Gujarat to rope in experts to address education related issues

Gujarat to rope in experts to address education related issues

GANDHINAGAR: Gujarat Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama today said that his department has taken a “serious” note of the rising number of suicides by school children.

He said that psychologists and sociologists would be roped in to understand the mindset of school children who fall prey to stress and commit suicide.

“There could be several reasons behind students ending their lives. Such incidents have risen sharply recently. In the past, such incidents were rare even if they failed in exams. I believe that tolerance levels have fallen among children,” he said.

“Thus, to find out what is going on in their minds and how they respond to challenges, our department has decided to take the help of psychologists as well as sociologists, to give us some suggestions about steps to be taken,” he said.

The minister expressed his concern about the lack of job-oriented technical courses on the higher education front.

“Employment opportunities are linked to changes that we see around us. Our needs have increased and so has usage of technologies like mobile phones, but there are very few courses which are directly associated with it, like a course to repair smartphones.

“We see a lot of start-ups floated by youngsters. This is good for employment generation. We can train youngsters in that direction and encourage them to convert their innovation into business.

“So, I have invited Vice Chancellors from all universities, including private ones, to discuss these issues. Their views and feedback will be important in deciding our future course of action,” Chudasama said

University rankings UK ‘a stand-out performer’

student

The UK has 34 universities in the Times Higher Education ranking of the world’s top 200 institutions.

Oxford climbs to second place, while Cambridge and Imperial College London also make the top 10 in fourth and eighth places respectively.

Keeping the top spot for the fifth consecutive year is the California Institute of Technology in the US.

Europe has a record number of universities in the world top 200, with 105 compared to 87 last year.

The tables rank universities worldwide on measures like teaching, research and international outlook – for example numbers of overseas students and staff.

20 TOP INSTITUTIONS
1. California Institute of Technology, US
2. University of Oxford, UK
3. Stanford University, US
4. University of Cambridge, UK
5. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US
6. Harvard University, US
7. Princeton University, US
8. Imperial College London, UK
9. Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, Switzerland
10. University of Chicago, US
11. Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, US
12. Yale University, US
13. University of California, Berkeley, US
14. University College London, UK
15. Columbia University, US
16. University of California, Los Angeles, US
17. University of Pennsylvania, US
18. Cornell University, Ithaca, US
19. University of Toronto, Canada
20. Duke University, Durham, US

The majority of UK universities have moved up this year, some – for example Warwick, St Andrews and Exeter – by a significant margin.

There is good news for Reading, Dundee and Newcastle, re-establishing their places in the top 200 after slipping out last year.

However, four universities – Manchester, York, Sussex and Royal Holloway, London – have slipped to lower positions in the tables, compared with last year when there were only 29 UK institutions in the top 200.

US institutions

While the US remains the world leader when it comes to elite universities, its dominance has been eroded this year.

It has six of the top 10 universities – down from seven last year – and 39 of the top 100 – down from 45 last year.

There is a mixed picture for Asia, with Japan and South Korea falling back this year and China remaining steady.

Europe is catching up on the dominance of the Anglo-American universities, with the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich being the first institution from outside the US and UK to make the world top 10 in a decade.

Germany has 20 universities in the top 200 and the Netherlands has 12 and there are five from France, while Spain and Italy each have three.

student

Phil Baty, editor of the Times Higher Education world university rankings, said: “The UK is a stand-out performer in this year’s rankings, boasting an impressive 78 institutions overall, with 34 of these sitting in the top 200.

“However, despite the UK’s success, its continued cuts in higher education funding – the Higher Education Funding Council for England received a £150 million budget slash this year – and series of immigration measures affecting overseas students, will hinder its performance in the long run.

“Many of the country’s European rivals, such as Germany, Switzerland and the Netherlands, are also performing well, but are less hindered by funding cuts and more welcoming for international students.

“The UK will have to work hard to ensure its higher education spending and immigration policies do not hinder its place in the world university rankings.”

BRITISH INSTITUTIONS IN TOP 200 (LAST YEAR’S RANKING IN BRACKETS)
2 – Oxford (3)
4 – Cambridge (5)
8 – Imperial College London (9)
14 – University College London (22)
23 – London School of Economics and Political Science (34)
24 – Edinburgh (36)
27 – King’s College London (40)
=56 – Manchester (52)
69 – Bristol (74)
70 – Durham (83)
=76 – Glasgow (94)
80 – Warwick (103)
86 – St Andrews (=111)
93 – Exeter (154)
97 – Sheffield (121)
98 – Queen Mary, University of London (107)
=110 – Southampton (132)
119 Birmingham (148)
129 – Royal Holloway, University of London (118)
130 – Lancaster (131)
=131 – York (113)
=133 – Leeds (146)
140 – Sussex (=111)
143 – Nottingham (171)
=149 – East Anglia (198)
157 – Liverpool (157)
=164 Reading (225)
=167 – Leicester (199)
172 – Aberdeen (178)
=182 Cardiff (between 201 and 225)
=185 Dundee (between 201 and 225)
=196 Newcastle (between 201 and 225)
=196 St George’s, London (196)
200 Queen’s, Belfast (between 251 and 275)

Dr Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group of leading UK universities, said “The UK spends much less on higher education and research than our nearest rivals.

“Our competitors in China, Germany and Japan continue to be rewarded with significant investment and are snapping at our heels as a result.”

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said: “If we want to maintain this leading position, we must start matching our competitors’ increased investment in higher education.

“We should also be presenting a welcoming climate for genuine international students and academics and ensuring that visa and immigration rules and procedures are proportionate.”

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: “It is great to see the UK is second only to the US for the number of world-class universities in the top 80.

“These rankings confirm the world-class standing of our higher education sector. Our reforms will ensure our universities continue to compete with the very best internationally and deliver high-quality teaching to students at home.”

Exeter University and Pearson plan online postgraduate degrees

Exeter students in queue

Postgraduates could have the option to study online at a leading UK university from next year.

The University of Exeter has announced an “international partnership” with education giant Pearson to develop online masters’ degrees.

The university says they are “currently researching the potential to deliver online postgraduate degrees in a variety of subjects”.

It adds: “It is intended that courses will start as early as September 2016.”

Pearson, best known in the UK as an educational publisher and owner of the Edexcel exam board, already helps run similar courses in the United States at Arizona State University, which offers more than 70 degrees entirely online at both graduate and undergraduate level.

Flexible study

The announcement says the Exeter degrees will allow students, many of whom will be fitting their studies around full-time jobs, to access course material when and where it suits them.

The university says it will focus initially on taught masters’ degrees which will be “competitively priced with ‘on the ground’ courses”.

Hands on laptop

The new courses will include weekly interactive online teaching sessions delivered from university faculties, it adds, while students who take degrees in this way would have to meet the same entry standards as those who study in person.

Exeter University’s provost, Prof Janice Kay, said the partnership offered exciting possibilities.

“The University is already well-known for its innovative approach and global ambitions and this initiative will help us realise our goals more quickly and effectively,” she explained.

The project would help widen access to higher education for vulnerable and disadvantaged people, Prof Kay added.

‘An opportunity’

Pearson’s UK managing director, Mark Anderson, said the project represented “an opportunity to make the UK’s highest quality courses far more widely available”.

Exeter and Pearson will also collaborate to research issues such as progression to higher education for students with vocational rather than academic qualifications and the development of degree-apprenticeships.

A number of higher education institutions already provide online courses.

The Open University, the UK’s largest academic institution, is a world leader in flexible distance learning. It set up the Futurelearn platform, which carries massive open online courses from universities including Warwick, Kings College London and Sheffield which are taken by more than a million students,

Other online innovations from the OU include Open Science Lab, and the OU Anywhere app.

An Exeter University described the OU as “terrific” but said the new courses would explore “some of the really exciting work and discovery that’s happening at Exeter” as well as taking it “to as many people as possible around the globe”.

The aim would be to explore and test innovative and rigorously academic methods of delivery, said the spokesman.

Student leader rules out link-up with advocacy group Cage

Megan Dunn

The president of the National Union of Students has emphatically ruled out working with the controversial advocacy group, Cage, which has opposed counter-terrorism legislation.

“I will not work with Cage, the NUS will not be working with Cage and there will be no NUS resources used to work with Cage,” said Megan Dunn.

The NUS had been criticised by David Cameron for “allying” with Cage.

Cage has argued counter-terror policy threatens “freedom of expression”.

The NUS president said she wanted to stop a “lack of clarity” over the relationship between the students’ union and the organisation.

Ms Dunn said the NUS was still strongly committed to opposing the government’s approach to tackling extremism on campus – but any campaign would have no connection with Cage.

Cage describes itself as “an independent organisation working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror”.

It has criticised counter-extremism policy as creating “unprecedented levels of censorship and self-censorship of Muslim opinion”.

But Ms Dunn said she believed working with Cage would not be compatible with the NUS’s policies on “anti-racism, anti-fascism and how we define anti-semitism”.

Cage spokesman, Ibrahim Mohamoud, said: “We support the NUS’s opposition to Prevent, but we disagree strongly with Megan Dunn’s assertions about Cage.

“Islamophobia is the new racism and buying into this narrative is simply unacceptable,” said Mr Mohamoud.

Campus extremism

The NUS president was responding to criticism by Prime Minister David Cameron in a speech on tackling extremism.

“I want to say something to the National Union of Students. When you choose to ally yourselves with an organisation like Cage, which called Jihadi John a “beautiful young man” and told people to “support the jihad” in Iraq and Afghanistan, it really does, in my opinion, shame your organisation and your noble history of campaigning for justice,” said Mr Cameron.

Cage has said it “does not support terrorism in any form”.

The prime minister’s comments followed a motion passed by the NUS annual conference in April which had agreed to campaign against the government’s counter-extremism Prevent strategy alongside Cage.

However the NUS president is now making it clear this will not happen.

Ms Dunn accused the prime minister of “grandstanding” and wanting to stop the NUS raising legitimate concerns about the impact of counter-extremism policy in universities.

‘Counter-productive’

This term saw new legal duties put on universities to stop radicalisation on campus.

But student leaders argue that it will be counter-productive and make vulnerable students feel that they cannot talk to staff in confidence.

Ms Dunn says that universities are uncertain on what is meant by extremism and that free speech would be limited on campus.

A postgraduate student in Staffordshire University studying counter-terrorism received an apology from the university after concerns had been raised when he was seen reading a book called Terrorism Studies.

“The NUS is against terrorism, that’s never been in question,” said Ms Dunn.

“But government needs to look at the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act and see that there are consequences to this act that are hugely damaging – and they need to look at it again.

“The NUS and the education sector would be more than willing to engage in a conversation about keeping our campuses safe.”

The government’s Extremism Analysis Unit says that last year there were at least 70 events in universities where “hate speakers” had appeared.

And it says that a number of people who had committed terror-related offences or travelled to fight in Syria had studied at UK universities.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson wrote to the NUS in September, saying: “Universities represent an important arena for challenging extremist views.

“It is important there can be active challenge and debate on issues relating to counter terrorism and provisions for academic freedom are part of the Prevent guidance for universities and colleges.”

Soft skills boost public school dominance, says former head

Girls rowingImage copyrightGDST/Shrewsbury High School
Image captionFee-paying schools are better at giving pupils a grounding in soft skills, Sir Anthony Will argue

It is not good grades but a “grounding in soft skills” that gives people who went to independent schools their edge, a former public school head has argued.

State schools have “much to learn” from the private sector, Dr Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College until this year, told a conference on Friday.

Their “remorseless drive… for exam success is no longer fit for purpose”, he said at Tatler’s Schools Live.

People need the skills to do things that computers cannot, he added.

‘Teamwork’

Dr Seldon, the first speaker at the event, explained why he believes pupils need to learn teamwork, empathy and resilience to be ready for life beyond the classroom.

In his speech at the conference, which is aimed at parents looking for information on independent schools, he said: “Independent schools are taking the lead nationally in preparing students for the jobs required for the 21st Century.”

Dr Seldon, now vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, quoted a recent Harvard University study which found employers need far more than the skills developed in exams.

“They also need what is patronisingly called the ‘soft’ skills, i.e. those that cannot be replicated by computers, which are fast taking over not just manual but professional jobs also.

“These are the skills of creativity, teamwork, empathy, grit, resilience and honesty.”

Anthony Seldon
Image captionSir Anthony Seldon switched from running an independent school to an independent university

Dr Seldon said England’s education secretary, Nicky Morgan, is the first “fully to appreciate” schools can excel both in academic rigour and at teaching character.

“The reason why alumni from independent schools are so dominant across society is not just because of the excellent exam results they receive, but precisely because of the grounding in the soft skills.

“I am expressly not critical of state schools themselves. They are the victim of forces that compel them to focus on a narrow range of exam teaching and subjects at the cost of broader education in the arts, character, sports and the social and work skills that employers increasingly want in the 21st century.

“Some state schools manage to do exams well and offer this breadth of education, but it is much, much harder for them than independent schools,” Dr Seldon concluded.

Children seeking mental health advice on internet

Unhappy girl

Children in England are turning to the internet for advice on mental health instead of talking to their school nurse or GP, it is claimed.

Children’s Commissioner for England Anne Longfield says children do not have the confidence to go to the doctor with mental health issues.

A small survey of youngsters suggests 62% have done a general internet search on issues such as depression.

The government said it was promoting greater use of counsellors in schools.

‘Desperate’

Ms Longfield said: “Every child knows if they are unwell with a stomach ache or hurt their leg, they go to the doctor or school nurse.

“Unfortunately they don’t have that confidence when it comes to mental health. It is a rather desperate state of affairs when they would prefer to roam around the internet or ask a friend the same age for help first.

“GPs really need to think seriously about this and ask if they are doing enough.

“Should they have a GP in every practice who is a specialist in children’s mental health, for example?

“Should they be advertising the fact that they are in a position to help within their surgeries?”

She added that while there were some good websites, it was really a “matter of luck” whether children found them.

‘£1.25bn investment’

Ms Longfield said: “There are growing concerns about increasing rates of anxiety and self-harm and the numbers attending accident and emergency departments with mental health problems have gone up exponentially in recent years.

“Young people say they need information they can trust on the internet and drop-in support which is accessible, non-stigmatised and part of everyday life. Services such as clinics in youth centres and schools and school nurses are ideally placed to help provide this.”

A government spokesman said: “We are supporting better links between mental health services and schools, ensuring children can thrive both inside and outside the classroom.

“Improving children’s mental health is a priority for this government and that’s why we’re investing £1.25bn in young people’s mental health over the next five years.”

More than 50% of teachers in England ‘plan to quit in next two years’

Stressed teacher

More than half of teachers in England (53%) are thinking of quitting in the next two years, a survey has suggested.

The survey, conducted by the National Union of Teachers, found 61% of those wanting to leave blamed workload and 57% desired a better work/life balance.

Two thirds of the 1,020 primary and secondary school teachers questioned felt morale in the profession had declined over the past five years.

Schools minister Nick Gibb pledged to tackle excessive workloads.

The findings of the survey are timely, because last month the five main teaching unions warned of a crisis in recruitment and retention, although the government maintains the vacancy rate has stayed stable at about 1%.

The survey, undertaken with a representative sample of teachers, also suggested many were unhappy with some of the government’s plans.

  • 76% said forcing schools that require improvement to become academies would damage education
  • 62% said the plans for 500 new free schools would also damage education
  • 54% were not confident the new baseline test for four-year-olds would provide valid information about a child’s ability

General secretary of the NUT, Christine Blower, said: “This survey demonstrates the combined, negative impact of the accountability agenda on teacher workload and morale.

“Teachers feel that the Department for Education’s work thus far to tackle workload has been totally inadequate.

“Meanwhile, nearly one million more pupils are coming into the system over the next decade. The government’s solution so far has been to build free schools, often where there are surplus places, and to allow class sizes to grow.

“Add to this a situation where teachers are leaving in droves and teacher recruitment remains low. We now have a perfect storm of crisis upon crisis in the schools system.”

She added that many teachers felt their pay had been eroded over a long period of time, and that many were missing out on the 1% pay rise because of the tightness of school budgets.

Mr Gibb said teaching remained “a hugely popular profession with the highest numbers of people joining since 2008.

“The latest figures show the number of former teachers coming back to the classroom has continued to rise year after year – from 14,720 in 2011 to 17,350 in 2014.

“While the vast majority of teachers stay in their roles for more than five years, we know unnecessary workload can detract from what matters most – teaching.

“That’s why we launched the Workload Challenge and are working with the profession to understand and tackle the top issues that teachers said caused the most bureaucracy, with leading education experts taking action on key areas such as marking and lesson planning.”

‘Perfect storm’ warning over teacher shortages

Teacher with child in lab

Teacher shortages and rising pupil numbers will create “a perfect storm” for schools in England, a head teacher has told the Conservative conference.

The crisis would harm children’s education and impair efforts to raise standards, said Allan Foulds of Cheltenham Bournside School.

The president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said the system was near “breaking point”.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said she recognised the challenge ahead.

Mrs Morgan said the government wanted all schools “to be able to recruit high quality teachers who can deliver our vision of educational excellence everywhere, which is why we are focused on attracting more top graduates into the profession”.

She said teaching remained popular as a career, “with the highest numbers of people joining since 2008 and with 3% more people due to start postgraduate teacher training than this time last year”.

“However, we recognise that there is a challenge ahead as the economy continues to strengthen,” she said.

But Mr Foulds said recruitment levels were too low and a combination of factors could push the system “to breaking point”.

‘Lifeblood’

There are already too few trainee teachers to meet the numbers needed in government projections, according to ASCL.

A fall in the birth rate in the late 1990s will mean a “steady decline” in the population of 21-year-olds until 2022, it adds, meaning the overall pool of graduates is likely to fall, resulting in fewer trainee teachers.

Allan Foulds

The economic upturn will make it harder to attract would-be teachers, while the number of pupils under the age of 16 is set to rise by some 615,000 to 7.85 million by 2020, says ASCL.

Mr Foulds told the meeting: “There is a real danger that a system which is already under severe strain will reach breaking point and that schools will be forced to drop more courses and increase class sizes further.

“This situation puts in jeopardy the huge progress that has been made by schools and undermines the drive to further raise standards.”

He said schools in the most challenging circumstances and the most disadvantaged children would be worst affected.

“That is the last thing we need in terms of closing the attainment gap,” he said.

“Teachers are the lifeblood of the system.”

Mr Foulds said non-specialists were already being asked to teach core subjects such as maths, English and the sciences, putting government reforms at risk.

“Time is running out, and the government must get to grips with this critical issue,” he said.

Labour’s shadow education secretary Lucy Powell blamed the government for a “chronic shortage” of teachers.

“The Tories’ botched handling of recruitment and doing down of the profession has left schools struggling to cope against falling applications and the highest number of teachers quitting in a decade,” said Ms Powell.

Mrs Morgan said the government had announced a new range of generous bursaries and scholarships for next year, worth up to £30,000 tax-free, “in the core academic subjects that help children reach their potential”.

“Through programmes like School Direct and Teach First, we are helping schools recruit candidates they may have previously struggled to bring in, and our Talented Leaders initiative is also placing outstanding head teachers into struggling schools,” she said.

The Department for Education said its teacher recruitment campaign also played an important role in attracting new people to teaching and encouraging more top graduates to consider training to teach priority subjects such as maths and physics.

Equality Commission reports inequality in NI education

The Equality Commission (EC) says inequality in education has become worse in Northern Ireland since 2007.

In a report, they highlight continuing, persistent underachievement by working-class Protestant children, and wider male underachievement in education.

They also say that “prejudice-based bullying is a persistent problem”.

They say the inequalities “have worsened over time” and have called for them to be addressed as a matter of urgency by government.

The commission’s Draft Statement on Key Inequalities in Education is their assessment of inequalities faced by those in education in Northern Ireland.

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Key findings

  • Males have persistently lower levels of attainment than females throughout primary and post-primary education;
  • Protestants have persistently lower levels of attainment than Catholics at GCSE and A-Level, and that gap has widened in recent years;
  • There are fewer male school leavers entering higher education than females and this has an impact on the make-up of the graduate workforce;
  • Minority ethnic school leavers are more than twice as likely to enter unemployment as their white peers;
  • Many schools are not effectively tackling racist bullying.
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The report also points out that while overall levels of educational attainment are increasing, “many inequalities remain persistent and hard to tackle”.

The EC published a statement on inequality in Northern Ireland in 2007, and the current report measures progress, or lack of it, since then in education.

They commissioned independent experts from Queen’s University to carry out the research.

Dr Michael Wardlow, chief commissioner of the Equality Commission, said that many children in Northern Ireland continue to experience persistent inequalities because of barriers linked to disability, gender, religion and their socio-economic background.

“We’ve known for a long time that while the education system in Northern Ireland works well for many of our young people, for too long, significant numbers of pupils have struggled to fulfil their potential as a result of that same system,” he said.

“Identifying and highlighting these inequalities is only the first step. These educational fault-lines must be followed by action.”

The report also claimed some students would not study at certain university and college campuses due to their political beliefs.

Researchers interviewed one unionist and one republican student group.

The republican group claimed they would not consider studying at Stranmillis University College and said they did not think Protestants would study at St Mary’s University College.

However, the report admits there is no data to back up that claim.

Stormont education minister John O’Dowd said: “Over the last 10 years, there have been policies introduced which are beginning to show change, but there’s a long tale of underachievement here for many reasons which we need to tackle.

“We need the community to involve themselves, and we need community activists and politicians to stand up and admit there’s something wrong.”

Education minister says he will make available his marksheets

MUMBAI: Maharashtra school education minister Vinod Tawde said he will make available his Std X and XII mark sheets to all those who are seeking it.

Tawde claims to be a Bachelor of Electronics from the Dnyaneshwar Vidyapeeth, Pune. However, the course is not recognised. He has been accused of falsely claiming to be an engineering graduate in his election affidavit. Tawde has, however, defended his declaration saying he was aware the course was not recognised.

In a press release, Tawde said mark sheets are made available only to the candidate and would not be given even under the Right to Information Act. He, therefore, asked all those seeking his mark sheets to take it directly from him.