Saturday, October 30, 2010

Women's Choices, Not Abilities, Keep Them out of Math-Intensive Fields (?)

The article below is just opinion. The plain fact is that advanced mathematics is HARD. You have to be very bright to do it at university level. And there are many more men in that super-bright range. That fact is mentioned below but glided over subsequently

The question of why women are so underrepresented in math-intensive fields is a controversial one. In 2005, Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard University, set off a storm of controversy when he suggested it could be due partly to innate differences in ability; others have suggested discrimination or socialization is more to blame. Two psychological scientists have reviewed all of the evidence and concluded that the main factor is women's choices -- both freely made, such as that they'd rather study biology than math, and constrained, such as the fact that the difficult first years as a professor coincide with the time when many women are having children.

Psychological scientists Stephen Ceci and Wendy Williams of Cornell University set out to understand the differences between men and women in math-intensive fields such as physics, electrical engineering, computer science, economics, and chemistry. In the top 100 U.S. universities, only 9% to 16% of tenure-track positions in these kinds of fields are held by women.

But girls' grades in math from grade school through college are as good as or better than boys', and women and men earn comparable average scores on standardized math tests. However, twice as many men as women score in the top 1% on tests such as the SAT-M. Clearly, the picture is complex, Ceci and Williams decided. Their analysis and conclusions appear in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Williams and Ceci also reviewed research on sex discrimination and decided that it is no longer a major factor. In fact, one large-scale national study found that women are actually slightly more likely than men to be invited to interview for and to be offered tenure-track jobs in math-intensive STEM fields.

Instead, Williams and Ceci think the problem is that women actually choose not to go into math-heavy fields, or drop out once they have started. "When you look at surveys of adolescent boys and girls and you say to them, 'What do you want to be when you grow up,' you never see girls saying, 'I want to be a physicist or an engineer,'" Ceci says. That doesn't mean they're rejecting science, but they're more likely to want to be physicians or veterinarians.

And those preferences persist. Studies of college students find that women are more interested in organic and social fields, while men are more interested in systematizing things. And indeed, more than half of new medical doctors and biologists are women today -- and in veterinary medicine, women are more than 75% of new graduates.

Also, women drop out of mathematics-heavy careers paths. Almost half of undergraduate math majors in the U.S. are women. A smaller percentage of women go into graduate school in math, and in 2006, women earned 29.6% of math PhDs. Women are also more likely to drop out after they start a job as a professor, often because they are unable to balance childcare with the huge workload required to get tenure. Young male professors are more likely than their female counterparts to have a stay-at-home spouse or partner who takes care of children.

"You don't see nearly as many men with doctorates in physics saying, 'I won't apply for a tenure-track position because my partner wants to practice environmental law in Wyoming and I'm going to follow her there and help take care of the kids,'" Williams says. Fair or not, women are more likely to prioritize family needs. "I don't think we should try to persuade a woman who's going to be a physician, veterinarian, or biologist to instead be a computer scientist."

On the other hand, women shouldn't have to drop out because the tenure schedule conflicts with their fertility schedule. "Universities can and should do a lot more for women and for those men engaged in comparably-intensive caretaking," says Williams. Coming up with alternative schedules for parents of young children who are seeking tenure, for example, or finding other ways to ease the burden on parents or young children, could help women stay in academic careers -- and not only in math-intensive fields.

SOURCE. Journal article here.

British pupils make more effort with male teachers as they are seen as fairer

Pupils try harder for male teachers, according to an official study. They make more effort to please them, display greater self-esteem and are more likely to believe they are being treated fairly.

The findings are particularly significant as more than a quarter of primary schools do not have a single male teacher.
Sir knows best: Or at least that's the perception amongst school pupils. A study found that pupils make more effort for male teachers

With the number of male secondary school teachers also dwindling, it is feared that some youngsters could go throughout their entire education without experiencing the benefits of being taught by a man.

Researchers from Westminster University, the London School of Economics and the graduate business school INSEAD carried out an experiment involving 1,200 pupils aged 12-13 in 29 schools.

The study, commissioned by the Department for Education under Labour, was aimed at discovering what shaped youngsters’ effort, motivation and educational achievement.

Each pupil received £2 and was asked to buy up to ten questions, priced 20p each. The questions involved having to define the meaning of words. A correct answer doubled their money each time while an incorrect one forfeited 20p. Therefore, pupils who tried ten questions and got them all correct could earn £4.

In one group, marking was done anonymously by an external examiner. In the other, marking was done by the teacher in the classroom. There were nine male teachers and 18 female teachers in the study, which compared the number of questions bought across both groups and measured pupils’ perceptions of the grading and their willingness to make effort using questionnaires.

They found little overall difference in the number of questions purchased between both groups. But in the group where marking was done by the teacher, pupils bought significantly more questions when assessed by men. Children had a more ‘positive perception of the rewards’ of their effort despite the fact the males were not any more lenient.

Both boys and girls also showed greater confidence in their ability. Researchers said the findings were ‘new and significant’ as the effects were evident for every male teacher in the experiment.

They said the study ‘reveals that pupils taught by male teachers tend to have better perceptions of the importance of hard work, better perceptions of equalities of opportunities and higher self-esteem. ‘This experiment shows that male teachers may be beneficial for both male and female pupils, increasing motivation and effort.’

But the latest figures from the General Teaching Council show that only 123,361 of 502,562 registered teachers are men - just 25 per cent - with the vast majority working in secondary schools and further education. Two decades ago, men made up four in ten teachers. Staffrooms at 4,700 primaries – 28 per cent – are solely populated by women, 150 more than last year.

A recent study by Kent University found that women teachers are holding back boys by reprimanding them for typically male behaviour. They are reinforcing stereotypes that boys are ‘silly’ in class and refuse to ‘sit nicely like the girls’ and are more likely to indulge in pranks.

Researchers found that women teachers may also unwittingly perpetuate low expectations of boys and encourage girls to work harder by telling them they are clever.


Bid to lift choice for Australian university students

VICTORIA yesterday called for more student choice and new private providers in university education.

The Brumby government is urging the Gillard government to extend commonwealth undergraduate funding to TAFEs and other approved providers. In its Tertiary Education Access Plan to be announced today, the government says increased choice is needed to meet skill shortages and demand for more applied-focused degrees.

From 2012, the federal government is uncapping the supply of commonwealth-supported undergraduate places that universities can offer to increase participation. But Victoria wants commonwealth places to be allocated as an "entitlement" to eligible students to study at the provider of their choice.

Philip Clarke, head of tertiary education policy at Skills Victoria, said: "Victoria believes that shifting the focus of a demand-driven model to a student entitlement that can be met by a wider range of providers that have met national quality assurance and regulatory standards is a key element of growing higher education participation and completion."

The Victorian proposal comes as the Group of Eight sandstone universities lobby for significant student fee deregulation to drive choice, and also argue for commonwealth funding for TAFEs.

The Council of Private Higher Education welcomed the proposals but warned that commonwealth funding, plus the student contribution, did not cover the cost of delivery of many courses.

TAFE Directors Australia backed the proposal, noting that TAFE students doing degrees had to pay full fees without commonwealth supported places. But Universities Australia said that while it wasn't opposed in principle the commonwealth first needed to ensure new national quality regulators were in place.

RMIT vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner said universities were already well placed to deliver on the government's expansion targets and that a wide range of courses were available to students.

Kwong Lee Dow, former Melbourne University vice-chancellor and an adviser to the government on the plan, said he was disappointed the plan didn't include significant new spending measures beyond a previously announced $104 million for boosting tertiary access in rural areas.

The plan, worth $7m, details priorities for fostering school, TAFE and university partnerships to boost participation, and includes a government internship program for the disadvantaged.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Raising school standards is a dream while Leftist educational theories prevail

Passing a law to say that students MUST learn doesn't mean that they will

More than half of Illinois public schools — including, for the first time, many of the state's academic powerhouses — failed to meet test targets this year, raising questions not only about the schools, but also the standard by which they are judged.

In Illinois, high schools fared the worst. Nine out of 10 high schools — 609 of 665 in the state — missed the mark on math and reading tests and risk federal sanctions, according to information released Wednesday by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Statewide, 44 percent of elementary and middle schools fell short.

Educators say it was bound to happen. The federal No Child Left Behind law requires that schools bring every student to proficiency in reading and math by 2014, a goal that most teachers have thought impossible from its inception. The standard ratchets higher every year as the deadline nears.

"Everybody knew it would get to this point. It had to," said Superintendent Linda Yonke of New Trier Township High School, which missed the test target for the first time this year.

This year, 77.5 percent of students had to read and do math at their grade level on state tests, up from 70 percent a year ago. Smaller subsets of students — as defined by race or income, for example — had to meet the target too.

New Trier, among the state's best schools by virtually any measure, posted some of its highest scores ever on the college-entrance ACT test, which comprises half of the Prairie State Achievement Exam given to juniors. But the performance of a small group of students, those with learning disabilities, fell short of the testing target.

The entire school failed as a result, revealing one of the troubling limits of the law: Schools that narrowly miss the mark with one group of kids get saddled with the same failing label as schools where virtually all students languish below grade level, and are subject to the same penalties. The sweeping designation muddies the issue for parents trying to make sense of it all, and threatens to make the federal standard irrelevant.

"When we've got 98 percent of kids going to college, you can't tell me that we're a failing school," Yonke said. What's more, she added, the very subset of learning-disabled students that failed to meet the federal standard, called "adequate yearly progress," or AYP, scored an average of 22.6 on the ACT — two points above the state average.


MN: School board says classroom isn't place to address sexual orientation

An Anoka-Hennepin school official said for the first time Wednesday that the district's sexual orientation curriculum policy will not change anytime soon. School board chairman Tom Heidemann said the board will not address the controversial policy. "They believe the policy is fine how it is now," said Superintendent Dennis Carlson.

Carlson also addressed charges that the district was not GLBT-friendly, saying he felt "frustrated" about how Anoka-Hennepin schools were being portrayed.

Anoka-Hennepin, the largest school district in Minnesota, has been in the national spotlight over gay bullying and harassment issues after seven students — five from the school district and two affiliated with area schools — took their lives in the past year. Of those students, activists said four were harassed because of a perceived gay orientation.

In recent months, community members have criticized the district's "neutrality" policy, which they say prevents teachers from talking about and standing up to bullying and harassment against gay students. Critics include Tammy Aaberg, mother of openly gay student Justin Aaberg, who took his life in July.

School officials say teachers should and can protect gay students and address bullying and harassment whenever they see it. But they say the classroom is not the place to raise politically charged or religious issues, including those dealing with sexual orientation. Instead, if those issues arise in the course of schoolwork, the district states that staff should remain "neutral."

In addition, district officials say bullying and harassment policies are already in place to make all students feel welcome. "We are not neutral to the safety of our students." Carlson said.

This week, the Anoka-Hennepin school board revised those policies to more prominently place and more clearly word that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation will not be tolerated.

The move was not good enough for some community members who said the district's "neutrality policy" also must be revised so sexual orientation could be talked about in classrooms.

"It sounds like they're trying to enforce (anti-bullying and harassment) more," Aaberg said, but she believes teachers still are getting confused over what they can and can't say and do.

Carlson said he believes the district has been used as a center for debate over a polarizing issue sweeping the country. "We don't need to be a battlefield for this type of political and religious issue," he said.

In looking at the students who took their lives, Carlson said the parents of two said their son or daughter was gay, and parents of the others have not disclosed their child's sexual orientation.

Carlson said the larger issue should be about making sure students get the support and help they need. He said suicide rates are up nationally and that at least two other metro area school districts have a larger percentage of suicides than Anoka-Hennepin.

"We have more needs than we have resources," Carlson said. "We have to ask 'what's the role of a school district in mental health issues and what are the roles of others?' This is not just ours to answer."

Meanwhile, Carlson said he and others are doing what they can to make clear to staff that the district will not tolerate bullying or discrimination against students based on their sexual orientation.

He has spoken to all 2,700 teachers in his district since the beginning of the school year. This summer, the district developed a GLBT training program for its teachers. So far, all secondary school teachers have gone through the orientation on how to indentify GLBT harassment and how to intervene. "We will not tolerate harassment," Carlson said. "If a teacher isn't tolerant, we will seek their dismissal."

Carlson said the bad reputation the district has gotten has taken its toll on a staff that cares and advocates for its students.

"My question for others is — are you here to hurt us or are you here to help us?" he said. "For us, it's a serious matter. We are trying to keep kids alive."


How pushy parents DO improve British schools: Commitment by families 'drives up standards'

It will surely be a green light for pushy mothers and fathers everywhere. Forceful parenting really does help children – and even their schools – to do better, according to research published today. Their efforts towards boosting their children’s educational achievement is highly significant, the study suggests.

In fact, researchers found it is even more important than the amount of work put in by the pupil – or their teachers. This is believed to be because parents’ conscientiousness rubs off on everyone around them, driving up standards across the board.

The study from Leicester University and Leeds University Business School suggests head teachers should deter pushy parents at their peril.

Researchers examined data from the National Child Development Study, which follows 17,000 people born in March 1958 throughout their lives. They focused on about 10,000 children aged 16 – from both state and private schools – who were asked questions about their effort in lessons, such as whether they thought school was a ‘waste of time’.

Their parents had been asked about their interest in education, for example whether they read to their child, knew about their progress and attended meetings with teachers. Teachers were also asked about their perceptions of this level of parental interest.

Researchers compared the findings to the exam results of these youngsters at age 16 and 18 and discovered that parents who showed even a small interest in their child’s education improved the probability of the average child getting four GCEs (now GCSEs).

Pushy parents were four times more likely than the school and six times more likely than the child to be able to instigate these improvements.

Professor Gianni De Fraja, head of economics at Leicester University, said: ‘If parents exert more effort, then the child also exerts more effort by working harder. ‘Separately and independently of this, the school results improve. What we found surprising is that the parent’s effort matters more than the school effort or the child’s effort.’

Children’s propensity to try hard at school was not influenced by their social background. However the socio-economic background of parents not only affected their child’s educational attainment – it also affected the school’s effort. Teachers were more likely to be more conscientious in response to middle-class parents than less advantaged ones.

Professor De Fraja said: ‘Why schools work harder where parents are from a more privileged background we do not know. ‘It might be because middle-class parents are more vocal in demanding that the school works hard.’

Last month, research claimed that private schools are being turned into ‘exam factories’ amid pressure from pushy parents to achieve results. The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference, which represents 250 leading independent schools, found that teachers are being put under ‘considerable pressure’ by families to deliver top grades.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

DOE: Schools may be liable when bullying ignored

The US Department of Education will warn schools that tolerating or failing to adequately address ethnic, sexual, or gender-based harassment could violate antidiscrimination laws.

Following several high-profile cases of bullying, the department will write to schools, colleges, and universities today, reminding them of their obligations.

Russlynn Ali, assistant secretary for civil rights, said the department was responding to what it senses is a growing problem. The Office for Civil Rights received 800 complaints alleging harassment in the last fiscal year, and reports from the field indicate an increase in harassment of certain groups, including gays, lesbians, and Muslims.

In September, a Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, 18, committed suicide after his roommate secretly webcast his dorm-room tryst with a man. The roommate and another student have been charged with invasion of privacy, and authorities are considering a hate-crime charge.

In January, a South Hadley, Mass., girl, Phoebe Prince, 15, took her life after being relentlessly bullied by classmates, prosecutors said. Six teenagers have been charged.

Also yesterday, New Jersey lawmakers introduced an “antibullying bill of rights’’ that one advocate said would be the toughest state law of its kind.

Introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators and advocates, it seeks to augment laws New Jersey passed eight years ago. It would require antibullying programs in public K-12 schools and language in college codes of conduct to address bullying.

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan sought to assure students that action will be taken.

“No one should ever feel harassed or unsafe in a school simply because they act or think or dress differently than others,’’ Duncan said.


British teachers, bureaucrats and others blocking school reform

The Education Secretary's optimism is unshakeable. He considers creating new secondary schools that offer all the benefits of grammars, minus the selection, to be his mission. Wherever he goes, he finds parents and teachers clamouring for the chance to create a free school – free to teach, free to expand to meet demand, free to get rid of bad teachers and pay more to good ones, free from bureaucratic tyranny and union bullying.

Yet around him, and in Downing Street, there are fears that momentum is fast being lost – and that it is largely due to resistance from inside Mr Gove's own organisation. The Department for Education, suggest increasingly riled ministers, is becoming the biggest single obstacle to improving the woeful attainment of children languishing in what Alastair Campbell described as "bog standard comprehensives".

Of course, the enemies of free schools outside Whitehall are not hard to find. The National Union of Teachers has taken to bullying head teachers who express an interest in breaking from local authority control by sending letters threatening industrial action. Christine Blower, the head of the NUT, is orchestrating the resistance, and according to Fraser Nelson, whose Spectator magazine exposed her racket, she is doing it "dangerously well".

Or take the Anti-Academies Alliance, the umbrella organisation backed by the trade unions that has fought free schools since they were first set up by Tony Blair. Far from being a rainbow coalition of parents united only by concern for their children's education, it is in effect a Left-wing pressure group shaped by the Socialist Workers' Party and their enthusiasts with the sole aim of securing the grip of the big state on the education system. One of its most vocal supporters is Fiona Millar, Mr Campbell's partner.

Then there are the local authorities. Although Labour councils are more likely to obstruct free schools, Mr Gove must also be worried that Tory Bromley recently came out against proposals for a new Harris Federation academy, even though the chain set up by the carpet magnate has posted blistering results in terms of rescuing failing schools. As Fiona Murphy, the mother of three behind the campaign to bring Harris to Beckenham, complained: "It's a key Conservative manifesto policy, and we've got a Conservative council blocking it."

Finally, there are Ed Balls and the Labour Party. Until he was moved to the Home Office portfolio by Ed Miliband, Mr Balls was a one-man demolition squad who came close to wrecking Mr Gove's project in its earliest stages. When the list of prospective victims of the decision to axe the bloated Building Schools for the Future programme was released, to a storm of criticism, fingers were widely pointed at the former education secretary and his sympathisers in Whitehall.

However, as that episode suggests, the biggest threat facing free schools is now the enemy within. Senior figures in Downing Street have discussed how to rally support for Mr Gove, who is seen as isolated in a hostile department, able to count only on a small team of advisers and ministers, alongside the minority of officials who have embraced the reforms. They mutter darkly about "sabotage"; one of the Prime Minister's closest allies was heard to ask, "Shouldn't we do to Education what Ronald Reagan did to the air traffic controllers, and simply sack the lot?"

Under its different incarnations, the department has long had a reputation in Whitehall for being an obstacle to reform. How could it be otherwise, when it exists to serve the producer interest – the teachers and the bureaucrats, not the pupils and parents? Keith Joseph was stymied by his senior officials; Kenneth Baker had to fight to get his landmark reforms to the curriculum passed; and David Blunkett needed outsiders to help him, even though he could count on the support of Michael Bichard, a permanent secretary who was evangelical about change.

The current resistance takes many guises. In a minority of cases it is active, if difficult to prove (although I'm told that ministers have traced the leaking of harmful stories to a handful of senior officials). Those in the thick of the free schools project point to the legislative tools that civil servants who understand the system can use to slow the process to a trickle.

In particular, campaigners have identified three avenues – Freedom of Information, European Union competition rules, and the threat of judicial review – that are being used to delay decisions and frighten ministers. The first can be deployed to force the disclosure of a free school's supporters, who might be embarrassed by premature public exposure. The second is invoked to scare would-be sponsors of the schools who might balk at finding they have to compete with a commercial rival. The third is a stultifying catch-all, used to justify delay "while we double-check the small print, Minister".

Mr Gove puts all this down to inertia and risk-aversion, rather than politically motivated hostility. But he is not being idle. Internally, processes have been overhauled and an entire directorate set up by Mr Balls – for youth issues – has been axed. He has also created project management teams to turn policy into action. Two external hawks – John Nash, the sponsor of the Pimlico Academy, and Theo Agnew, who helped prepare the policy in opposition – have been appointed to the department's board. He will also shortly name someone from outside the Civil Service to be schools commissioner, and act as a champion for reform.

Bolstered by a better-than-expected spending settlement, Mr Gove is working on persuading teachers to rally to the free schools flag. Next Wednesday, in a nifty piece of political theatre, he will introduce union representatives to Arne Duncan, who ran the Chicago schools system before becoming Barack Obama's education secretary. His message to them will be that the reforms here are the same reforms embraced by Mr Obama's Democrats.

Still, the challenge for Mr Gove, and for the Coalition, remains daunting. "It's a huge department, in which four people at the top are trying to change everything," one reformer says. "It's still entirely doable. But if the department carries on moving at this pace, reform just won't happen." And what is happening there will happen elsewhere. David Cameron has launched revolutions on all fronts, but the Cabinet ministers watching Mr Gove from the safety of their shelters haven't even begun to fight their own battles. They should realise that this is what it will be like for them, too, and charge to his support.


Australia: NSW High School curriculum fails students

BUSINESS experts have slammed the HSC curriculum for failing to provide skills where they're needed. NSW Business Chamber CEO Stephen Cartwright said schools were ignoring demand for trade qualifications. "The HSC is focused on university outcomes more than trades and apprenticeships, areas in which we face a skills shortage," he said. "It's important that HSC students are encouraged to take up a trade, especially in those areas facing a skills shortage like construction."

Mr Cartwright called for an urgent review of the HSC curriculum to ensure vocational education students don't miss out on crucial skills. "Young people who do not enter university after they leave school need to be supported in their preparation for adult life, including their life at work," he said.

This year about 19,000 students were enrolled in a vocational education and training course, but not all choose to take the written HSC exam that goes toward their Australian Tertiary Admissions rank. There are 2724 Year 12 students enrolled in construction this year - up 8.4 per cent from 2009 - but only 80 per cent of them will sit tomorrow's test

New Jersey Teachers Union Gone Wild

Caution: Salty language

More here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Give me my fees back, pleads debt-ridden U.S. university student

A desperate US student who is up to his eyeballs in debt, about to become a father and has little hope of finding a job when he graduates next year, has offered to quit law school in exchange for a full tuition refund.

"With fatherhood impending, I go to bed every night terrified of the thought of trying to provide for my child AND paying off my JD," or Juris Doctor degree, the unnamed student said in an open letter to the dean of Boston College Law School (BC Law), where annual tuition is more than $US40,000.

"I'd like to propose a solution to this problem: I am willing to leave law school, without a degree, at the end of this semester. In return, I would like a full refund of the tuition I've paid over the last two and a half years," he wrote in the letter dated October 15, and posted online.

After his early exit from law school, the student said he would return to his previous career in teaching and be able to provide for his new family "without the crushing weight of my law school loans."

His departure would also benefit BC Law "since you will not have to report my unemployment at graduation to US News," a magazine that compiles much-read annual rankings of US universities.

BC Law replied in its own open letter, dated October 22, that it was "deeply concerned about the prospects of our students and our recent graduates" in a legal job market that has been severely affected by the economic downturn.

There was no indication, however, that the law school took up the student's offer and refunded his tuition.

US law students borrowed on average $31,800 from any source in the 2007-08 school year and took out $29,400 s in federal loans, according to the National Centre for Education Statistics (NCES).

The payback for their investment is supposed to come when they get their degree and are recruited by a law firm, where they could earn in excess of $100,000 a year in their first year.


Strange British attack on "rich" university graduates

A PENALTY for paying off your loan??

Successful graduates who wish to avoid being burdened with decades of debt could be hit with mortgage style redemption penalties if they pay off their student loan early.

The fees, likely to run to thousands of pounds, would also be levied on parents who saved up to pay upfront for the cost of putting their child through university rather than see them saddled with long-term debt.

It is understood that the redemption penalties are being considered as a means of stopping those who can afford to avoiding the higher rates of interest which are due to be levied on students loans for better off graduates.

In last week’s spending review, George Osborne, the Chancellor, confirmed that university fees are set to rise from their current rate of £3,290 from start of the 2012 academic year.

The new level has yet to be set, but Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, confirmed that the Government would reject the recommendation of the recent review of university financing, led by Lord Browne, the former head of BP, that the cap on university fees be lifted altogether.

Instead, ministers are understood to be preparing to propose a new fee of around £7,000-a-year, to be paid off by loans with tiered rates of interest depending on how much the graduate earned in future.

A redemption penalty would stop the better off avoiding higher interest rates by paying off a loan early – and would be seen as a sop to Liberal Democrats who have taken flak over the tuition fees rise after signing a pre-election pledge to scrap them altogether.

Lord Browne had suggested that no redemption penalty be imposed. But Vince Cable, the Lib Democrat Business Secretary, confirmed that ministers were examining ways to make the new system more “progressive” before detailed plans were set out in a few weeks’ time.

He said: "High-earning graduates will be paying more later in their life, but in a progressive way relating to their ability to pay. "There is an issue about people who go on to very high-earning jobs and who therefore pay off relatively quickly and we do have to think about how to find a way by which they make some sort of contribution towards low-earning graduates. "It's a tricky technical problem but we're working on it."

Mr Cable confirmed that ministers had already decided not to proceed with Lord Browne’s suggestion that universities be permitted to charge unlimited amounts, with a levy on any fee above £6,000 to be paid to the Government to spend on bursaries and grants. "I don't think there's any prospect of having unlimited fees – that simply isn't going to arise," he told Sky News.

“We're looking at this very carefully, what Browne had to say – but I think that particular approach was one we're not going to pursue." His words echoed those of Mr Clegg, who told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: "I am uneasy about the idea that you, in theory, have unlimited fees. So we are looking at something which would be more restrained."

The Liberal Democrat leadership is braced for a sizeable rebellion by the party’s backbenchers when the plans come before Parliament.

A number of Lib Dems represent university towns and would face a sizeable backlash from students if they supported a rise in tuition fees after fighting the general election on a promise to abolish them.


Australia: Ignorant history examiners in NSW

ANCIENT history students are the victims of a Higher School Certificate exam mistake, aptly - and literally - known as Herculaneum Gate.

In 2008 HSC examiners in their annual post-mortem upbraided students who confused the two towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Two years later the examiners are accused of making the same error in a compulsory question posed to 12,269 students.

In last Friday's exam, students were asked about inscriptions from a cemetery excavated at Herculaneum. But a cemetery has never been found at the Herculaneum archaeological site. The inscriptions come from tombs at Pompeii, near the town's Herculaneum Gate.

Kathryn Welch, a senior lecturer in the department of classics and ancient history at the University of Sydney, said the mistake would have limited answers on one aspect in particular. It describes a public official with a career that was perfectly normal in Pompeii, but not in Herculaneum.

"This will have impeded the students' realisation that they could have talked about politics in Pompeii on which they were probably better prepared," Dr Welch said. "And, sadly, the better prepared the student was on Pompeii, the more they will have hesitated to apply their information to Herculaneum."

Brian Brennan, an ancient historian who has led school tours to both sites, said angry teachers had contacted him over the mistake. Both Roman towns were buried when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD79.

"To the outsiders it may appear insignificant," he said. "However, we wouldn't accept such mistakes in other papers like English or maths. "It's a question about the credibility of the HSC paper and the board which oversees it. This mistake is basic. The teachers deserve better and they complain and complain and get rebuffed each time."

Jennifer Lawless, the NSW Board of Studies inspector for history, said yesterday the Herculaneum reference was a factual error. But she said the incorrect location would have little impact on the students, who were asked to deal with evidence within the inscriptions. She denied there had been errors in papers for the past three years, saying some facts presented were the subject of academic dispute known to students.

A Board of Studies spokeswoman said one complaint had been received about the ancient history paper this year. She said neither students nor teachers had made complaints about the 2009 or 2008 papers. The spokeswoman said the mistake was unfortunate after an eight-month checking process.

"With all those processes there are sometimes errors," she said. "When we find an error, the chief examiner is contacted and we evaluate how it might affect student responses. "Markers are briefed so they are aware of it and gauge whether student responses have been affected. The bottom line is we want to make sure students aren't disadvantaged."


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teacher Performance Pay Programs Don't Make the Grade

Most of the nation's most heralded teacher "performance pay" programs don't even come close to truly reforming teacher pay to benefit talented educators, according to a new study and report card from The Center for Education Reform. For more than twenty years, the notion of paying teachers more money if they are effective in the classroom has been an issue that has resonated with citizens and policymakers alike. Alternative compensation programs have been established from Colorado to Washington, DC, but most don't make the grade.

"Performance pay for teachers is a simple concept with complicated opposition," says Jeanne Allen, President of The Center for Education Reform. "True performance pay is not a system of bonuses or incentives, which in essence bribe teachers to work hard, but an evaluation and compensation package that rewards demonstrated impact on student achievement growth."

A look at several programs around the country shows that:

- Most place too little emphasis on student achievement and growth while offering reward for benchmarks that do not have impact in the classroom

- Many are opt-in and therefore do not have the intended transformative effect on the culture of teaching in their areas

- Some programs labeled as "performance pay" initiatives are merely a series of bonuses, often school-wide

CER's report provides policymakers with a roadmap to the implementation of meaningful performance pay guidelines and dispels the myths, confusion and misunderstandings that have blocked true evaluation and contract reform in the US.

"The greatest obstacle to performance pay and teachers being treated as other professionals is the teachers union and their ironclad, one-size-fits-all contract," says Allen. "Performance pay that is not written into law and is not mandatory will always be watered down by special interests. That is why real performance pay must become the new status quo."


TN: Teacher-run schools interest Nashville

Possibility of experiment, control excites educators

Many Metro Nashville teachers would jump at the chance to run their schools their way. Whether the district will give them that chance remains to be seen. The district is debating whether to experiment with a teacher-led school, following the lead of other urban areas that have removed the principals and administrators and turned failing schools over to the teaching staff to see whether they can straighten them out.

"The teachers I've talked to about this have been very excited about the opportunity to have more say-so in how their schools are run," said Erick Huth, president of Metro's teachers union. "I think it would be empowering for a lot of teachers."

The state's latest school reforms put a lot of emphasis on teacher accountability. If test scores don't rise, if students don't succeed, the system looks to the teachers for an explanation. Teacher-led schools are a response to that pressure. If they're goingto take on that responsibility, some teachers say, they also should get to take control.

A delegation of Metro school officials visited a teacher-led math and science academy in Denver earlier this year and came away impressed.

"This kind of frees up the teachers to become intimately involved with deciding the curriculum and developing policies that affect their students directly," said Earl Wiman, who heads special programs for Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and who saw the teacher-led philosophy in action. "The teachers might not be as involved in ordering the toilet paper or who's cleaning the floors, but they are very interested in what those students are having for lunch."

Teachers work collaboratively to solve problems that arise. In Denver, Wiman said, there was an issue of a school bus that was dropping children off a block away. Somebody was needed to escort the youngsters across the street and safely into the schoolyard. The teachers put their heads together and came up with a schedule that allowed them to take turns on bus escort duty.

"If that school had been principal-led, there would have been a lot of hard feelings" if an administrator had simply ordered someone to make time to escort the students, Wiman said. "The ownership teachers felt in what was going on at that school is what made the difference."

Teacher-led schools are part of the regular school district and are held to the same standards as any other school. In Detroit, teachers were so eager to try the experiment, they volunteered to give up their tenure protection for a shot at autonomy.
Prospects intrigue teachers

The teacher-led schools are generally struggling schools with low test scores, low-income students and large populations of students learning English as a second language.

"These are schools that have not traditionally attracted high numbers of qualified teachers," Wiman said. But the chance to bypass the administrative bureaucracy could lure large numbers of the best teachers to the schools that need them most. Or so the school district hopes. "The teachers we've talked to are just fascinated by the thought that they could actually be in charge of the school," Wiman said.

The Denver school opened its doors last year. The Detroit teacher-led school began operating this fall. And teachers in Minneapolis just received permission to start their French-immersion academy in 2011.

If Nashville follows suit, it won't happen until at least 2012, Wiman said. He will spend the next year researching the various teacher-led school models and trying to find grants to help fund the project.

Meanwhile, the talk of teacher-led schools is creating a buzz in education circles. "A lot of principals out there have a beat-people-down approach," Huth said. "This is a chance to see if we could have done things different, an opportunity to at least have a say-so in decisions."
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British schools in better-off areas will lose cash to aid poor

Schools in middle-class areas will have their funding cut to pay for the Liberal Democrat policy of helping children from low-income families, the Government has admitted.

Just four months after David Cameron promised that no families would suffer to meet the cost of the £2.5 billion "pupil premium", Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, conceded that the plan meant some schools "will have less".

Ministers struggled for months to come up with funding for the pupil premium, a key plank of the Lib Dem election manifesto. Other parties warned it would be impossible to pay for when cuts were being imposed across the public sector.

Earlier this month, Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister, announced that he had secured the necessary funding for the scheme, which is intended to give the poorest children access to the best schools and universities. State schools could be given up to £2,000 more per pupil to educate children from low-income families.

At the time, it was reported that Dr Liam Fox, the Defence Secretary, had been leant on to find greater cuts from the defence budget to finance the premium, following promises from ministers that the funding would come from outside the existing schools budget.

Lib Dem MPs were promised as part of the coalition agreement that the money would be an "add on".

However, Mr Gove has now admitted that some of the £2.5 billion will be found from Department of Education funds after all, with children from middle-class families paying the price. He told the BBC's Politics Show: "It is a very tight settlement and that does mean, and I won't run away from it, that there will be some schools that will have less."

Economic experts have predicted that most schools will suffer financially as a result of government spending plans.

Andy Burnham, the shadow education secretary, said that the Lib Dems had been "sold a pup" by the Conservatives over the pupil premium, which he predicted would "take money from one school and give it to another". He added: "Many schools will be losers and they will not have a protected budget in real terms as suggested by the Government."

In announcing the results of the spending review last week, George Osborne, the Chancellor, made much of the fact that the Department of Education, along with the departments for health and international development, would not suffer cuts.

However, it has since emerged that much of the tiny 0.1 per cent increase in the education budget will be swallowed up by the cost of providing school places for the extra children born during a recent slight rise in birth rates, with the result that the budget will fall by 0.6 per cent in real terms every year – a total cut of 2.25 per cent.

It became clear yesterday that Mr Gove has also been forced to inform schools that were given permission to proceed with building work earlier this year that their construction budgets were being reduced by 40 per cent. The schools thought they had been spared from a cull of building works under the cancellation of Labour's Building Schools for the Future scheme. Many were aghast to told that they would be hit after all by the austerity drive.

Middle-class families also face higher costs when their children go to university with the introduction of increased tuition fees from 2012.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, confirmed yesterday that he was considering "progressive" ways of stopping successful graduates from paying off their student loans early to avoid paying high levels of interest.

In a further blow to families, Mr Gove admitted it seemed inevitable that schools outside the poorest areas would see further cuts. He said: "I think there will be some schools who will have less funding. At the moment we're consulting on how the pupil premium will be allocated. "Some of it comes from within the education budget."

His words directly contradicted those of the Prime Minister, who in June told the Commons: "We will take money from outside the education budget to ensure that the pupil premium is well-funded."

Analysis by the respected Institute for Fiscal Studies last week estimated that 87 per cent of secondary school pupils and 60 per cent in primaries would see their school’s funding cut over the next four years. Mr Gove disagreed with the figures “because they’re making an estimate based on one particular interpretation of how the premium would work”.

Adding that he hoped that some of the money would come from savings in the welfare budget, he added: “I think it’s only fair to acknowledge that if you have school spending rising very modestly … you’ve got a government that’s signalled that looking after schools and investing in education is our top priority.”

Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, warned that his party’s MPs still expected the pupil premium to be paid for from outside the schools budget. “I am clear that we wanted a pupil premium which was an add on. If it is not an add on, then clearly there is work to be done,” he said.

Mr Burnham disclosed that the pupil premium had been a top Lib Dem concern before entering into the Coalition. “When the Lib Dems and Labour were in talks after the election, this was an issue upon which those talks foundered,” he said. “The Lib Dems said to us, 'The Tories have agreed to fund the pupil premium over and above the schools budget. Will you do the same?’ And Labour said, 'Well we can’t because the money isn’t there to give a pupil premium over and above.’ And that is why the political significance of this issue is huge.”


Monday, October 25, 2010

Separation of church and state or public schools: Pick one

A commenter on my previous post asks what the content of a creationist course would be, readings from the book of Genesis or merely bad science, and adds that "teaching Marxist ideas of 'laws of history' is peddling a form of religious pseudo-science. Some of the environmental dogma being taught in schools is also on par with this stuff."

This suggests a more general point—is the existence of a public school system consistent with a serious commitment to the separation of church and state?

I think the answer is that it is not. While teaching a fundamentalist version of the origin of life is indeed taking a side in a religious dispute, teaching a conventional account of biology and geology is is also taking a side in that dispute, just the opposite side. I do not see how I can honestly tell a fundamentalist that it is a violation of the separation of church and state to teach children that his religious beliefs are true but not a violation to teach children that they are false.

The conventional view is, in this case, the one I believe is true. But then, if they were teaching creationism, they would be taking the side he believes is true. So what purports to be separation of church and state ends up as the opposite—the state supporting a particular view of religious questions. That comes pretty close to the established church that the First Amendment explicitly forbids.

Of course, these are not only religious questions, they are also scientific questions. But then, most religious questions are also scientific, or historical, or philosophical, questions. If the rule is that the state can teach whatever it believes is true provided that here is some basis for that belief other than religion, that leaves the state free to teach the truth or falsity of pretty nearly every religion. The doctrine of separation of church and state then becomes the doctrine that one can only teach the truth, which sounds fine as rhetoric but has some practical difficulties in a world where different people have different views of what the truth is.

So far, I have considered a case where the school teaches what I believe is true. In the real world there is no such limitation, as the quoted comment with which I started this suggests. When schools teach children that they have an obligation to take care of Mother Earth they are teaching religion, whether or not they put it in an explicitly religious form; religions are not limited to beliefs about gods. And I find it hard to draw any sharp line between religions and secular ideologies such as Marxism or libertarianism.

Eliminate all content that is in a broad sense religious and there is nothing left. Even eliminate all content that is religious in a narrow sense, where that includes claims that religions are false as well as claims that they are true, and there is not a whole lot left.

In practice, the application of separation of church and state in the American public schools usually comes down to not teaching what most of those concerned see as something that one would believe only for religious reasons. A century or more ago, that mostly meant that teaching Christianity was fine, since practically everyone took it for granted that Christianity was true. Today, insofar as matters are decided at the local level, it means that teaching things that the locals almost all agree with are fine—which can be Christian fundamentalism in some places and environmentalism and left-wing politics in others.

Problems arise when there is a conflict either between local and national views or between the views of the local parents and the views of the teachers and/or administrators running the schools. It is only at that point that what one group sees as obvious truth gets attacked by another as teaching religion.


British Spending Review: 75,000 extra apprenticeships

Up to 75,000 people will be given on-the-job training under Government plans for a huge expansion of apprenticeships. George Osborne said spending on adult training would rise by £250m a year to boost workforce skills during the economic recovery. It represented an increase of 50 per cent on the amount of money set aside by Labour for apprenticeships.

But the announcement failed to mask sharp cuts elsewhere in the further education budget. Cash for colleges and adult training will be slashed by a quarter – or £1.1bn – to £3.2 billion by 2015. Train to Gain, which provides courses for over-25s already in employment, will be scrapped.

The Coalition also announced that English language courses for economic migrants and those not intending to take up UK residency would be cut.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, said: “I am not going to say that any of these cuts are going to be easy and many people are going to feel the consequences, but without action all of us, for years to come, would pay the price. "These decisions have been hard but they are necessary”

Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "There is no escaping the fact that the next few years will be extremely difficult and there are some real challenges ahead, but colleges are resilient and will find ways of making the best possible use of the funding available."


Pupils once had access to life's poetry

Not all education needs to be utilitarian. An introduction to the beautiful and the inspiring is important too

By Christopher Pearson (in Australia)

One of the cornerstones of Western civilisation is the proposition that the growth of human understanding is an intrinsic good. This stands regardless of whether it's of practical use or economic benefit and even when -- for example, in the case of research into lethal variants of viruses -- the new knowledge has potentially catastrophic consequences.

Some kinds of new knowledge are obviously far more important than others; some that at first seemed so trivial as to be barely worth recording lead to wonderful drugs such as penicillin. Many of the rankings on what's worth knowing are far more provisional than is commonly supposed and most are subject to revision over time.

For many revisionist educational theorists, truth and beauty are corny abstractions with resonances of the poetry of Keats and Matthew Arnold's late Victorian text Culture and Anarchy.

Others, not least of them Pope Benedict XVI, insist that the experience of the beautiful and developing the ability to discern the true are the foundation of any education worthy of the name. They further argue that it is the intrinsic value of the arts, the social and the natural sciences -- rather than preparing job-ready pupils -- that should shape the content of any curriculum and its priorities.

The philistines in charge of state education, and many of their colleagues in the private schools, have triumphed to the point where concrete examples of the kind of policy I'm talking about may be scarcely imaginable for readers in their 30s and 40s. Let me sketch it out, with reassurances that 40 years ago it was the norm for most Year 10 kids.

At school, in Year 8 and above, students would at least be expected to have mastered arithmetic and be able to read, more or less under their own steam, two novels suitable to their age. They were still taught the rudiments of grammar and spelling, and expected to commit to memory 40 or 50 lines of verse, or perhaps some of Shakespeare's speeches, in any given year. In independent and Catholic schools the emphasis on memorising was stronger, leaving kids an enduring legacy of "the best that's been thought and said" in their mother tongue.

From Year 8 there was a general introduction to maths, physics and chemistry for all but the slowest, and most had at least one year, often three, of French, German or Latin, the great literary languages. Most studied history and/or geography, and had at least one lesson a week of art, music and physical education.

By that time sport was an optional extra, along with participating in the choir or school band and putting on a play each year.

By the end of Year 10 the average pupil would have been no less job-ready than his contemporary counterparts, but would have had a broader and deeper general education.

The class of 1970 would have had a fair range of options and been able to compensate with extracurricular activities if the core wasn't very appealing. They'd have been able to read a newspaper and, when necessary, most would have known how to use a library. Even if their English teachers had been remiss on the subject of grammar, studying another language would have helped many to grasp the fundamentals of their own.

The general assumption was that everybody, including the plodders in the technical schools, was entitled to experience music and poetry and fiction that spoke to "the higher things". The task was to give them a preliminary introduction to the riches of the culture or, in F.R. Leavis's phrase, "a greater sense of life's possibilities". The Left and the Right of the teachers' unions in those days tended to agree that their responsibility was to help prepare kids for life, not just ready them to acquire a meal ticket or turn them into factory fodder.

None of this is to disparage vocational education per se; merely to put it in proper perspective.

The broader and better the education, the less likely that kids will specialise too soon, foreclosing other options, and the more adaptable to the increasing vagaries of the jobs market. Let me end with a proposition that in 1970 would have been a commonplace and now seems almost scandalous.

Suppose you had taught a pupil to sing and follow a score, or play a musical instrument. Whether anyone else got to hear the person sing or play, or whether performing became a source of income, was entirely up to the individual. You had given that person a great gift: a measure of access to the canon and a grounding in technique. That was all that mattered.

From an educational perspective, the fact that it might never be shared, let alone monetised, as accountants say these days, or that it might never be captured in measured productivity or the gross domestic product, was of no consequence whatsoever. I trust that, for the best of the rising generation of teachers, it still doesn't matter.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rethinking school

Few institutions in the United States create more cognitive dissonance than its public school system. Complaints about the cost and quality of American schools fill newspaper opinion pages, and the rhetoric of “improving education” is a staple of every political campaign. Missing from this debate, however, is the role each and every person plays in his or her own education. This responsibility is much more important in determining quality of education than how much money is spent. Even the poorest among us, by embracing a return to the fundamentals of school, can take advantage of all being an educated person has to offer.

The time is ripe for a new way of looking at school. A Wall Street Journal and NBC poll taken in September found that 58% of those surveyed think public schools need “major changes” and only 5% believe they “work pretty well.” The pessimism of these respondents is justified. In 2005, for example, a study called “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” led to a twofold increase in Federal funding for science education. A recent Congressional review of the results, however, found little improvement in U.S. elementary and secondary science education. More public funding and more Federal interference in science classrooms had virtually no effect in raising test scores, because simply doing more of the same thing is not going to solve the problem. We not only need to challenge what it means to be “educated” in the U.S., we need to recognize the limits of publicly funded or government-controlled education.

Proponents of publicly funded education are correct in insisting that education empowers, but their arguments in favor of continued government intervention in schooling can only be sustained as long as “being educated” is defined by the State. Currently, a person who is educated in the eyes of the State is a person who has passed all required exams, meaning that he or she has memorized certain facts and is able to recite them with over 70% accuracy. Multiple studies, surveys, and “man on the street” interviews have shown, however, that even among those who have graduated a public high school in the United States, there are many who lack critical thinking skills and basic knowledge of logic, math, science, history, and geography, as well as other markers of “intelligence.”

To get to the bottom of this problem, we must understand that simply attending and graduating a traditional liberal arts school does not guarantee a person will become educated or even intelligent. A state of being educated is typically defined as “characterized by or displaying qualities of culture and learning,” or “to qualify by instruction or training for a particular calling,” “to inform,” and “to develop the faculties and powers of (a person) by teaching, instruction, or schooling.” An educated person is someone who possesses a trained mind, not someone who can merely recite important facts or who can display a diploma.

An educated person has a great advantage over one who is not, not only in terms of employment and social advancement, but in terms of self respect, creativity, health and cleanliness, fitness, parenthood, and in being informed and able to participate in decisions that affect that person and his or her family and community. But as we have seen, publicly funded education in the United States has failed to develop this kind of person, and that failure is now reflected in every facet of popular culture, entertainment, and political life.

I would like to propose an alternative school that can be organized right now, that hardly costs anything (other than a small investment of time), and which is guaranteed to produce better results than any Federally-funded education program. This alternative school will be more successful because it is born out of a natural desire to learn. It can be performed by anyone with a brain and an interest in self-improvement, from high school students, to short-order cooks, to farmers and housewives.

The ancient Greeks invented some of the world’s most sophisticated learning with nothing more than the art of the dialogue. During the Great Depression, men who earned a few cents a day carried on discussions of the latest books by scribbling notes in the margins, then reselling them to be read by the next buyer. In the 1700s, men and women met in salons and coffeehouses to discuss important issues as well as the latest scientific discoveries. Today, all over the world, small groups meet in “schools of community” to discuss the works of philosophers like Luigi Giussani.

Imagine what would happen if instead of relying on the public school system for our education, we took education into our own hands and turned every coffee shop, bar, or even living room or front porch into a contemporary salon. Imagine what we could do if instead of spending $60 and several hours on buying and mastering a new Xbox360 game, we invested that time and money in learning a new skill, or in holding a discussion of Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law. I guarantee that Jay Leno would have less comedic fodder the next time he interviewed the average man on the street.

Suggestions for Action

1. Write a list of ten subjects or skills you would like to learn more about.

2. Invite five friends over for dinner and have a conversation about a topic you have not previously discussed. Ask a question and follow that up by asking them to explain their answers.

3. Set aside a half an hour before you go to bed to read a chapter of a book about a topic you know very little about.

4. Ask a friend to teach you something that they can do that you always wanted to be able to do.

5. Write down five things that learning how to do yourself would lead to being more independent or helpful.


Poor history education in British schools

Children’s ignorance of British history has been laid bare in a survey today that shows one-in-20 pupils believe the Spanish Armada is a tapas dish.

Research carried out to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar shows many schoolchildren believe that Horatio Nelson was captain of the French national football team in the 1990s.

Almost one-in-four also said that ships evacuated British troops from Dover – not Dunkirk – during World War Two, Walter Raleigh invented the bicycle, Captain James Cook was the captain of the Starship Enterprise and Christopher Columbus discovered gravity.

The disclosure came in a study of 2,000 secondary school children in England to coincide with the anniversary of Admiral Lord Nelson’s defeat of the Spanish navy in 1805.

Children aged 12 to 16 were questioned about a series of key events in maritime history over the last 200 years.

Captain Mark Windsor, from the Sea Cadet Corps, said the poor answers highlighted the extent to which many children failed to connect with Britain’s maritime past. "As an island nation our relationship with the sea is a critical one since much of our food and trade passes over the oceans and our place in the world largely stems from our maritime heritage,” he said. "But it seems children are very confused when it comes to what key historical events occurred on the sea which helped shape the world in which we live.

"Horatio Nelson wouldn't be impressed to learn kids think he was a football captain and Columbus' discovery of America went completely unnoticed. "By picking up a book, exploring the UK and getting involved with activities on the sea, children can become much more clued up."

National Trafalgar Day – on Thursday – celebrates 205 years since Admiral Lord Nelson's fleet defeated the combined might of the French and Spanish. But according to the survey, carried out by the Sea Cadets, one-in-20 children believe the Spanish Armada is a tapas-style cuisine.

Three quarters did not know that Trafalgar Square was home to Nelson's Column, with eight per cent believing it was from EastEnders, while 15 per cent thought it was a shopping centre or chocolate biscuit. One-in-six thought Sir Walter Raleigh was the brains behind the Chopper, not the adventurer responsible for bringing tobacco and potato back to our home shores.

Some 14 per cent said Captain Cook starred in Star Trek rather than commanding the Endeavour on the first voyage of discovery to Australia. The report found six-in-10 youngsters did not know the Battle of Waterloo was fought in Belgium, with one-in-six opting for London's train station as their answer instead.

The disclosure comes two weeks after Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, announced a major review of the history curriculum in an attempt to revive interest in Britain’s “island story”. The historian Simon Schama has been named as the Government’s new “history tsar” to lead the drive.


Australia: Pressures forcing teachers to quit Queensland schools

"Behaviour-management issues" is code for lack of discipline

CLASSROOM sizes and behaviour-management issues are driving teachers out of the workforce. Almost three quarters of Queensland teachers say it is difficult to retain staff because morale is so low.

Teachers and parents are compensating for a lack of government funds by working longer hours and fundraising for school essentials, the State of our Schools survey by the Australian Education Union released exclusively to The Sunday Mail reveals.

Last year, parents and teachers dug deep raising $15 million through fetes, uniform sales and voluntary contributions, with funds going towards classroom essentials and new facilities. More than 60 per cent of Queensland respondents said this fundraising was "very important" in keeping the school running, with most of the money going to fund classroom equipment, library resources and sporting goods.

Other results include 44 per cent of Queensland teachers saying student outcomes would improve with smaller class sizes, 18 per cent calling for more support for students with disabilities and behaviour-management issues and 68 per cent saying reduced workloads and help with troubled kids would ease the pressure.

AEU federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said while teachers and principals were "the glue that held schools together", the public deserved better. "Ultimately our public schools are great schools and doing a great job by international comparisons," Mr Gavrielatos said. "But what we need to do is put in place resources to ensure the needs of every child can be met."

The survey was released to coincide with the union's national campaign launch around the Review of Funding for Schooling. The union is calling for more equity between the amount of funding given to government and private schools, saying two thirds of federal government funding goes to private schools, which educate just one third of students.

But Independent Schools Queensland executive director David Robertson said while this claim was strictly correct, it was misleading because government schools received 96 per cent of their funding from the states. He said he welcomed the review which was the first analysis of funding in 35 years.

Currently funding for non-government schools is calculated using the SES model (socio-economic status). This measures the income profile of students' parents through cross-matching postcode and census data. "It's a transparent funding model . . . the Government says these non-government schools whose parents can afford it, should receive less," Mr Robertson said.