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A study recently conducted throughout England shows that most students across the UK. don’t play sports for competition—of the 1,000-student demographic (all 16 year-olds) interviewed for the report, less than 20% said that winning was important to them. 64% said that they were more focused on having fun than they were concerned with the outcome of the game score-wise.62% said that they could take pride in winning but that they would not obsess over it or make it the main motivation for playing sports.

This report was commissioned and conducted by the MCC together with Chance to Shine, the UK’s main cricketing charity that focuses mainly on sports education and sports scholarships promoted in most state schools throughout England. One of the study’s main findings also includes what students enjoy the most about sports—the top runners mentioned were team work, being with friends and exercise.

The study also showed that a lot of parents are more excited for the competitive aspect of sports than their kids who are playing—97% of parents admitted to attending games because they wanted to know the results and watch someone win.

Likewise, most kids (71%) admitted that they would be relieved if their parents would stop attending games as this put extra pressure on them to succeed. Most of the students also mentioned that their parents usually only attended their games if they were competitive in nature—games held for fun or in friendly competition are usually ignored; 39% of the interviewed students brought this up. Only 22% of the parents interviewed admitted to this behavior. When asked about why they don’t like to see sports in a competitive light, the students said that they were afraid of failing—especially with their parents present.

Wasim Khan, the chief executive of Chance to Shine says that this survey calls for those involved in teaching sports to revamp the way that ground rules and examples for young student athletes are laid down. He says that while he himself is guilty of the general competitiveness or pushiness that the survey showed most parents possess, he also sees the importance of having fun when competing in sports—he says that it is this exact motivation which fuels scholarships and varsity leagues.

Chance to Shine and MCC are now trying to develop new programs that will cater to the need to highlight fun in sports as well as show students that competition can be fun. Mr. Khan goes onto say that there seems to be a misconception that competition equates to the absence of fair play or having a good time. This is something that their new programs want to correct: their new programs aim to promote fair competitiveness which also builds camaraderie between players.

Derek Brewer, the Chief Executive Officer of the MCC also says they are using this new program to promote The Spirit of Cricket in the hopes of reaching a compromise between competitiveness and the fun teamwork that children love—he goes onto say that one shouldn’t mean the absence of the other, especially not when it comes to sports. He also says that losing is just as important as winning because it teaches kids a lot of life lessons—however, learning those lessons hinges on whether or not one cares about winning the game. They want to put the life and swing back into school sports.

 

 


In Dubuque, Iowa one special member of the Kennedy Elementary School Band brings a whole new kind of experience to the band. In this case, this is meant a little more literally than one would initially expect: Tony Boland is a 79-year-old flute player.

A few weeks ago, Mr. Boland asked about joining the fifth graders in the band after spending almost a decade volunteering at the school to help children with their reading. Mr. Boland’s grandchildren have since graduated from the Kennedy Elementary School. Mr. Boland volunteers to help students with reading as he himself had a difficult time reading when he was younger.

Mr. Boland began playing the flute a couple of years ago, when his wife suggested cleaning out their eldest daughter’s closet and tossing out the flute she herself used to play when she was in elementary school. Tony Boland decided that learning how to play the flute would be a fun hobby. However, one of the things which worried him was the rate at which he would be able to learn how to play the flute—Mr. Boland says that he knew he had to practice with people, otherwise his progress would plateau.

He explains that it isn’t as quick when you’re the only one determining your own pace: a band allows you to push through different levels of difficulty and gives you a meter against which you can measure your progress. Mr. Boland says that there are nothing but good things to say about his bandmates: Kennedy’s fifth grade band is quick. He marvels these kids have been playing their instruments for years—he has nothing but praises for all the members and how well they’re able to keep it together both in practice and during performances.

Band president Brian Enabnit says that Mr. Boland is a great addition to the band. He says that Mr. Boland brings a certain energy and zest to the band; he gives them focus because he is both intent on playing and knows how to have fun. He also says that Mr. Boland’s experience and quick-pace when learning new pieces definitely gives them something to measure up to.

Mr. Brian Enabnit isn’t the only one to sing the 79-year-old praises. Mr. Boland’s fellow band member Courtney Less says that she’s really impressed with how well Mr. Boland plays, especially when she found out that he (unlike most of the kids in the band) he started playing later in life. She also says that Mr. Boland is very focused and definitely knows more than them when it comes to practicing and being disciplined. She laughs, claiming that she and her fellow fifth graders mess up all the time—something Mr. Boland never does.

Mr. Boland joins the fifth grade band at the Kennedy Elementary School for practice every Thursday. He also joins the band’s performances, which are quite regular. Mr. Bowland most recently joined them for a performance at the Dubuque Community School District’s Band Festival earlier this month. As to whether he will be joining the sixth grade band next year, neither parties have stated any comments.

 

According to a report by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) on their annual conference which was released a few days ago, most teachers in the UK bring “personal” food to school in the mornings to be able to provide breakfast for students who can’t afford their own food and thus, don’t have the energy to go through the class day.

According to the report, 80% of teachers have taken to caring for their students beyond their roles as educators—more than just providing free breakfasts for their pupils, some teachers have gone so far as having given them firewood for their bedrooms in the winter. This was as a result of extreme lethargy of the pupils due to the inability to sleep given the lack of heat in their homes.

Geoff Branner, the pres

ident of the union and a special education teacher in Oxfordshire says that helping their pupils to the best of their extent is the humane thing to do and he is glad that so many educators throughout the country are willing to go the extra mile to help their students stay in school—although he does express worry at the sustainability of their efforts.

55% of teachers have made payments on behalf of their students who were unable to pay for school fieldtrips because they felt that the students would be missing out on important educational experiences; 27% of teachers in the UK have gone so far as to offer shelter to those who have recently lost their homes.

During the NASUWT annual conference in Birmingham over the Easter weekend, a food and supplies bank was set up to help sustain and cover the costs of these efforts. These provisions were split into four according to the four most impoverished divisions in the West Midlands area.

During the conference, a couple of teachers (who wish to remain unknown) spoke up about their experiences—one shares that she has gone so far as letting a student use her shower; due to the loss of water in the student’s home, the said pupil was suffering from poor personal hygiene and was being bullied for it. Another teacher says that he gave some of his clothes to a pupil who couldn’t afford to buy clothing for the winter—a concern which 82% of the teachers at the conference (and in the report) also shared.

A pressing concern which was also brought up was the effectivity of uniforms—while its main goal is to equalize the playing field with regard to clothing, this premise seems to have become null and void as 58% of pupils can’t afford to buy uniforms. 77% of teachers have shelled out personal funds to help their students buy school uniforms.

Another teacher expresses the importance of teachers taking up these measures to help. She says that it is difficult and that it definitely puts personal strain on their funds but that they can’t rely on the government to do anything—it’s time for teachers to take measures into their own hands. She further states that through these efforts, they are combating the dreadful possibility of developing a labor force of people who are cynical and uneducated. In these harsh times, she says that it is of utmost importance that they are there for their students.

The results of the conference as reflected by the report include a survey taken of the attendees of the NASUWT annual gathering. The most popular choices of solutions for the sustainability of this self-funded kind of aid teachers are giving students are as follows: setting up breakfast clubs in schools (64%), tackling parental employment (61%), requesting for an increase in funding for schools (57%) and creating a parental support services program (55%). Among these measures, NASUWT has decided definitely on the first option, pooling together resources to be able to make these breakfast clubs free.

 

 


This week, Wellcome Trust and the US National Science Foundation (NSF) in collaboration with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) officially launched the Informal Learning Initiative, a 9-million pound project that aims to revolutionize the way that science is taught throughout England.

The program’s main goal is to teach science through out-of-classroom activities—a far cry from England’s current “safety”-regulated science courses. The program aims to encourage young people to get their hands dirty and participate in different scientific experiments outside the classroom. The informal initiative is going to revolve around off-campus trips and field exposure to practical science. Beginning this coming September, most schools in England are going to be implementing the program, both in younger year levels (beginning with receptions) and in post-GSCE levels.

Dennis Schatz, the program director of NSF’s Learning Division says that the project is going to be pooling together the resources of more than a hundred institutions nationwide with the addition of a couple of hook-ups with US-based science institutions. Among these are various science cafes and learning centers that up until recently have been viewed as “alternative learning” stations.

Mr. Schatz says that pulling these resources together is going to help integrate theoretical science and practical science: he says the only way to keep students interested in science is to show them how its done and how it impacts the world around us for the better. While he doesn’t deny the fact that classroom learning is important, he says that most science careers don’t take place within the classroom—instead they take place in an area (whether laboratory or not) where possibilities can be explored.

Adrian Alsop, the Director for Research at the ESRC says that he is backing the program, a hundred percent. Mr. Alsop says that the coming five years are going to be very interesting for young people in England—the new program is going to bring back a certain life to England’s science courses that has recently been lost in the attempt to “sterilize” the sciences. Mr. Alsop says that they’ve designed the informal learning initiative for specific year-levels (e.g. reserving more complex, mind-boggling field trips for the older students and more visceral, “shocking” trips for the younger kids). He also says that they want to reverse the certain “science isn’t for me” notions that a lot of older teenagers might have—he stresses that it’s never too late to start learning about science.

Mr. Schatz says that it’s about time the practical sciences were inculcated into formal education. Both the NSF and the ESRC stress that the time has come for the academe to begin actually teaching its students things that they can use in the future. Both parties have also expressed annoyance at government attempts to “raise the bar” of the sciences simply by adding more tests and giving more exams to “study for”. They say that a good education in the sciences doesn’t come from studying about tests (although they also see its importance)—it comes from interest, motivation and satisfying suppressed innate curiosity.

Also helping with the informal initiative is the learning center Science Learning+, a transformational science institute that focuses on teaching science by demonstration. The program has been booked to run for the next five years, throughout most of England. A similar start-up in the US is also set to begin in 2015; all resources between the two countries will be shared, in the hopes of raising the bar for science education everywhere.

 

 


Nottingham High School, one of the nation’s top schools which has become famous for being able to count along its alumni great names such as D.H. Lawrence (esteemed author of Lady Chatterly’s Lover), Ken Clarke (the former Chancellor) , Ed Balls (the current Labour Shadow Secretary), Ed Davey (the current Lib Dem Energy secretary) and Geof Hoon (the Labour Defence Secretary), has decided to officially open its doors to female students beginning September 2015 in an attempt to further its progress and growth in the 21st century.

The high school, which has been running since 1513, will begin female admissions at reception and in the sixth-form before eventually co-educating all of its year levels.

This move is one that is made in response to the steadily falling demand for gender-exclusive schools which has been trending throughout the past 30 years. The Good Schools Guide reports that boys schools are now going into extinction—and those that remain either have to abolish their gender-exclusive status lest they fail to remain in business.

Kevin Fear, the headmaster of Nottingham High School (formerly Nottingham Boys’ High School) says that the move widens the potential for the school as an educational facility and also as a stepping stone for talented individuals to pursue higher education. He also says that he doesn’t deny the fact that opening the school up to more students will also help secure its financial future—although by no means is the move one which was made out of a need for extra funding.

Furthermore, Mr. Fear states that teaching boys and girls separately simply no longer helps them prepare for their future careers—in fact, he says that it could be detrimental to their future professional success as it may keep them from learning important social knowhow about how to co-work with members of the opposite sex. He says that men and women need to work side-by-side in the workplace and training them to do otherwise is a useless endeavor. In a more short-term sense, the headmaster adds that all universities are co-educational, anyway—he goes on to explain that the heads of the elite High School had simply come to the conclusion that the system of gender-exclusive education has become defunct and archaic.

One of the biggest challenges that the school faces is the existence of the Nottingham Girls’ High School which is a completely separate institution founded by the Girls’ Day School Trust. Prior to this change, the girls’ high school has been one of the top choices is Nottinghamshire. They will be competing with the girls’ school for the exact same demographic of students—young women living in the Nottingham area. However, Headmaster Fear says that the school is confident that it will be the top choice for female students come 2015 because of its progressive curriculum, notable alumni and security with regard to educational quality. He further says that this move is one that is sure to benefit both Nottingham High and their pupils. He further stresses that these are exciting times for their school and that in an institution that is 500 years old, a change such as this is a welcome breath of fresh air. Mr. Fear does not deny that there may be more changes to come—Nottingham High prioritizes progressiveness of its systems, education and curriculum without compromising its core values, vision and mission. Constant change is the one way in which the school has been able to remain consistently at the top of the education charts throughout the centuries.

 

 

 


Jeff Conquest, the headteacher of the Woodland Middleschool in Flitwick, Bedfordshire recently implemented a new rule which aimed to reward students who met the accelerated reading target. The said rule allowed high-achieving students to come to school in casual clothes—those who didn’t meet their academic targets were made to wear their uniforms; Mr. Conquest informed teachers and parents of this rule via text message a few days before the rule was put into effect, asking them to prepare accordingly.

The policy has been met with many different reactions from parents, teachers and education officials alike. Some parents of the students with high scores were very proud of their children and say that they agree with Mr. Conquest’s line of thinking: they say that the casual Friday approach is something which children enjoy and which they feel is an appropriate reward.

However, certain parents feel otherwise—a parent who wishes to remain unnamed stated that the whole thing felt like it was implemented not to reward the achievers but to shame those who underperformed. The said parent says that the whole thing reeks of humiliation: she mentions The Scarlett Letter and references the Victorian Dunce Hat—later, she says that she did not feel at all disappointed with her son who didn’t make the target because he was good at other things.

Mr. Chris McGovern, the former head teacher and foreman for the Campaign for Real Education states that he thinks the entire strategy is very discriminatory. He says that it is one thing to reward students and quite another to isolate underachievers. He says that one of his biggest fears is that the policy sparks fighting within the campus—not just for those who didn’t meet the targets but also for those who did.

He said that a review of the Woodland Middleschool’s results shows that only the top 5-10% of students made their targets, significantly less than the rest of the people who came to class in their uniforms. He says that this could result in the “rewarded” kids being bullied: he goes on to say that Mr. Conquest may have forgotten how children in Middle School tend to behave.

The school’s deputy head, Ms. Sharon Hardachre was quick to defend Mr. Conquest saying that it is exactly because they know their children so well that the policy was implemented. She goes on to say that perhaps in a different place or context, Mr. McGovern and some of the very skeptical parents might be right: however, Woodland Middleschool is a relatively safe environment and there aren’t a lot of bullying cases which occur.

Furthermore, Ms. Hardachre says that they make sure to set very reasonable goals when it comes to their subjects: again, she calls for the critics to look at context. One of the main things they took into consideration when they were thinking up a reward to give the kids was that the reward should be something fun but shouldn’t cost a lot of money. They also said that the reward was primarily given because the target was not easy to achieve but so few of the students were able to attain it. She further says that Mr. Conquest had hoped that seeing their classmates in casual attire would inspire other kids to do better during the coming term.

So far, no parents or other teachers have pressed charges. Students who were asked about the casual dress reward also say that they didn’t mind it very much. Woodland Middleschool has not issued any further comments, alterations or clarifications about the policy.

 

 


This year, as online classes grow more and more popular, numerous colleges and universities all over the world have decided to open up their own online classes for summer 2014. From France to Indonesia, these classes have become increasingly popular because of their low-cost (no need for transportation or for food) and relatively flexible scheduling. An emergence of diversity in these classes which were originally seen as “vocational” or which were used primarily to self-study or learn soft skills have now progressed into being full-blown classes with curriculum, quizzes and visual aids. They’ve also gone on to become credible educational avenues through which one can earn certification. More than the geographical diversity of these different schools, the interesting thing about the emergence of these online classes is the diversity of the audiences of the classes as well as the variation in different courses and tracks which they offer.

In the United States, 11 of the top universities have teamed up with 2U, an online education provider that will help them offer summer classes for undergraduate students. A couple of universities in Europe, including Trinity College, Dublin in Ireland and the University of Notre Dame in France have also signed on for this program. The program begins June 9th and ends on August 8th. Most of the classes will be online but there will be one meet-up class which will happen once every two weeks. These classes will have a limit of 20 students per online classroom—the choices for courses ranging from forensics at Boston College to history at Trinity to advanced calculus at the University of Notre Dame. These classes will cost $2,250 per course.

A similar change is occurring in the east—last week, Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudyohono launched a scholarship program which aims to send Indonesian undergraduates to pursue their graduate studies abroad. The acceptance into the scholarship will be determined by two things: the first is the acceptance to one of Indonesia’s top universities and the second is an online course that is going to run for the better part of two months and is going to both test and prepare students’ aptitudes for studying abroad. The applications for this scholarship (fittingly entitled The President’s Scholarship) are currently ongoing and will be close on April 20th. Mr. Yudyohono says that they aim to send at least 100 Indonesian students abroad. He also adds that this mesh of online and traditional education is going to be (if he can help it) a trend for Indonesia in the coming 10-20 years.

Great Britain has done something similar but for a different market of students—a study issued by Lantra, a skills development and testing body, showed that the UK has an enormous shortage in one of (if not the )most important sectors, ever: agriculture and environmental science. The study showed that the UK would need to educate, train and employ 595,000 new people by the year 2020 to be able to address the shortage in a lot of key areas of these industries. The Lantra publication also mentioned that the problem owes greatly to the retirement of the leaders in these sectors and the lack of any viable successors. This largely owes to the fact that not a lot of students from the more developed, urban areas who have access to a college or university education are very interested in agriculture or more rural industries.

In response to this, colleges and universities throughout the UK have decided to make their environmental science and agricultural courses available to more people, possibly by employing an online course kind of scheme for certification which will require planned field trips at regular but large intervals. The courses are going to be designed to be low-cost and accessible. The curriculums of these classes are still in the planning stages.

 


A few months ago, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo proposed that college courses for inmates be provided by the government. He went on to say that this move would offer inmates a chance at restoration and rehabilitation, as opposed to decay and stagnation. He said that this would be a new step forward for America—currently the nation with the highest rate of incarceration per year. He also said that one of the biggest issues last year was that a lot of inmates are intelligent people who’d gone astray due to their environments: people who arguably deserve the kind of education that will develop their talents. The same goes, he says, for those whose crimes have landed them in prison for life: Cuomo said that the humane thing to do would be to ensure, at least, that should they desire it, they could do something productive while in prison. At the time, it seemed that a lot of people empathized with the governor’s cause.

Six weeks later, however, when the state budget was being approved, the proposed bill was met with a lot of questions and oppositions. These came particularly from the Senate—senators argued that it didn’t seem right to make law-abiding citizens pay for the education of inmates when they were struggling to pay for their own children’s educations.

Mr. Cuomo said that he understood this sentiment—and especially how it would look to the public or to people who hadn’t reviewed his full proposal—but that he didn’t agree with it; the potential to do wrong lies in every person but the power to correct that wrong and replace it with something for the better (as opposed to simply quarantining it) should like with a governing body.

The College Courses for Inmates proposal would cost $1 million in its first year and less afterwards—miniscule when the state’s budget per prison is around $2.8 million a year. Mr. Cuomo goes on to say that implementing his plan would be bettering the lives of everyone without necessarily costing extra for anyone: he proposed 10 majors which the inmates could choose from, there being classes a couple of times a week as incorporated into the inmates’ usual routine within the prison. Mr. Cuomo is a democrat and so it is hardly any surprise that the Republican members of the government have stood against him on this. The previous provision for publicly funded college courses given to inmates was revoked two decades ago by Governor George E. Pataki, who made prisoners ineligible for state funding. Former President Bill Clinton also signed a bill which made inmates ineligible for the Pell grant.

This bill has had some extraordinary backlash over the past few months: Governor Cuomo has been met with rallies and campaigns like Kids Before Cons and Hell No to Attica University. In the past few months, the governor has received threats of impeachment from a couple of English teachers and a reporter recently asked him for a message to Yoko Ono should Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon (who is imprisoned in Western New York) suddenly want a college degree. The governor did not respond to any of these comments except to say that he has decided it would be best if this course were privately funded by individuals whose thoughts and concerns were much more progressive than most politicians’.

Robert Gangi, former executive of the Correctional Association of New York, says that the public’s obsession with “vengeance” and “severe punishment” is primitive—along with claims that correctional facilities are soft on the criminals. Mr. Gangi says that prison is no joke and providing an education for these people would definitely make the world a better place; the absence of education in prisons isn’t helping anyone.

Oddly enough, in a survey taken last month by the Siena College found that most students (53%) were for the governor’s proposed bill. The problem seems to be that the other 47% are simply more outspoken. Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell says that Governor Cuomo’s proposition is fail-safe: it makes prisons, streets and ultimately, the nation a safer place. A lot of educators and Universities (whose names must be omitted here for the sake of discretion) have also gotten on board to help teach these classes and formulate curriculum that would best suit the inmates and the degrees they want to pursue.

Why, he asks, are the majority of America so opposed to progress? Mr. O’Donnell emphasizes that “correctional facilities” aren’t called correctional for nothing.

Earlier this week, Governor Cuomo decided to pull the bill out of the running, saying that there are other more effective ways to go about this—a way that is less messy and that involves people with valid opinions really making the effort to help out. A study by RAND (the leading body on correctional facilities in the United States) showed that a significant amount of inmates educated within the prison (pre-Clinton) made it back into society and now live crime-free, productive lives. It also showed that suicides were highest in prisons that didn’t offer any classes or means of education whatsoever for their inmates. New York currently has the most number of correctional facilities which are privately funded and which provide classes to their inmates on a regular basis. They also have the highest rate of rehabilitation. The governor and those who are in support of this program are enthusiastic that the public campaign will do very well.

 

 

 


A new class at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon has revolutionized the way that climate change is being taught and prepared for. Instead of the scientific, documentary type of take on the issue which was popularized by Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth, this class pioneered by Professor Stephanie LeMenager takes a more artistic, humane approach—the class discusses climate change and global warming (rising oceans, displaced populations, political conflict) through the eye of speculative fiction, photography, essays, films, poetry and art. More than focusing on what caused the problem or how it affects statistical data, the class aims to engage students by emphasizing its effects on their individual lives, something that is definitely more relatable than population figures. It also allows a complete imagining of the dangers that climate change (which is, ultimately, upon us) may bring and how to prepare for them. Professor LeMenager says that looking at spec-fic (or as people are now calling it, cli-fi or climate-fiction) allows a fuller imagining of what might happen than just the scientific facts—she says that this isn’t the time to contemplate the possible end of the world as we know it but the time to think about how to meet it.

The University of Oregon has taken it upon itself to be one of the first universities to meld together seemingly separate disciplines. Professor LeMenager joined the University’s faculty both under the Humanities and the (Environmental) Sciences. She says that she is glad that she can do something like this for a living—although, she admits that this is relatively easier to do in Eugene than in other cities: Eugene is a place perhaps most well-known for its acceptance of climate change as inevitable. It’s one of the most environment-friendly cities in all of the United States—there are city laws to enforce the protection of environmental resources such as the forests and most motorists use their bicycles instead of cars. Using re-usable containers is also a must in Eugene: most coffee shops charge extra for disposable paper cups and even then, customers are highly discouraged from using those cups by most of the coffee shop populace (either by being told so or by being given reproachful looks). Professor LeMenager says that it might be extreme but that it’s these small things that will save us a world of hell in the coming years.

Furthermore, she says that merging information given to us by science and the possible scenarios provided by fiction was no doubt, the most logical way to meet the issue of global warming. She says that she’s lucky because the boom of cli-fi in the past few years with books like The Wind Up Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi, The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd, Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich and Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. Professor LeMenager says that the extremely astounding thing is that despite their recent publication dates, these books have been allowed onto the to-read lists of Universities—something which she was worried would not be approved when beginning her planning for the course. She also adds that she isn’t the only one who is making an effort to educate people about the state of the environment differently than it has been done before.

The University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee also recently began a similar but broader course called The Political Ecology of Imagination. This class uses novels like Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood and Oryx & Crake as well as numerous essays by Susan Sontag to enrich the students’ understanding of the importance of taking care of the environment. Nathaniel Rich and Ian McEwan are both supporters of the said course. Mr. Rich says that he’s glad something like this is getting traction although he is rather surprised that it’s all happening this late—these developments make him both happy and anxious about how seriously global warming is being taken.

The plan for now is to begin expansion of these courses—Professor LeMenager encourages all Colleges and Universities to come up with similar courses: of course, she says, each course must adapt to its student population and location. However, she stresses that these classes are best taught intimately, with a few students per class rather than in a symposium set up where the students are simply given handouts or fliers. The key to environmental education—or any kind of education for that matter—is making it deeply personal.

 


Recent tests have shown that British teenagers (ages 15-17) have superior creative problem-solving skills as compared to their other European peers. However, they are still lagging behind their Asian counterparts. The results of this test were backed up by a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The pupils who took the international exams scored better on problem-solving problems that had practical applications like complex math involving prices, taxes and depreciation/appreciation of assets. This is compared to the other parts of the exams such as reading/comprehension and algebraic computation which were administered in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) earlier this year.

The results of these tests are paving the way for change in the British school curriculum. It suggests that young people throughout England are better at solving tricky equations which are related to practical situations and which are phrased in a manner that is different and more complex rather than simpler but more contextually abstract traditional math problems which test retained knowledge as opposed to skill sets.

The OECD’s head of early childhood education and school divisions, Mr. Michael Davidson says that this was definitely good news because it shows that British youth have a good shot at getting good employed. He says that in general, employers value skills which have practical applications such as being able to compute for financial assets or liabilities much more than being able to figure out a quadratic equation.

The results of the study place English in 11th place, out of all the 28 countries which were reviewed. Finland was the only other European country which scored above Britain—the United States came in at 18th place. All of the study’s top countries were from Asia—these being Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Canada was 9th place, a place below Australia. Germany, the closest European country on the ranks, garnered 17th place. China, which was in a top spot in the 2012 first run of the study, ranked surprisingly low in this round, falling from first to 20th.

The Director for the Centre of Education and Employment Research at the University of Buckingham, Mr. Alan Smithers says that while the impressive performance of Britain in the 2014 study is definitely commendable, it should be taken into account that the study is very specific: they’re tackling practical math. He says that it makes sense that China didn’t do very well in this aspect because they topped the portion of the tests for traditional math.

The spokesperson for the Department of Education also spoke out, congratulating the British kids who took the test. However, he says that he doesn’t quite agree that traditional math and practical math need to be contra-indicatory: he points to Japan, South Korea and Singapore which topped on both of these counts.

Some criticism for the study and the OECD tests is that a lot of the practical tests were built around fairly western concepts—one of the tests for instance, had the students purchase a train ticket; the amount on the ticket was deficient. They were then made to calculate and pay for the difference in a short amount of time. The OECD said that while this might be true, they are sure that there are trains everywhere: they also point out that the countries which topped the exams weren’t, in fact, western nations.

Mr. Brian Lightman, the General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says that it’s great that OECD is able to make unpredictable, real-life reminiscent problems. He says that this is definitely a step forward for education in the world—both inside and outside of England.