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Insights from the UK and beyond

from The Great Debate UK:

Only paying teachers more will raise Britain to the top of the class

--Vikas Pota is chief executive of the Varkey GEMS Foundation. The opinions expressed are his own.--

It was results day yesterday for education ministers around the world, and where they’ve come in the class will affect their prospects just as surely as a sixth-former opening their brown envelope. Nowhere around the world will the wait have been more nail-biting than in Michael Gove’s Department for Education.

The PISA results - a comparison of the performance of 15-year olds across 32 countries in maths, science and reading – make dispiriting reading for the UK. We fail to make the top twenty in any subject for the first time - languishing at 26th place in maths, 23rd in reading and having slipped to 21st in science, which was previously a bright spot.

Three years ago, greeting the last PISA results, Gove said that “these are facts from which we cannot hide”. Andreas Schleicher, the OECD official who oversees the PISA scores, though less dramatic, acknowledged, “The UK has not improved in the way that we have seen other systems improving”.

from FaithWorld:

Excerpts from pope’s London speech to Catholic teachers

twickenham 2 (Photo: Nuns waiting for Pope Benedict at a Catholic school in London, 17 Sept 2010/Kevin Coombs)

Visiting a Catholic school in London on Friday, Pope Benedict said teachers should give their pupils not only marketable skills but also wisdom, which he said was inseparable from knowledge of God. Catholic schools and Catholic religious teachers play an important part in transmitting this wisdom, he said. He also stressed the need to protect pupils from sexual predators.

Following are excerpts from his address to the teachers:

"I am pleased to have this opportunity to pay tribute to the outstanding contribution made by religious men and women in this land to the noble task of education... As you know, the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for "both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts".

A view to the future: investing in the young

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Interesting to read today of a plan by The Co-operative Group to create more apprenticeships. With public funding for so many areas under threat in Britain’s austerity drive – including skills and education – what will others in the private sector do to ensure Britain has the workforce it needs to compete in the 21st century?

The Co-Op’s plan – which includes a promise to create 2,000 new co-operative apprenticeships, as well as investments in areas such as schooling – is also interesting for the approach it takes to young people.

Michael Gove’s radical academies plan

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Gove900The Conservatives’ promise to give parents money to run their own schools won all the headlines ahead of the election. But the coalition’s new education secretary Michael Gove is likely to achieve a much more  dramatic shakeup of education in England with his invitation to all schools to apply for academy status. It means schools opting out of local authority control and becoming independent, but state-funded, institutions. Originally reserved for the most poorly performing schools, Gove is now extending this privilege as a right to 2,600 top rated primary, secondary and special schools. Other schools can apply for the change, and Gove intends his renamed Department for Education to do all it can to help them. It turns back the clock on more than 140 years of local political oversight of school education in England, dating back to the Victorian school boards and the local education authorities that replaced them in the opening years of the last century. John Dunford, head of the Association of School and College Leaders, who has seen regular changes of education policy over the years, believes this time something significant is taking place. “I think it will come to be seen as one of the most radical pieces of legislation for a generation,” he told me. He sees a large number of England’s secondary schools signing up. For many, the clinching factor will be getting hold of the 10 to 15 percent of state funding that local authorities now retain to pay for shared services, which they will see as insurance against an expected tightening of budgets in coming years. Then again, secondary schools are far less dependent on local authority assistance than primary schools, which tend to me much smaller, and are not expected, even by Gove, to be rushing to change status. Concerns have been raised by many, including the Local Government Association, that England is heading for a two-tier education system that will neglect the most difficult and deprived children. But the three school leaders Gove invited to a journalists briefing on his plans dismissed these fears, saying it was the current system that worked against those most in need of extra help. Dan Moynihan, Chief Executive of the Harris Federation, which runs nine academies in South London, said no longer having to devote staff time to “endless local authority initiatives” meant teachers could focus on what they were meant to be doing – teaching. He said: “This kind of status for all schools in England is the beginning of an education revolution which has the potential to transform the life prospects of disadvantaged children across the country.”

Gove900

The Conservatives’ promise to give parents money to run their own schools won all the headlines ahead of the election. But the coalition’s new education secretary Michael Gove is likely to achieve a far more dramatic shake-up of education in England with his invitation to all schools to apply for academy status, given that parent-run schools are only likely to form, at most, a small part of the overall system.

Prospective MPs go dating to woo voters

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speeddatingAs a group of smartly dressed men and women take their seats, in pairs, at small round tables in the dining room of a converted textile factory in Nottingham city centre, some look nervous, some confident, and others just eager to get started.

But before they can, the rules of “speed dating” must be explained: every 5 minutes one person from each pair will rotate to the next table, until everyone has had a chance to speak to everyone else. A whistle is blown. “Let the first date begin,” cries the host and a hum of conversation quickly fills the basement room.

Is the cost of university too high?

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With annual student debt soaring to 5,000 pounds a year, young people face tough prospects, according to a new study by Push, an online resource for students.

New university students should expect to owe 23,500 pounds at graduation, the 2009 Push Student Debt Survey shows.

Do top professions favour the rich?

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Professions such as law, medicine and journalism have a “closed shop mentality” and are increasingly open only to those from affluent backgrounds, a report into social mobility says.

Former Labour government minister Alan Milburn, who chaired the study on widening access to top professions, said that young people need better career advice to raise their aspirations and give them greater confidence. Mr Milburn told the BBC: “We have raised the glass ceiling but I don’t think we have broken through it yet.

from MacroScope:

What me, British economist?

Time was when a British education had a cachet, especially among Britain's far-flung colonial territories.

But could the prestige of even a Cambridge or Oxford degree be a little dulled in these parlous days for the British economy, now labouring under massive public debt and a decade-high unemployment rate?

Prosecuting school queue-jumpers

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How big a crime is lying to try and get your child into a good school?

Plenty of parents have tried it by falsely claiming they live in the school’s catchment area or by suddenly getting religion but the worst that happens up till now is that they get found out and their child is turned away.

Now Harrow Council in London wants to go further and prosecute them. It had to withdraw a test case for fraud against the mother of a five-year-old it accused of  lying about her address on the school application form but it wants new powers to enable it to take such parents to court.

Can you train a teacher in six months?

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As the recession closes one door for bankers, another quickly opens.

The government’s latest educational wheeze is to allow teachers to qualify in just six months, half the current one-year time period.

Schools Minister Jim Knight wants to attract “more outstanding people” to the profession and hopes the scheme could help those such as bankers, who were excellent mathematicians and had been made unemployed, switch careers.

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