A Brit’s view of U.S. college culture

British college students who study abroad in the U.S. should expect a different college culture, writes Sophie Pitman in The Telegraph.

As an undergrad in Britain, Pitman was taught to argue with classmates, she writes.

Regardless of each student’s genuine beliefs, it was seen as beneficial to challenge, question, and refine one another’s interpretations. Discord was expected, and not taken as personal. I started out in America with the same approach, disagreeing with my classmates vocally. I was met with blank stares and scowls, and quickly learnt that discussions here are more cordial and positive.

. . . In America, the customer is always king – even in the classroom. In my humble opinion, American students act as consumers and demand more from their tuition fees than their British counterparts. Expect to be asked by your professors for formal written feedback during or at the end of term, and you might be able to access former students’ evaluations of your prospective tutor when picking classes. I have even witnessed students asking for regrades when they didn’t like their grade – something I was initially shocked by.

She also warns her Brits to expect less alcohol — and no wine parties with the prof — and more carbohydrates.

Britain: More degrees are worth less

College –and debt — for all isn’t just a U.S. thing. Students must be told the whole truth about the value of a college degree, writes Fraser Nelson in Britain’s Telegraph.

To listen to ministers talk about university education, it is as if Britain has entered an academic arms race with the rest of the world. China’s universities, we’re told, are spewing out six million graduates a year: we must compete, or we’re doomed. In the Blair years, a national target was set: half of all young people ought to enter higher education. They’d have to get into debt, but they were reassured it would be a worthwhile investment.

The real picture is more complex, Nelson argues. “In many lines of work, those who did not get the A-levels for university now have a future just as bright (or otherwise) as the graduates.”

Students are told they’ll earn much more with a degree — but a degree in what? Golf Management? Trade  Union Studies? The college premium diminishes for students with less rigorous degrees, especially for men. Humanities graduates also fare poorly, according to a recent government report, Nelson writes.

Those who graduate in the subjects I studied, history and philosophy, can expect to earn a paltry £35 a year more than non-graduates. For graduates in “mass communication” the premium is just £120 a year. But both are better value than a degree in “creative arts”, where graduates can actually expect to earn £15,000 less, over a lifetime, than those who start work aged 18.

Almost a third of recent college graduates are in jobs that don’t require higher education and one in 10 is “on the dole.”

British schools will train new teachers

Frustrated by ineffective teacher training colleges, Britain will let  schools train their own teachers, reports the Daily Mail.

More than half of student teachers will be trained by schools within three years, as under-performing colleges are denied funding and shut down.

Graduates who go directly to the toughest schools will be eligible for tax-free awards of up to £25,000 ($48,847)

. . . The move will sideline training colleges, which have expounded fashionable teaching theories – particularly in reading – instead of giving students a rigorous grounding in classroom practices.

“The idea is a simple one: take the very best schools, and put them in charge of teacher training and professional development for the whole system,” said Education Minister Michael Gove.

Schools will choose the teacher candidates they want to train and retain.

The largest grants will go to teacher candidates with a first-class degree in key subjects who train in schools where more than 25 per cent of pupils are eligible for free school meals. (In the U.S., most schools have more than 25 percent of students eligible for a free lunch.)

Teacher training colleges rated as “needs  improvement” in two consecutive inspections will be shut.

Fooling the inspector

Britain’s school inspectors are easily deceived, writes Theodore Dalrymple  in City Journal, citing the Times Educational Supplement.

. . . once the principals know that an inspection is coming, many employ techniques such as paying disruptive pupils to stay home, sending bad pupils on day trips to amusement parks, pretending to take disciplinary action against bad teachers, drafting well-regarded teachers temporarily from other schools, borrowing displays of student work done in other schools, and so forth.

The inspectorate will begin making unannounced inspections.

Britain’s school inspectorate should be a model for the U.S., argues a recent Education Sector report.

Brits ban calculators in primary school

Britain will ban calculators in elementary school to give children time to learn arithmetic.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said: “Without a solid grounding in arithmetic and early maths in primary school, children go on to struggle with basic maths skills throughout their school careers.”

Nearly half of British adults have the numeracy skills expected of children aged nine to 11, according to a government survey. They have difficult comparing prices and paying bills.

The quiz measures skills expected of the average 11-year-old:

The Government's maths quiz: How does your maths compare with the average 11 year old? average 11 year old?

Pink witches, tan paper

o help preschoolers “unlearn” racism, toy witches should wear pink, while fairies should be clad in darker shades, advise British equality experts. White paper should be replaced with paper that matches darker skin tones, advises consultant Anne O’Connor.

Finally, staff should be prepared to be economical with the truth when asked by pupils what their favourite colour is and, in the interests of good race relations, answer “black” or “brown”.

The measures, outlined in a series of guides in Nursery World magazine, are aimed at avoiding racial bias in toddlers as young as two.

“People might criticise this as political correctness gone mad,” says O’Connor.  “But it is because of political correctness we have moved on enormously.”

Wizard of Oz film still: Dress witches in pink and avoid white paper to prevent racism in nuseries, expert says

Wizard of Oz, 1939 Photo: REX FEATURES

British want kids to read 50 books a year

British students should read 50 books a year, says Education Secretary Michael Gove, after touring a KIPP charter in Harlem with a book-a-week goal.

In talking to students preparing for school exams, “something like 80 or 90 per cent were just reading one or two novels and overwhelmingly it was the case that it included Of Mice and Men.”

“We should be saying that our children should be reading 50 books a year, not just one or two for GCSE.”

I wonder why Of Mice and Men is ubiquitous in Britain. Well, it’s short.

For adults, The Telegraph suggests 50 books you must not read before you die.

In sixth grade, we filled out an index card for every book we read independently.  The minimum was one book a month. I read 183 books during the school year.  The teacher saved my stack of index cards to terrify future students.

British teacher speaks out

A British teacher who criticized “dumbed-down” education standards at a Conservative Party conference is back in school this week. Katharine Birbalsingh, 37, was ordered to stay home on Thursday or Friday. A French teacher for 10 years in London schools, she started this term as deputy head of a South London school rated “inadequate.”

In her speech on Tuesday, Miss Birbalsingh told delegates of a “broken” system which “keeps poor children poor”.

I thought her views sounded familiar. Sure enough, Birbalsingh is Snuffy, who blogged as To Miss with Love. In the blog, she wrote about low expectations, disorder and teachers’ struggle with bureaucracy.

Miss Birbalsingh says she has watched in silent horror, over more than a decade in teaching, as good teachers were ordered to follow bad rules, schools colluded with the folly of inspectors to win coveted ratings and classrooms were allowed to deteriorate into war zones.

. . . “Teachers are too scared to speak out because they think they are going to lose their job. And indeed, I gave a five minute speech and said a few home truths, and that has resulted in me being sent home from work.

Birbalsingh, who is Indian-Guyanese on her father’s side and Jamaican on her mother’s side, charges that discipline is poor because teachers “fear being labelled racist if they attempt to tackle bad behaviour by black pupils.”

* Britain’s state education system is an “international disgrace” which is incapable of reaching the “absurdly low” target of pupils achieving five grade Cs at GCSE.

* Mixed ability teaching, where bright students are taught alongside the less able, is “insane” because it means no pupils can receive the teaching they require.

* Ofsted’s inspection criteria are so skewed and prescriptive, they can lead to great and inspirational teachers being labelled as underperforming.

* The fashion for “group teaching” in some schools prevents teachers setting out classroom desks in traditional rows, forcing them to be arranged in groups so pupils can work in pairs or teams.

Educators make excuses for children from low-income, single-paren or black families, she charges. “This idea that because you are poor you cannot achieve is ridiculous.”

Life’s a carnival

Bellringers is hosting the Education Buzz, which includes her own post on Picture Day, math humor and bad hares.

It’s a Total Eclipse of the SEN (Special Educational Needs) in Britain, writes Old Andrew. Till now, it’s been impossible to criticize the system.

. . .  if you do not support the most expensive, extravagant, inclusive and emotive ideas about SEN then you are clearly some kind of borderline Nazi who would have had Helen Keller strangled at birth. Competitive compassion is the name of the game and anybody who asks questions like “Is that really a disability?” or “Does that actually help anybody?” must be a sociopath who thinks “A Christmas Carol” should have ended with Scrooge going over to Bob Cratchit’s house and giving Tiny Tim a good kicking.

To his amazement, OFSTED, the education inspectorate, has issued a report on SEN’s flaws.

If you asked OFSTED to investigate the cause of the First World War, they’d blame poor teaching and a failure to monitor outcomes. What is a shock is that OFSTED has correctly identified what is wrong with the system.

OFSTED’s investigation found that half of SEN students aren’t disabled; interventions for students with genuine disabilities are often useless. Teachers fill out paperwork to prove services were provided, not whether the services were effective.

Sound familiar?

Submit here by Saturday, Oct. 9 at 5 pm Central to be part of the next carnival in two weeks.

Sprittibee is hosting the Carnival of Homeschooling.

Britain: 1 in 4 lap dancers has a degree

From Merry Old England: One in four lap dancers has a college degree, according to a University of Leeds study. The university graduates, who typically have arts degrees, say they couldn’t find other jobs. And the money’s good.

The preliminary findings of the year-long study, which will include interviews with 300 dancers, reveal that all the women interviewed had finished school and gained some qualifications. Most (87 per cent) had at least completed a further education course, while one in four had undergraduate degrees. Just over one in three dancers were in some form of education, with 13.9 per cent using dancing to help fund an undergraduate degree, 6.3 per cent to help fund a postgraduate degree, and 3.8 per cent using it to fund further education courses.

Via Hit & Run Blog’s Battle of the Sucky School Stats.