First up, the educational news in Japan:
Judo instructor found guilty over child’s death during training (OCT. 06, 2011 JAPANTODAY)
TOKYO — AFP
A Japanese court on Wednesday found a martial arts instructor guilty over the death of a six-year-old boy, a court official said, in the first criminal case over judo training in Japan.
The Osaka District Court found the instructor guilty of causing the boy’s death by repeatedly slamming him to the floor during training, ordering the defendant to pay a fine of one million yen, the official said.
It is the first criminal case filed by Japanese prosecutors against judo trainers, according to a victims’ group, despite over 100 child deaths blamed on harsh training or hazing between 1983 and 2010.
The 36-year-old instructor, who owned a private judo club in Osaka, admitted he threw the boy excessively in training. The boy died in November last year from brain swelling, local reports said.
Ryo Uchida, associate professor at Nagoya University Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said at least 114 deaths during judo training had been reported between 1983 and 2010 at schools alone.
“The number of children’s deaths, including those outside of schools, like the case of Osaka, remains unknown,” Uchida told AFP.
“These serious accidents show that even experienced judo practitioners could give training inappropriately and cause grave injuries or death,” he said.
“Instructors must be well aware of the risk of brain injuries and be prepared for emergency treatment.”
Keiko Kobayashi, whose youngest child suffered brain damage when he was 15, welcomed the “historic” ruling but questioned if the one million yen fine was sufficient “after one child’s life and future was lost.”
Judo, which became an official Olympic sport at the 1964 Tokyo Games, has long been seen as a respectable tool for training the minds and bodies of young Japanese and forms a major part of military and police training.
But many argue that abusive trainers are able to escape criminal charges due to the physical risks inherent to the sport.
The All Japan Judo Federation, which recognizes 86 judo incidents—some of them fatal—in the eight years to 2011, revised safety guidelines in June to warn against the risk of head injuries.
Wait for day care gets a little better (Japan Times)
The number of preschool children on waiting lists to enter authorized day care facilities nationwide fell for the first time in four years to 25,556 as of Apr 1, down by 719 from a year earlier, the welfare ministry says. Read more here…
Nurseries take kids to play at site with lower radiation (Japan Times)
Special guest teachers share real-world wisdom (The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 6, 2011)
The following article is from a series by The Yomiuri Shimbun on efforts by schools to adapt to the government’s revised school curriculum guidelines and make a fresh start after years of “yutori kyoiku”–a pressure-free education policy that allows children more free time, which is now regarded as a key factor in the poor academic performance of recent years. This is the fifth of six articles, and focuses on schools inviting guest lecturers from companies and universities to speak to students.
SAITAMA–A primary school in Kawaguchi, Saitama Prefecture, hosted a guest lecturer from a Kyocera Corp. group company in early summer who talked to fourth-graders about environmental issues.
“It looks like a flattened battery. This is a solar battery cell,” said Mikio Kasahara, 59, handing the device to students of Motogo Minami Primary School to pass around. They handled it with curiosity, and later screamed with delight when they watched a solar-powered miniature car run on the school’s rooftop terrace.
When Kasahara spoke about the concerns about power shortages in summer, the children agreed to turn off lights whenever possible.
Since fiscal 2007, Kyocera has sent employees to speak at primary schools more than 830 times. The company has set strict criteria for staff who want to become visiting lecturers–they must learn how to interact with children and how to conduct themselves as a speaker, as well as pass an internal exam.
Currently, there are 187 visiting lecturers, some of whom work at Kyocera group companies, as Kasahara does.
“By speaking to children in a way that’s easy for them to understand, the speakers can give better explanations,” said Tatsuki Kawai, 41, who assesses candidates who take the exam at the company’s headquarters in Kyoto. “This helps them have pride in their job.”
Kyocera is a prime example of a trend that is seeing companies try to contribute to society via the field of education. According to a survey by the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), social contribution spending by its member companies on education in fiscal 2009 totaled 27.7 billion yen, more than 2.5 times the amount in fiscal 2003.
Glimpse of working life
New school curriculum guidelines have been put into practice at primary schools this year, and will take effect at middle schools next school year. The main goal of the new guidelines is the same as that of the old ones: nurturing students’ “power to shape their own lives.”
The new guidelines, however, go further by defining the phrase in detail as students’ ability to think, make decisions and express themselves–qualities they need to solve problems by applying the knowledge they acquire.
“Lessons that involve someone from a company can give [students] a direct sense of how knowledge is useful in society,” said Prof. Daisuke Fujikawa of Chiba University’s faculty of education, who supports the visiting speaker concept. “Getting a glimpse of adults’ work is also a good opportunity for students to think about their future profession.”
Fujikawa believes companies’ growing interest in the school education system comes from the business sector’s concern about the recent decline in the academic performance of children, and a desire to support the development of the next generation.
Lessons for real life
Obukuro Middle School in Koshigaya, Saitama Prefecture, looks much the same as any other public middle school on the outskirts of Tokyo.
However, more than 20 companies, universities and medical institutions send professionals to the school as guest teachers. These partner organizations ask staff who specialize in areas that are relevant to the school’s current lessons to go there and speak to students.
Bunkyo University is one such organization. The university has a campus near the middle school, and dispatches people to help students improve their skills for giving presentations, such as independent thinking and expressing their ideas.
Recently, a professor and a student from the university visited the middle school together. The professor gave a lecture on how to structure an effective speech, and the student offered advice on how to explore a theme in depth.
The third-year students who attended the lecture later gave presentations on a study topic. During their presentations, they made skillful use of computer software and expressed their views in a forthright way.
On another occasion, after a student unwittingly leaked private information online, the school invited an IT company employee to speak to students about how to avoid trouble when using cell phones.
“Cooperation from society in general is essential for nurturing children’s power to shape their own lives,” said the middle school’s principal, Hisao Onishi. “So when a school asks for help, people will come forward.”
Osaka professor harvests spider silk from the Nephila pilipes, and the Argiope amoena for his hammock and violin strings (Japan Times article, October 6, 2011)
Yomiuri’s kids paper wins intl recognition (Oct 5, Yomiuri) Just half a year after printing its first issue, The Yomiuri Kodomo Shimbun, a weekly newspaper for children, has become the only Japanese publication to win an award in the 2011 World Young Reader Prize competition.
The competition, organized by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), recognizes newspapers that have created the best projects or activities to attract children.
WAN-IFRA is the world’s largest international press organization.
The Yomiuri Kodomo Shimbun, which won a Jury Commendation in the editorial category, was launched in March to encourage young readers to become familiar with newspapers.
Explaining why it gave the award to The Yomiuri Kodomo Shimbun, WAN-IFRA focused on the newspaper’s efforts to attract young readers by providing high-quality and easy-to-understand articles and collaborating with Shogakukan Inc., a well-known publisher noted for its rich experience in making magazines for children.
WAN-IFRA commended a marketing idea for the new publication: “Another good initiative was to make a special offer allowing grandparents who subscribe to The Yomiuri Shimbun to purchase subscriptions for The Kodomo Shimbun for their grandchildren.”
Evacuee volunteers join teachers in school cleanup in Minami-Soma (Oct 3 JapanToday.com)
TOKYO — Evacuees from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis on Sunday helped prepare for the reopening of elementary and junior high schools in formerly off-limits areas surrounding the crippled nuclear reactor.
On Friday, the government announced that formerly off-limits areas would be reopened to the public. On Sunday, around 70 education workers and evacuees worked together to clean up Omika Elementary and Junior High School in Minami-Soma, TV Asahi reported.
The school had been used as an evacuee shelter until last month. The group wore surgical masks as they scrubbed the walls and floors in preparation for the resumption of classes, which will be taking place throughout the prefecture in the coming weeks.
Supposed Shanghai students setting Japanese up for swindles www.tokyoreporter.com Oct 3 “Konnichi wa! Welcome to Shanghai! I’m a student of Japanese language. Do you mind if I practice my Nihongo kaiwa with you?” Before you say Kekkou (all right), be on your guard, warns the Asahi Shimbun (Oct. 1). Reports have been coming in from businessmen and tourists to China’s largest city that under the pretext of practicing their conversational Japanese, some locals have been steering unsuspecting visitors from Nippon to coffee shops or bars, where they are hit with exorbitant charges. (Tokyo Reporter)
Related news: Unwary Japanese scammed in China Increasing numbers of Japanese are falling victim to scams in Shanghai, being lured into paying exorbitant charges for minimal services, according to Japanese consular officials. This year alone there have been 70 Japanese who have fallen to Shanghai scams, costing them close on 10 million yen (around $130,000). Most of the victims have been men, but some women have also fallen into the trap. Japanese consulate officials said the majority of scams are being pulled off in restaurants, clubs and bars in popular tourist areas along the Bund. (majirox news)
Madame Tussauds brings world’s most famous celebrities to Japan Madame Tussauds will be coming to Japan. Outside of Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussauds Wax Museum is perhaps the most famous attraction in London, featuring astonishingly lifelike, full-scale replicas in wax of famous personalities such as Nelson Mandela, David Bowie, Marilyn Monroe and Winston Churchill. Tussauds now has permanent exhibits in 13 cities throughout the world. The exhibit in Tokyo will run from Sept. 30 until January next year and features 17 different figures. “Each figure takes close to four months to make in our workshops in England,” says a spokesman for Tussauds. (majirox news)
In technology news:
New e-book format does Japanese (Sep.26, The Yomiuri Shimbun)
A new global standard for digital books, to be released as early as October, will be able to handle vertical Japanese text, a move expected to promote the standardization of e-book devices and digital books in the country.
In the current domestic e-book market, different formats are used among reading devices and content distributors, hindering the popularity of electronic books.
Major digital book distributors, including Sony Corp. and Rakuten, Inc., plan to adopt the new standard. If the e-book standard of domestic distributors is brought in line with the global standard, it is expected to significantly boost convenience for users.
The standard to be adopted by Sony and Rakuten is a content publication standard called EPUB3, which the International Digital Publishing Forum, a U.S. trade and standards organization for the digital publishing industry, plans to introduce in mid-October.
Content under the format is expected to hit the market by year-end or later. EPUB, used by Apple Inc.’s e-book service, has become the standard in Europe and the United States. The new version of the format will support Japanese vertical text layouts and furigana placed next to kanji to aid pronunciation.
Japan currently has two main standards–XMDF, an e-book format created by Sharp Corp. in 2001 for its handheld terminal Zaurus, and .book, a format developed by U.S. Voyager Co. However, the formats are not compatible with each other.
As a result, e-books in one format cannot be read on the other’s devices. Apple and other foreign firms offering e-book services have also been required to convert their products to the Japanese formats if they wish to sell them here. This has greatly hindered the flow of digital books from foreign distributors.
Sony plans to make its future e-book devices EPUB-friendly. A Sony senior official said, “If EPUB becomes the standard in Japan, e-book content for users will certainly increase.”
A Sharp official, however, stressed the superiority of the company’s XMDF format, saying, “[By using XMDF] users will be able to read past content in the future. XMDF is more suitable for reading comics.”
Apple’s Steve Jobs Was a Pioneer in Education Technology (Edweek.org, Oct 6)
Public Schools Also Lose When Online Students Fail (Edweek.org, Oct 3)
Millions in tax dollars are going to K-12 online schools for students who are no longer there, an investigation of Colorado schools finds.
Elsewhere in the world on education:
Harvard loses top world university spot, Tokyo regains Asia crown (Mainichi) | Todai slips but reclaims best Asia university title (Japan Times) Excerpted below:
Harvard University lost its top seat in annual global university rankings released Thursday by the Times Higher Education magazine, while the University of Tokyo reclaimed the spot as best university in Asia despite slipping to 30th place.
Harvard was nudged off the pinnacle by the California Institute of Technology in the British magazine’s eighth World University Rankings, tying with Stanford University for second place while the University of Oxford came fourth.
U.S. and British universities dominated the top 10 chart, with Princeton University fifth, followed by Cambridge University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Imperial College London and the University of Chicago.
Among institutions in Asia, the University of Tokyo slipped from 26th place last year to 30th but overtook the University of Hong Kong, which fell to 34th from 21st, as the region’s top-ranked school. China’s flagship, Peking University, squeezed into the top 50 at joint 49th with Brown University, a U.S. Ivy League institution.
Four other Japanese universities in the top 200 are Kyoto University (52nd), the Tokyo Institute of Technology (108th), Osaka University (119th), and Tohoku University (120th).
The magazine noted that while Japanese universities maintain relatively stable positions on the list, they must do more to adapt to the globalization of higher education amid intensifying competition worldwide for the best and brightest.
The California Institute of Technology, better known as Caltech, succeeded in toppling Harvard thanks mainly to a 16 percent rise in research funding, which exceeded increases reported by Harvard and many other universities, said Phil Baty, editor of the rankings. …Read more here…
US and British institutions once again dominate an annual worldwide league table of universities published Thursday, but there is a fresh name at the top, unseating long-time leader Harvard.
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) knocked the famous Massachusetts institution from the summit of the Times Higher Education (THE) league table for the first time in eight years, with US schools claiming 75 of the top 200 places.
Next is Britain, which boasts 32 establishments in the top 200, but an overhaul in the way in which the country’s universities are funded has raised concerns over its continuing success.
Asia’s increasing presence in the annual table has stalled, with 30th placed University of Tokyo leading the continent’s representation.
China’s top two universities hold on to their elite status, but no more institutions from the developing powerhouse managed to break into the top 200.
THE attributed Caltech’s success to “consistent results across the indicators and a steep rise in research funding”.
Caltech specialises in science and engineering and has its main campus a short distance north of Los Angeles.
365-year-old Harvard, which loses the top spot for the first time since THE began publishing a global university ranking, shares second place with Californian university Stanford.
There was change at the top in Britain also where Oxford sneaked into fourth spot, overtaking Cambridge, which slipped to sixth.
The turnabout can be put down to a greater emphasis being put on the arts, humanities and social sciences in this year’s study, THE explained.
David Willetts, British minister of state for universities and science, said: “Relative to our size and smaller per capita resources, we have — according to some measures — the world’s best-performing higher education sector.”
The top 10 places are mainly occupied by US universities, including Princeton, Berkeley and Chicago.
Only two universities from outside the United States and Britain — Switzerland’s Federal Institute of Technology in 15th spot and Canada’s University of Toronto in 19th — make it into the top 20.
Israel is the only Middle Eastern country to break the top 200 with Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 121st place and Tel Aviv University in 166th place.
For the first time, the study also ranked countries according to their relative GDP with Hong Kong and the Netherlands coming out on top.
Ann Mroz, editor of Times Higher Education, said: “New powers are emerging, traditional hierarchies are facing challenges, the global competition for talent is heating up and these league tables help us understand this rapidly changing situation.”
The data ranked universities on 13 performance indicators within the fields of research, teaching, knowledge transfer and international activity.
Times Higher Education’s ranking of the top 10 universities:
California Institute of Technology
On being seduced by The World University Rankings (2011-12) GlobalHigherEd suggests that we should ” think more broadly, and critically, about the big issues related to the great ranking seduction?” and that “we also need to ask more hard questions about power, governance, and context, not to mention interests, outcomes, and potential collateral damage to the sector (when these rankings are released and then circulate into national media outlets, and ministerial desktops). There is a political economy to world university rankings, and these schemes (all of them, not just the The World University Rankings) are laden with power and generative of substantial impacts; impacts that the rankers themselves often do not hear about, nor feel (e.g., via the reallocation of resources).” Read more here.
England’s school curriculum review sparks debate (Guardian, Oct 3)
Experts are divided over controversial proposals to change the school curriculum and the way pupils are assessed.
England’s national curriculum review, which is to produce a new map of “core knowledge” that millions of five- to 16-year-olds must be taught from September 2013, has been relatively low-profile so far. But this seems about to change, with potential arguments about major changes likely to come out into the open.
Already there has been a delay in the planned “pre-release” of the new curriculum for English, maths, science and PE, as experts and ministers grapple with the details. The reforms are also likely to herald a radical and controversial change in how pupils’ progress is directed and assessed.
England’s national curriculum dates back to 1988, when the Conservative government judged that our traditional system of leaving teachers and local authorities to decide what pupils should be taught had to be replaced. The current review, the fifth, aims to address the perennial criticism that it is overloaded with content. The plan is to define only “core knowledge” and concepts expected of pupils. This is widely known and has proved relatively uncontroversial so far.
But what is expected of pupils by way of mastering these concepts, and particularly how these expectations are expressed, is poised to change radically. And this is where contention may begin.
For the review, which began in January, has been considering plans to scrap the system of national curriculum levels – the eight-point scale through which millions of children have progressed in their learning since 1988 – in favour of a new structure. This would lay down expectations of what all children should know as they get older. The review is likely to propose setting down year-by-year expectations.
The key difference is that the current structure is not directly age-related: a child can be deemed to have reached level 3 in reading, for example, at the age of seven or at the age of 14. Children are therefore supposed to progress through the levels at different rates according to their abilities. The philosophy behind the new system would be that all children should be mastering key aspects of each subject at specified points. … Read more here.
Related news: A-levels no guide to best students, says Professor AC Grayling (Independent) | Teaching for a smarter, brighter future? (Independent, Sep 22) With its broader outlook, Russ Thorne asks if the Baccalaureate is the more rounded choice …
News: Importance of education during economic crisis (HEDDA, OCTOBER 5, 2011) Excerpted below:
“Overall – the economies of the world are struggling, and this is also the case for OECD members. A worrying statistics presented is that over 17% of youth in OECD area is unemployed.
While some of the OECD area countries face high unemployment rates and suffer greatly from the economic crisis, the average rate for unemployment for university graduates is 4,4%. If one also notices that the unemployment rates for those without a high school diploma have increased significantly, this makes a strong case for putting focus on education as a solution. The press release puts a specific focus on the need to keep up and preferably increase investment in education despite strained public budgets and gives clear qantitative support for the fact that in average – education does pay off, and youth who are out of education have problems now, and are likely to have problems in the labour market also in the future. ”
Related: Employment and Education (The Economist, Sep. 17, 2011)
The economic downturn has hit the employment prospects of low-qualified people working in rich countries harder than their more highly qualified counterparts, according to figures from the OECD, a think-tank. On average, 84% of university graduates were in work in 2009, the latest year for which data are available, compared with 74% of those who did not go to university but studied beyond the minimum school-leaving age and 56% of those who did neither. Overall, employment rates were the lowest for at least 12 years, but fell farthest in the year to 2009 among the least well-qualified (down 2.1 percentage points) compared with the middling (down 1.9 points) and the university crowd (down one point).
Why Longer School Days Work for Families (Edweek.org, Oct 5)
University science ‘key’ to schools (Independent, Oct 6) Excerpted below:
“Many children do not have access to adequate science facilities, Lord Winston has said as he warned universities had a “key responsibility” to work with schools.
The leading scientist called on private schools to join up with universities to “change the educational experience” for children.
Speaking at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) annual meeting in St Andrews, Lord Winston said higher education had a “real role” to play in the schools system.
“To my mind, I think there is a real need to do much more in universities,” he said.
“I think we have a real role to play in connecting with schools. I think we could really change the vista if we do that.”
He showed a photograph of teenagers from local London schools taking part in a practical class at his university, Imperial College.
“You will notice they are mostly from ethnic minorities and are mostly doing science in this practical class about two years ahead of what they could do in their local school, but of course their local school doesn’t have a laboratory that they can use,” he said.
This was the same in “something like 35%” of state schools, he suggested.
A Commons education select committee report published in January found evidence that science laboratories in many state schools were not up to scratch, with facilities in up to a quarter of schools unsafe.”
Malaysia Tries to Rein In Private Education Institutions (NY Times, October 3, 2011)
The government has issued an increasing number of fines to private providers — a concern to some, but an indication to others that regulators are doing a more effective job weeding out inferior schools.
Edvantage – Values, character education to take centrestage (Edvantage, Sep 22)
Values and character education will take centre stage in Singapore’s education system in the future, said Minister for Education, Mr Heng Swee Keat, during his first formal address to school heads. He was speaking at the education ministry’s annual workplan seminar.
Mr Heng said: “We need personal values to enable each of us to have the confidence, self awareness, grit and determination to succeed. We need moral values, such as respect, responsibility, care and appreciation towards others to guide each of us to be a socially responsible person.
“We need values of citizenship. As a young nation with a short history of independence, we must have informed, rugged and resilient citizens who can stay united to overcome crisis and adversities which we must expect to happen from time to time.”
Mr Heng, who took over the education portfolio in May this year, said values and character education are important profound changes are taking place globally and locally, reported the Straits Times.
“As a people, Singaporeans will be faced with threats and shocks that will test our resolve, our cohesiveness, and our sense of belonging. That’s why the need to instil personal, social, moral and citizenship values in young Singaporeans”, he said.
He said the ministry will introduce a new Character and Citizenship Education (CCE) module by 2013, which will focus on values and character development.
It will bring together Civics and Moral Education, National Education, Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) among others, and will be infused into lessons. …
Related commentary: Character building shouldn’t be just another subject (Straits Times, Oct 7)
THE new emphasis on character building in our education system (‘Schools to stress values and character-building’; Sept 23) is timely and certainly the way to go.
Yet, the form which it will take is unclear.
Non-examinable subjects take the back seat in the present situation (‘When non-exam subjects don’t count…’; Sept 26) and ‘character building’ in school risks becoming yet another subject. And how much can be covered in the six, 10, 12 or 15 years a child is in school?
Can character be taught? Character is mostly caught than taught. It would take real-life interactions to teach it, and not just in the classroom.
Values, character traits and attributes are imbued in a person. Character formation begins long before any child enters school, even preschool. Though the influence from school is substantially higher as one spends more time there than at home, character building is perhaps still best seen as a community effort.
Dr Lee Siew Peng made the point that we had civics and moral education classes. But for her, values and character were taught by her parents.
I think civics and moral education reflected the tangible aspects of desirable character traits such as being responsible socially.
‘Character education’ is not new. Besides Character Education Partnership, there is the Institute in Basic Life Principles, and many other resources. Some Singapore schools and organisations have taken the initiative to teach it.
I hope the Education Ministry can look at the bigger picture and look into ‘forming character’. — Deborah Chou (Mrs)
CCF plans for school, more services for children (YahooNews, Sep 6)
After helping children battle cancer for nearly two decades, the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF) is now making big plans for the next five years.
It aims to set up a school for recovering patients and provide support to children whose parents have cancer.
These initiatives come at a time when the number of new patients has become relatively stable.
Explaining the rational behind their plans, CCF chairman Dr Tay Miah Hiang pointed out, contrary to popular belief, cancer in children is “much more curable than adult cancer … We must go all out.”
For instance, he said the cure rate for leukaemia, the most common form of cancer among kids, could be up to 90 per cent for children. In adults, the cure rate could be less than 10 per cent.
Next steps: a school, more help for children
CCF is now working with Viva Foundation, which seeks to improve the survival and cure rates of children with cancer, to set up a school next year for children recovering from cancer.
It is the first such school in Singapore and will cater to children in the primary and secondary level.
To protect the health of these recovering patients, the school will be kept as sterile as a hospital. The numbers will also be kept small, about 10 to 20 students for a start.
CCF also wants to expand its outreach by helping children affected by cancer.
Tay, an oncologist at OncoCare Cancer Centre, cites the negative impact on children when a parent has cancer.
“Sometimes the children are being neglected so they go through some emotional changes, (turning) rebellious, so we need to address these issues with them as well,” he explains.
One possibility is to categorise adult cancer patients into curable and non-curable patients and start by concentrating on the children of those with terminal diseases, he says.
The foundation also wants to help develop services in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, by sending their staff over to help improve services.
“Singapore is a regional hub for people to come in for treatment and we also provide psycho-social support to these patients. But sometimes when they go back, everything goes back to zero,” says Tay.
It’s good for foreign patients and also adds meaning to CCF employees’ work, he adds. …Read more here.