Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sacré bleu! English now de rigeur at Ecole Polytechnique

Defenders of the French language have always been keen to protect it from the scourge of English infiltration.

Unfortunately, they have lost a key battle. In a move that would have Robespierre rotating in his grave, one of France’s most esteemed universities has announced that it will teach courses in English for the first time.

Ecole Polytechnique was a product of the French revolution, founded in 1794 to train up a generation of engineers and officials (after so many had come to an unfortunate end at the hands of the sans-culottes).

Napoleon Bonaparte granted the institution military status and gave the school its motto, “Pour la patrie, les sciences and la gloire” — for the nation, science and glory. Although foreign students began attending in 1798, and today come from 60 different countries, they have always been taught only or mostly in French.

Now the institution, France’s leading university of science and technology, is launching new academic programs taught exclusively in the language of les rosbifs. Five new graduate degree programs are starting this academic year and an undergraduate degree will begin next autumn.

The use of another teaching language is likely to horrify the Academie Francaise, which has for years warded off insidious anglicisation and the adoption of modern words and phrases, such le cashback, le weekend and le email (or courrier electronique, as they would prefer).

The president of the university said that English-taught degrees were being introduced so that it could become more diverse and compete globally.

“It’s a business consideration,” Jacques Biot said. “We want to gain a market share of the best students in the world. And if we want to do that, we have to adapt to these sort of customers, and need to have an offer fitting what the best students in the world would expect.”

The university already has some courses taught partly in English but they would be inaccessible to those unable to speak French.

Mr Biot said: “With the new courses we will recruit and teach in English. We will, however, teach them French language and culture.”

He said that the introduction of the English-taught courses had the full support of the government, but added: “I expect some people at some stage will protest about it — being French, I wouldn’t discard the possibility.”

The five new graduate degree programs are two years long and offer high-level scientific training for graduates wanting to lead tech companies.

Students on the courses are from Italy, Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, Russia, Asia and Africa.


British Secondary schools are being 'crippled' by a baby boom fuelled by migration as applications for places soar by 50 per cent

More than half of England's secondary schools are now oversubscribed as they are 'crippled' by a baby boom fuelled by high migration, new figures show.

The proportion of secondaries with more applications than pupil places rose to 50 per cent this year for the first time in a generation, according to research by the FindASchool website.

And the rate – which stood at just 43 per cent two years ago – is expected to get worse still, due to the bulge in secondary pupil numbers over the next five years.

Headteachers are already complaining of the 'struggle' that schools face because of oversubscription.

They warn taking on more pupils will cause a lack of funding and a shortage of teachers in key subjects.

There are also fears that staff rooms and offices will have to be converted into extra classrooms for the extra children.

Rob McDonough, headteacher of the West Bridgford School in Nottinghamshire, told the Times Educational Supplement that the costs of being oversubscribed were 'extraordinary'.

He said: 'What's crippling me is funding the pupil expansion. That's worrying me now because [the reserves are] gone.'

The FindASchool study analysed the admissions arrangements of 87 per cent of England's state secondaries.

Data is still missing from some schools that control their own admissions, but the researchers expect the proportion of oversubscribed institutions to rise above 50 per cent when all the figures are in. And they say that changing demographics will worsen the situation for secondaries in the future.

Ed Rushton, founder of FindASchool – a school-checking service run with 192.com – said: 'Our figures, which, incidentally, the government does not collect, suggest the problem is getting worse.

'Given the large bulge in primary school numbers, this trend is likely to continue unless lots of extra schools are opened and more school places are added where they are most needed.

'Over the next five years, there will be more of a crunch because of the bulge. I would say it is likely that this is the first time it has gone above 50 per cent.'

The analysis reveals that the problem is most acute in London, where two-thirds of secondaries are oversubscribed - but the difficulties extend nationwide, with at least half of secondaries oversubscribed in the West Midlands, East of England, the North West and the South East.

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: 'The overall planning has never been brilliant in getting the right number of school places in the right place at the right time.

'Schools often cannot quickly expand to deal with an increase in numbers.'

Dealing with appeals for places has become another significant problem for schools, alongside building work, squeezed budgets and staff shortages. Burnt Mill Academy, in Harlow, Essex, had more than 100 children on its waiting list last year and receives about 40 appeals annually.

Last month, new government statistics revealed that there were 62,301 appeals made by parents in 2016, compared with 54,600 the year before – a rise of 14 per cent.

A Department for Education spokesman said: 'We are delivering good-quality school places to ensure that every child has an excellent education that allows them to reach their full potential.

'Our latest data shows that nearly 600,000 additional pupil places were created between May 2010 and May 2015, and we are investing £7 billion in new places up to 2021. Thanks to that hard work and investment, 1.4 million more pupils are now in good or outstanding schools than in 2010.'


Stop whining and just do your exams: Why a lot of kids these days need to suck it up

Comment from Australia

IT’S HSC [Higher School Certificate] time and I’ve never been happier to not be involved in something. Not because of the studying or the stress of exams, but because of the Facebook groups.

I’ve just lost an hour of my life trawling the posts and comments on “HSC Discussion Group 2016.” And while there are the usual notes of encouragement, musings about exams frustrations and memes that make me realise I’m completely out of touch with the next generation, there’s also some pretty disturbing comments in there.

Here are some of the kids who need to suck it up and grow up.


One girl wrote a lengthy essay suggesting to the Board of Studies that HSC students should be provided with free counselling for having to endure the “wrath of the HSC”, an extra hour to complete the paper and the requirement that all HSC teachers sit the exam themselves before teaching the course.

Might I suggest that if you believe the Board of Studies should be providing free counselling for the “wrath of the HSC” you may as well lock that therapist in for a standing appointment, because life outside school is going to be a real wake up call.

Surely we’ve been through this enough to realise the HSC is difficult. It’s supposed to be, it’s an exam. I doubt there’d be a single person who wouldn’t have wanted more time, but even if the Board of Studies granted an extra three hours people would still be complaining.

Oh, and everyone who teaches HSC subjects HAS taken the exam. That’s how they ended up in the privileged position of teaching someone who thinks they’re the only one who’s ever been through it. Lucky them.


A young man posted a photo of himself smiling with his arm in a sling with the comment “How to get out of HSC 101: Break your wrist after the first exam ends by jumping off a moving car.”

This post was followed by almost 3000 likes and comments that were mostly versions of the word “LEGEND!”

If this kid ends up building an app that makes $30 billion, I give up.


To anyone stupid enough to post the question “How can I cheat on the HSC?” with your real name on a public page, or provide a genuine answer to that question, there is little to no hope for you.


And now we get to the less amusing and more disturbing comments. Most of them aren’t fit to write and include horrible digs at other kids whose only crime appears to be that their memes weren’t funny enough.

One of the most disturbing posts was a screen shot of a direct message sent to Board of Studies director, Tom Alegounarias that reads: “You’re about to cop a f***‘in left right goodnight from about 70 000 angry c***s yeah the boyz.” Again, cleverly posted from this kid’s personal Facebook page.

This kind of behaviour is so pathetic I don’t even know where to start. The idea that it’s applauded by other students in the comments and that people are jumping on the bandwagon by sending their own messages is even worse.

Is the HSC a punish? Yes. But from my experience the people who find it most difficult are often the ones who didn’t spend enough time preparing and are looking for an excuse to blame anyone but themselves for their own lack of discipline.

Unfortunately life isn’t all about posting on Snapchat and hanging out with your mates. If you want to do something with your life other than whinge about how everyone’s out to get you, you’re going to have to put in a little hard work.

The whole reason the HSC is difficult is because it’s the way we control competition for university placements.

Are there potential flaws in the system we’ve got? Of course. Are there other ways to do what you want if you don’t get the mark you hoped for? Absolutely.

But is there anything wrong with being asked to dedicate a couple of months of your life to preparing for an exam, regardless of what you decide to do with the mark at the end of it? No.

The idea that the HSC is some kind of conspiracy cooked up by the establishment to break defenceless teenagers and make their life a misery is ridiculous. Exams aren’t meant to be easy. If they were, there’d be no point.

While they’re frustrating and stressful, they prepare you for the harsh reality that if you want to achieve anything in life you need to work for it. And if you spend your entire existence whining on Facebook you’re not going to get very far.

With more exams to go might I advise students who are spending most of their time trolling the Board of Studies and whingeing about the injustice of it all that your time might be better spent focusing on a book with some actual pages in it.

Oh, and one more thing …. grow up.


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