Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Australia: Schools in Victoria to teach bilingual curriculum

This is nonsense. Why should kids who already speak the international language learn another one? I greatly enjoyed my language studies but that was just a cultural recreation for me. And Asian languages are far too hard for English-speakers. The time would be much better spent reviving the teaching of English grammar -- JR

CHILDREN would be required to learn core subjects such as maths and science in a foreign language, under a state government plan to curb the "appalling" decline of languages in Victorian schools.

With government figures showing almost 60 per cent of secondary school students do not study a language - and almost a third of primary schools don't offer them - Premier Ted Baillieu has vowed to make language education compulsory for most students, starting with prep in 2015, and progressively increasing compulsory participation to year 10 by 2025.

The Sunday Age has learnt the government is also preparing to create a pilot program, in conjunction with a Victorian university, that would train dozens of primary school teachers to conduct lessons in a language other than English.

Academics and teachers have welcomed the push to boost the teaching of languages in schools, but remain sceptical about what the government can achieve.

The plan has been branded as "incredibly ambitious" given the difficulty of finding qualified language teachers, and many warn that without proper resourcing it will be yet another language policy that fails to deliver.

Over recent decades, dozens of state and federal policies have aimed to change Australia's status as a predominantly monolingual nation - but most have achieved limited success.

Six months before the 2007 federal election, for instance, Mandarin-speaking Labor leader Kevin Rudd announced a $68 million plan to revive Asian languages in schools, but four years later there has been little progress.

However, Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras told The Sunday Age there was no reason Victoria couldn't improve. He said the state had the potential to be the multilingual capital of Australia, but had dropped the ball over the past decade, and it was "appalling" so few people could speak more than one language.

"Over the last 10 years, the teaching of LOTE (languages other than English) has decreased considerably, and what should have been our core


A Word on CUNY, Kushner & Weisenfeld

Kushner is an Israel-bashing leftist. Other Israel-bashing leftists who teach at CUNY recommended that the university honor Kushner with an honorary degree.

Last week, the CUNY Board of Trustees met to consider the recommendation and due to the objections raised by trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, the board decided not to accept the faculty recommendation and passed him over for the honor.

Kushner pulled out the McCarthy card. His leftist fans at the New York Times and everywhere in academia rallied to his defense and began a process of demonizing Wiesenfeld.

The university president panicked and took the unprecendented move of overturning his trustees' decision and agreed to give Kushner the honorary degree.

Now the leftist screechers are demanding that Wiesenfeld be removed from the board of trustees because by professing an opinion they don't like, he has destroyed what passes for academic freedom in their twisted little Orwellian world. So four thoughts on this:

First Wiesenfeld is a Jewish hero and deserves the support of all good Jews and supporters of truth.

Second, the fact that the leaders of the major Jewish organizations -- almost all located in New York - have not seen fit to stand up for Wiesenfeld is a mark of shame on all of them. What their silence shows is that there is no reason to believe that they are up to the challenges of defending the Jewish community in the US on any issue of major or minor significance. Wiesenfeld is after all being demonized for the act of standing up to a maligner of Israel. That's all he did. And they cannot even muster the courage to defend him for that.

Third, the assault on Wiesenfeld should raise alarm bells for all parents in the US. It isn't just that universities are increasingly closed to critical thought regarding Israel. Their refusal to countenance the truth in the discussion of Israel -- Columbia, my alma mater just established an institute of Palestine studies. That is, Columbia just established an institute to study an imaginary country and a nation that was invented by the Soviets circa 1969 -- is a signal that they cannot study anything. What the Kushner story shows is that there is no reason for parents to believe that a college degree from most US universities today will provide their children with anything remotely resembling an education.

Finally, while I applaud and respect Wiesenfeld for standing up for what is right, the assault on him raises the issue of whether there is any point anymore to contributing money to corrupted institutions. Many philantropists argue that by funding universitities they buy the ability to influence policies and save them from the inside. But what the assault on Wiesenfeld shows is that this influence is an illusion.


Custard on pupil's arm? £750. Fall off classroom chair? £6,000. How 'compensation culture' is spreading through British schools

A pupil sued his school for £750 after having hot custard spilt on his arm and another was given more than £6,000 after falling off a chair, a survey has revealed.

Thousands more were paid out in the past two years to children who tripped up on the playground, further showing how a 'compensation culture' has spread to the country's schools.

Payouts were also given to a pupil hit in the eye with a pen and another who tripped over an unmarked ramp, according to statistics provided by councils on Merseyside.

Headteachers have told how the claim culture means schools have to put up warning signs every time it rains, while another said that 'even the cotton wool we wrap children in is checked beforehand'.

The figures were revealed through a Freedom of Information request which asked councils on Merseyside to show details of every successful compensation claim borough against schools by pupils.

The results shows that more than £50,000 was paid out to pupils' families in the Liverpool borough of Knowsley between 2008 and 2010.

Successful claims included £750 for a pupil whose arm was burned by spilt custard, £3,000 for a child accidentally kicked in the face and a pupil who tripped over an 'unmarked ramp' was given £350.

Other payouts included more than £6,000 for a child who was hit in the eye with a pen and £4,500 to a student who caught their leg on a 'protruding screw'.

In Wirral, Merseyside, more than £21,000 was paid out for seven incidents during the same period. Payouts in the borough included £6,535 for a pupil injured falling off a chair, £4,000 for a pupil injured on a fence while compensation payments totalling almost £4,000 were made to pupils for tripping up on the playground.

And in Sefton more than £6,000 was paid over the same period for two incidents relating to trips in playgrounds and a pupil falling on broken glass.

Jim Donnelly, headteacher at Litherland High School, Merseyside, said scrutiny on safeguarding, which now forms part of Ofsted inspections, and the threat of compensation meant health and safety was embedded into school life.

Mr Donnelly said: 'If it starts to rain we would put up a "Be careful, slippery surface" sign up on exit doors because we know insurers would want to know what steps we have taken.'

Steve Peach, headteacher at Wallasey secondary The Oldershaw, said most schools took out insurance cover through the local authority and carried out robust and daily risk assessments. He said: 'We live in a claim culture and health and safety is now part of every member of staff's job description. 'But unless we refuse to allow children to be children nothing is risk free.'

Mick Burrows is Merseyside executive member of teaching union NASUWT, which aims to have specially trained health and safety representatives in every school to monitor accident prevention. He said: 'Not only would it help protect our members and pupils but bring a reduction in compensation as we'd have fewer accidents in the first place.'

Knowsley Council today stressed the number of claims in the borough had fallen in recent years due to 'schools accessing health and safety support from the council's health and safety team.' This includes advice varying from risk assessments to reporting accidents and safety audits. A spokesman for the authority said: 'The council also organises an annual health and safety conference for all head teachers.'

But Nick Seaton, secretary of the Campaign For Real Education, said: 'Schools have an impossible job. Accidents do happen.'


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