizations on campus that have become increasingly secretive. Clearly those who opposed the comparison of Israel to Nazi Germany would not want to monetarily support the creators of the event. So by denying audio and video recording along with the admission of Israel supporters, BAKA effectively removed any open transmission of the program.


Britain's problem pupils will have to enrol at 'boot camps' run by former soldiers

Disruptive children will be sent to ‘boot camps’ run by former soldiers under Government plans. Expelled pupils are to receive a ‘military-style education’ at the special units separate from mainstream schools. Former army officers who fought in Afghanistan will keep the youngsters under close supervision while teaching them teamwork and basic skills.

There will be a strong emphasis on physical exercise including assault courses and training similar to the Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme. Children will be taught maths skills by learning how to use a map in a forest. They will also be expected to volunteer in their community.

Michael Gove yesterday paved the way for the measures as he unveiled his Education Bill, which focuses on boosting standards and improving behaviour in schools. If passed, the Bill will grant the Education Secretary powers to order a local council to close failing schools. And it will strip academy sponsors of their involvement in a school if that school under-performs.

The Bill also seeks to hand teachers more power to tackle bad behaviour in the classroom while freeing them of the reams of unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy introduced under Labour.

There are currently 16,000 youngsters under the age of 16 who are outside the school system, often because they have been excluded and no school will take them in. At present they are taught in one of more than 400 Pupil Referral Units which local authorities are obliged to provide.

Yesterday Mr Gove said most local authority-run referral units ‘are not up to snuff’ and expressed his desire for them to be closed and reopened as academies. He said he envisaged that they would be run by and modelled on charities such as Skill Force, which trains and hires veterans to teach disadvantaged and disruptive young children.

Peter Cross, OBE, head of Skill Force, said he had ‘been in talks’ with ministers about the possibility to running alternative referral units based on the current Skill Force courses. Skill Force already ‘teaches’ 4,000 pupils a year on its once-a-week, two-year course. These pupils, often on the brink of expulsion, are selected by schools to attend the courses.

Mr Cross said the charity has incredible success rates which he attributes to providing the pupils, many of whom are from single families, with a strong male role model.

He added: ‘Many of the veterans have served in Afghanistan. They are used to solving problems. And they have all been given military-style training. They adapt this for the youngsters and they treat them like adults.’

Mr Cross said the charity had also placed injured war veterans alongside their teachers with dramatic effects. ‘It teaches them about responsibility, compassion and courage.’

The Bill also makes it easier for head teachers to expel violent pupils. At the moment they can exclude a pupil for carrying a knife or acting violently. But their decision can be overruled and the head is forced to reinstate the pupil. The Bill states that a heads’ decision can be reviewed but it cannot be overturned.

It will also give the Government more power to intervene in schools that are failing and where pupil behaviour is out of control. Mr Gove will have the right to order a local authority to close a school that is in special measures, requires significant improvement or has failed to comply with a warning notice.

The Government will also be able to direct councils to give a warning notice to an under-performing school, He said that local authorities had not been tough enough on failing schools in the past. ‘More than two-thirds of local authorities had never issued a warning notice; only 100 warning notices had been issued during the history of this provision,’ he added.

‘Now we can insist that local authorities issue warning notices, and not just for schools in special measures but also for schools in the Ofsted category above that – notice to improve – and also for schools where there are real reasons for us to have concern.’


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