Here is today’s news roundup on the educational scene local and elsewhere in the world.

First up, the views and the news in Japan on education:

40% of universities mull shifting academic year (Jan 27, Japan Times)

“Major private institutions, including Waseda University, Keio University and Ritsumeikan University, have also shown willingness to ponder the move, which a University of Tokyo panel recently advocated to bring the system in sync with international norms.

The survey, conducted by Kyodo News between Monday and Wednesday, covered the presidents of all 81 national universities except the University of Tokyo and graduate schools unaffiliated with universities, as well as 12 major private universities. The response rate was 100 percent.

The University of Tokyo, known locally as Todai, has called on nine other national universities, including Kyoto University and Hokkaido University, as well as Waseda and Keio, join it in shifting the academic year and said it will set up an organ in April to facilitate coordination.

Of those 11 universities, only Kyoto did not express a willingness to participate, making it highly likely that coordination will start in April.”

Earlier: Mixed response on autumn enrollment plan (Yomiuri Jan 22)| 36 natl colleges eyeing autumn enrollment (Yomiuri, Jan.22) | Other universities may follow Todai’s lead (Yomiuri, Jan 20) A number of leading public universities have announced they will consider shifting to autumn enrollment, in tandem with the University of Tokyo’s steps to move enrollment for all academic departments to autumn to help ensure its international competitiveness in education and research. The universities’ announcements Wednesday have been welcomed in financial circles, which have been dissatisfied with universities’ ability to develop human resources. However, many challenges remain. “Autumn enrollment is the standard internationally. It would be more convenient for foreign students,” Kyushu University President Setsuo Arikawa said at a regular press conference Wednesday.

Earlier: Todai panel recommends fall enrollment (Japan Times, Jan 19)

A University of Tokyo panel has proposed that the leading institution shift undergraduate enrollment from April to the fall in line with the international norm, sources said Wednesday. The proposal in an interim report sets the tone for further deliberations at the renowned university locally known as Todai, which has been considering reforms to improve its competitiveness among the world’s top-notch institutions that usually begin their academic year in September or October. The report, which recommends introducing the change in five years, will be officially released Friday. (Japan Times)

Unfair criticisms of education (Japan Times, Jan 19)

Some recent comments criticizing Japan’s education system are devoid of reality. It’s true that more Japanese students used to go abroad when the country’s university system was not developed, just as China sends thousands of students abroad today because its university system is not yet fully developed. There are two opposite tendencies in Japan today. On one hand, dire economic conditions in Japan, where the average disposable annual income of a Japanese family is ¥6 million to ¥7 million, compete with the cost of a university education, which ranges as high as ¥4.5 million (assume ¥1.5 million a year for living costs). Meanwhile, high school graduation no longer qualifies one for decent jobs in Japan anymore as so many manufacturing jobs have vanished to China. Only administrative jobs are available, for which a university graduation degree is needed. (Japan Times)

Blasts in lab at Osaka school spark fire; all safe (Japan Times, Jan 25)

A fire broke out at an Osaka elementary school Tuesday morning after a string of explosions in a science room, prompting 250 students and teachers to evacuate, but no injuries were reported, police and firefighters said. The explosions at 10:45 a.m. gutted almost all of the 30-sq.-meter room at Kiyoe Elementary School in Suminoe Ward before the fire was put out an hour later, the authorities said. They were trying to identify the cause of the blasts, which prompted the dispatch of some 30 fire engines and a helicopter.

University entrance exams kick off (Japan Times, Jan 15)

The national unified college entrance examinations began Saturday, with more than 550,000 applicants and a record-high 835 public and private institutions taking part. The exams mark the start of an annual competition for spots in two- and four-year universities for the start of the 2012 academic year in April. Total applicants fell by 3,447 from last year to 555,537, and included 439,713 high school students scheduled to graduate in March, according to the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, an affiliate of the education ministry. (Japan Times)

Student count, knowledge sliding (Japan Times)

The next two articles highlight the plight of jobless university and high school graduates …]

Poor employment conditions push Japan’s young to the edge (Mainichi)  January 6, 2012

According to a Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications survey of non-standard (non-full time) employees aged between 25 and 34, in 1991 the ratio of non-full time to all workers was approximately one in 10. In 2010, it had increased to one in four. Government estimates also show that some 60 percent of all non-standard employed men (all ages) receive less than 2 million yen a year — a figure that is even below the amount for welfare assistance. Meanwhile, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the number of welfare recipients as of September 2011 was 2.06 million — the highest in Japan’s history. In 2009, there were approximately 112,000 welfare recipients in their 30s — about 1.9 times more than in 2000.

University degree and full-employee-status no protection against joblessness in Japan(Mainichi)

Universities seek to utilize gap years(Yomiuri, Dec. 26, 2011)

More and more universities are taking steps to have their students gain life experience through work or volunteer activity, efforts the government and the business world hope will nurture human resources capable of flourishing in international society. The University of Tokyo is considering moving its enrollment from April to September or October, like Western universities, while still conducting its entrance exams in February.
This has led to growing interest in the so-called gap year concept common in Europe and the United States. The university plans to have its accepted students study abroad or pursue volunteer activities during the six months before they enter the university.”We want our students to enter the university after they learn the social value of study and become aware of various issues, not just come to college as a continuation of their entrance exam preparations,” University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada said.
Akita International University in Akita is a domestic pioneer in this field. In the 2008 academic year, it introduced a special admission quota for students who venture into adult society before they enter the university in September. According to the university, students have found various projects on their own initiative, including removing land mines in Cambodia, working at a kindergarten in Australia and farming in Japan. Forty-six students have applied for the 10 special admission slots available in September next year, the university said.
Toyo University in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, is considering adopting a “step year” system, which would dispatch students for a year to projects working to revitalize domestic farming communities. The university began a trial of this program from last academic year and has sent five students to Iwate Prefecture and elsewhere. Shinji Aoki, head of the university’s undergraduate school of sociology, said, “These students have a clearer sense of purpose when they enter society, and it will help them get a job. I think ‘slow and steady wins the race’ in terms of human resources development.”
In proposals made this year for developing international human resources, the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) suggested utilizing gap years to correct students’ lack of understanding of what it is to work. The federation also thought it would correct their overly introspective mindset and poor basic abilities, including communication skills. Many university graduates have been quitting jobs quickly in recent years, and corporations are dissatisfied with what they see as insufficient efforts by universities to develop human resources capable of working in international society.Kaoru Sunada, representative director at Japan Gap Year Organization, said: “The prolonged recession has reduced corporations’ ability to train their employees, so corporations want new university graduates to be full-fledged adults.”
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Student’s eyes opened
…”AIESEC in Japan arranges internships at overseas companies and nongovernmental organizations for university students. According to the organization, about 150 students participated in such internships in fiscal 2008 but more than 500 are expected to do so this fiscal year.About 10 percent to 20 percent of participants take a leave of absence from school to take a long-term training course, the organization said.”More students want to acquire abilities –while they’re at university–that society will require in the future,” said 22-year-old Soichiro Nishimura, deputy director general of AIESEC in Japan and a fourth-year student at Keio University. Read more here.

Govt to poll student affluence / Authorities aiming to shrink disparities in academic performance (Dec.27, Yomiuri)

The government plans to survey students about their families’ economic situation in tandem with the annual national achievement test given to all sixth-year primary school students and third-year middle school students.

The questionnaire survey is meant to help resolve disparities in academic ability stemming from differences in the affluence of students’ families, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said.

The survey will be conducted from the 2013 school year.

A ministry survey has already established that schools with a high percentage of students who receive economic assistance for things such as school lunches and trips also tend to have high percentages of incorrect answers on the national achievement test.

Observers have pointed out the disparities in academic ability, which are becoming entrenched–children in less affluent families tend to progress more slowly in their academic growth. This in turn will lead to disparities in their future academic ability and earning power.

The ministry plans to select and closely examine schools whose academic performance is high despite a large number of students in less affluent circumstances, through a 2013 school year survey in which all primary and middle schools in Japan will participate.

The ministry aims to use the teaching methods at the chosen schools as a reference for tackling the academic divide.

The new survey will be conducted by adding a questionnaire about students’ economic situation to the conventional questionnaire about their study habits and living environment that has been carried out at the time of the achievement test.

As it is difficult to ask students specific questions about their parents’ income and jobs, the new questionnaire will include such indirect queries as, “Do you take piano or other private lessons outside school?” according to the ministry.

The Questionnaire of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development includes such questions as, “Do you have literary works, paintings and reference works at home?” to probe the relation between the cultural and economic situation at students’ homes and their academic performance.

The ministry also plans to use the PISA questionnaire as a reference.

School says it’s responsible for deaths / Principal admits failure to protect 84 people killed, missing in March 11 disaster (Yomiuri, Jan.24)

Flip fantasia: Engaging an audience with kamishibai(Tokyo Reporter Jan 12)

The October 1 issue of Tokyo-based weekly business magazine Shukan Diamond took a unique approach to simplify understanding the resent global financial debacle. Over ten consecutive even-numbered pages the publication printed a single descriptive phrase above a half-page cartoon, each representing a stage in the crisis, to accompany the charts, tables, and main text of an article about the problem. The arrangement is rooted in the Japanese practice of kamishibai, or storybook theater, which in its most recent incarnation began in Japan before television and serves as a way for a stand-up performer to concisely tell a tale with a series of illustrated notebook-sized cards over a brief time period.

Suicide leap at disciplinary school (Jan 10, Japan Times) A 21-year-old man jumped to his death Monday in an apparent suicide at a sailing school in Mihama, Aichi Prefecture, that is known for its strict education program for troubled young people, police said. The man jumped from the roof of a three-story dormitory at Totsuka Yacht School around 7:30 a.m., leaving a note on the roof terrace that read: “It’s painful for me to live. I want to die,” police said. The Hiroshima Prefecture native, who joined the school in December 2010, climbed onto the roof while taking out garbage with another student, the police said.

Mothers worried thin walls at temporary housing units create stress for children (Dec.27)

Schools in Minamisoma getting back to normal (Japan Times)

Read all about the NIE (Newspaper In Education) Programmes at work in Japanese schools.

Taiwanese man sought in killing of 2 Taiwanese students in Tokyo | Police admit pat-down of Taiwanese student who committed suicide was insufficient

Elsewhere in the world on education:

The higher education bubble (educationnews.org)

In May 2011, Peter Thiel—PayPal co-founder, venture capitalist, and a member of Facebook’s board of directors—predicted that higher education would be the next bubble to burst. According to Thiel, higher education in America bears the same markings as the technology and housing bubbles that preceded it: unbridled investment, wildly overvalued assets, and a lower rate of return than in years past. Like all economic bubbles, Thiel argues that higher education is destined for disaster. Thiel.s remarks have generated a great deal of controversy: comparing universities and colleges to commercial markets seems simply preposterous to some. The idea, however, resonates with economists. Like real estate and technology, higher education is a major investment; the average education at a 4-year private college costs well over $100,000 in total.
According to Thiel, most middle-class parents in America aspire to send their children to college. The media frenzy surrounding the jobs crisis for recent graduates implies that a college degree may not generate the same economic returns it once did. Investors, whether they are private banks or government-based lending groups, may be wondering how much they have overvalued higher education in America. When viewed through this lens, the higher education market has all the makings of an economic bubble on the verge of This presentation by Education News gives you a more in-depth look at the economic state of America’s higher education system. The data that economists have gathered—from skyrocketing tuition costs to the astonishing size of student loan debt—will tell you everything you need to know about this growing economic concern. Higher education may not be in a state of crisis yet, but it is an issue that deserves a closer look. Watch the video, read the infographics, and then decide for yourself: is higher education the next big bubble?

Read the rest here 

China’s preschool woes (Straits Times, Jan 13 retr. fr. Lexisnexis.com)

BEIJING: To enrol her daughter in the kindergarten of her choice, one boutique owner had to get help from friends, as well as pay illegal admission fees of 18,000 yuan (S$3,700), dubbed as ‘sponsorship fees’ in China.

All in, Ms Lu, 36, who did not want to give her full name, forks out 27,000 yuan a year on kindergarten for her five-year-old daughter, more than what it costs to study at the elite Peking University. …

But not everybody can stomach the hefty fees.

In recent years, the high cost of preschool education has become a common complaint in China, so much so that the authorities last week threatened new penalties against the collection of illegal fees to guarantee admission.

Schools caught doing so would not have their licences renewed, said China’s top economic planner, as well as its Education and Finance ministries, in a statement earlier this month. Nor would they tolerate preschools that force parents to pay extra for all kinds of enrichment classes, they said.  Read more here.

Sweat and tears: China’s gymnasts (CBS News)

Excerpt from CBS News: “One movement repeated so many times, even hundreds of times. One set of movements practiced for five years. Every year, more than 30 children join the gymnastics team, but very few are able to stick with it. ‘Every year there are so many talented children who give up on training, which is so saddening,’ says the coach.”

Recommended readings from the Telegraph:

Boarding school tips (11 Jan 2012)

If you think your child is likely to be homesick, be meticulous about choosing a boarding school that offers good pastoral support. Ask about their homesickness policy – some schools are more sympathetic and willing to compromise than others. ­

Try not to speak to your child endlessly on the phone. Encourage them to focus on the positives – how well they’re doing in lessons,for example, or on an activity they’re looking forward to at the weekend.

Don’t let them know that their homesickness is upsetting you. It will make them feel worse if they’re worrying about you.

Take decisive action as soon as your child is homesick. Speak to the school, find out how they’re handling the situation, and ask for regular updates. If it’s not working, then do something about it.

That said, don’t remove a child from a school until you’ve explored all the options. Ask if the school is willing to compromise. If a child can go home for a night on a Saturday evening each week (for full boarders) or a Wednesday evening (for weekly borders) then there’s a chance they will find boarding more manageable.

Include your child in the initial decision. What are the pros and cons of boarding for your family in particular? Could it wait a couple of years?

Anna Tyzack

I’m a great fan of boarding, but I am not totally convinced about boarding below the age of 11, unless circumstances make it unavoidable. The essence of a successful boarding life is a successful home life; and that needs time to mature both ways.

Anthony Seldon, educationalist and Master of Wellington College, Berkshire

Whether single-sex or co-educational, boarding prep schools seem to know the value of real education and how to make it fun. When younger it is easier to assert your identity as a boarder before you have to question your identity as an adolescent.”

Melvin Roffe, principal, Wymondham College, Norfolk

Children aged 11, 12 and 13 find it toughest to settle in to a boarding routine, while younger children – those aged eight or nine – usually adjust fastest; and generally, children who have had a say in the decision to go to boarding school, are less homesick than those who were given no choice.

Dirk Flower, child psychologist

More ways of learning

Boarders benefit from additional non-classroom contact with teachers in the evenings. They benefit from supervised homework and music practice time, and they can also participate in extra-curricular activities such as debating societies, choirs, plays and bands without their parents having to collect them from school later in the evening.

More opportunities for play; less time for technology

Few parents will be able to compete with a prep school in terms of facilities such as indoor swimming pools, cricket nets and playing fields. Instead of interminable stretches in front of screens playing Red Dead Redemption or Call of Duty MW, or on social networking sites, or watching Gossip Girl, children are kept occupied in the evening in the art room or sports hall.

Even in unstructured, lightly supervised free time they will often be outside, building dens in the school grounds and playing traditional games such as British Bulldog and Murder in the Dark.

What’s more, they will talk to each other after school – thus learning the art of proper conversation – and will complete their homework to a high standard without needing to be nagged by mum or dad.

A stable complement to family life

Prep boarding schools are designed to be like an extended family with a three-way relationship between children, parents and house parents so that school and home can complement rather than compete with each other.

These communities encourage children to live together unselfishly and to grow up as individuals, celebrating their differences and forging friendships that last a lifetime.

Taking the rough with the smooth

Children will be asked to do plenty of things they don’t much care for – go to chapel, marshal their laundry, keep their bedrooms tidy, write letters home – but all these are worthy disciplines and good preparation for senior school and adult life in general.

Less stressful for parents (and the environment)

No more fractious, carbon-emitting school runs on jammed roads twice a day. You can enjoy just being with your children at weekends and in the holidays, safe in the knowledge that you don’t have to concertina homework, social engagements and school and work commutes into a four-hour evening.

Anthony Wallersteiner, headmaster of Stowe School, Buckinghamshire

Independent schools have parents queueing at their doors in spite of the troubled economic climate.Warwick Mansell discovers why they are thriving..

A first, with honours, for the student who rejected Oxbridge

Study: Good Teachers Have ‘Profound Effect’ on Students (educationnews.org)

A new study has found a “profound” link between the quality of a teacher and lasting future… Read more

Julia Steiny | Learning to write teaches westerly students science

TED Conference: Teach Math, Not Calculating

Experts at the TED conference on math instruction emphasize the use of the calculator as a way to… Read more

Schools to Monitor Obese Students, Raising Privacy Fears (educationnews.org)
As a Long Island district uses electronic monitors to keep track of the physical activity of obese students; critics call it an invasion of privacy

Study: Gifted and Talented Programs Have Little Effect (educationnews.org)

Parents Camp Overnight for Places at Coveted KindergartenParents in West Philadelphia camped out over night in an attempt to get their children places at one of the most coveted public schools in the stat

Alice – in Wales? C. M. Rubin discusses the origin of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its connection with Llandudno, Wales, summer home of Alice Liddell

Study Shows Minority Students Achieve with Minority TeachersStudy on Teacher Value Uses Data From Before Teach-to-Test Era

The Bay Citizen: California Leads Nation in Unaccredited Schools, and Enforcement Is Lax

Do Thrifty Brains Make Better Minds? (January 15, 2012, The Stone)

“Some recent work in computational and cognitive neuroscience suggests that it is indeed the frugal use of our native neural capacity (the inventive use of restricted “neural bandwidth,” if you will) that explains how brains like ours so elegantly make sense of noisy and ambiguous sensory input. That same story suggests, intriguingly, that perception, understanding and imagination, which we might intuitively consider to be three distinct chunks of our mental machinery, are inextricably tied together as simultaneous results of a single underlying strategy known as “predictive coding.” This strategy saves on bandwidth using (who would have guessed it?) one of the many technical wheezes that enable us to economically store and transmit pictures, sounds and videos using formats such as JPEG and MP3.

Neural versions of this predictive coding trick benefit, however, from an important added dimension: the use of a stacked hierarchy of processing stages. In biological brains, the prediction-based strategy unfolds within multiple layers, each of which deploys its own specialized knowledge and resources to try to predict the states of the level below it. …

A familiar, but still useful, analogy is with the way problems and issues are passed up the chain of command in rather traditional management hierarchies. Each person in the chain must learn to distil important (hence usually surprising or unpredicted) information from those lower down the chain. And they must do so in a way that is sufficiently sensitive to the needs (hence, expectations) of those immediately above them.

In this kind of multilevel chain, all that flows upward is news. What flows forward, in true bandwidth-miser style, are the deviations (be they for good of for ill) from each level’s predicted events and unfoldings. This is efficient. Valuable bandwidth is not used sending well-predicted stuff forward. … Things work similarly — if the predictive coding account is correct — in the neural incarnation. What is marked and passed forward in the brain’s flow of processing are the divergences from predicted states: divergences that may be used to demand more information at those very specific points, or to guide remedial action.

…All this, if true, … suggests that perception may best be seen as what has sometimes been described as a process of “controlled hallucination” (Ramesh Jain) in which we (or rather, various parts of our brains) try to predict what is out there, using the incoming signal more as a means of tuning and nuancing the predictions rather than as a rich (and bandwidth-costly) encoding of the state of the world. This in turn underlines the surprising extent to which the structure of our expectations (both conscious and non-conscious) may quite literally be determining much of what we see, hear and feel…..Brains like ours may be constantly trying to use what they already know so as to predict the current sensory signal, using the incoming signal to constrain those predictions, and sometimes using the expectations to “trump” certain aspects of the incoming sensory signal itself….

Just suppose (if only for the sake of argument) that it is on track, and that perception is indeed a process in which incoming sensory data is constantly matched with “top down” predictions based on unconscious expectations of how that sensory data should be. This would have important implications for how we should think about minds like ours.

First, consider the unconscious expectations themselves. They derive mostly from the statistical shape of the world as we have experienced it in the past. We see the world by applying the expectations generated by the statistical lens of our own past experience, and not (mostly) by applying the more delicately rose-nuanced lenses of our political and social aspirations. So if the world that tunes those expectations is sexist or racist, future perceptions will also be similarly sculpted — a royal recipe for tainted evidence and self-fulfilling negative prophecies. That means we should probably be very careful about the shape of the worlds to which we expose ourselves, and our children.

Second, consider that perception (at least of this stripe) now looks to be deeply linked to something not unlike imagination. For insofar as a creature can indeed predict its own sensory inputs from the “top down,” such a creature is well positioned to engage in familiar (though perhaps otherwise deeply puzzling) activities like dreaming and some kind of free-floating imagining. These would occur when the constraining sensory input is switched off, by closing down the sensors, leaving the system free to be driven purely from the top down. We should not suppose that all creatures deploying this strategy can engage in the kinds of self-conscious deliberate imagining that we do. Self-conscious deliberate imagining may well require substantial additional innovations, like the use of language as a means of self-cuing. But where we find perception working in this way, we may expect an interior mental life of a fairly rich stripe, replete with dreams and free-floating episodes of mental imagery.

Finally, perception and understanding would also be revealed as close cousins. For to perceive the world in this way is to deploy knowledge not just about how the sensory signal should be right now, but about how it will probably change and evolve over time. For it is only by means of such longer-term and larger-scale knowledge that we can robustly match the incoming signal, moment to moment, with apt expectations (predictions).”

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Rick Santorum’s Anti-College rant  …  Santorum accused President Obama of “elitist snobbery” and “hubris” for suggesting that “under my administration, every child should go to college.” Perhaps this should be read together with The true cost of high school dropouts

The History Of Economic Thought Andrew Beattie, Friday 21 October 2011 see also The History Of Capitalism: From Feudalism To Wall Street | Introduction To Supply And Demand | How Interest Rates Affect The U.S. Market

Japanese strategy for improving teachers is catching on in Chicago (hechingerreport.org Jan 12 )

In the sunlit library at Jorge Prieto Elementary on Chicago’s’ northwest side, an experiment is under way. A provisional classroom has been set up. A white board sits at the front of the room, and 20 eighth-graders are seated at library tables. Math teacher Michael Hock is giving a lesson about the distributive property. Scattered throughout the room are some 30 other teachers. They aren’t wearing lab coats-but they might as well be. They clutch clipboards and carefully monitor kids’ reactions to the teacher’s explanations, peering over students’ shoulders as they write answers. “What is the area of the garden?” Hock asks students as he points to an illustration on the white board. “Nestor, I haven’t heard from you today.”

Cruising the book aisles:

Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs by Paul Willis

Based primarily on ethnographic data, “Working Class without Work” examines the identity formation process among white working-class youth in the context of the de-industrialization of the American economy. The elimination of many basic production jobs and the expansion of the service sector have changed the expectations and opportunities of the white working class. Weis documents the way in which these young people respond to such changes, and the way they help to create the conditions of their future lives. In the process, she explores issues of race, class, gender and considers the roles of school and family in the production of self

Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St Paul’s School by Shamus Rahman Khan

Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life by Annette Larea

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On health and safety matters:

2012 Jan 2nd, South Korea, Seaweed radioactivity test (part 1) from joytek onVimeo.   Unopened packets of seaweed from the east coast of Korea measured 0.76 microSv/h on 1/2/2012.

Co-op checking meals for cesium  (Japan Times)

Don’t rush to put out flames during quake (Yomiuri, Jan.21)

NHK Asaichi TV programme – aired a programme this week on the new study on Tokyo likelihood of earthquake predictions, interviewing the professor who originated the study (see the science behind the report at the Japanese source). The programme also noted that research shows the use of L-shaped brackets attached to the wall is the most effective method, compared to the use of floor stoppers (to prevent slip), ceiling to furniture supports – in preventing falling furniture-induced injuries.

Related:

70% chance of big Tokyo earthquake ‘within 4 yrs’ (Yomiuri)

Major earthquake zone newly found off Tohoku (Yomiuri, Jan.27)

Currently, there are two known earthquake regions along the Pacific coastal area from Hokkaido to the Tohoku region.

One is the area where the March 11 quake was centered. The other is in the area from Nemuro to Erimomisaki cape in Hokkaido, where major magnitude-8 level quakes have occurred every 500 years. Until Hirakawa’s findings, there was no information about the region between the two areas. Read the entire article here.

Tabled in our parenting potpourri forum discussions:

Should parents control what kids learn at school?

Education advice: How to encourage your children to read (03 Jun 2011)

Shared Babysitting Yahoo Group brings like-minded families together so they can, “share babysitting”.

UK context:

School choice – an overrated concept

“True choice is a myth. All parents want are good local schools, but it appears no political party is interested in delivering them. Both Conservatives and Labour seem obsessed with in effect privatising the system by persuading companies, religious organisations and charities to run the show. The US has been doing this for two decades, and the most significant research shows that it doesn’t work: on average, children at state-run schools do significantly better than their counterparts at taxpayer-funded but privately run schools…

Perhaps even more worryingly, the concept of school choice has led to deep societal fractures,…

Yet the evidence shows that parents are tremendously supportive of schools, even when they are failing, as Charles Desforges established in a thorough research review conducted in 2003. His findings … showed that if a parent talks regularly to their child, has high expectations and believes in the value of education, then that child will succeed – even in a school with a poor reputation.”

BBC NEWS | UK | Education | The problem with school ‘choice

“…The school system …has grown much more diverse over the past 20 years.

England has a dizzying variety of secondary schools in addition to community comprehensives and faith schools.

These include: foundation schools, CTCs, academies, specialist schools, grammar schools and, shortly, trust schools. Scotland has none of this variety.

…There have been many academic studies of the impact of “school choice”. Some argue it increases social segregation, others say it reduces it. Unfortunately, there is no consensus to help guide policymakers. One thing seems to be clear, though: the more choice you offer, the greater the level of dissatisfaction. That does not mean that parents would willingly give up their chance to state a preference or to have a menu of different schools to choose from. But there are consequences of letting the choice genie out of the bottle and whichever system you use – home-school distance, catchment area, lottery, or banding – there will always be relieved “winners” and upset “losers”.

The key, of course, is to try to protect the children from feeling like winners and losers.”

US context:

Dr. Judith Stein, Executive Director of the National Institute for Educational Options examines a few common myths about school choice as she concludes that despite some flaws, school choice is better than no choice.

Robert Enlow, President and CEO of The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, writes that although school choice is on the right track — many called 2011 the ‘Year of School Choice’ — we still have a long way to go.
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This LA Times review by Kitty Ferguson review of the new biography of Stephen Hawkings’ life is interesting.
“She begins when Stephen was a perfectly healthy kid and not much of a scholar. At St. Albans public school, age 11, he was third from the bottom of his class. However, like many future physicists, he wondered obsessively about the universe…”
How many of our kids match this description, many Nobel prize winners and other movers and shakers never made the best grades, and yet the majority of universities and school systems today continue to choose their applicants only from those who produce impeccable grade records, their evaluation systems vastly need a change. Many of the world’s past successes probably would never have made it to college and to where they have had they lived in today’s society. Why do the evidently clever academics, edu policy-makers create and support such a test-reliant flawed edu system (in which they might not have succeeded had they had to go through it) … I wonder?    Aileen

In another review The earthly passions of a pop icon physicist He was characterized as “Outgoing and playful, Hawking as a child didn’t make the best marks in grade school, for he stubbornly absorbed only those subjects he belived worth knowing. //In college at Oxford, Hawking was recognized as brilliant but underchallenged. Hawking himself admits that it was his ensuing illness — he possibility of an early death –that put an end to his academic laziness.”

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New resources on our EIJ Community Blog:

Montessori Resource page Find here many website links to Montessori-styled free lesson plans, ideas, etc. See also  Does method matter? Montessori vs. Waldorf  and in it, I sum up the core elements and methods of Montessori, recommend Montessori books for homeschooling (those I have used or perused myself). More lists may be found at shop.montessori.org.uk and RKMS’s recommendations

This is the best student-or-educator-friendly website on the latest education gizmos and online technology  EDUDEMIC DIRECTORY. Only problem is you’ll spend too much time surfing its pages to actually study or prep for class!

You might also find helpful, “The best iphone and android apps for college students” (Buzzfeed)

Some apps to help you breeze through school (recommended byh Straits Times Education Special) are: Evernote ; inClass; Dictionary.com; Dropbox; Documents to Go and Flashcards Deluxe [Many more suggestions of the same sort are to be had at this Edudemic page.]

And that’s the wrapping it up from me :)
Aileen Kawagoe