Friday, September 06, 2013

Village Academic Curriculum: Cradle to Career

Nearly 50 years and more than $180 million after LBJ launched it, the Head Start program has yet to significantly, some say measurably, improve children's lives. But that's not stopping Barack Obama from trying to extend the program -- and the hand of the federal government -- even closer to the cradle. Recently, he touted his universal pre-k plan, claiming that "it works for our kids" and "provides a vital support system for working parents." In reality, studies show that kids who spend longer hours in daycare fare more poorly than those who spend more time under maternal care. But this fact hardly helps Obama's real goal: getting kids under government teaching from "cradle to career." A head start, indeed -- straight to statism.

Lest you imagine any altruism in Obama's move, consider that his administration is targeting states that have adopted school choice programs. Recently, Obama's Department of Justice went after Louisiana and Wisconsin, citing threats to desegregation and non-compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, respectively. These states give parents and students non-public school options, effectively stripping government of its primary forum for indoctrinating the young. Coincidence? We think not.


College Costs Will Keep Rising Under Obama Plan

Colleges’ exploitation of young Americans through rapidly rising and increasingly exorbitant fees is a national scandal that can no longer be ignored. In his college tour this week, President Barack Obama is speaking at length about what he intends to do about it, after promising “tough love” on higher education for the last two years.

Some of what he proposes is good in principle; some is very bad.

He wants to expand access to information on colleges by having the Department of Education issue a ranking of institutions relating outcomes to costs. The government has the power, via the Internal Revenue Service, to get some interesting data on college graduates’ earnings, and providing that data to consumers would be useful. Even independent college rankings -- such as those published by U.S. News & World Report and Forbes (the latter compiled by my Center for College Affordability and Productivity) -- could be improved with more data.

Tying federal funding after 2018 to the new federal ratings, which in turn incorporate performance measures such as graduation rates, may be a step toward giving colleges incentives to take cost reduction seriously. But the potential for unintended and damaging consequences is high: If the key to federal funding is raising graduation rates, colleges may lower already abysmally low standards.

Similarly, the proposed funds for promoting educational innovation are, in principle, a good idea. But previous federal education spending in this area has had a pretty dismal result.
Easy Money

Without any federal aid at all, cheap or free online courses are appearing all over. The accrediting agencies will probably try to stall this innovation, because it isn’t controlled by their member universities. A better approach would be to reconsider federal sanctioning of assistance to unaccredited schools, for example.

The president’s proposal has one very bad idea: a forgiveness boon for those paying off loans right now. The proposal, limiting loan payments to 10 percent of income, potentially relieves millions of students from repaying part of their obligation. So why not major in fields the economy values least -- anthropology or drama instead of engineering or math -- if you don’t have to worry about earning enough to pay off your student loans over a certain period?

The idea simply raises incentives for future students to borrow more money, if they know their obligation to pay it back is capped. That, in turn, allows colleges to keep raising costs.

Obama proposes to ignore or worsen the root cause of much of the explosion in student costs: the federal financial assistance programs that encourage schools to raise costs and that haven’t achieved their goals of providing college access to low-income Americans.

Two recent studies highlight the problem. First, the National Center for Education Statistics released data suggesting that federal college financing is growing rapidly. Now 84 percent of full-time undergraduate students get some aid. Average grant assistance for dependent full-time undergraduate students (unmarried, younger than 24) was $10,600 in 2011-12, up 34 percent in just four years -- four times the inflation rate.

Middle-class kids who were previously denied Pell grant aid are now increasingly getting it: In 2011, 17.5 percent of dependent students from families with $60,000 to $80,000 in annual income received Pells, compared with a mere 1.6 percent just four years earlier. A number of federal aid programs -- for example, tuition tax credits and the PLUS loan program -- now disproportionately serve students from relatively affluent families. According to College Board data, total federal student financial assistance programs totaled $56.8 billion in 2001-2002, compared with $173.8 billion a decade later, an astonishing compounded annual rate of increase of 11.7 percent.

A new study by Dennis Epple, Richard Romano, Sinan Sarpca and Holger Sieg for the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that the impact of these aid programs is clearly different from what federal policy makers intended. “We show that private colleges game the federal financial aid system,” they conclude. Every dollar in new financial aid to students leads to about 40 cents less spent by the colleges on institutional financial aid -- so students benefit far less than federal policy makers intended.

In 1987, Secretary of Education William Bennett argued that more federal aid leads to higher tuitions, enabling schools to increase spending. This seems broadly consistent with the latest research results. The net attendance impact of these federal programs, according to the study for NBER, is “modest.” In short, these programs haven’t substantially spurred student access to colleges, all the while burdening taxpayers and student borrowers.

The ballooning federal aid increases schools’ spending. The researchers don’t analyze changes in university spending, but an examination of other evidence suggests that money isn’t going primarily into improving instruction. Colleges have gone on a building spree (financed in part by amassing large debt -- more than $220 billion at schools whose bonds are rated by Moody’s alone), and pay and perquisites for top university administrators has risen sharply.

Obama’s “tough love” on higher education should begin by reversing the financial aid explosion that has contributed to this spending binge and, more importantly, to the system that has produced a generation of young debtors with mediocre job prospects. The president is looking at the tip of the iceberg, not its bigger base.


WaPo Editors: DOJ Wants to Keep Poor Minorities in Low-Performing Schools

Roughly 90 percent of school voucher recipients in the state of Louisiana are African-American, according to the Washington Post. Which is why the paper’s editors are utterly bewildered that the DOJ would petition a U.S. District Court to force the Pelican State to end the practice by 2014 – unless, of course, certain steps are met on the absurd grounds that the program threatens to re-segregate public schools (H/T Ed Morrissey):

NINE OF 10 Louisiana children who receive vouchers to attend private schools are black. All are poor and, if not for the state assistance, would be consigned to low-performing or failing schools with little chance of learning unless the skills they will need to succeed as adults. So it’s bewildering, if not downright perverse, for the Obama administration to use the banner of civil rights to bring a misguided suit that would block these disadvantaged students from getting the better educational opportunities they are due.

The Justice Department has petitioned a U.S. District Court to bar Louisiana from awarding vouchers for the 2014-15 school year to students in public school systems that are under federal desegregation orders, unless the vouchers are first approved by a federal judge. The government argues that allowing students to leave their public schools for vouchered private schools threatens to disrupt the desegregation of school systems. A hearing is tentatively set for Sept. 19.

There’s no denying the state’s racist history of school segregation or its ugly efforts in the late 1960s and early 1970s to undermine desegregation orders by helping white children to evade racially integrated schools. These efforts included funneling public money to all-white private schools. But the situation today bears no resemblance to those terrible days. Since most of the students using vouchers are black, it is, as State Education Superintendent John White pointed out to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “a little ridiculous” to argue that the departure of mostly black students to voucher schools would make their home school systems less white. Every private school participating in the voucher program must comply with the color-blind policies of the federal desegregation court orders.

It’s obvious what’s going on here, isn’t it? To give the states more autonomy is to directly undermine and allow state governments to challenge the status quo. And that, in turn, is unacceptable.

As many have said before, the special interests -- namely, the teachers unions and their constituents -- benefit tremendously from a public school system that puts administrators, bureaucrats, and yes, teachers, over the educational needs of students. This allows the powers that be to continue providing jobs and, of course, paying teachers’ generous salaries and unsustainable pension plans. How else to explain why the DOJ is going to such “perverse” lengths (a word, incidentally, the Post editors used) to create more rules and regulation for state governments who’ve clearly found a better way to educate their children? It just doesn’t make any plausible sense for why a federal agency would see fit to involve itself in Louisiana’s internal affairs on such tenuous grounds.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

When giving it the old college try fails

Jesse Bonds graduated from high school in 2002 in Clinton, Arkansas, a town of 2,600 people on the southern edge of the Ozarks. He tried college for half a semester, but found the computer-programming courses he enrolled in too advanced. After that, he worked for the state’s power utility for about six months building substations, but his crew was laid off once the work was complete. He was looking for a new career when he was hired as an electrician at a new hospital being built in 2003, and when the work was done he realized he wanted to continue working as an electrician. He decided to enroll in ITT Technical Institute to get a two-year degree in electronics engineering. “I saw all the commercials and stuff,” he says. “And I got into the admissions office and they’re like, ‘Oh you scored the highest of anybody that’s come through here on this test in the last couple of years. You’ll be perfect for this program.’” In retrospect, Bonds realizes they were doing a hard sell on the program, but at the time he decided it was a chance to go back to college and make it on his own. “That turned out to be a disaster.”

When Jesse graduated, he had $47,000 in loans he has struggled to repay. Worse than the amount of debt, however, is the fact that he might have been able to work as an electrician without getting a degree and going into debt at all. “I was placed in a job that was making like $10 an hour. It’s like, construction that nobody else has a degree in, and guys were like, ‘You had to go to school for this? We never went to school.’”

The fact that Jesse got an associate’s degree none of his older colleagues have is a new and growing phenomenon. Some electricians are earning even more than an associate’s degree before they get a job. In 2007, 21 percent of job postings for electronics engineering technicians—a broad category that encompasses electricians who work on consumer goods like security alarms and bigger electronics systems like those on planes, all of which Jesse did—asked for a bachelor’s degree. In 2012, after the Great Recession had officially ended, 29 percent of them did. The escalation will likely continue. Those budding electricians with bachelor’s degrees are going to start winning out on jobs over their competitors with two-year degrees, who in turn are already starting to beat men and women who want to be electricians but have only finished high school. It’s called “up-credentialing,” and it’s driven by many different forces—a labor market that needs highly skilled workers, a dearth of jobs for college graduates, and the decline of union-sponsored apprenticeships. One overarching cause, however, is the premium Americans now place on going to college.

Today, almost two-thirds of the jobs created in the economy require a bachelor’s degree, an associate’s degree, or some other post-secondary training. A seemingly perfect ratio—two-thirds of high-school graduates—enroll in college, both in two- and four-year institutions. But about 46 percent of them fail to finish within six years. The United States has the highest college-dropout rate of any industrialized country. Students are now heading to colleges around the country, and there's no reason to think this year will be any different. If a college education is now the gateway to a middle-class job, and if we expect every student to aim for it, one big unanswered question remains: What happens to those who fail, and is there a better way to prepare them for the job market?

In the 1970s, the numbers were the reverse: Almost three-fourths of the jobs available to Americans required only a high-school education or less. Those workers also made up a majority of the middle class. This is partly because of a strong manufacturing sector, which didn’t require specialized skills prior to employment. High union density—membership in labor organizations peaked in the 1950s at 35 percent—meant that employers could rely on unions to train workers in any specialties required. Employers benefitted from the strong American public education system and the fact that the country’s population was huge compared to that of other industrialized countries. Training for some jobs—electrician, carpenter, secretary—was provided on the job or with a brief preparatory course. Mid-century America was today’s China: Its size and infrastructure helped it outcompete every other country. “We were paying high school-educated workers very high wages,” says Anthony Carnevale of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. “That was not going to stand. The world was sitting there waiting to take a bite out of us, and they did.”

With the 1973 recession in the Western world, other countries began competing with the United States in manufacturing. Unemployment peaked at 9 percent in 1975. The country responded by electing Ronald Reagan in 1980, who among many other fundamental policy changes asked his secretary of Education, T.H. Bell, to found a commission to investigate the state of American education. Until then, high schools had been geared toward preparing students for adulthood and the job market. Few students were college-bound. Bell’s commission released a report in 1983 called, “A Nation at Risk,” detailing how this system had to be changed to better prepare students for college and send them there.

“A Nation at Risk” presented some valid criticisms of American public education. Many high schools tracked students who weren’t performing well into vocational education, which was uneven in quality. Minority students were more likely to be sent to what was seen as the substandard vocational track rather than a college-prep one. The report reoriented American high schools. Since people with bachelor’s degrees still earn about $1 million more than high school graduates over their lifetimes, sending every student to college seemed like a sound workforce policy.

Vocational education has almost disappeared in the years since. “There’s been a rise of an education-policy elite that argues things like you need the same skills for college and careers,” says Robert Lerman, an expert on education and the workforce for the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based economics think tank, and American University. “I think we bought into the idea that what ‘skill’ means is academic skills, and anything else you need to know you will learn on the job and an employer will teach you what to do. Occupational training leading to expertise is downplayed.” One’s level of education has become synonymous with skill.

This strategy, however, has its downsides. A 2008 study by researchers in Texas on the effects of George W. Bush’s state-level precursor to No Child Left Behind found that the high-stakes testing system caused more low-achieving students to drop out, even though statistical tricks allowed the schools to report higher graduation rates. The data on how many students leave high school is still shaky, but the National Center for Education Statistics shows a steady decline from 12.1 percent in 1990 to 7.4 percent in 2010. Even if graduation rates are higher, however, high-school graduates don’t fare as well as they once did. With a third of them not enrolling in college, and nearly half of those enrolled in college not finishing, a substantial proportion of Americans aren’t getting the training they need to participate in the workforce. By and large, African Americans, Latinos, and poor students are the most likely to drop out at any level.
The amount the federal government spends on four-year and two-year colleges, $700 billion, is ten times what it spends on all other workforce training programs, like apprenticeships, combined.

On the one hand, the idea that every student can and should be able to go to college seems meritocratic and fair. On the other, we don’t have good alternatives for students who can’t make it to higher levels of education. “Our education system’s very un-American,” Carnevale says. “It’s abstract. It’s not hands-on. It has no respect for labor. Think of a pioneer. Why would a pioneer take Algebra II?” Some jobs require skills that could be gained outside of a classroom, but community colleges and for-profit colleges like ITT Tech are the only places where a large number of young workers are exposed to them. The amount the federal government spends on four-year and two-year colleges, $700 billion, is ten times what it spends on all other workforce training programs, like apprenticeships, combined. It’s especially troubling for what economists call middle-skill jobs that require less training than a bachelor’s degree.

The preparation colleges provide is uneven, and many still hold to the ideal that higher education should focus on academic enrichment, not skills training.  College also puts workers into the job market later than if they went to work directly after high school, which means they have to wait before they can earn money. It’s also riskier: Students have to figure out how to achieve what they want and then pay for it on their own, and there’s no guarantee their training will lead to a job.

Pushing every student toward college is partly why so many people are now stuck in low-wage jobs without a ladder into the middle class. Entry-level jobs with on-the-job training or apprenticeships that pay have been replaced with entry-level jobs that require previous training, usually through expensive post-secondary education. Even with financial aid, there are many barriers to getting into and finishing college, ones that are especially difficult for low-income people to overcome. A possible solution is to revive apprenticeship programs by creating incentives for companies or sector-wide organizations to establish them. “We haven’t created nearly enough apprenticeship slots,” Lerman says. “In my opinion, a big part of that is the very weak government leadership in this field and the trivial amount of money that goes to it. Just look at Canada for example—it now has a higher absolute number of people in apprenticeships than we do, and they’re one-tenth of our workforce. So they have proportionally ten times the numbers and they provide support.”

Another way is to re-establish job-training programs at lower levels of education. In European countries like Germany, public-school students are sorted at young ages, 16 or younger, onto a college-bound track or a vocational track. That approach is not likely to work here. “There’s no politician in the world that will support that in the U.S. because it’s tracking,” Carnevale says. “It’s perceived as tracking by race and class.” Yet the past two decades have shown that middle- and upper-class students are still the most likely to achieve success in the system we have now, and that the higher-education system still discriminates against racial and ethnic minorities. “One of our basic strengths and one of our basic weaknesses is we cannot deal with the fact that by the time a kid is in eighth grade, usually for reasons that are not their fault, they’re not going to college, and they’re not going to graduate,” he says.

In 2011, Robert Schwartz, a researcher at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, released a report called “Pathways to Prosperity.” Schwartz outlined how students had only one real option for achieving success, and argued that a better way to help students get into middle-skill jobs would be to create a rejuvenated career- and technical-education high-school system that would prepare students for college and middle-skill careers at the same time. “The American system for preparing young people to lead productive and prosperous lives as adults is clearly badly broken,” Schwartz wrote in the report.

It’s a path Jesse Bonds, the Arkansas electrician, might have benefitted from. In another era, or in another city, he might have been able to get into his profession without paying for an associate’s degree. “I wound up being poorer coming out of college than I was going in, and it’s stayed that way ever since I graduated in 2006,” he says. “If I wouldn’t have gone, if I had just stayed being an electrician, I’d be a lot better off and have no debt.”


British pupils pay the price for migration taboo

Children starting school this week will experience one of the most dramatic and worrying consequences of the biggest demographic upheaval in our history.

After the uncontrolled immigration of the Labour years, thousands of four- and five-year-olds are being packed into overspill ‘bulge’ classes, many housed in temporary schoolrooms or rented offices.

Meanwhile, record numbers are in oversized classes, with nearly 72,000 five-to-seven year-olds learning in groups of 31 or more – up from 31,265 in 2010.

Adding to the difficulties, of course, are the problems of handling growing numbers of pupils who speak little English.

Indeed, how can any teacher, faced with a class that speaks dozens of different native languages, hope to convey the basics to any pupil?

Truly, these youngsters, of every ethnic background, are victims of the taboo that for decades prevented politicians from challenging reckless migration policies, for fear of being branded as ‘racists’.

As the pressure intensifies – on schools, the NHS, housing, transport and jobs – a weekend poll found that 60 per cent believe immigration has damaged Britain.

Yet disturbingly, the latest figures show a surge in net migration to 176,000 last year, exposing the hollowness of the Government’s efforts to cut the net inflow below 100,000 by 2015.

And this is even before we throw open our borders to Romanians and Bulgarians next January.

Last week, when they rejected the plan to attack Syria, MPs spoke for the people. How much longer before they treat with the same seriousness the public’s concerns about migration’s threat to our well-being and national identity?


British primary schools facing crises over huge influx of pupils

Thousands of pupils are being packed “like sardines” into extra classes at primary schools which are struggling under a huge influx of children.

Councils have been forced to implement a raft of emergency measures due to the crises caused by a baby boom, rising immigration and the fact that families are being priced out of the private sector.

A third of local authorities are estimated as having to put on extra reception classes for the term starting this week, while many children will be taught in temporary classrooms.

Some schools are even renting extra space in empty offices and children’s centres.

Margaret Morrissey, of pressure group Parents Outloud, said the situation was a scandal because officials have been aware of the population and immigration boom.

“Children who need individual support and help the most are being pushed into classes where they can hardly move around the room,” she told the Daily Mail.

"Pupils’ education is being damaged as a result of them being packed into schools like sardines."

Some schools have been desperately attempting to build new sites over the summer, whilst others are will be putting on classes of more than 30 pupils, despite previous attempts to ban the practice.

Councils have also started creating “Titan” schools with 1,000-plus children, sacrificing playgrounds and green spaces for temporary classrooms.

“Split-shift” schools have been set up with double intakes studying at different times during an extended school day and week.

But despite the drastic steps hundreds of children due to be starting school for the first time are still without place and almost one in ten – more than 50,000 – are going to a primary that was not their family’s first choice.

A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘We are spending £5billion by 2015 on creating new school places – more than double the amount spent by the previous government in the same time frame.’

London Councils, representing 33 local authorities, yesterday estimated a funding shortfall of £1.04billion to create sufficient school places by 2016/17.

In total 26 local authorities responded to requests for information about their plans for primary schools for the new terms.

The news comes months after a warning from the National Audit Office that 240,000 extra primary places would be needed by September next year.


Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Liberal Guilt, Public Education, My Clear Conscience

James Allen

A new cornerstone piece on public education by Allison Benedikton on titled, "If You Send Your Kid to Private School, You Are a Bad Person," was shocking but consistent and clearly revealed that liberals value the word “education,” as long as the word “public,” precedes it. According to the author, public schools continue to fail because parents are sending their children to private schools, instead of public schools. Parents who spend their hard earned money to send their children to private schools are in fact destroying the fabric of America’s public education: which is immoral. For liberals, abortion is not a moral issue but rather an issue of liberty and choice. Education whether public, private or charter, should have the same application of liberty and personal choice. Unfortunately, allowing freedom and choice in education would require an admission of failure and for liberals to turn their back on a core government institution.

This is because liberals value community more than the first and primary institution, which is “The Family.” Liberals believe that public education equals strong community and that all people have an obligation to community before family. Since community is more important than family, we are therefore obligated to send our children to public schools that are failing. Liberals would also suggest that we invest our time and other resources to improve the failing schools, as if other options did not exist. Truthfully, I feel no such obligation to public education nor can I intellectually rationalize sentencing my child to state education for the sake of the greater good. Public schools need good students and good parents and I understand that, but not at the cost of my child’s future.

So in applying this blind allegiance, if I live near a failing public school –which many people do – I have an obligation to send my children to that school. I also by implication of this argument have an obligation to fight for what my child needs as in new computers, AP classes, and specialized education. Liberals believe that property taxes are not enough, even for parents who pay for public education and do not use it and also pay for private education. Liberals want more than our money they want our flesh and blood and for us to sacrifice our children on the public school alter no matter the cost. Instead, I would rather send my child to a school where I believe they will be educated, instead of learning how to be busy worker bees producing widgets. It is my belief that classes in formal logic, centered in a classical education, will provide my child with an ancient forgotten skill: the ability to think and reason properly.

In my opinion, public education is as bad as public restrooms or public swimming pools. People become accustomed to free stuff and then develop a sense of entitlement believing they deserve community pools and free lunches. Feeling that we have certain natural rights and actually having them are two completely different things. I feel I have a natural right to dunk a basketball and play in the NBA, but no matter how hard I practice, playing in the NBA is not possible because I am a 170-pound short white guy. The government does not give rights to people and our constitution only protects our natural rights from the threat of government. Liberals and progressives in the Democratic Party have an agenda that is connected to a misguided worldview and it starts in public education.

Liberals value equality and so do conservatives, but the definition of that word is used very differently between conservatives and liberals. I believe human beings have natural rights by the very nature of being human, whereas liberals believe their rights come from government. Conservatives believe in equality of opportunity, as all men and women being equal before God. Liberals on the other hand believe in equality of outcomes, where everyone becomes so equal that no one really has anything at all.

Applying the equality of outcomes to education is not only foolish but also dangerous. I will send my child to a school where their talent will be cultivated and they will learn how to think. In short, any school that is in line with my values is where I want my child to attend.

Leave the public schools to liberals and to people who do not care and wish to die on the hill of public education reform. The longer we suffer the fools of government the longer they can pretend their grand ideas are working. I do believe in community and in the importance of education. What we are missing is not the want or desire for community and better education, but an actual foundation for community to exist.


British "Free schools" to double in number

A bilingual primary school backed by Judith Kerr, the children's author, and a college sponsored by Manchester City football club are among 93 new free schools set to open this term.

Some 93 new free schools will open for the new school year, more than doubling the previous number to make a total of 174, according to the Department for Education.

Among them is the Judith Kerr Primary School, named after the renowned author of Mog and The Tiger Who Came To Tea, which will be the first bilingual free school in London.

Pupils at the Southwark school will be taught to read, write and speak in English and German, with classwork and homework to be set in both languages.

Also set to open is Connell Sixth Form College in Beswick, east Manchester, which is backed by Manchester City FC and will be led by the Altrincham Grammar School for Girls, one of the top secondary schools in the country.

Other new schools include the Cathedral Primary School in Bristol, which will specialise in music and encourage all pupils to learn at least one musical instrument, and Thames Valley Free School in Reading, which will cater for autistic pupils.

Free schools, a flagship education policy of the coalition government, are a new generation of taxpayer-funded schools are run by parents’ groups, teachers, charities and faith organisations completely free of local authority control.

Unions have claimed the schools are not accountable and complained that some have been opened up in areas with a surplus of places, drawing pupils away from existing schools.

But the government announced last month that 18 of the first 24 free schools had been given a "good" or "outstanding" rating by Ofsted, although one was declared "inadequate".

Ministers said the most of the schools would open in areas with a shortage of places, and that they would ultimately create an extra 46,000 places.

In addition, 13 "studio schools", which aim to bridge the gap between the classroom and the workplace, and 12 university technical colleges will also open this month.

The Prime Minister said free schools are "one of the most important reforms to education in this country for a generation," while Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, described them as an "integral part" of state education in England.

Basia Lubaczewska, principal designate of Judith Kerr Primary School, added: "We believe that early immersion is key to ensuring bilingualism for all our children, whatever the children's linguistic ability when they start.

"The staff team and I are hugely excited to be embarking on this pioneering journey to create a bilingual environment that embeds both English and German within our curriculum."


Australia: Conservative government to review unions and ALP presence in history curriculum

TONY Abbott has rebooted the history wars with a warning too much emphasis on left wing politics in the national curriculum will be reviewed by a Coalition government.

The Opposition leader told the National Press Club the curriculum lacks focus on Australia's past, "other than indigenous heritage" and has "too great a focus on issues which are the predominant concern of one side of politics".

"I think the unions are mentioned far more than business," Mr Abbott said.  "I think there are a couple of Labor prime ministers who get a mention, from memory not a single Coalition prime minister. So I think it is possible to do better."

The only Prime Minister mentioned by name in the foundation to Year 10 curriculum is John Curtin, who led the Labor Party from 1935 to 1945.

Mr Abbott said any changes to the curriculum would be guided by "professional educators", but it is unclear how this will happen, given that the Coalition school's policy, unveiled last week, reveals plans to "refocus" the body that implements the curriculum.

"I think we're entitled to say (we) could do better. I think we're entitled to say maybe you ought to have a rethink about this, but what actually happens is ultimately a matter for them," he said.

The move comes after News Corp reported earlier this year the "black armband" view of how the Anzac legend is taught would also be changed by an incoming Abbot government.

Shadow education spokesman Christopher Pyne said in April one of the first education priorities of the Coalition would be restore Anzac Day to its "rightful" place of respect.

Critics of the curriculum say a trend towards political correctness means history classes are placing undue emphasis on indigenous culture, Asia and sustainability, with Anzac Day mentioned in the context of other national days such as Ramadan and Buddha Day.

Labor introduced a national curriculum in 2011 for English, Science, Maths and History, with the remainder of the syllabus scheduled to be implemented by 2016.

Australian Education Union Angelo Gavrielatos said the Coalition's claims of a left wing bias in the curriculum were incorrect.

"We certainly hope that this is not an indication of an intent to reinstate the culture wars of the past," Mr Gavrielatos said, referring to heated debate during the Howard government years over the emphasis of England's role in Australia's history.

The "history wars" were a feature of the Howard government, with the then Prime Minister in 2006 calling for changes in the way children were taught about Australia's past and an end to the "divisive, phony debate about national identity".

Mr Howard used his Australia Day address to the National Press Club on the 10th anniversary of his leadership to call for a "coalition of the willing" to promote changes to the teaching of history, which he said was neglected in schools, slanted towards apologising for the past and questioning national achievement.

"Too often, it is taught without any sense of structured narrative, replaced by a fragmented stew of 'themes' and 'issues'," Mr Howard said. "And too often, history, along with other subjects in the humanities, has succumbed to a postmodern culture of relativism where any objective record of achievement is questioned or repudiated.

"Part of preparing young Australians to be informed and active citizens is to teach them the central currents of our nation's development."

NSW Teacher's Federation president Maurie Mulheron said Mr Abbott was seeking to "politicise" the curriculum.

"It's a shame because of the extraordinary work of so many teachers involved in writing the syllabus, and now they are going to start questioning the professionalism of those teachers," he said.

Mr Pyne said the Coalition would take away ACARA's assessment role, which has been increasingly controversial in the wake of criticism of the NAPLAN regime - which an Abbott government would also review.

"We will refocus the Australian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, to ensure that it is focused on developing the highest standard curriculum documents," Mr Pyne said.

"It will become the Australian Curriculum Authority, but the agency will retain its existing responsibility for drafting the national curriculum documents on behalf of the Federal Government and the States and Territories."

Mr Pyne said the Coalition had been calling for the curriculum "to give appropriate weight to our western and Judeo-Christian heritage as a nation" since it was first drafted.

A spokesperson for ACARA said "ACARA, as an independent authority, would not comment on statements made in the lead up to the election. The F-10 history curriculum approved by the Council of Federal, State and Territory Education Ministers is available on the Australian Curriculum website."


Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Armed police turn up at family home with a battering ram to seize their children after they defy Germany's ban on home schooling

Nazism is not dead in Germany

Armed police in Germany launched a terrifying raid on a family's home to seize their four children after they defied the country's ban on home schooling.

A team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed the home of Dirk and Petra Wunderlich because they refused to send their children to state schools.

The youngsters were taken to unknown locations after officials allegedly ominously promised the parents that they would not be seeing them again 'any time soon'.

The only legal grounds for the removal of the children, aged from seven to 14, were the family's insistence on home schooling their children, with no other allegations of abuse or neglect.

According to court documents obtained and translated by the Home Schooling Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), officials did not even allege that the parents had failed to provide an adequate education.

The raid took place on Thursday morning at 8am at the Wunderlichs' home near Darmstadt, 25 miles south of Frankfurt, in south-west Germany.

Citing the parents’ failure to cooperate 'with the authorities to send the children to school', the judge even authorised the use of force 'against the children' if necessary, according to court documents cited by the HSLDA.

Describing the moment police arrived at his home, Mr Wunderlich said: 'I looked through a window and saw many people, police, and special agents, all armed.  'They told me they wanted to come in to speak with me.

'I tried to ask questions, but within seconds, three police officers brought a battering ram and were about to break the door in, so I opened it.'

He went on: 'The police shoved me into a chair and wouldn’t let me even make a phone call at first.  'It was chaotic as they told me they had an order to take the children. At my slightest movement the agents would grab me, as if I were a terrorist.

'You would never expect anything like this to happen in our calm, peaceful village. It was like a scene out of a science fiction movie.  'Our neighbours and children have been traumatised by this invasion.'

The Wunderlichs have, over the past four years, moved from country to country in the European Union looking for a place to where they could freely homeschool their children.

Although they found refuge from homeschool persecution in France, Mr Wunderlich was unable to find work, and last year the family had to return to Germany.

Within days of the family registering their presence in Darmstadt, authorities initiated a criminal truancy case, and just months later city's 'Youth Welfare Office' was granted legal custody of the children.

They were allowed to remain with their parents after it was judged that they were being well treated, but authorities seized the youngsters' passports to stop them again leaving the country.

Mr Wunderlich said that he and his wife had been left devastated by the authorities' decision to take their children. He said that his 14-year-old daughter Machsejah had to be forcibly taken out of the home.

'When I went outside, our neighbour was crying as she watched. I turned around to see my daughter being escorted as if she were a criminal by two big policemen,' he said.

'They weren’t being nice at all. When my wife tried to give my daughter a kiss and a hug goodbye, one of the special agents roughly elbowed her out of the way and said — "It’s too late for that".  'What kind of government acts like this?'

Mrs Wunderlich said her heart was 'shattered'. 'We are empty. We need help. We are fighting, but we need help,' she said.

Mike Donnelly, HSLDA's director for international affairs, accused German authorities of acting in a way reminiscent of a 'darker time' in the country's history.  'My question to the political leadership of Germany is: How long will you permit these kinds of brutal acts to be perpetrated against German families?' he said.

'Why is it so important to you to force people into your state schools? The echo of this act rings from a darker time in German history.

'When will leaders stand up and make changes so that brutality to children like the Wunderlichs no longer happens because of homeschooling?  'Isn’t there any German statesman willing to stand up for what is right anywhere in Germany?'

No German officials were available to comment on the case.


British teenagers 'to shun university in favour of apprenticeships'

Up to 35 school leavers are competing for every job amid claims that rising numbers of bright teenagers are shunning university in favour of the workplace.

New figures show that the average apprenticeship post now receives 11 applications each following a surge in demand for on-the-job training.

In some industry sectors, such as plumbing and events management, the number rises well above 30.

Many leading companies are now said to be competing directly with universities to recruit the most able young people.

Experts suggested that apprenticeships – paid work placements with tailored training – were increasingly attractive in light of the competition for places at the very top universities combined with a near tripling in the cost of a degree.

It follows the introduction of annual tuition fees of up to £9,000-a-year for students entering higher education for the first time last year – often leading to debts of more than £40,000 when living expenses are added.

Matthew Hancock, the Skills Minister, said he expected it to “become the norm that young people either go to university or into an apprenticeship”.

Last night, student leaders warned that poor quality careers advice coupled with low pay was acting as a “barrier” to entry to apprenticeships for many school leavers.

But Jaine Bolton, director of the National Apprenticeship Service, said: “These figures show that the demand for apprenticeships keeps growing. It is the first choice for many talented young people and more employers wanting young talent need to wake up to this fact.”

Data released today by the National Apprenticeship Service – the Government quango tasked with driving the expansion of the programme – revealed that more than 1.4m applications had been made for vacancies in the last 12 months through an online portal. It was up by 32 per cent in a year.

Online applications account for around eight-in-10 of the total number made.

Each vacancy now attracts an average of 11 applications, it was revealed, but numbers soar even higher for jobs in some sectors.

Some 35 young people applied for each apprenticeship in the live events and promotions sector, compared with 33 for plumbing and heating jobs and 28 for those in the marine industry.

Some 24,720 young people applied for 1,322 roles in media and publishing – 18 for each one – while the applications rate was as high as 13-to-one for jobs in the fields of engineering and IT.

Separate research by the Telegraph earlier this month found that demand for school leaver jobs – those typically demanding qualifications no higher than A-levels – with Britain’s biggest companies had soared in recent years.

The National Grid revealed it had received 16,500 applications for just 150 places on its school leaver training programme – equivalent to 110 people for each place.

Marks & Spencer revealed it had received 3,000 applications for just 30 jobs – leaving 100 teenagers to compete for every post.

Employers can get a grant to run apprenticeship training programmes for 16- to 24-year-olds.

Last night, the National Union of Students insisted that a three-year degree was now no longer “the norm” for teenagers, but suggested that a combination of low pay and poor advice was preventing many school leavers considering an apprenticeship.

According to an NUS survey, more than half of university students had never been presented with apprenticeship opportunities at school or college.

The apprenticeship minimum wage – set at £2.65 an hour, which is well under half the national minimum pay for those aged over 21 – was also a deterrent, the NUS claimed.

Toni Pearce, the union's president, said: “Education has changed, and the old route that ends with a three year full time undergraduate degree no longer needs to be norm. But the lack of proper careers advice about the available study options and pathways to work is failing young people.”


Pupil hit by a piece of apple costs British school £600 as taxpayers face £10million compensation bill for injuries in schools

More than £10million has been spent settling compensation claims in schools, including £600 after a child was hit by a piece of apple.

The legal action was one of thousands taken out by pupils and staff against their schools in England and Wales in the last three years.

Somerset County Council has so far racked up £575 in legal fees fighting the case after the pupil who was hit by the apple in March 2010 sued.

Other payments included one student who was handed £7,800 after falling off their own skateboard, £8,000 to a member of staff who was hit with a ball, and £55,000 for a primary school child who bumped his head.

In one Middlesex primary school a pupil received £50 after falling out of a tree.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show schools are even paying out pupils who become embroiled in playground fights.

In Pembrokeshire one student was handed £1,925 following a fight, while at Central Foundation Girls' school in Bow, London, another was paid £43.

Despite the huge sums of money spent on the cases most were found to be baseless when investigated.

And now critics have slammed the 'ridiculous' compensation culture in schools, saying it harms children's education because teachers are wrapping kids up in cotton wool to avoid payouts.

Chairman of Campaign for Real Education Chris McGovern said: 'There is a compensation culture in schools.  'While there is negligence, and schools need to ensure children are in a safe environment, they should be able to exercise a degree of common sense.

'The courts should protect schools from spurious claims, because too often the claims are against events which are a normal part of the rough and tumble of everyday life.

'The problem is that schools are now spending a lot of time worried that they might be sued and so they're wrapping children in cotton wool.

'The real price is not just financial. The real price is that these children are losing what we would consider to be a "normal" childhood because it's a risk-averse childhood wrapped in cotton wool so children don't take any risks.

'That's no preparation for adult life. Schools are obsessed by the need to ensure that there are no claims and therefore children are missing out on the adventure and magic and childhood.'

Chief Executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance Matthew Sinclair, said: 'Our worrying schoolyard compensation culture is not only a burden on taxpayers but is also undermining children's time in the classroom.

'Some of these incidents range from the sublime to the ridiculous, with many either nobody's fault or easily avoidable.  'Every penny spent on payouts for a bump or thrown apple means less cash for textbooks and sports equipment.'

A Department for Education spokesperson said: 'Compensation payments are agreed on a case by case basis and the department has no role in the process.'

Topping the list of local authorities that have had to fork out the most cash was Sheffield City Council, which racked up a bill of  £1,148,186 settling claims. 

A director at Lancashire County Council, which had the second-largest total at £794,815.18, said accidents were inevitable.  Bob Stott, who is responsible for schools, said: 'We would prefer it that no one was ever hurt in an accident while at school.  'But in a county with nearly 10,000 teachers and well over 160,000 school-age children it is inevitable that there will be some incidents resulting in injuries, thankfully mostly minor.

'When the county council receives a claim for compensation it has to make a decision regarding its liability, and defend or settle the case as appropriate.  'This may lead to a compensation payment being made.'

A spokesman for Essex County Council, which had the third-highest total at £785,485.31, said: 'Essex County Council takes its health, safety and wellbeing responsibilities seriously and is committed to complying with its legal, moral and financial obligations.

'When a claim is made it is investigated thoroughly and payment made if the claim is successful.  'It is also worth noting that Essex County Council is one of the largest local authorities in the country with a greater number of schools within its boundaries so the numbers will be naturally higher.'


Monday, September 02, 2013

Gov't Urging 25% of U.S. Workforce to Strive for Student Loan Forgiveness

There's no student loan forgiveness program for mothers who raise their own children, but there is for some daycare workers; and student loan forgiveness may be yours if you work for the government in some capacity, but not if you earn a low salary in the private sector.

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is trying to make it easier for people in certain jobs -- teachers, nurses, social workers, police and firefighters, and federal, state and local government workers -- to understand the route to student loan forgiveness.

On Wednesday, the CFPB released a "toolkit" to "empower" school districts and other public service organizations to help their employees understand how they can pay off their student loans or have them forgiven. That toolkit asks employers to pledge that they will talk to their workers about student debt, help them understand their options, and assist them in enrolling in student-loan repayment benefits.

Richmond Public Schools in Virginia and the City of South Bend, Indiana, are the first public employers to sign the pledge.

Up to a quarter of the U.S. workforce is in public service and may be eligible for existing student loan debt-forgiveness programs, the CFPB said.

“Our young people should not be mired in debt because they stir themselves to the call of public service. They deserve to know all their options,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Our toolkit and pledge can be a win-win for employers, the public they serve, and their employees who are facing student debt loads that are imposing unprecedented burdens upon this generation.”

In 2007, Congress created the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program for people with at least ten years of public service who have made 120 consecutive monthly student loan payments.

The CFPB's push for loan forgiveness is part of an effort to attract people to professions that face looming workforce shortages in the years ahead or that offer relatively low starting salaries, making debt repayment more difficult.

The toolkit notes that the U.S. will need 435,000 new teachers by the end of the decade to make up for retiring baby boomers; Likewise, it anticipates a shortage of one million nurses by 2020.

And for new employees in other professions -- police officers, social workers, firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, and soldiers -- the toolkit says low starting salaries and low wage growth "make repaying student debt a daunting obstacle."

The toolkit -- titled the "Employer’s Guide to Assisting Employees with Student Loan Repayment" -- offers practical advice to public sector employers and employees, advising that an early start on loan repayment can save a borrower thousands of dollars.

It includes an "action guide' for employers, explaining "the steps they should take" to inform employees about repayment plans. It also includes an action guide for borrowers, telling them what their options are and how to qualify for benefits.

"Qualifying for these benefits can be challenging; but, with a little bit of guidance, employers can help their employees manage their loans, make smart choices early and stay on the path to loan forgiveness. In effect, this is an opportunity for public service employers to provide a valuable fringe benefit at little to no cost," the toolkit says.

Only federal direct loans are eligible for public service loan forgiveness. But employees with other federal loans that originated under the Federal Family
Educational Loan (FFEL) program or the Perkins loan program, may be able to consolidate those loans into a new direct loan to qualify.

CFPB says the "path to loan forgiveness" presents some risks for borrowers: "Because this program is an “all-or-nothing” benefit, it is important for your employees to understand that they must make 120 on-time, qualifying monthly payments in order to obtain loan forgiveness. If your employee leaves public service even one monthly payment short of the required 120, he or she will not be eligible for loan forgiveness and will be required to repay in full."

People employed in the following public service organizations may be eligible for student loan forgiveness:

-- A government organization (including a Federal, State, local or Tribal organization, agency or entity; a public child or family service agency; a Tribal college or university);

-- A non-profit, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, as long as that employment does not include time spent on religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing;

-- A private, non-profit organization (that is not a labor union or a partisan political organization) that provides at least one of the following public services:

Emergency management;
Military service;
Public safety;
Law enforcement;
Public interest law services;
Early childhood education (including licensed or regulated child care, Head Start, and state-funded pre-kindergarten);
Public service for individuals with disabilities and the elderly;
Public health (including nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses in a clinical setting, and      full-time professionals engaged in health care practitioner occupations and health support occupations, as such terms are defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics);
Public education;
Public library services;
School library services; or
Other school-based services;

The CFPB recently estimated that outstanding student loan debt is approaching $1.2 trillion.

As has reported, the Consumer Financial Protection Board, created by the Democrats' Dodd-Frank law, is neither funded by nor accountable to Congress. It is funded directly by the unelected Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. Nor was its director, appointed by President Obama, subject to Senate confirmation.


Black Education Alliance: School Quality Now More Important Than Desegregation

A black education group is calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to drop a federal lawsuit filed Friday by the Department of Justice (DOJ)  that would halt the expansion of Louisiana’s school voucher program beyond the current 8,000 recipients because doing so will adversely affect low-income minority families who “simply want to get their children into the best possible schools.”

“These are real kids and real families, and this is about the future of these kids,” Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) president Kenneth Campbell told CNSNews Wednesday.

“Fifty years ago, we worked to solve a problem that desperately needed to be solved and the federal government played an important role,” Campbell said on the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic March on Washington. “But in 2013, we need a different strategy and different tactics to ensure that all kids get a quality education.

“I don’t believe we should be saying that you have to stay in these failing schools because it will mess up desegregation efforts,” he continued.  “School quality is much more important at this point in time.”

In a motion filed August 23, DOJ asked a federal court in Louisiana to “permanently enjoin” the state from expanding the voucher program statewide. “As of the date of this filing, the State has awarded vouchers for the 2013-2014 school year to students in at least 22 districts operating under federal desegregation orders, many of which may impede the desegregation process in those districts,” the lawsuit said. (See Brumfield v Dodd - LA.pdf)

DOJ objects to giving vouchers to minority students attending predominantly white public schools because their departure leaves the schools less racially diverse.

“In several districts operating under desegregation orders, the State’s issuance of vouchers increased the racial identifiability of schools because the voucher recipients were in the racial minority at the public school they attended,” according to the lawsuit.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has championed his state's voucher program, called DOJ’s action “shameful,” adding that the Justice Department, “using the same rules that were there to prevent discrimination against minority children, is going after some of these parents and some of these kids and saying, ‘We don’t know that we want to allow you to make this choice.’”

Campbell agreed that the DOJ is on the wrong track when it comes to attacking schools vouchers.

“We are fully aware of Louisiana’s ugly and racist history of working to both undermine and circumvent early desegregation efforts. There is no question that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the state routinely found ways to help ensure that white children would not have to attend racially integrated schools -- including funneling public funds to new, all-white private schools,” Campbell, a founding board member of the D.C.-based group, said in a statement. (See BAEO statement.pdf)

“These acts and many like them were both shameful and appalling and set the stage for important interventions by the United States Government. Nevertheless, it would be a mistake to equate the current scholarship program that provides the only avenue for low-income children to escape failing schools to past efforts that supported and encouraged ‘white flight’ 40 years ago.”

“In an ideal world, we could have a system of education that offers both high-quality and racial and economic diversity. However, the reality is that in Louisiana and throughout America, far too many children are forced into failing schools that give them virtually no chance of receiving the type of education they need to allow them to achieve success as adults,” Campbell said.

Launched in New Orleans in 2008 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, The Louisiana Scholarship Program currently has about 8,000 students, 91 percent of whom are members of minority groups, according to the Louisiana Department of Education (DOE). Students use the vouchers to help pay tuition at 117 private and parochial schools that participate in the program.

“To be eligible for a scholarship, students must have a family income of less than 250% of the federal poverty line and must be entering kindergarten or must already be enrolled in a low-performing school with a C, D, or F grade,” according to the DOE, which reported that 86 percent of Louisiana voucher recipients were enrolled in D- or F-rated public schools last year.

The voucher program came under fire in May when standardized test scores remained flat while scores for public schools increased one percent, prompting Education Superintendent John White to remove seven private schools in New Orleans from the program.

Campbell says minority parents are very happy with the vouchers.

“Louisiana’s voucher system is relatively new and we don’t have a ton of longitudinal data, but all the early signs are positive,” Campbell told CNSNews. “Some voucher schools got off on the wrong foot, and I applaud the state superintendent for swiftly acting and not allowing them to add more children. They’re still figuring out accountability, but parental satisfaction is through the roof – it’s incredibly high.”

Jeanne Allen, founder and president of The Center for Education Reform, said in a statement condemning DOJ's action: “The fact that Attorney General Eric Holder chose to file this motion on a day of festivities commemorating the March on Washington can only demonstrate one of two things.

"It either shows that he has a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of vouchers in creating education opportunities for children, or that he has a corrosive cynicism about the power of educational choice to improve educational performance and to meet parent demands for better outcomes.”


British health service recruits thousands of doctors from Third World... while limits on places deny British students chance to study medicine

Doctors trained in some of the world’s poorest countries where medical qualifications are far less rigorous than in the UK are being recruited by the NHS.

While some of Britain’s brightest students are unable to get on medical courses at home, the Health Service is hiring a third of its doctors from abroad.

Among them are medics from 143 different nations including poverty-stricken states such as Liberia, Belize and the Congo.

Some have studied in countries whose universities have few computers or medical textbooks and trainees are taught from blackboards in cramped classrooms where they are forced to sit on the floor.

Critics said it was ‘bonkers’ that British straight-A students desperate to become doctors were being turned away from medical courses due to government quotas while the NHS recruited staff from remote parts of the world with poor medical training.

The revelation comes amid fears the health service is becoming too dependent on foreign medics.

One senior doctor recently warned that many of them had ‘little or no knowledge and experience of British culture or of our Health Service’.

Professor J Meirion Thomas, a senior cancer specialist who works at the Marsden Hospital in London, wrote in the Spectator magazine: ‘Importing doctors from abroad on a regular and ongoing basis might not be a bad thing if there were any guarantee that the entry criteria to all foreign medical schools were as rigorous and as discriminating as our own.

‘Also, that the quality of teaching and training was always as comprehensive as ours. But too often, it isn’t.’

Foreign doctors are four times more likely to be struck off or suspended than those who trained in this country, while a quarter of all doctors barred from the register qualified abroad – the highest number were from India.

Those who trained outside the EU have to sit an exam on basic medical competence and score 7 out of 7 on an English language test before being allowed on the register.  They must also have gained their medical qualifications in a university ‘approved’ by the General Medical Council.

But the watchdog has only blacklisted eight institutions from the thousands around the world including one in Liberia, one in the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, and one in Belize.

Doctors who qualify within the EU are exempt from such checks due to strict ‘freedom of movement’ rules and they are allowed on the register automatically.

There is widespread concern that European doctors are being allowed to work in Britain even if they can barely speak English or have rusty medical skills.

The flaw was tragically exposed in 2008 when a German GP, Dr Daniel Ubani, killed pensioner David Gray by giving him a huge dose of morphine on his first shift as an out-of-hours GP.

Roger Goss, of Patient Concern, said: ‘One of the main complaints we hear from patients is the language problems.

‘Often these doctors speak better English than patients but they cannot understand regional dialects and due to their intonation, patients cannot understand them.

‘There are also problems with doctors getting to grips with all the NHS’s policy and guidelines.  ‘They are thrown in at the deep end, and they just don’t know what they are doing.’

The Government plans to appoint senior consultants and GPs to supervise EU doctors and ensure they are up to scratch – on the language and medical skills.

The system is due to come into force next year but doctors say they will not have time to carry out the checks and warn that locums – who do not have a permanent workplace – will slip through the net.

Gill Beer, of the think-tank 2020 health, said the health service needed to ‘tighten up considerably’ on foreign medics.

She added: ‘Where you’ve got night locums, it’s very difficult to get them up to speed and often they are employed when there are less senior staff around.’ GMC figures show that there were 252,553 doctors who trained oversees on the register last year, a rise of 3 per cent from 2011.

India provides the most doctors, with 25,336, while 8,998 are from Pakistan, 5,695 from South Africa, 4,010 from Ireland and 3,936 from Nigeria – where medical training has been heavily criticised.

Another 727 are from Libya – where there are few computers and students learn from blackboards – 383 from Ghana and 123 from Colombia.

Some experts pointed out that the NHS depends on overseas doctors particularly in unpopular specialisms such as A&E and care of the elderly which struggle to recruit staff.

A spokesman for the British Medical Association said: ‘Overseas doctors have for many years made a valuable and important contribution to the NHS, especially in key services where there has been a historic shortage of UK-trained doctors.

‘This includes consultant posts in emergency care, haematology [blood disorders] and old age psychiatry. Without the support of these doctors many NHS services would struggle to provide effective care to their patients.’


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Chicago: We Need to Teach Sex Education in Kindergarten Classrooms

    Some people may think a five-year old is too young for sex education.     Administrators with Chicago Public schools do not.  New to the curriculum this year, mandatory sexual and health education for kindergarten classes.

    CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker took at look at the lesson the little ones will be learning.

    Like every other kindergartener, Angelina Yang is learning reading, writing, arithmetic–and now sexual health education.   “I want to know what kind of education she is receiving before she gets that education,” said Angelia’s mom, Stella. ‘As a parent, I have a right to know.”

    CPS insists the curriculum will use language children understand and focus on topics like bullying, correct names for external body parts and the difference between appropriate and inappropriate touching.

    “As you identify body parts, you talk about should you be touched here or not.,” said Stephanie Whyte, the CPS Chief Health Officer. “And if someone touches you, and it’s uncomfortable, you should tell a trusted adult.”

Why even introduce these concepts to unsuspecting children? If anything, this will only lead to their loss of innocence earlier than necessary, no?

Meanwhile, some might call this (ahem) “teaching tolerance.” Others, well, might call it by its rightful name: indoctrination:

    “Whether that means there’s two moms at home, everyone’s home life is different, and we introduce the fact that we all have a diverse background, “ said Whyte

    That’s a lesson some conservative organizations oppose.  They say CPS is giving in to liberal groups that seek “to normalize homosexuality.”

    It’s the kind of lesson that makes some parents hesitant.  “If he has questions, I’m happy to answer them, but I’m not sure it belongs in a classroom setting,” said parent Brooke Lyon.

This program is seemingly well-intentioned. But c’mon. Besides the obvious reasons for why “sex education” of any kind is inappropriate in kindergarten classrooms, I must raise the point of priorities. Is there really no other subject (or subjects) teachers could focus on instead of “sexual and health education”?

After all, roughly 80 percent of eight graders in the city are not “grade-level proficient” in either reading or math. Wouldn’t it therefore be wise for teachers to spend additional time with young children, say, teaching them how to read and solve math problems?

This new curriculum seems like a colossal waste of time -- especially for a K-12 public school system struggling to adequately prepare kids for life after high school.


Rand Paul: School Choice is “the Civil Rights Issue of Our Day”

Thankfully, institutionalized racism and legal discrimination have been relegated to the ash heap of history. But there are still too many inequalities in American society today, according to Kentucky’s junior Senator Rand Paul. Thus, he writes, it’s high time we live out Martin Luther King Jr’s vision of "racial equality." How? By championing school choice -- and finally giving children from failing public schools a chance to be successful.

This, he insists, is the “civil rights issue of our day”:

    "King’s dream of racial equality has come a long way, but inequalities still exist that can’t be ignored. Too many Americans are trapped in a public education system that does not do our children justice. We have a system in which politicians and bureaucrats have too much control, parents have too little, and students’ needs are not being met. Our children have so much potential, but their natural skills and talents are often ignored. Their true potential is not being realized.

    Everywhere it is tried, school choice has allowed parents to give their children the education they deserve. Voucher and charter school programs that allow public education dollars to follow the student are greatly improving their performance and giving children so many opportunities. The Wall Street Journal noted in 2010 that 2,000 of our nation’s 20,000 high schools produce roughly 50 percent of all dropouts. Black children have a 50-50 chance of attending one of these schools. Compare these statistics to Washington, D.C., where a Stanford University study showed that 41 percent of students who attend charter schools learned the equivalent of 72 days more in reading and 101 days more in math each year than similar students attending district schools.

    Our children deserve better — they deserve a choice in education. A pastor friend of mine in Kentucky has called school choice the civil rights issue of our day. He’s right."

This is essentially what syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said on “Special Report” a few nights ago (via RCP):

    “Today the challenge is the social issues…it is the breakdown of the family and it is the terrible education that young people in the ghettos are subjected to which ruins their lives from the beginning and in which Democrats, particularly the teachers unions, are complicit and they simply will not face that fact.”

Those Democrats looking for racism where it doesn’t exist, Krauthammer argues, are merely ignoring the real and more pressing challenges of our time. They are living in a bygone era -- incapable of accepting and internalizing the profound improvements in American race relations over the past fifty years. What a shame. And yet both Paul and Krauthammer almost certainly agree on something else too: access to a quality education in 2013 is paramount. It’s difficult indeed to overemphasize just how important it is today to finally fix America’s broken education system. After all, a good education changes lives.

That’s why Republicans and Democrats need to be more committed to this issue, as Dr. Martin Luther King no doubt would have wanted.


Aussie students excelled as "all rounders" but still beaten by  East Asians

Australians helped by the fact that  40% of them go to private High Schools.  Asians helped by their higher IQs

HIGH school students in Australia have entered a rare category - they are among the world's best academic all-rounders.

OECD data shows that more students in Australia achieve high levels in maths, reading and science than their counterparts in most other countries.

On average across OECD countries, 16.3 per cent of students are top performers in at least one of the subject areas of science, mathematics and reading but only 4.1 per cent are top performers in all three.

In Australia however more than 8 per cent of students are high-achieving all-rounders.

The OECD analysis was based on international tests among 15 year-olds across 65 countries.

It showed that Shanghai-China had the highest numbers of academic all-rounders at 14.6 per cent, followed by Singapore with 12.3 per cent.

New Zealand is ahead of Australia with 9.9 per cent. In Hong Kong and in Japan 8.4 per cent of students are good all rounders.
In Australia 8.1 per cent of the students tested were top performers across all three subjects.

This puts Australia ahead of the UK where just 4.6 per cent of of students were considered all-rounders - just slightly higher than the OECD average.

A briefing note published by the OECD says that academic all-rounders are rare.  "To satisfy the growing demand for high-level skills in knowledge-based 21st-century economies, school systems need to increase the proportion of their students who are top performers," it said.