Saturday, October 29, 2011

Asian Americans most bullied in US schools

Asian Americans endure far more bullying at US schools than members of other ethnic groups, with teenagers of the community three times as likely to face taunts on the Internet, new data shows.

Policymakers see a range of reasons for the harassment, including language barriers faced by some Asian American students and a spike in racial abuse following the September 11, 2001 attacks against children perceived as Muslim.

"This data is absolutely unacceptable and it must change. Our children have to be able to go to school free of fear," US Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Friday during a forum at the Center for American Progress think-tank.

The research, to be released on Saturday, found that 54 percent of Asian American teenagers said they were bullied in the classroom, sharply above the 31.3 percent of whites who reported being picked on.

The figure was 38.4 percent for African Americans and 34.3 percent for Hispanics, a government researcher involved in the data analysis told AFP. He requested anonymity because the data has not been made public.

The disparity was even more striking for cyber-bullying.

Some 62 percent of Asian Americans reported online harassment once or twice a month, compared with 18.1 percent of whites. The researcher said more study was needed on why the problem is so severe among Asian Americans.

The data comes from a 2009 survey supported by the US Justice Department and Education Department which interviewed some 6,500 students from ages 12 to 18. Asian Americans are generally defined as tracing ancestry to East Asia, the Indian subcontinent or the South Pacific.

Officials plan to announce the data during an event in New York on bullying as part of President Barack Obama's White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

New Jersey parent Shehnaz Abdeljaber, who will speak at the event, said she was shocked when she saw her son's middle school yearbook in which not only classmates but also a teacher wrote comments suggesting he was a terrorist.

Abdeljaber soon learned that her son had endured similar remarks at a younger age but had kept silent. She complained to the school principal but has since pushed for workshops on bullying that involve teachers and students.

"We need a more creative approach and more interaction with the youth, empowering them to do something rather than just going through the framework of authority," she said.

The Obama administration has put a priority on fighting bullying. In March, the president joined Facebook for an online anti-bullying conference, where he warned that social media was making the problem worse for many children.

Duncan, the education secretary, warned that bullying had serious effects as it can lead to mental and physical health problems including dependence on drugs or alcohol.

Duncan also voiced concern about high rates of bullying at schools against gay and lesbians, an issue that has come into greater focus since a spate of suicides last year among gay teens who were harassed.

"We're seeing folks who somehow seem a little different from the norm bearing the brunt," Duncan said.

"We're trying to shine a huge spotlight on this," he said.

A number of Asian countries have also wrestled with bullying.

Japan stepped up measures in 2006 after at least four youngsters killed themselves in a matter of days and the education minister said he had received an anonymous letter from a bullied student who was contemplating suicide.


Record spending cuts hit British nursery schools

Children from middle-class families will be hardest hit by the most severe funding cuts to state education since records began more than 50 years ago, a report has warned.

Exam results are expected to fall as a result of the cuts, leaving future generations with lower grades and struggling to secure well-paid jobs, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Its study concluded that schools with higher numbers of children from affluent backgrounds would fare worse than those in the poorest neighbourhoods, which would receive more money under the Coalition’s plans.

The budget for renovating school buildings would fall by more than half in real terms over the next four years, while universities would see their funding cut by 40 per cent. However, the most severe impact on children’s education would be in nurseries and playgroups, as “early years” education funding is reduced by a fifth, the IFS warned.

Teachers said the report undermined promises from Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, to protect the education budget from cuts. However, the Government stressed that it had been forced to make “tough decisions” and blamed Labour’s inefficiency for wasting money over the past decade.

At the Comprehensive Spending Review a year ago, ministers announced that state funding for schools would be maintained in real terms. However, official forecasts of inflation have risen sharply since. The IFS said the result would be a cut in “real terms” of 13.4 per cent across the UK between 2010-11 and 2014-15.

After the largest increases in education spending since the 1970s under the previous Labour government, the next four years would see the largest reductions in state spending on education over any four-year period since records began in 1955, the IFS said.

Its report found that in England:

* Spending on early years education and youth services, is expected to be cut by more than 20 per cent in real terms. Planned cuts to education for 16- to 19-year-olds are likely to be of a similar magnitude.

* Schools will see the smallest real-terms cut of about 1 per cent. The areas suffering most will be higher education, with a 40 per cent fall in real terms, and capital spending, which will fall by more than 50 per cent.

The schools that will be worst affected will be in the more affluent communities after the Coalition introduced a “pupil premium” to provide extra money for educating the poorest children in society.

Luke Sibieta, senior research economist at the IFS and co-author of the report, said about 30 per cent of primary schools and 40 per cent of secondary schools would see significant real-term cuts as their budgets failed to keep pace with rising costs.

“These are unquestionably the more affluent, less deprived schools,” he said. A school with only 5 per cent of pupils entitled to free school meals would receive a budget increase of just 0.5 per cent, he added.

Studies have shown a link between increased resources for schools and improvements in exam results, suggesting that the funding cuts would result in “a small fall” in grades in the future, Mr Sibieta said. “The implication we all care about is how it will matter for educational outcomes, will it matter for young people’s exam results or earnings potential?” he said.

While schools were “relatively protected”, with cuts of only about 1 per cent to their core funding, the “real challenges” would be faced by nurseries and colleges.

“The concern would be the extent to which these cuts to financial resources are translated to worse outcomes in early years and their ability to provide the same services,” said Mr Sibieta.

Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said the cuts would have “massive implications” for the quality of children’s education. “So much for Michael Gove saying education was protected,” she said. “It clearly is back to the future with this government.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said ministers had to take “tough decisions to reduce the deficit”. “The schools’ budget is actually increasing by £3.6 billion over the next four years,” he said. “This protects per pupil funding levels and includes the new pupil premium, which provides an extra £488 for every child on free school meals and which will rise over the next three years.

“The two-year freeze on teachers’ pay also means schools are benefiting from a lower level of inflation.”

He said the Government was right to look at the spending on school buildings because much of it was being spent on red tape and consultants.


British Universities see 40pc fall in soft subject applications

Softer university subjects such as communication studies and creative arts have seen a drop in applications of up to 40 per cent as students seek value for the controversial £9,000 tuition fee, according to figures released on Monday.

Overall applications for university courses starting in 2012 have fallen by 9 per cent but the subjects worst hit are those which students may consider would offer the least reward and which tend to be offered by the less prestigious institutions.

Applications for 'mass communication and documentation' subjects, such as media studies and PR, have been hit the hardest, falling 40.6 per cent compared to this time last year.

Education courses have also suffered, with applications dropping by 30 per cent while interest in creative arts has dropped by 27.1 per cent and business and administration studies by 26.1per cent.

By comparison, applications for Oxford or Cambridge and for any medicine, veterinary or dentistry courses, for which the deadline was October 15, are down by just 0.8 per cent.

The number of 18-year-old Oxbridge applicants is up by 1.1 per cent on last year, despite a population of 2 per cent fewer 18-year-olds this year compared to last.

Although almost every subject has witnessed a drop in applications, the more traditional university courses such as mathematics, engineering and languages have not fared quite as badly as others.

With three months to go before the final deadline, applications for mathematics and computer science are down 2.6 per cent on this time last year, for law, they are down 5.2 per cent and for linguistics and classics, down 1.7 per cent. Applications for history and philosophical studies are down 5.9 per cent and European language and literature down 10.1%.

A UCAS spokeswoman said that despite the drop, the vast majority of universities surveyed had reported an equal or increased interest in open days, suggesting that students may simply be taking more care over their applications with so much money at stake.

She said: “People want to see where their money is going. They appear to be taking a little more care when deciding and may be less likely to enrol on a course at a university they have not even visited.

“This may simply explain a delay in applying. The figures could still rise over the next three months.”

The cap on tuition fees will almost triple for those starting degree courses next September, rising from £3,375 to £9,000.

Unions representing university students and lecturers blamed the Government's higher education policies for deterring applicants.

Toni Pearce, vice president of the National Union of Students, said: "The indication is that the confusion caused by the Government's botched reforms is causing young people to, at the very least, hesitate before applying to university.

"Ministers must stop tinkering around the edges of their shambolic reforms, listen to students, teachers and universities, and completely overhaul their white paper before temporary chaos turns into permanent damage to our education system."

Sally Hunt, general secretary for the University and College Union, which represents more than 120,000 academic staff, said: "The Government's fee policies have been a complete mess from day one.

"First, the Government promised that fees of more than £6,000 a year would be the exception rather than the rule, but budgeted for an average fee of £7,500.

"As everyone predicted, the average fee was far higher than that and, even more predictably, the number of students applying to university has dropped."

But David Willetts, Universities and Science Minister, insisted that it was too early in the applications cycle for data to reveal underlying trends.

He added: “Going to university depends on ability, not the ability to pay. Most new students will not pay upfront, there will be more financial support for those from poorer families, and everyone will make lower loan repayments than they do now once they are in well-paid jobs."


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