Saturday, June 14, 2008


Three current articles from Australia below

Grammar guide for English teachers 'full of basic errors'

Amazing illiteracy. A "postmodernist" displays her utter ignorance of her subject. She tries to portray the points mader by Prof. Huddleston as peculiar to him but the reverse is the truth. What he says has been basic to English grammar for hundreds of years -- basic in fact to an undertstanding of any European language (with the possible excerption of Euskara). What hope is there for the kids when this twisted soul is teaching them? -- JR

A teachers' guide to grammar circulated by the English Teachers Association of Queensland is riddled with basic errors, leading an internationally respected linguistics professor to describe it as "the worst published material on English grammar" he has seen. A series of articles on grammar published in the ETAQ's journal intended as a teaching resource is striking for its confusion of the parts of speech, incorrectly labelling nouns as adjectives, verbs as adverbs and phrases as verbs.

University of Queensland emeritus professor Rodney Huddleston, one of the principal authors of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, said it took the association about one year to correct the errors, and even then it confined most of the corrections to its website rather than in the journal and did not republish the guide. "These articles contain a huge amount of error, inconsistency and confusion," he said. "They constitute, without question, the worst published material on English grammar by a native speaker that I have come across. "(The author) clearly does not know enough about English grammar in general to take on work of this kind. "Anyone who analyses 'won't' and 'capable of' as adverbs, 'a pair' and 'set of' as adjectives, or 'Sam's' as a possessive pronoun has no business to be preparing a resource on English grammar for teachers."

The articles, published with the general title Grammar at the Coalface, were prepared by Lenore Ferguson, the editor of the ETAQ journal Words'Worth and published over a series of months last year. Dr Ferguson printed three examples of the errors in the March edition, saying they were "the result of the usual mishaps with work that undergoes several drafts and is proofed and edited by the original writer".

Last night, she told The Australian the points Professor Huddleston identified were differences of opinion rather than mistakes. "They weren't all mistakes as he described but differences of opinion and that's the way of the world," she said. Dr Ferguson said Professor Huddleston did not follow traditional grammar but had invented his own type, called the Cambridge grammar, which was unique and had reclassified terms, such as calling prepositions conjunctions. "It's a totally different perspective and a totally different way of organising and thinking about language," she said.

Dr Ferguson is an education consultant, a former president of the association and has worked as a senior education officer for English in the Queensland Education Department. A CV included with a paper presented at a conference by Dr Ferguson says she has taught in primary, secondary and tertiary institutions and has a long history of involvement in curriculum development and professional development at state and national levels.

ETAQ president Garry Collins said the mistakes were "relatively minor" and the association had published an article on grammar by Professor Huddleston in the journal and alerted readers through a newsletter to his longer critiques published on the website. "Ideally the errors wouldn't have been there but these things occur in the best-regulated households," he said. "If coming upon these couple of minor inaccuracies caused teachers to be having conversations about grammar in staff rooms then I would see that as not a bad thing."

Mr Collins accused The Australian of reporting educational issues with a particular slant, representing minority views, and said highlighting the Words'Worth articles would hamper teachers' engagement with grammar. "It would be useful if the paper didn't seize on minority views but try to report in ways which are relevant to what really does happen in classrooms," he said.

Professor Huddleston provided The Australian with a list of 20 defects that summarised the errors in the ETAQ teachers' guide, which take 10 pages of explanation in his reply article on the ETAQ website. "A lot of them are very elementary," he said.

In Dr Ferguson's first article, The Structural Basics, published in March last year, she says "won't" in the sentence "The small boy won't eat his lunch" is an adverb when, in fact, it is a verb. "Sam's" in "Sam's folder" is classified as a possessive pronoun when it is the possessive form of a proper noun; "what" in "They saw what lay before them" was called a conjunction but it is a pronoun; and "a pair" is classified as an adjective instead of a noun group comprising a determiner "a" and a noun "pair". In the sentence, "The small boy is capable of eating his lunch", the term "capable of" is called an adverb when it is not a grammatical unit of any kind but an adjective followed by a preposition.

Similarly, in "a set of bowls", Dr Ferguson calls "set of" an adjective when it consists of the noun "set" and preposition "of". Syntactic constructions such as "have a peep" are classified as verbs, while "something" is classified as a pronoun and "everything" as a noun.

Professor Huddleston said he believed teachers would be discouraged from reading his corrections because it was described in the journal as being "complex, requiring readers to have extensive knowledge of traditional, structural and functional grammars". It also repeatedly refers to traditional grammar as "his grammar".


Class-hatred invades English grammar

The debacle surrounding the resources developed by the English Teachers Association of Queensland, designed to "help teachers to defend and explain the place of grammar in the school curriculum and in our classrooms", underscores our dumbed-down education system. In the words of Rodney Huddleston, a retired professor in linguistics, the material contains "a huge amount of error, inconsistency and confusion. They (two of the resources) constitute, without question, the worst published material on English grammar by a native speaker that I have ever come across." The errors Huddleston uncovers include confusing adverbs with verbs, adverbs with adjectives and conjunctions with pronouns.

That the material is flawed is partly because of the priority given to a functional linguistics approach to grammar. Functional grammar, similar to critical literacy, is imbued with the view that language has to be analysed in terms of power relationships. Students have to be taught how standard English is used by more powerful groups in society to oppress others. With functional grammar, children are no longer taught things such as parts of speech or how to parse a sentence; instead, the focus is on so-called real meaning and real contexts where language is defined as a socio-cultural construct.

Nouns become participants, verbs are described as process and adverbial clauses and phrases are changed to circumstances. Such is the dense and arcane terminology associated with functional grammar that former NSW premier Bob Carr had it banished from the curriculum. Queensland Education Minister Rod Welford boasted last year in relation to the new English syllabus: "Curriculum waffle is out, clear English is in." It's a pity, however, that he didn't follow Carr's example.

The in-service training for English teachers organised by Education Queensland, while mentioning traditional grammar, gives priority to a functional linguistics approach. In notes titled Getting a Grip on Grammar, verbs, clauses, phrases, nouns, subject and predicate are secondary to descriptions such as processes, participants, circumstances, mood, modality, cohesion and theme. The result? Not only are teachers bamboozled but parents are unable to help with their children's work.

Many of those responsible for training English teachers and writing syllabuses are committed to a progressive, cultural-left approach to English as a subject, represented by functional grammar and critical literacy. As a consequence, not only do most Australian syllabuses fail to include a systematic treatment of formal grammar but many teachers lack the knowledge to deal with thesubject.

No wonder thousands of primary school children start secondary school illiterate, many Year 12 students enter university incapable of writing a lucid essay and employers complain about the language skills ofworkers. In The Literacy Wars, Monash University academic Ilana Snyder condemns me and The Australian for promoting a "manufactured crisis" in English teaching. One wonders what she will make of the latest incident.


Silencing grammar

A mocking editorial from The Australian below:

The precision of our language must be preserved. The "arguability of a text", the English Teachers Association of Queensland told its members in its journal last year, "can vary according to the degree to which the speaker/writer closes down the dialogue to suppress or limit divergence, or opens it up to divergent positions."

Regardless of whatever discourses are foregrounded, marginalised or silenced, however, it cannot be argued, after a dominant or resistant reading of any text, that an adverb is a verb. And while not wanting to privilege traditional grammar rules over a sociocultural critical appraisal model, no amount of licence can turn a pair into an adjective instead of a noun.

Such elementary mistakes, unfortunately, are among the string of errors in articles published in the ETAQ journal last year. Written by consultant Lenore Ferguson, "Grammar at the coal-face" was presented to help when "colleagues, parents, employers and politicians ... accuse us of not knowing or teaching grammar."

Retired University of Queensland professor Rodney Huddleston, one of two principal authors of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language, said it was the worst material on English grammar by a native speaker he had seen. He identified "a huge amount of error, inconsistency and confusion". "Set of" in "a set of bowls" was classified wrongly as an adjective, instead of a noun and preposition. The word "what" in "They saw what lay before them" was described as a conjunction. And "Sam's", in "Sam's folder", was labelled a possessive pronoun instead of a possessive noun.

ETAQ president, Garry Collins, is unconcerned about such "relatively minor" mistakes, and derides The Australian for reporting the matter. However, parents - tired of school handouts dotted with bad spelling and confusing "there" and "their" - will take a more serious view. They and their children will not be surprised at the erudition of some of the learning activities proposed in the articles. These suggest that students identify nouns and verbs by analysing newspaper previews for Home and Away and Neighbours. Pathetic.

Regrettably, what is "silenced" in the ETAQ material is the lifelong importance, for their wellbeing and career advancement, of students from all backgrounds learning to write and speak correctly. Preserving the precision of our language is important, regardless of the ravages of texting, slang and even critical literacy jargon. While language evolves, it needs to do so within acceptable parameters of semantics and rules. "Alternative readings" of what is acceptable risk English degenerating into woolly and imprecise meaninglessness.

If the ETAQ magazine reflects grammar and English teaching generally in Queensland, the state's Education Minister, Rod Welford, should instigate remedial classes - for teachers. Suitable instructors, however, might prove thin on the ground. The ETAQ journal, Words'Worth, would be the last place he should advertise.


Islam in America's Public Schools: Education or Indoctrination?

by Cinnamon Stillwell

With fatal terrorist attacks on the decline worldwide and al Qaeda apparently in disarray, it would seem a time for optimism in the global war on terrorism. But the war has simply shifted to a different arena. Islamists, or those who believe that Islam is a political and religious system that must dominate all others, are focusing less on the military and more on the ideological. It turns out that Western liberal democracies can be subverted without firing a shot.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the educational realm. Islamists have taken what's come to be known as the "soft jihad" into America's classrooms and children in K-12 are the first casualties. Whether it is textbooks, curriculum, classroom exercises, film screenings, speakers or teacher training, public education in America is under assault.

Capitalizing on the post-9/11 demand for Arabic instruction, some public, charter and voucher-funded private schools are inappropriately using taxpayer dollars to implement a religious curriculum. They are also bringing in outside speakers with Islamist ties or sympathies. As a result, not only are children receiving a biased education, but possible violations of the First Amendment's Establishment Clause abound. Consider the following cases:

* Last month, students at Friendswood Junior High in Houston were required to attend an "Islamic Awareness" presentation during class time allotted for physical education. The presentation involved two representatives from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an organization with a record of Islamist statements and terrorism convictions. According to students, they were taught that "there is one God, his name is Allah" and that "Adam, Noah and Jesus are prophets." Students were also taught about the Five Pillars of Islam and how to pray five times a day and wear Islamic religious garb. Parents were not notified about the presentation and it wasn't until a number of complaints arose that school officials responded with an apologetic e-mail.

* Earlier this year at Lake Brantley High School in Seminole County, Fla., speakers from the Academy for Learning Islam gave a presentation to students about "cultural diversity" that extended to a detailed discussion of the Quran and Islam. The school neither screened the ALI speakers nor notified parents. After a number of complaints, local media coverage and a subsequent investigation, the school district apologized for the inappropriate presentation, admitting that it violated the law. Subsequently, ALI was removed from the Seminole County school system's Dividends and Speaker's Bureau.

* As reported by the Cabinet Press, a school project last year at Amherst Middle School transformed "the quaint colonial town of Amherst, N.H., into a Saudi Arabian Bedouin tent community." Male and female students were segregated, with the girls hosting "hijab and veil stations" and handing out the oppressive head-to-toe black garment known as the abaya to female guests. Meanwhile, the boys hosted food and Arabic dancing stations because, as explained in the article, "the traditions of Saudi Arabia at this time prevent women from participating in these public roles." An "Islamic religion station" offered up a prayer rug, verses from the Quran, prayer items and a compass pointed towards Mecca. The fact that female subjugation was presented as a benign cultural practice and Islamic religious rituals were promoted with public funds is cause for concern.

* Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, a charter school in Inver Grove Heights, Minn., came under recent scrutiny after Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten brought to light concerns about public funding for its overtly religious curriculum. The school is housed in the Muslim American Society's (the American branch of the Egyptian Islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood) Minnesota building, alongside a mosque, and the daily routine includes prayer, ritual washing, halal food preparation and an after-school "Islamic studies" program. Kersten's columns prompted the Minnesota chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union to issue a press release expressing its own reservations about potential First Amendment violations. An investigation initiated by the Minnesota Department of Education verified several of Kersten's allegations and the school has since promised to make the appropriate changes. In a bizarre twist, when a local television news crew tried to report on the findings from school grounds, school officials confronted them and wrestled a camera away from one of its photographers, injuring him in the process.

* The controversy surrounding the founding of New York City's Arabic language public school, Khalil Gibran International Academy, last year continues. Former principal Dhabah "Debbie" Almontaser was asked to step down after publicly defending T-shirts produced by Arab Women Active in the Arts and Media, an organization with whom she shared office space, emblazoned with "Intifada NYC." But KGIA has other troublesome associations. Its advisory board includes three imams, one of whom, New York University Imam Khalid Latif, sent a threatening letter to the university's president regarding a planned display of the Danish cartoons. Another, Shamsi Ali, runs the Jamaica Muslim Center Quranic Memorization School in Queens, a replica of the type of Pakistani madrassa (or school) counter-terrorism officials have been warning about since 9/11. Accordingly, several parents founded Stop the Madrassa: A Community Coalition to voice their contention that KGIA is an inappropriate candidate for taxpayer funding.

Equally problematic are the textbooks used in American public schools to teach Islam or Islamic history. Organizations such as Southern California's Council on Islamic Education and Arabic World and Islamic Resources are tasked with screening and editing these textbooks for public school districts, but questions have been raised about the groups' scholarship and ideological agenda. The American Textbook Council, an organization that reviews history and social studies textbooks used in American schools, and its director, Gilbert T. Sewall, have produced a series of articles and reports on Islam textbooks and the findings are damning. They include textbooks that are factually inaccurate, misrepresent and in some cases, glorify Islam, or are hostile to other religions. While teaching students about Islam within a religious studies context may be appropriate, the purpose becomes suspect when the texts involved are compromised in this manner.

Such are the complaints about "History Alive! The Medieval World and Beyond," a textbook published by the Teachers' Curriculum Institute, to the point where parents in the Scottsdale, Ariz., school district succeeded in having it removed from the curriculum in 2005. TCI is based in Mountain View, and the textbook is now being used in the state's public schools, where similar concerns have arisen. A Marin County mother whose son has been assigned "History Alive!" has been trying to mount an effort to call school officials' attention to the problem. Similarly, a San Luis Obispo mother filed an official complaint several years ago with her son's school authorities over the use of Houghton Mifflin's middle school text, "Across the Centuries," which has been widely criticized for whitewashing Islamic history and glorifying Islam. Its recent approval for use in Montgomery County, Md., public schools is likely to lead to further objections.

But the forces in opposition are powerful and plenty. They include public education bureaucrats and teachers mired in naivete and political correctness, biased textbook publishers, politicized professors and other experts tasked with helping states approve textbooks, and at the top of the heap, billions of dollars in Saudi funding. These funds are pouring into the coffers of various organs that design K-12 curricula. The resultant material, not coincidentally, turns out to be inaccurate, biased and, considering the Wahhabist strain of Islam promulgated by Saudi Arabia, dangerous. And again, taxpayer dollars are involved. National Review Online contributing editor Stanley Kurtz explains :
"The United States government gives money - and a federal seal of approval - to a university Middle East Studies center. That center offers a government-approved K-12 Middle East studies curriculum to America's teachers. But in fact, that curriculum has been bought and paid for by the Saudis, who may even have trained the personnel who operate the university's outreach program. Meanwhile, the American government is asleep at the wheel - paying scant attention to how its federally mandated public outreach programs actually work. So without ever realizing it, America's taxpayers end up subsidizing - and providing official federal approval for - K-12 educational materials on the Middle East that have been created under Saudi auspices. Game, set, match: Saudis."

Along with funding textbooks and curricula, the Saudis are also involved in funding and designing training for public school teachers. The Saudi funded Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University now offers professional development workshops for K-12 teachers. The workshops take place at the hosting institution and provide teachers with classroom material. They are free of charge and ACMCU throws in lunch to boot.

But this generosity likely comes with a catch, for the center is known for producing scholars and material with a decidedly apologist bent, both toward the Saudi Royal Family and Islamic radicalism. It's no accident that ACMCU education consultant Susan Douglass, according to her bio, has been "an affiliated scholar" with the Council on Islamic Education "for over a decade." Douglass also taught social studies at the Islamic Saudi Academy in Fairfax, Va., where her husband still teaches. ISA has come under investigation for Saudi-provided textbooks and curriculum that some have alleged promotes hatred and intolerance towards non-Muslims. That someone with Douglass' problematic associations would be in charge of training public school teachers hardly inspires confidence in the system.

While groups such as People for the American Way, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the ACLU express outrage at any semblance of Christianity in America's public schools, very little clamor has met the emergence of Islam in the same arena. An occasional press release, such as the one put out by the Minnesota chapter of the ACLU regarding TIZA, will surface, but by and large, the arbiters of separation of church and state or in this case, mosque and state, have gone silent. The same can largely be said for the federal government and, in particular, the State Department. No doubt, Saudi dollars and influence are part of the problem.

Probably the single greatest weapon in the arsenal of those trying to fight the misuse of America's public schools is community involvement. As noted previously, a number of parental coalitions have sprung up across the country in an effort to protect their own children from indoctrination. The Stop the Madrassa Coalition has expanded its efforts beyond New York City by working on policy ideas for legislation and meeting privately with members of Congress. Also providing hope are Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), whose 10-point "Wake Up America" agenda includes a call to reform Saudi-provided textbooks, and the bipartisan Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus she co-chairs. Its focus on "jihadist ideology" demonstrates an all-too-rare governmental understanding of the nature of the current conflict.

The power to educate the next generation is an inestimable one and a free society cedes control at its peril. The days of the "silent majority" are no longer tenable in the face of a determined and clever enemy. The battle of ideas must be joined.


Friday, June 13, 2008

Putting Children Last

Democrats in Congress have finally found a federal program they want to eliminate. And wouldn't you know, it's one that actually works and helps thousands of poor children. We're speaking of the four-year-old Washington, D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program that provides vouchers to about 2,000 low-income children so they can attend religious or other private schools. The budget for the experimental program is $18 million, or about what the U.S. Department of Education spends every hour and a half.

This fight has nothing to do with saving money. But it has a lot to do with election-year politics. Kevin Chavis, the former D.C. City Council member who sits on the oversight board of the scholarship program, says, "If we were going to do what was best for the kids, then continuing it is a no-brainer. Those kids are thriving." More than 90% of the families express high satisfaction with the program, according to researchers at Georgetown University.

Many of the parents we interviewed describe the vouchers as a "Godsend" or a "lifeline" for their sons and daughters. "Most of the politicians have choices on where to send their kids to school," says William Rush, Jr., who has two boys in the program. "Why do they want to take our choices away?"

Good question. These are families in heavily Democratic neighborhoods. More than 80% of the recipients are black and most of the rest Hispanic. Their average income is about $23,000 a year. But the teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down.

This explains why that self-styled champion of children's causes, Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Congressional delegate from the District of Columbia, is leading the charge to kill the program. Ms. Norton contends that vouchers undermine support and funding for public schools. But the $18 million allocated to the program does not come out of the District school budget; Congress appropriates extra money for the vouchers.

The $7,500 voucher is a bargain for taxpayers because it costs the public schools about 50% more, or $13,000 a year, to educate a child in the public schools. And we use the word "educate" advisedly because D.C. schools are among the worst in the nation. In 2007, D.C. public schools ranked last in math scores and second-to-last in reading scores for all urban public school systems on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Opponents claim there is no evidence that the D.C. scholarship program is raising academic achievement. The only study so far, funded by the federal Department of Education, found positive but "not statistically significant" improvements in reading and math scores after the first year. But education experts agree it takes a few years for results to start showing up. In other places that have vouchers, such as Milwaukee and Florida, test scores show notable improvement. A new study on charter schools in Los Angeles County finds big academic gains when families have expanded choices for educating their kids.

If the D.C. program continues for another few years, we will be able to learn more about the impact of vouchers on educational outcomes. The reason unions want to shut the program down immediately isn't because they're afraid it will fail. They're afraid it will succeed, and show that there is a genuine alternative to the national scandal that are most inner-city public schools. That's why former D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams and current Mayor Adrian Fenty, both Democrats, support the program.

"Hopefully," says Mr. Chavis, "Congress will focus on the kids, not the politics here." Barack Obama might call that the audacity of hope, if he finally showed the nerve to break with the unions on at least one issue and support these poor D.C. students.


AAUW education report minimizes boy crisis in our schools

Boys have trailed girls in most indices of academic performance for at least two decades. In recent years, boys' educational struggles have finally been acknowledged and explored in the mainstream media. This has resulted in an unfortunate backlash from misguided women's advocates. The latest example of these advocates' efforts to minimize or deny the boy crisis in education is the American Association of University Women's highly-publicized new report "Where the Girls Are: The Facts About Gender Equity in Education."

The AAUW says its report "debunks the myth of a `boys crisis' in education," but the study provides little evidence to support this contention. According to the Report's own data, girls get much better grades than boys, are far more likely to graduate college, and are on the good side of a longstanding "literacy gap."

It is also true that girls are much more likely than boys to graduate high school, and boys are far more likely than girls to be disciplined, suspended, held back, or expelled. The vast majority of learning-disabled students are boys, and boys are four times more likely than girls to receive a diagnosis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although more girls than boys enroll in high level math and science classes, boys do score a little better in math. However, girls' advantage in reading is several times as large.

Most of the AAUW report's claims are superficial and unconvincing. The Report tells us "the crisis is not specific to boys; rather, it is a crisis for African American, Hispanic, and low-income children." Of course-low income and minority children do not fare as well as children from more advantaged groups. But the boys of any cohort are still behind the girls in most indices.

The Report reassures us that both sexes have stayed the same or improved on standardized tests in the past decade. This isn't the point-the gender gap isn't new, but has existed for well over a decade.

The AAUW says the report's "results put to rest fears of a `boys' crisis' in education, demonstrating that girls' gains have not come at boys' expense." This is another irrelevant point. Nobody claims the boy crisis exists because of girls' gains-the issue is that boys' performance fell significantly behind girls', and has remained behind because we've failed to address boys' problems.

This is not the first time a highly-publicized study has claimed to debunk the boy crisis. In 2005, Duke University announced its study on child wellbeing by telling the media "American boys and girls today are faring almost equally well across key indicators of education, health, safety and risky behavior." Press reports followed suit, with headlines such as "Boys, girls fare equally in U.S.: Study debunks both sides in long debate" and "Boy-girl gender gap? Not so fast."

Yet the study showed nothing of the sort. Boys and girls fared equally in six of the 28 categories studied by the researchers - and girls fared better than boys in 17 of the remaining 22. Even the few advantages the study found for boys were modest. By contrast, many of girls' advantages were very large.

The new AAUW report, unable to dispel the boy crisis, falls back instead on the alleged wage gap, claiming, "Perhaps the most compelling argument against a boys crisis is that men continue to out earn women in the workplace." They explain that among all women and men working full time, year-round, median annual earnings for women were 77 percent of men's earnings in 2005.

It has been amply demonstrated that the wage gap is largely caused by the career sacrifices mothers make to care for their children and the primary breadwinner role most fathers assume when their children are born. The wage gap is very questionable in and of itself, and certainly is of no relevance when discussing gender and school performance.

The boy crisis is real. England has widely acknowledged a similar crisis in its system, and has taken steps in recent years to address the problem. The U.S. has not. Instead of giving credence to the AAUW's unfortunate sophistry, we instead need to focus on how to change our educational system to address boys' problems.


Australia: A nasty education bureaucracy tries to get revenge on someone who stood up to them

Reinstated teacher given a difficult job for which she is not trained. What does it say about a bureaucracy that fills positions with unqualified people? Someone needs to crack down on these petulant sulkers

A WOMAN who won back the right to teach after being suspended for posing nude for a magazine says she cannot take the position she has been offered because she is not qualified to do the job. Lynne Tziolas, 24, was last month dismissed from Narraweena Public School on the Northern Beaches after she posed naked with 45-year-old husband Antonios for a feature in Cleo magazine.

She has since successfully fought her case for reinstatement, but received an email on Tuesday informing her she would be offered a new temporary position - at a Northern Beaches school for children with learning difficulties and behavioural problems.

Mr Tziolas yesterday said his wife, who was due to take up her new role today, planned to instead inform the Department of Education and Training that it was unacceptable. "It's quite unsatisfactory really - I think they've tried to offer her a job that's not in the mainstream school system to basically get her out of the way," he said. "Teaching at this school is something she's not qualified to do. It's not why she became a teacher. There are teachers out there who have studied specifically for learning difficulties and behavioural problems. These kids require a very specific and formalised type of teaching."

Mr Tziolas said his wife's decision to take part in the Cleo feature, in which she revealed intimate details of her marriage, had resulted in her being asked by the department to prove why she did not belong on a prohibited employment list. "That list includes paedophiles, child pornographers, convicted drug dealers and incompetent teachers. It's pretty much like a criminal record as far as teaching or working with children is concerned," Mr Tziolas said. "That was sorted out and the response was that she had been reinstated but reinstatement, to my mind, means putting you back in your previous position. "She hasn't lost her teaching approval but they suspended her from Narraweena Public School, so it's really not clear to us what her status was or is. It's still pretty confused."

While they did not regret the decision to take part in the feature, for which the couple was paid $200, Mr Tziolas said the matter was blown out of proportion. "It seems like it's just dragging on. It's difficult to be motivated as a teacher with all this scrutiny," he said.

NSW Teachers Federation deputy president Bob Lipscombe yesterday said the Department of Education needed to fill the position with a suitably qualified candidate. "One would hope that the teachers at the school in question had appropriate qualifications and training and experience to teach," he said. "The federation would have some concerns if a teacher was being compelled to work in a school such as the one she has been appointed to. We wouldn't see that as fair, either to the teacher or the students involved."


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Good enough for you, but not for the Benns

Comment from Peter Hitchens in Britain

The great infuriating unpunished scandal of socialist school hypocrisy never ceases. They take for themselves what they deny to others, just like the old Kremlin Politburo. And they have no shame about it. The late Caroline Benn, wife of Tony, was the most fervent campaigner for comprehensive schools in Britain. Mr Benn - consistent with his principles - withdrew his two sons from their private school to send them to a comprehensive. One of those sons, Stephen, then tried to become a Labour councillor and worked for the fanatically egalitarian Inner London Education Authority.

He married Nita Clarke, another career Leftist (one-time Press officer for Glenys Kinnock, later a Blair adviser at Downing Street). Now we find that their 18-year-old daughter, Emily, has been attending... selective grammar schools. These are the schools her family opposed for decades. Labour still hates them so much that its last Education Act (backed by the Useless Tories) banned the creation of any more.

Apparently unbothered by this ridiculous contrast between her private advantage and her public views, Emily Benn is now trying to become a Labour MP. `I care more about the people that aren't in grammar schools,' she trills. I bet she does.


Britain: Labour 'has failed state pupils' despite investing billions of pounds in schools

Billions of pounds spent on state schools has failed to give parents greater choice over their children's education, a report claimed today. Instead of funding new school places, ministers have spent the money propping up under-performing primaries and secondaries. Despite Labour promises to harness 'parent power' to drive up standards, places at good schools are decided by rigid catchment areas and admissions lotteries, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Many pupils are forced to accept the schools they are given because the Government allows councils to maintain only tiny numbers of spare places. And this lack of competition for places has allowed poorer schools to survive.

The damning verdict emerged as ministers prepare to unveil a blueprint to force the country's 638 lowest-performing schools to shape up or face closure. Some schools face immediate intervention amid concerns they have been allowed to fail for too long. The IFS researchers found the schools budget exceeded 40billion pounds in 2006-07 - up from less than 30billion in 1998-99. But billions have been channelled into keeping open poorly performing schools, while a 9billion school refurbishment fund will be concentrated on existing schools rather than giving new providers a foothold in the education system. Meanwhile only half the extra money intended to help disadvantaged pupils is actually spent on them - 3,670 at primary level against 5,950 allocated. The rest is wasted on bureaucracy or given to schools that are already well-funded.

The report, funded by independent education provider the CfBT Education Trust, says ministers must be prepared to allow surplus places to give parents and pupils a real choice. 'The Government's wish to encourage a diversity of school providers is undermined by a funding regime which, with a view to controlling costs, aims to avoid creating surplus places,' said Neil McIntosh, CfBT chief executive, in a foreword to the report.

The report claims that Tony Blair's vision for increased parental is far from being realised. 'The current system does not live up to the 'school choice' programme enthusiastically described in the 2005 White Paper, in which successful schools expand, new entrants compete with existing providers, and weaker schools either improve their performance or else contract and close,' it says. The report also found that the worst-performing primary schools were still 93 per cent full and the worst secondaries 89 per cent full. 'Schools that are all-but-guaranteed to fill their capacity, facing little or no threat of entry from new providers even if their performance is below the national average, do not face sharp incentives to improve their performance,' it said.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: 'We have made it easier for anyone, including parents, to set up new schools and by law, local authorities have a duty to encourage new providers to come into the system.


More Insanity from Columbia University

Columbia University has more than its share of intellectual hacks, and high on the list is Joseph Massad. Professor Massad's controversial beliefs invite mockery. He believes the Iraq war stemmed from the sexual prowess of the American male ("In such a strategy, Iraqis are posited by American super-masculine fighter-bomber pilots as women and feminised men to be penetrated by the missiles and bombs ejected from American warplanes."); he condones terrorism against Israel ("This can be done by the continuing resistance of Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories to all the civil and military institutions that uphold Jewish supremacy"); and lastly, he attempted to exile a student from his class who had the gall to disagree with him.

Massad's most recent work further supports the idea that Massad belongs on a psychiatrist's couch, not behind a podium. In Desiring Arabs, Massad asserts that the West "produces homosexuals as well as gays and lesbians, where they do not exist." But for colonialism, Massad contends, there would be no gay people in the Middle East for the tyrannical governments of Egypt and Iran to persecute. Although Massad says he opposes hanging gay people, he shifts the blame from the hooded executioners to the United States.

When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Columbia last fall and made a similar claim ("In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."), students laughed and booed. They recently, however, elected to award Massad the Lionel Trilling Book Award for making the nearly identical claim. Last year, Marty Peretz reported some good news: Columbia University had declined to give Massad tenure. Apparently, Peretz spoke too soon. After cries from the Middle Eastern Studies Department, the Provost agreed to appoint a second ad hoc committee this year. Will Columbia have the good-sense to banish him once and for all?


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Equality has made dunces of British children

The bid to iron out differences by imposing one kind of school, one class and one syllabus has been tragically wrong

Education, education, education? For shame, for shame, for shame. New Labour's failure to rescue state education, let alone improve it, will be its most disgraceful legacy. The Conservatives should not crow; when in office they also failed to take on the forces destroying education.

Each week the news is full of reports of stagnating standards, more university dropouts (one in seven students, despite government "investment" of 1 billion pounds since 2003), a shortage of teachers, particularly in maths and science, and a majority of underqualified teachers. However, two dismal stories stood out last week, both as symptom and explanation of what is wrong.

One of the three leading universities in the country, Imperial College London, announced that in 2010 it would introduce an entrance exam for applicants because it cannot rely on A-level results. Sir Richard Sykes, the college's rector, suggested that grade inflation in A-levels made them almost "worthless" as a way of choosing between candidates: "Everybody who applies has got three or four As."

That is hardly surprising, since it isn't difficult to get an A; last year 25% of all A-level papers were given a grade A. Oddly enough, there are people in the education world who still deny that A-levels and GCSEs have been debased. They must be wilfully blind to the evidence; last week, for instance, many newspapers printed a comparison of an old maths O-level exam paper with the contemporary GCSE one. The fall from rigour was lamentable.

Also last week, Professor John White of the notoriously progressive Institute of Education told us that traditional lessons were too middle class. Instead, he said, schools should teach skills such as "energy saving and civic responsibility" through "theme or project-based learning".

At a conference on the national curriculum he argued that while private schools historically focused on the classics and elementary schools for the working classes concentrated on the three Rs, middle-class schools taught academic subjects such as English, science, history, geography, modern languages and Latin as "mere stepping stones to wealth" via university, which "fed [sic] into the idea of academic learning as the mark of a well-heeled middle class".

This, he feels, was the basis of the Conservatives' attempt to impose middle-class values by introducing a national curriculum of traditional subjects in 1988. Subject-based education like this, he thinks, favours the middle class and alienates many children, especially the disadvantaged. White specialises in the philosophy of education and, readers may be irritated to know, was recently a member of a committee set up to advise ministers on the secondary school curriculum.

It is hard to say which of these two stories is more infuriating. The rector of Imperial College is right. Contemporary A-level results, debased as they are, reveal little about a student's suitability for serious study at a top university, but they never did, even at their most rigorous. When I was a teenager, top marks at A-level, although difficult to achieve, were considered irrelevant to getting into Oxford or Cambridge. Passes at A-level were required but what mattered were the entrance exams that both universities set. These were much harder than A-levels - and different.

It was considered at the time too obvious to mention that this was suitable only for the brightest academic children. All this was hard for teenagers who couldn't get into Oxbridge and automatically excluded gifted children from poor schools and deprived backgrounds.

However, if you want a world-class university, attended by students who are not only bright but also well prepared for study as undergraduates, with a well stocked memory and well trained habits of thinking, reading and writing, there is no substitute for selection, however harsh.

At 18, sadly, it makes little difference why a particular teenager is not a good candidate - whether her bog-standard comp or her family or her natural ability failed her. It is not the proper role of a university to do anything about any of that - for one thing it is too late. It's not the role of a university to experiment with social engineering, although the government forces it on them. It's not the role of a university to offer remedial teaching, although plenty do. Maddening though it is to see people reinventing the wheel, Imperial College is right.

So too, oddly enough, is the infuriating White, at least in one way. Beneath his old-fashioned class hatred and his atavistic loyalty to discredited progressive teaching, lurks an awkward truth. An academic school education - a traditional grammar school education - is not suitable for most people.

It was never a good idea to impose a grammar school-style curriculum on all children in the state sector and subject them to it in large, mixed-ability classes. That served neither the few who were suited to it, nor the many who were not. It has indeed alienated the disadvantaged. Plenty of them would be better served, as White says, by practical vocational subjects. That was the vision of the old secondary moderns and the technical colleges. Can it be that the progressive White is trying to reinvent this regressive wheel?

Behind the rector's story and the professor's story lies the obstinate folly of generations of teachers and theorists of education. Obsessed with equality and social engineering, they refused to recognise the simple truth that children and students vary. Children are born with different abilities, into different environments, which exaggerate those differences: ignoring those differences is no way to help them all, nor is clumsy social engineering.

Imposing one kind of school, one class and one syllabus on everyone, in an attempt to iron out those differences, has been tragically wrong. Encouraging everyone to think they can get a university degree is unforgivably discouraging to the majority of young people who can't and don't.

The result has been a school system that suits almost nobody and public exams that mean almost nothing. As these two stories demonstrate, quality has been sacrificed to the pursuit of equality. It is shameful.


Australian school English too hard - principal

There's NOTHING that is "too hard" in today's dumbed-down schools. Let them try learning Latin, as we all once did

The head of one of the nation's elite private schools has questioned whether English should be compulsory for the senior years, saying the courses being taught are beyond the intellectual ability of most students. The headmaster of Sydney Church of England Grammar School (Shore) in North Sydney, Tim Wright, told a symposium on a national curriculum in English at the weekend that parents felt alienated from the English syllabus and were deeply cynical about it.

In his speech, Dr Wright said the NSW English course for Years 11 and 12 was a major challenge for many students. "The intellectual challenge is, in fact, beyond many students," he said. "It is seen as arbitrary and from time to time the anguished cry comes: 'Why can't we just read the book?' "I question whether it (English) ought to be compulsory ... at senior level. It is not enough to simply say that like cod liver oil, English is good for you."

The symposium, hosted by the University of Sydney's Arts English and Literacy Education Research Network in the education faculty, was opened by NSW Education Minister John Della Bosca and also heard from the NSW representative on the National Curriculum Board, Tom Alegounarias. Mr Alegounarias said the content of any national curriculum had to capture what the community -- not teachers -- thought was essential for students to learn. "The test for inclusion of content will not be what the teaching profession wants, or teacher educators or bureaucrats for that matter," he said. "Its contents should be measured against its purposes, which are to meet the community's interests. It is an expression of the community's intent and expectations."

Mr Alegounarias dismissed the idea of a curriculum as a technical document or specialised product for teachers alone.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

British Universities `inflate degrees' to boost status

UNIVERSITY academics claim they are under pressure to upgrade degrees to at least a 2:1 to boost their institutions' position in league tables. Liverpool was named as one of the alleged culprits by one leading academic, while another senior don claims league tables were "a key factor" in increasing the numbers of firsts and 2:1s awarded at one of Britain's top 10 universities.

Other lecturers said they were also coming under strong pressure to upgrade degrees from students paying tuition fees who were worried that their career prospects would be blighted if they failed to achieve a 2:1.

Jonathan Bate, professor of English at Warwick University, said that before he left his previous job at Liverpool in 2003 he was told that improving the university's league table position depended on increasing the number of firsts and upper second class degrees awarded.

In The Sunday Times University Guide league table about 10% of a university's score depends on its proportion of top degrees. Rankings can have a strong effect on, for example, the calibre of applicants to universities.

Bate, speaking in today's News Review, says: "There are universities where instructions go round to staff reminding them that awarding more top-class degrees will push their institution up both the national and international league tables. When I was a professor at Liverpool University heads of departments were given exactly this message."

Universities have complained repeatedly about "grade inflation" at A-level making it increasingly difficult to choose between candidates with three As, but new figures show that the same phenomenon has occurred with degrees. At Liverpool the proportion of firsts and 2:1s has risen from 50% to 73% during the past decade. Since 2000, the university's ranking has risen from 35th to 27th.

In the past decade only one of the top 30 universities - Cambridge - has reduced the proportion of firsts and 2:1s. Liverpool University denied pressure had been exerted to lower marking standards. Bill Rammell, the higher education minister, has warned universities against introducing "tests for tests' sake" in case they harm the prospects of pupils from poor schools.


Australia: Another Leftist attack on school discipline

Teachers warned for 'shouting'

TEACHERS have launched legal action against the NSW Education Department after being put under scrutiny for shouting while trying to control students. NSW Education Department officials are investigating teachers for shouting at students to "put that down'', "leave him alone'', "sit down'' or "pick up those papers'' and demanding to know, "who told you that you could go there?''

The Sunday Telegraph has obtained letters sent from the department to teachers, asking them to explain their actions. One letter stated: "It is alleged that while you were employed as a teacher you engaged in unreasonable conduct towards students, contrary to the Code of Conduct 2004, in that on unspecified occasions in class you unnecessarily yelled at students''.

Teachers have launched legal action against the department, claiming the investigations are eroding their authority and affecting discipline. The situation has resulted in 750 school principals signing statements of concern. Teachers Federation deputy president Bob Lipscombe said the investigations were a consequence of a decision by the department in December last year to cut back on the number of investigators who hold teaching qualifications.

"A number of teachers have been investigated for yelling in the classroom,'' he said. "These sorts of investigations can undermine their capacity to maintain reasonable discipline in their classes and the prolonged investigations often cause significant harm to teachers' wellbeing.''

Independent Education Union secretary Dick Shearman said the problem was a result of over-zealousness, with some teachers being accused of abuse after raising their voice. "It's been a battle to distinguish between what might be normal discipline or genuine psychological abuse,'' he said. "In some schools, there's overzealousness of this approach. If someone raises their voice on one occasion, this can be interpreted as child abuse. "You can harm a child without physically harming them. "It's not the notion we have a problem with, it's the interpretation of it. "We're not criticising child-protection legislation.''

Despite the letters ordering teachers to explain why they yelled at students, the department denies it investigates them for shouting. "A teacher raising their voice at a student will not prompt an investigation by the department,'' a department spokesman said in a statement. "The Employee Performance and Conduct Unit investigates staff for serious misconduct and poor performance.'' Almost 1000 teachers and other staff are currently listed on the department's not-to-be-employed list.

Opposition education spokesman Andrew Stoner said teachers were left to deal with ill-behaved children who were not being disciplined at home. "I certainly got the cane at school a lot because I was a little bugger,'' he said. "I don't suggest we bring it back, but let's say discipline was a lot tougher in former years. "The Government has taken away a lot of teachers' powers to discipline children in the classroom. It's no wonder teachers sometimes end up yelling at unruly and difficult students.''

Sarah Redfern public school principal Cheryl McBride said the investigations had resulted in an erosion of discipline. "A normal disciplinary action to prevent dangerous or threatening behaviour is being interpreted as something that needs to be reported as a child-protection incident ... whereas that might be very appropriate discipline for the child,'' Ms McBride said."


Monday, June 09, 2008

UK's trainee maths teachers are bottom of the class when it comes to basic sums

Many trainee maths teachers cannot do basic sums, say researchers. They struggle with reasoning and thinking logically, despite the fact that they will be responsible for passing on these skills to youngsters. Schools across the country are already having trouble recruiting and retaining high quality maths teachers.

The researchers from Plymouth University said it was alarming that so many trainees can get 'very basic' questions wrong. Their study compared English final-year maths teacher trainees with their counterparts in seven other countries. These were China, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Russia and Singapore. All these countries have good reputations for maths education.

The continuing research, which is funded by the Centre for British Teachers, found that only 21 per cent of English trainees correctly answered a question about the chance of picking different sweets out of a bag. This compared with 97 per cent of Russians, 63 per cent of Hungarians and 60 per cent of Chinese maths students. And a simple question about square roots flummoxed half the English trainees but was answered correctly by more than 90 per cent of their Russian, Chinese and Hungarian colleagues.

The English candidates were weak on algebra questions, but they performed well on shape and space questions about trigonometry and geometry and data handling questions covering statistical techniques. Singapore and Japan have yet to provide results.

Professor David Burghes, director of the Centre for Innovation in Mathematics Teaching at Plymouth University, said he was worried by the results, which are being analysed further. He said: 'We are far behind other countries and the international average in terms of logic and rigour. 'That worries me because it almost feels like we have gone for numeracy rather than mathematics in our schools, particularly primaries - and I think mathematics counts.'

The research comes as a report from the Reform think-tank claimed that GCSE maths has become little more than a 'tick box test' in comparison with the old O-level. It called for a major shake-up of the exam system and a reversal of a trend towards splitting exams into bite-size modules.

A National Audit Office report yesterday highlighted the problem of young people leaving school without good skills in literacy and maths. In 2006-07, 45 per cent of pupils leaving school had not gained Level 2 maths (GCSE grades A*-C) and 40 per cent had not achieved Level 2 English.


Australian schools encouraging childhood obesity

Lack of exercise is a major factor in weight gain and kids are being denied their normal activities

TRADITIONAL playground games such as kick-to-kick footy, chasey, hopscotch and even marbles are being banned in schools across Victoria. Games using tennis balls and running on school property have been axed and some schools have prohibited footy, cricket, soccer and netball during lunch breaks. The increasing number of bans on games are because of a fear of injury and subsequent litigation from parents. But parents groups, education experts and some teachers have hit back, saying play is a vital part of a child's development. A Sunday Herald Sun survey of schools found:

CARLTON Gardens Primary School has banned cricket bats and removed its monkey bars and climbing equipment.

ST MICHAEL'S Primary School in North Melbourne has banned children playing football and soccer in the schoolyard.

ASCOT Vale West Primary School has banned games deemed "too rough".

ST PETER Chanel Primary School in Deer Park has outlawed tackling in football and soccer to avoid injuries.

Melbourne University researcher Dr June Factor said a primary school banned marbles because of "arguments". "But for goodness sake how do children learn to resolve arguments if they don't have any?" she said. Dr Factor said the perception parents would threaten litigation if a child was hurt wasn't based on fact. "There have been very few such cases in Victoria," she said. Victorian Principals Association president Fred Ackerman said playgrounds had become more restrictive as parents and teachers had become more anxious and over-protective.

A school not opting for the draconian approach to play is Preston West Primary School. Principal Mark Ross said play was "part of a child's normal development". "As long as there is no safety issue, we encourage kids to engage in play," he said. [Goodbye to football, then, I guess]

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education and Early Childhood said: "This is a school-by-school decision and we encourage all students to be active and healthy."


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Availability of welfare encourages kids to leave school: Canadian report

Teens as young as 13 are more likely to stay in school and proceed to the next grade when access to welfare is restricted, says a University of B.C. researcher. Bill Warburton had observed that the dropout rate for children at risk of receiving income assistance rose with B.C.'s welfare caseload through the early 1990s and fell when a substantial package of welfare reforms was introduced Jan. 1, 1996, which removed about 100,000 people from the welfare rolls. "We wondered if that was a coincidence," wrote Warburton, executive director of the Child and Youth Development Trajectories Research Unit at UBC.

Using data from the B.C. ministries of education and employment and income assistance, Warburton found that when the New Democrats began a program of welfare reform in the mid-1990s, high school dropout rates began to fall and continued to fall for several years. Dropout rates had been rising through the early 1990s as access to welfare expanded and was liberally extended to minors, but the change in policy quickly reversed that trend, he explained in an interview and a written response to a query from The Vancouver Sun. The effect was stronger the older the student and the closer the student was to being eligible for welfare, he said. But it was also significant in students as young as 13. "I was surprised at how young the kids were that responded [to the change]," said Warburton. "We found strong evidence that it wasn't a coincidence."

Warburton worked for the B.C. income security renewal secretariat in the mid-1990s and for the research branch of the Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance through 2004. He was aware that some regions of the province were "more on board" with welfare reform during the late 1990s. By comparing data between regions, he was able to determine that the effect was strongest - that is, kids tended to do better in school - in areas that put the tightest controls on income assistance for people under 25.

The teens' expectations about the availability of welfare is at the heart of the effect, according to Warburton. "I would have guessed that their decisions would be influenced more subliminally than consciously," he said. But the data showed that teens who left school and went on to collect welfare tended to come from the same schools, suggesting that localized welfare cultures had developed.

The kids talk to each other about how to apply, they see their older friends getting welfare. The data suggests that kids are communicating with each other about the system and how it works, he said. "When you hear the anecdotes about kids walking out of school and into the welfare office it seems pretty clear," Warburton said. The study employed all B.C. educational records for Grades 6 through 12 linked to all welfare records for the province for the years 1991 to 1999.

Warburton will speak about his findings todayat the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. Hundreds of lectures and academic papers are being presented this week to more than 9,000 academics at the congress, which is hosted by UBC. "I think the paper is important because it shows how tricky social policy can be," wrote Warburton. "When we try to help some people by providing them with financial support, we can unintentionally hurt others by inducing them to drop out of school."

The welfare expectations study and his research on the antecedents of income assistance have led Warburton to the conclusion that early intervention is essential to reducing the likelihood that a young person will end up collecting welfare. Identifying the factors that push people down that path is the very work that Warburton and fellow researcher Clyde Hertsman do at the Trajectories unit at UBC. "I found it depressingly easy to predict which Grade 8 students would end up on welfare: those who came from [income assistance] families, those who had contact with child protection services and those who were already having trouble academically," he wrote. "We have to intervene even younger."


Australia: Muslim school fakes it

They send their dumber kids to Technical college so that their results do not show up as attributable to the school

YEAR 12 students at a private school in Sydney are forced to complete HSC subjects at TAFE if it appears they will not score high marks. Malek Fahd Islamic School, in Greenacre, joined the top 10 HSC performers in the Herald's league table for the first time last year, ranking ninth - a jump from 15th position the previous year. Malek Fahd students, who pay fees to attend the school, make up close to half the free HSC chemistry class at Bankstown TAFE this year.

Ken Enderby, who co-ordinates the Bankstown TAFE HSC program, said in recent years students had told him they had to take HSC subjects at TAFE because they could not sit them at Malek Fahd. He said one Malek Fahd student who was asked to leave the school achieved a lowest score of 60 per cent and a highest score of 72 per cent at TAFE. "I have had parents in tears because their children have not been allowed to sit subjects at the school," he said. "I'm happy to have those kids here. These are very good students - well behaved and a pleasure to teach."

Twenty-one year 12 students from Malek Fahd enrolled at Bankstown TAFE this year to complete studies in subjects including physics, mathematics and chemistry, all offered at the school. Of the 24 students enrolled in the Bankstown TAFE HSC chemistry class, 11 are from Malek Fahd. Mr Enderby said eight students from Malek Fahd were taking legal studies at the TAFE.

The principal of Malek Fahd, Intaj Ali, said yesterday his school offered 11 HSC subjects, including advanced English and mathematics, biology, business studies, chemistry, physics, studies of religion, and legal studies. Dr Ali denied that he had encouraged poorer performing students to study at TAFE. "No, no, no," he said. "There is no such thing. It is only when they want to change a subject." The 71 students who completed the HSC at the school last year achieved 126 results in band six, which are marks of 90 per cent or more.

Dr Ali said the school had gradually increased its subjects and its student numbers. Since the school was established by Australian Federation of Islamic Councils in October 1989, the student population has grown from 87 children from kindergarten to year 3 to more than 1700 children from kindergarten to year 12.

The school has rapidly improved its performance in the Herald's HSC results league table, which is based on the number of student scores of 90 per cent and above divided by the number of examinations attempted. Malek Fahd only receives credit for the subjects that are completed at the school. TAFE colleges receive credit for Malek Fahd students who sit their examinations at TAFE.

Mr Enderby said 13 Malek Fahd students were at Bankstown TAFE last year. The HSC co-ordinator at Granville TAFE, Dougal Patey, said some Malek Fahd students also studied at his institution.

Year 12 students at Malek Fahd pay about $1600 in fees for the year. The school received $3.6 million in state funding and $9.3 million in federal funding in the 2006-07. The funding had increased 14 per cent over four years. It earned $2.4 million from fees and recorded a surplus of $3.4 million for the year ending in December 2006, $500,000 more than the previous year.