Monday, May 12, 2014

'We need more tiger-parents to push pupils': Expert says British are falling behind East Asian children because parents think ability is inherited rather than result of hard work

Top IQ kids will do well in any system.  But effort can make a difference in the middle IQ range

British teenagers are falling behind those in high-performing East Asian countries because too many parents in the UK believe that ability is inherited rather than the result of hard work, an expert warned yesterday.

Sir Michael Barber, chief education adviser to publishing giant Pearson, suggested that higher expectations from ‘tiger parents’ in the UK could boost school performance.

‘In the Pacific Asian cultures, there is a strong belief that effort will be rewarded,’ said Sir Michael, who advised Tony Blair on education and policy delivery.

‘If you try harder, work harder, you’ll achieve higher standards, whereas in Britain and America, particularly, there is a perception that you are born either bright and the education system pulls that through, or doesn’t. That has a big impact on attitudes.’

His remarks raise the prospect of a rise in ‘tiger mothers’ such as Amy Chua, who described how she chivvied her two daughters to academic success Chinese-style in a best-selling book which provoked fierce debate in Britain.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, published in 2011, was described by the US law professor, whose  parents were ‘very strict, Chinese immigrant parents’ as ‘the story  of my family’s journey in  two cultures’.

Sir Michael made his remarks as the UK came sixth in an international league table of education systems, behind South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.

He said parental expectation in those Asian countries was ‘very high’, with mothers and fathers spending ‘long evenings’ helping their children with homework.

‘There is a contrast between those attitudes and here, where some parents don’t exert that kind of pressure for achievement, don’t expect effort to be rewarded and do think that either their child is really clever or isn’t – and sometimes reinforce that in a way that is unhelpful,’ he added.

‘Overall, there is a contrast that is deeply embedded in cultures.

‘The rise of Pacific Asian countries, which combine effective  education systems with a culture that prizes effort above inherited “smartness”, is a phenomenon  that other countries can no  longer ignore.’

Britain’s position in the latest Global Index of Cognitive Skills and Attainment, published by Pearson and compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit, remains unchanged since the rankings were last produced, in 2012.

East Asian countries tightened their grip at the top of the table featuring 39 nations, while Finland slipped to fifth. A report accompanying the index found that ‘parental expectations have a measurable impact on student motivation’.

Sir Michael said the message needed to be ‘spelled out’ that there were risks associated with failing to gain a good education.

He added: ‘Changing culture is  an extremely difficult thing  to attempt.  ‘It is something that everybody involved in education needs to  contribute to – it’s not a job just  for government.

‘The way schools relate to  parents about their individual child is really important. That’s an area where you can significantly change culture.

‘But in the end, it is about  communicating with people about how different the 21st century  is going to be from when they went to school.’


Another Bite At The For-Profit Education Apple

President Obama is passionate about education, especially for underprivileged kids … or so he says. An ardent opponent of school choice, except when it comes to his own kids, one of his first acts was to try to kill the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship that provides poor kids in the nation’s capital the chance to escape failing schools. He’s repeatedly tried to ax the program, only to be blocked by Republicans. But the President’s assault on education doesn’t end with just young kids, it continues throughout the entire education system.

For the last few years, the Obama administration has waged a war against for-profit colleges, higher education institutions whose student body is made up of non-traditional students – older and poorer – seeking to obtain marketable skills in this weak economy. The Department of Education has been attempting to impose new regulations on these schools, restricting student loans for applicants, which would shut many of them down and limit higher education options for millions of students.

While every college-bound student would undoubtedly love to attend Columbia or Harvard, that’s simply not in the cards for most people. For the rest of us, it’s smaller schools, cheaper schools, state schools.

But a four-year college isn’t for everyone, especially right out of high school. Some people, myself included, aren't mentally ready for college right out of high school, and many more simply want to learn a trade. That’s who the Obama administration is targeting with their latest attempt to regulate for-profit schools out of existence.

While I, after couple of years off and working a long string of jobs I hated, got my act together and went to a four-year state school, many of my friends simply floundered. The options available today didn’t exist then, so they drifted. They weren’t "A" students, they weren’t academically minded, nor were they particularly driven. But they didn’t have to be in order to make a living.

In the late 1990s, the economy was in much better shape and good jobs existed. But the so-called Obama recovery has produced mainly part-time work and service jobs. Those who want sustained careers need additional education, and for-profit schools, in many cases, are the only ones offering it to them.

With all the whining liberals do about some people earning more than others, also known as “income inequality,” it’s odd they would move to cut off any avenue to higher potential earnings, especially for low-income and older Americans seeking to better themselves. But that’s exactly where we are today … again.

I first wrote about this in 2011, when cronyism and scandal enveloped Democrats’ attempt to kill for-profit schools. But failure and corruption has never deterred Democrats from pushing forward their agenda, so we’re dancing to the same song again.

It was, of all things, comedian Rob Schneider who put this issue back on my radar screen when he told Philadelphia radio host Chris Stigall, “There’s not one segment of business under the Obama administration that hasn’t been hurt…he attacks for-profit schools, which is totally an elitist thing from a guy that went to Harvard.” Deuce Bigalow is correct.

As the Washington Post put it, the Obama Administration is attempting to implement rules for student loans that “would cut off financial aid to career-oriented programs whose graduates have high student-loan debt relative to their incomes.” Sounds sensible, right? If, of course, you don’t mind the government deciding what is a worthy career pursuit for you.

But, as always, the devil is in the details.

The Post points out, “Administration officials deny they are singling out for-profit institutions, arguing that the measures tying student debt and loan default to financial aid would apply to all career-training programs. Blurred in that claim is that degree programs in the for-profit sector would have to meet the stringent new standards but degree programs offered by public and private nonprofit institutions would not.”

In other words, your unmarketable 1940s bisexual polar bear studies degree from Overpriced U will be unaffected, but your computer repair Associate’s Degree from a technical school that happens to be accredited but privately owned would be subject to the new rule.

But this isn’t a simple rule, it’s 845 pages of regulations. And it's not meant to stop students from making bad decisions. It is a series of flaming hoops for-profit colleges will need to jump through, meant to make it impossible for students to choose a school the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue deems unworthy. As is always the case with these massive regulations, they’re written without regard to the fact that these schools are the prefect fit for millions, and the only option for many.

Like Obamacare, this proposed set of regulations are a one-size-fits-all mess meant to protect people from themselves and punish those with whom the Obama administration has made a value judgment against. They don't believe profit should be anywhere in health care or education; those are “fundamental rights” to the left.

It’s the nanny state inserting itself into our lives even further. It’s yet another attempted denial of “choice” by those who wrap themselves in the moniker so completely you tend to forget they mean it in only one, very specific way. It is regulatory spandex. And as any weekend trip to a mall can tell you, one size definitely does not fit all, especially in a nation of 330 million people.

If the Obama administration finally gets its way, the government will say people can get an education anywhere they like, as long as the government approves of their choice. It’s the essence of progressivism, so, in a way, it’s an education for everyone, except this one is more expensive and leads to more unemployment than anything the government is seeking to limit.


Private British sixth form starts lessons at 1.30pm because headteacher thinks teenagers need to lie in bed and study better in the afternoon

A private sixth form is set to move lessons to start at 1.30pm every day because the school's teacher thinks his teenage pupils will study better after a morning lie in.

Instead of rising early for a 9am start, pupils at the £15,000-a-year Hampton Court House, in East Molesey, Surrey, will get to enjoy a lie in and work from 1.30pm until 7pm.

Head teacher Guy Holloway says the move for all sixth form pupils, set to kick in from September, has been made in light of research by neuroscientists.

He predicts that not only will his students aged 16 and upwards get a quality night's sleep, but their cognition and productivity will also be improved.

The co-educational school will have the latest start time in the UK, and will be the only one to begin lessons in the afternoon.

Experts say young people are biologically programmed to get up later, and that rather than this being down to laziness it is simply a shift in their body clocks.

In 2007 the Hugh Christie Technology College in Tonbridge, Kent, introduced an 11.30am start three days a week start for all students aged 14 and above.

And in 2010 Monkseaton High School, North Tyneside, moved its 9am start to 10am.. Both schools say the later start has boosted their student’s levels of concentration and exam performance.

However, Hampton Court House has gone further with its 'no mornings' regime.

'There are 168 hours in a week and how productive they are depends on how they choose to use those hours,' said Mr Holloway. 'At Hampton Court House we don’t think we have the answer for everybody, it’s about what works in our community.  'We want to get them into an environment where they can get quality sleep and their bodies are functioning well.'

He said pupils would also benefit from reduced journey times as they travel to and from school after rush hour.

Year 10 student Gabriel Purcell-Davis will be one of the first of 30 A-level students to start at the later time.  'I want to wake up in my bed, not in my maths lesson,' said the 15-year-old.

Lessons for all other pupils at the school will still begin at 9am as usual.

The move is based on research by Russell Foster, who said teenagers have a biological predisposition to go to bed later and get up later.

Neuroscientists have also linked better sleep in teenage years with improved mental health.

Research associate Paul Kelley, who is working with Dr Foster on his latest sleep research at Oxford University, said moving sleeping patterns later benefited health and that teenagers performed better after a good night’s rest.

'You can’t train your system to get up at a practical time,' he said.

'It’s biological, just as your heartbeat, your liver function and a bunch of other things that all sync to natural biological time and that is not in your control.

'Anything you do to change the rhythmic systems of your body means your organs become desynchronised with each other and this is where people get ill and there is no fixing it by giving someone an alarm clock. 'Your body is not watching your wristwatch.'

The move has been met with scepticism from other school heads in the area.

Lesley Kirby, head of nearby Richmond Park Academy, said they had considered a slightly later start, but it would inconvenience teaching staff too much.

She added: 'It is also important for the main school to see sixth formers as successful role models who are carrying on their education and that is not present if they see them for a very short period of the day.

'Then what are these students going to do when they have a 9am lecture at university, or start work? They won't be able to go in during the afternoon.

'School is about training people in living effective lives and I don't think this is effective as it would be quite difficult to make the change back. I would also wonder how robust the science is.'


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