Sunday, July 27, 2014

New university rankings out

The Center for World University Rankings (CWUR) publishes the only global university ranking that measures the quality of education and training of students as well as the prestige of the faculty members and the quality of their research without relying on surveys and university data submissions.

CWUR uses eight objective and robust indicators to rank the world's top 1000 universities:

1) Quality of Education, measured by the number of a university's alumni who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals relative to the university's size [25%]
2) Alumni Employment, measured by the number of a university's alumni who currently hold CEO positions at the world's top companies relative to the university's size [25%]
3) Quality of Faculty, measured by the number of academics who have won major international awards, prizes, and medals [25%]
4) Publications, measured by the number of research papers appearing in reputable journals [5%]
5) Influence, measured by the number of research papers appearing in highly-influential journals [5%]
6) Citations, measured by the number of highly-cited research papers [5%]
7) Broad Impact, measured by the university's h-Index [5%]
8) Patents, measured by the number of international patent filings [5%]

The top 5 this time are unsurprising:

1     Harvard University   
2    Stanford University   
3    Massachusetts Institute of Technology   
4    University of Cambridge       
5    University of Oxford

The rankings in the top 100 were overwhelmingly dominated by U.S. universities.  There were 4 other UK universities in the top 100 and only two Australian universities:  The two oldest, University of Sydney and University of Melbourne.  I hold a large document issued to me by the first of those


British parents 'losing faith' in the education system

Parents are losing faith in the education system as nearly two thirds admit to being worried that British children are trailing academically, a recent study suggests.

Research from tuition provider, Explore Learning, found that 72 per cent of UK parents are worried that British children aren’t leading the field in educational attainment, whilst 66 per cent have lost faith in the education system entirely.

This data comes to light following the release of the most recent PISA results, which saw the UK trailing in the international league tables, failing to make the top 20 in maths, reading and science.

The research of 1,000 UK-based parents also found that 62 per cent are entirely unaware that a new national curriculum will be taught in schools across England from September this year.

It is feared that, without awareness of the approaching curriculum changes, most parents will be ‘ill-prepared’ to aid their child with their studies and support them in their development.

Lisa Hobbs, a Crawley mother of two, was only made aware of the pending changes by a fellow parent last week and still remains unsure of what exactly the new curriculum will mean for her children.

“I have one son in particular who is very bright and is being seriously let down by the education system. As a parent, I have concerns about the new curriculum but with so little information available, I’m unsure of whether the new changes will be good or bad.

“Teachers are afraid to do too much for fear of upsetting parents and are afraid of pushing children. They are very limited in what they can do.”

Carey Ann Dodah, Head of Curriculum at Explore Learning said: “The new curriculum is a response to the feeling that England is slipping behind international competitors. There are some drastic changes which, for most children and parents, will appear more challenging.

"Many concepts in maths and English will be introduced earlier, which will feel like quite a jump when children return to class in September.

“While the changes to the curriculum are well intended, the implementation is messy and the lack of money or additional time for teacher training or resource development could be troublesome.

"Transitioning schools to a new curriculum without a clear method of assessment or levelling is confusing at best, and at worst, will leave schools and teachers frustrated and disillusioned with the new system.

“There is a definite need for change and as the demands on the UK workforce develop, it’s important that there is a focus on the skills needed in the future," she continued. "However, parents must always remain a partner with schools in their child’s education and, in this respect, the lack of information made available to parents about the new curriculum is worrying.”

Ms Dodah suggested that although core learning - such as reading, science and maths - was important, other skills should be developed alongside these subjects, in order to prepare children for the ever-changing world.

“We’re preparing children for a very different world of work. We need to teach them to have the confidence to think for themselves and create unique ideas. Creativity and innovation aren’t measured by PISA but these are qualities that the workforce will want to see today.

"We want to lead in education, but not in a way that will only see the regurgitation of information. Children must be able to apply information to the new situations they’ll be facing”.


Australia: Gifted students vie for a seat in popular OC classes

If your watch gained two minutes every hour and you set it to the correct time at 7am, what time would it show at 1.30pm?

It was questions like this that nine-year-old Gabriella Moussa found “pretty easy” in her opportunity class (OC) placement test on Wednesday morning.

The McCallums Hill Public School student was one of more than 10,000 year 4 students across the state vying for a spot in the specialty classes for academically gifted children in years 5 and 6.

The students attempted 70 multiple choice questions over 60 minutes – less than one minute per question – meaning a successful candidate would probably know by now that the time on the watch would be 1.43pm.

“I got to the end but I had to quickly rush the last few questions,” Gabriella, who sat the test at Kingsgrove North High School, said. “I feel like I did well.”

With fewer than 1800 positions available across 75 schools, only one in five applicants will be chosen.

The classes, designed to nurture the state’s brightest students, are highly sought after, with many parents viewing them as a stepping stone to selective high schools. While they do not act as formal feeder schools, a high proportion of students do transition to selective high schools.

The Education Department stresses it does not endorse intensive tutoring for the test but many coaching colleges in Sydney offer group classes and private tuition specifically tailored to the OC exam.

Gabriella had a quick look at some sample questions on Tuesday night but her mother Claudia Moussa wanted the experience to be as stress-free as possible.

“She hasn’t done multiple choice before, so I explained that to her and told her to read things twice and not worry too much,” she said. “But she had no real practice. I only want her to get in if she’s naturally going to get in. I wouldn’t push her.”

Mrs Moussa's two preferences were Greenacre and Hurstville public schools, both about five kilometres from her daughter’s school. “If she got in, it would be a big decision but it would definitely be up to her,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, many of the primary schools that record the highest NAPLAN results are those with OC classes.

As a result, they are also among the largest and fastest-growing schools in the state. Artarmon Public School has swelled from 753 students in 2010 to almost 1000 this year and Chatswood jumped from 710 to 928 over the same period.

Matthew Pearce Public School at Baulkham Hills, consistently one of the top academic performers, is the largest primary school in NSW with 1184 students this year, up from 875 in 2010.


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