Better Believe It......Because They Actually Happen(ed) Collection 13

Primary school homework debate leading some parents to opt out

Noble Park primary school principal David Rothstadt prefers nature play over homework for the students. Photo: Joe Armao

By Alexandra Smith, Liam Mannix, Melissa Fyfe

Parents should make use of a little-known power to negotiate with teachers over the volume of homework set for their children.

As the debate over the value of homework heats up again, Parents Victoria said it was a good idea to ​talk to teachers ​about​ homework and these ​discussions​ should include students.

Some primary schools in New South Wales are allowing parents to opt their children out of homework, and others are reviewing their homework policies as time-poor families struggle to keep up with the extra schoolwork being sent home.

Meanwhile, in Victoria, homework practices are under review, with the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development considering recommendations from a 2014 parliamentary inquiry.

That inquiry found strong evidence "and general agreement" that homework had almost no academic benefit for primary-school students, although it may help prepare them for secondary school. The inquiry recommended the department review its guidelines and commission research into the effectiveness of homework practices in Victorian schools.

Illustration: Matt Golding. Photo: Matt Golding.

The inquiry followed a report by the NSW education department that also found no evidence homework helped primary school students academically.

As the Victorian education department considers the inquiry's report – handed down last August – parents can negotiate with their children's teachers. The department confirmed there were no official bans on parents meeting their child's teacher to review homework, although certain schools may have their own rules.

Full story at The Age (March 2015)

New university aims to attract women into engineering

It will be the first newly built university for three decades

By Richard Garner

Plans for the UK’s first newly built university for three decades will be unveiled today – specialising in engineering and aiming for women to comprise half of all its students and teaching staff.

The private but not-for-profit New Model in Technology and Engineering (NMITE) aims to attract 5,000 students when it is fully operational.

The new university will model itself on the Olin College of Engineering in the US city of Boston, and aims to be the first higher education institution in the country to match the American college’s unique record of achieving equal numbers of men and women among both lecturers and students.

Karen Usher, from NMITE, said Olin had been “incredibly successful” in recruiting women, and they may be open to taking on applicants without the usual mathematical qualifications to address the traditional gender imbalance.

“We aim to find out what might be putting women off applying for engineering courses,” she said. “For instance, what’s to stop someone with A-levels in history, English and philosophy deciding to switch to engineering?”

The new university is being backed by two members of the Russell Group, which represents 24 of the most selective higher education institutions in the country. The universities of Bristol and Warwick will convey degrees upon students who attend NMITE until it gains approval for degree awarding powers itself. Applications will open next year, recruiting 300 students to its headquarters in Hereford to start their courses in September 2017. It will charge fees of £9,000 a year – in line with its two supporting universities.

Full story at The Independent (March 2015)

Meet the 12-year-old Fukushima girl who is braving it alone at school

Teacher Satomi Senzaki comforts Chika Akimoto after the graduation ceremony at Kawauchi Elementary School in Kawauchi, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 23. (Yosuke Fukudome)

By Susumu Okamato

KAWAUCHI, Fukushima Prefecture--For the past three years, all Chika Akimoto wanted to do was to hang out with kids of her age at school.

But that didn't happen. Instead, she was the sole pupil at Kawauchi Elementary School here through the fourth to sixth grades.

On March 23, the 12-year-old graduated to move on to the next stage in her education.

She will be attending Kawauchi Junior High School from April, but that, too, will be a lonely experience as she will be the only first-year student there.

This village had a population of around 3,000 people prior to the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011. Everybody evacuated, and relatively few residents returned.

In her farewell message at the graduation ceremony, Chika said, “Believing that all of my classmates will return, I spent my school life in a classroom which was far too big for a single student.”

Full story at The Asahi Shimbun (March 2015)

1,000 detained in India over exam cheating—police

Indians climb the wall of a building to help students appearing in an examination in Hajipur, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. AP Photo/Press Trust of India

NEW DELHI — Police have detained more than 1,000 people in eastern India over a cheating scandal that saw relatives scale the walls of a school exam center to help students, a senior officer said Sunday.

Images last week showed dozens of people clinging to the windows of a four-story building to pass cheat sheets in the state of Bihar, where more than 1.4 million teenagers are sitting their school-leaving exams.

Other images broadcast on local television showed school staff and armed police officers standing by as people smuggled in study aids to candidates inside examination centres.

Bihar additional director general of police Gupteshwar Pandey said upwards of 1,000 people have been rounded up and put in jail, but have not been formally charged with a criminal offence.

Instead, they are being made to pay fines ranging from 2,000 rupees ($32) up to tens of thousands of rupees, depending on their involvement in the cheating, to secure their release from lock up.

Pandey said parents and teachers were among the main culprits “who were found cheating or cooperating with the cheating in school exams across the state.”

“More than 1,000 people were detained, half of them were parents and teachers while the other half consisted of friends and relatives,” Pandey told AFP.

“Fifty percent have been released but I believe that the others are still probably in jail,” he added.

Full story at The Inquirer (March 2015)