Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sweden to cut dropout rate by shortening school for dummies
Sweden has a center-Right government at the moment

The government's new plan to shorten high school by introducing a short vocational programme for those ”lacking the prerequisites” to finish a full three-year programme, has met with staunch critique from opposition politicians.

”Björklund is playing Russian Roulette with the kids,” said Jabar Amin, spokesperson on education for the Green Party, to news agency TT.

The government has only recently launched the new Swedish high school (gymnasium) curriculum but is already planning new changes.

At the ministry of education a proposal is being prepared for a shorter high school programme for those that are tired of studying.  The idea behind the scheme is for the students to plan their own courses and opt out of theoretical studies altogether, according to daily Svenska Dagbladet (SvD).

Minister for education, Jan Björklund, is hoping that the reform will decrease the high school dropout rate in Sweden. ”This is a method we should try . More than 10,000 young kids drop out of high school every year and several thousands do so by the first year. They often step straight into unemployment. It is better if a student graduates from a shorter programme than if they drop out and become unemployed,” said Björklund to SvD.

But not everyone agrees with the minister's new scheme to shorten high school for those who ”lack the prerequisites” to finish a three year high school programme.

”It is scandalous for the government and the Liberal party to not uphold their responsibility to educate the children; to say that tens of thousands of Swedish kids lack what it takes to finish high school. It is shifting the focus from the government's own failure,” he said.

Björklund claims that the graduates from the shorter programme would be a sought after group on the labour market. ”There are professions in Sweden where you would be qualified to work, if you have gained a vocational qualification,” Björklund told SvD.

However, Amin thinks that Björklund is playing a dangerous game with the teenagers education.  ”He doesn't know that, he thinks that. What guarantees does he have that they will be employed,” he asked TT.

Rossana Dinamarca of the Left Party is also critical of Björklund's reasoning.

”The government has already undermined the vocational programmes by removing essential parts of Swedish, English, social sciences and maths. Now they are taking another step toward not helping these kids,” Dinamarca told TT.

She thinks that what is needed is more support both in primary and secondary school.

”The goal should be that everyone will get there, not lowering standards and tricking the kids to leave. What kind of a labour market is there for those that graduate with too little knowledge?” Dinamara said to TT.


Ariz. Governor Signs Bill to Allow Bible Classes in Public Schools

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has signed into law a bill that allows the establishing of elective classes that focus on the Bible and its influence on western civilization.

Sponsored by State Representative Terri Proud, House Bill 2563 was passed by a 21 to 9 vote in the state Senate last Thursday and signed by Brewer on Tuesday.

According to HB 2563, "A school district or charter school may offer an elective course pertaining to how the Bible has influenced western culture for pupils in grades nine through twelve."

"A teacher who instructs a course offered under this section in its appropriate historical context and in good faith shall be immune from civil liability and disciplinary action," reads the bill.

The Bible class elective would teach students, among other things, "the contents of the Old Testament and the New Testament," "the history recorded by the Old Testament and the New Testament," and the "influence of the Old Testament and the New Testament on laws, history, government, literature, art, music, customs, morals, values and culture."

HB 2563 was not without its critics, as church-state groups like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State openly opposed the bill's passage. Joe Conn, spokesman for Americans United, told The Christian Post that he was "disappointed" by the signing of the bill.

"This bill is not about improving academic achievement; it's about introducing religious indoctrination into the schools and currying favor with conservative religious voters," said Conn.

"I think most public schools will decide not to offer Bible courses. They are already strapped for funds, so I doubt if they'll want to use scarce resources to intervene in such a controversial topic."

While Conn believes that the "Bible obviously played an important role in history," he also felt that having a social studies class about it would be difficult given the many Bible translations and interpretations.

"Many…denominations use different versions of the Bible and come to dramatically different theological understandings about what it means," said Conn.

"It is very difficult for a public school to teach about the Bible without wandering into constitutional and religious difficulties."

Rep. Proud, the chief sponsor of the bill, told CP in an earlier interview that she "worked with various attorneys and other individuals to ensure this bill is constitutionally sound."

"Many professors from various universities like Harvard, Yale etc. have stated that biblical knowledge is a key factor to a successful education," said Proud.

"As the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly said: '[It] might well be said that one's education is not complete without a study of comparative religion, or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.'"

With the bill now officially a law, Arizona becomes the sixth state to allow school districts to create elective classes studying the Bible. The other states are Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina.


Senior Tory attacks 'perverse' rules on grammar (selective) schools

Coalition education reforms that block the opening of wholly new grammar schools in England are “perverse”, a leading Tory backbencher warned today.

Graham Brady, chairman of the influential 1922 Committee, said he strongly endorsed plans to devolve power over state education away from civil servants towards local communities.

As many as 50 new “free schools” are due to open next month as state funded institutions run by parents’ groups and charities independent of local council control.

But he criticised existing rules that block new-style schools from staging admissions tests, despite powerful parental support for academic selection.

Mr Brady, the MP for Altrincham and Sale West, also claimed that attitudes towards grammar schools were stuck “in a time warp” and failed to appreciate the modern realities of a selective system.

The few grammar schools remaining in England are now seen as elitist and “ultra-selective” simply because so many parents are scrambling to secure places for their children, he added.

The comments, in an interview for the New Statesman magazine, come amid ongoing debate over academic selection in the state education system.

Currently, just 164 grammars remain in England after the majority of schools were converted into mixed-ability comprehensives in the 60s and 70s.

Labour introduced legislation in 1998 banning the opening of any more selective schools. In a controversial move, the change was endorsed by the Conservative front bench a decade later, prompting Mr Brady’s resignation as the then shadow Europe minister.

In recent months, some councils have attempted to use loopholes in the schools admissions code to expand the number of grammar places – building “annexes” of existing schools in new towns several miles away.

But Mr Brady said this failed to go far enough as it still blocked any expansion in areas that failed to contain existing grammar schools.  “You can select for a ballet school, or for a music college, but if you say, ‘We’d like a school that specialises in the more academic end of the scale,’ then that’s forbidden except in those places where it already exists,” he said.

He added: “The logic of what the government is doing with education – and I very strongly endorse it – is actually to transfer the power and the choice away from the government and give it far more genuinely to communities and parents to choose the kind of schools they want.  “It’s in that context that it is more perverse than ever that the government then prohibits [one of the choices].”

In further comments, Mr Brady admitted that some of the few remaining grammar schools had been forced to become “ultra-selective” because of sheer competition for places among parents.

In parts of London, some grammar schools receive as many as 10 applications for every place.

“When there’s just the one grammar school with a population of 200,000 or half a million people seeking places at schools, [grammars] become ultra-selective,” he said.

He added: "The more I’ve been involved in the debate about the selective system, the more it becomes clear to me that, for a great many people discussing this issue, [they] are doing so in a time warp – they are debating the selective system as it was 40 years ago."


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