IAP NEWS UPDATE July 9th – July 15th 2011 Publication: Education Week Title: OECD: Holding Back, Expelling Students Weakens Ed. Systems Author: Sarah D. Sparks Website: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/insideschool research/2011/07/holding_back_kicking_out_stude.html Surveys: PISA
The full report can be found here: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/35/58/48363440.pdf
Countries in which schools frequently hold back or kick out students with low academic performance tend to have weaker, more expensive, and more socially inequitable education systems overall according to a new analysis by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
In comparing the results of the Program for International Student Assessment in 65 member and partner countries, OECD researchers found that differences among countries' graderetention trends could explain as much as 15 percent of the difference among their average scores on the 2009 PISA.
While fewer than 3 percent of students in 13 countries—including Japan, Norway, and the United Kingdom—reported ever repeating a grade, more than 25 percent of students repeated at least once in France, Spain, Brazil, and a dozen others studied. The United States reported more than one in 10 students repeating a grade, higher than the OECD average, while the topperforming countries, Finland and Korea, do not allow grade retention.
Researchers also found lower PISA scores for countries in which more schools reported they would transfer a student out of the school for low grades, special needs, or behavior problems. Ten of the countries studied reported about two of every five students attended a school "very likely" to transfer
based on academics, while another 10 reported fewer than 3 percent of students attend schools that transfer for those reasons.
The OECD found that both high rates of grade retention and transfer happened in countries in which a child's socioeconomic status was more likely to predict that child's academic performance.
"This suggests that transferring students tends to be associated with socioeconomic segregation in school systems, where students from advantaged backgrounds end up in betterperforming schools while students from disadvantaged backgrounds end up in poorer performing schools," the report noted.
The OECD analysis comes as a number of states are debating whether and when to hold back a student who has not met gradelevel proficiency standards. Chicago and North Carolina recently ended bans on social promotion, while Arizona and Florida have required schools to retain students who cannot meet 3rd grade reading benchmarks.
Retaining students who are falling behind can give them more time to meet standards, but students who are overage for their grade have been shown to be at higher risk of later dropping out of school.
The OECD researchers suggested that while some countries may encourage retaining or transferring students in an attempt to give them more time or different resources, these practices "do not succeed in producing superior results and, in some cases, reinforce socioeconomic inequities" by giving teachers fewer incentives to continue to work with struggling students.
Publication: Europolitics Title: Reading skills need improving, study finds Author: Sophie Petitjean Website: http://www.europolitics.info/social/readingskillsneedimprovingstudyfindsart309653 23.html
The full report can be found here: http://www.europolitics.info/pdf/gratuit_en/297605en.pdf
In spite of the commitments made by member states, the proportion of young people with reading difficulties is not shrinking in Europe. This is the finding of a study, published on 11 July, entitled ‘Teaching reading in Europe: Contexts, policies and practices’. Conducted by the Eurydice network for the European Commission, it shows that one in five teenagers and many adults do not know how to read properly in the EU27, a situation that has evolved little since the start of the 2000s.
In 2009, the member states set the target of bringing down the share of poor readers from 20% to less than 15% by 2020 (1). At present, only Belgium (Flemish community), Denmark, Estonia, Finland and Poland have achieved this target. Bulgaria and Romania are showing very alarming results. The number of 15yearolds with reading difficulties is close to 40%, certainly due to “the phenomenon of migration and the country’s socioeconomic situation,” according to Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou (education, culture, multilingualism and youth).
Lack of Targeted Programs
The study addresses four themes: teaching approaches, tackling reading difficulties, teacher education and the promotion of reading outside school. It concludes that, “whereas most countries have set objectives in relation to reading comprehension, they often lack sufficiently broad strategies in national guidelines, especially in lower secondary education”.
The study identifies a number of shortcomings in terms of promoting reading and providing support for the learning process. It states that the promotion of reading too often addresses general audiences and not necessarily those more likely to experience reading difficulties (such as boys, young people from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds or whose mother tongue is different from the language of instruction). It notes that only eight countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, Norway, the United Kingdom and Sweden) provide reading specialists at schools to support teachers and pupils. The length of procedures for organising additional support can also become a barrier, according to the study.
Relatively Little Change
As evidenced by the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the European average and the proportion of students with reading difficulties have barely evolved since 2000. Only Germany, Lithuania, Portugal and Liechtenstein have registered slight progress over the past decade. Conversely, Ireland and Sweden have seen an increase in the number of pupils with reading difficulties. These two countries are nevertheless still in (or near) the European average of 19.6% for 2009 (ie 4.6 percentage points above the Council’s target). Finland alone has really improved its situation in recent years, achieving the target of 15% in 2009.
“Illiteracy is a very serious problem. That is why I convened a group of highlevel experts last January. This group is exploring ways of supporting literacy at every age and is identifying initiatives and programmes that have proved effective. It will make strategic proposals by mid2012,” announced Vassiliou. The commissioner also welcomed that the draft multiannual financial framework 20142020 provides for a 73% increase in the financial allocation for education (€15.2 billion over seven years for the new programme for education, training and youth).
Bulgaria and Romania are showing very alarming results. The number of 15yearolds with reading difficulties is close to 40%.
(1) Council conclusions of 12 May 2009 on a strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training
Publication: The Boston Globe Title: Vocational education funding in US at risk Author: Motoko Rich Website: http://articles.boston.com/20110710/news/29758784_1_collegedegreeseducation fundingtechnicaleducation
Despite a competitive economy in which success increasingly depends on obtaining a college degree, one in four students in this country does not even finish high school in the usual four years. Matthew Kelly was in danger of becoming one of them. Tests showed he had a high intellect, but Kelly skipped homework and was barely passing some of his classes in his early years of high school. He was living in a motel part of the time and both his parents were out of work. His mother, a former nurse, feared that Matthew had so little interest he would drop out without graduating. Then his guidance counselor suggested he take some courses at a nearby vocational academy for his junior year. For the first time, the teenager excelled, earning A’s and B’s in subjects like auto repair, electronics and metals technology. “When it comes to practicality, I can do stuff really well,’’ said Kelly, now 19. So well, that he has earned a scholarship to attend a community college this fall. He even talks of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in engineering some day, and opening his own business. Now, federal funding to provide such vocational and technical education is at risk. President Obama has instead made it a priority to raise overall academic standards and college graduation rates, and aims to shrink the small amount of federal spending for vocational training in public high schools and community colleges. That aid comes primarily in the form of Perkins grants to states. The administration has proposed a 20percent reduction in its fiscal 2012 budget for career and technical education, to a little more than $1 billion, even as it seeks to increase overall education funding by 11 percent. The only real alternative to public schools for career training is profitmaking colleges and trade schools, many of which have been criticized for sending students deeply into debt without improving their job prospects. A little more than 1 in 10 students in higher education attend a profitmaking institution. Proponents of career education in public high schools and community colleges point to apparent successes like Kelly and other research to demonstrate that their courses serve a group of students at most risk of being left behind. Without high school, much less college, many young people particularly men and members of minority groups end up doing lowskill work, relying on their youth and brawn. Those types of jobs were slashed during the downturn. Recognizing that employment and income have expanded for those with college degrees, the president has said he wants America to produce the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020. Last year, fewer than a third of all 25 to 29yearolds in the United States had earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.
CountrySpecific Education Articles Publication: The Korea Herald Title: Education still main route out of poverty Author: Song Sangho Website: http://www.koreaherald.com/national/Detail.jsp?newsMLId=20110710000205 Survey: PISA
Lim Wontae, a 16yearold student in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, has lived with his grandparents since his parents left about two years ago to stop creditors harassing their family.
After his father’s financial business went bust, Lim began to believe that education was the only sure way to reestablish his family. Even without the private tutoring that most of his peers receive, Lim’s academic performance is among the highest in his class.
“As the financial conditions of my family are bad, I believe I am the only one who can reestablish and bring my family together. One of the other reasons that I study hard is that I can also forget all hardships facing my family while studying,” Lim said.
“My parents always say that they are sorry that they cannot provide me with a good education. I will study hard and succeed so that they don’t feel sorry any more and I can make them happy.”
Like Lim, Kim Youngmin, also 16, performs well despite worsening financial conditions of his family. The aspiring police officer is also convinced that education is an effective channel for upward social mobility.
“Like my peers, I cannot afford to hire a private tutor. But there are many places that offer free education such as those on the Internet and on the staterun Educational Broadcasting System,” Lim said.
“I think it all depends on how much effort you make to become academically successful. I want to enter a toptier university and help ease economic difficulties weighing heavily on my parents’ minds.”
In a report recently released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea ranked first among OECD member states in terms of the percentage of “resilient students” who succeed in overcoming their poor social backgrounds.
This report, titled “Overcoming Social Background,” implies that in South Korea, education is still a viable vehicle for those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds to rise through the social pecking order, analysts say.
The report analyzed results of the Program for International Student Assessment carried out in 2009. PISA is a worldwide evaluation of students’ scholastic performance, conducted by the OECD.
The report defines “resilient students” as those from socioeconomic backgrounds in the bottom quarter of wealth distribution in their country, but scoring in the top quarter among students from all countries with similar socioeconomic backgrounds. The report measures the performance of 15year old students in 65 countries and cities, including 34 OECD member states.
The report shows that 56 percent of all disadvantaged students in Korea can be considered resilient. This is far higher than the OECD average of 31 percent.
Finland ranked second with 46 percent, followed by Japan with 42 percent, Turkey with 42 percent and Canada with 39 percent.
The report draws particular attention for the lower percentages of resilient students in the U.S., U.K. and Germany, which were below the OECD average at 29 percent, 24 percent and 23 percent, respectively.
“Home background influences, educational success and schooling often appears to reinforce its effects,” the report said.
“While most of the students who perform poorly in PISA are from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds, some peers from similar backgrounds excel in PISA, demonstrating that overcoming socioeconomic barriers to achievement is possible.”
Publication: The Chronicle of Higher Education Title: In Brazil, Vocational Education Expands to Meet Demands of a Booming Economy Author: Andrew Downie Website: http://chronicle.com/article/InBrazilVocational/128135
In one corner at this Federal Institute of Education, Science, and Technology, four teenagers are learning how to use lathes. Next door, a group of young adults is crowded around a desk testing electronic circuits.
A decade ago, technical institutes like this one, on the outskirts of São Paulo, were filled with students learning trades such as plumbing, carpentry, and electronics.
But today, their classrooms are as likely to attract students training to be highschool math teachers or studying for a degree in systems analysis.
The number of Brazil's technical institutes has nearly tripled over the last eight years, and the institutes have broadened their scope.
The expansion of this system is considered vital for a nation in desperate need of skilled workers. Brazil's growing oil and gas sector requires a range of skilled professionals, including welders, electricians, builders, and informationtechnology specialists. The country is also urgently trying to build the infrastructure necessary to handle rapidly increasing living standards, and to ensure that roads, airports, stadiums, and accommodations will be ready for the 2016 Olympics and the 2014 World Cup.
'A Radical Change'
While the growth of vocational education promises a bright future for many of Brazil's graduates, it also puts pressure on a highereducation system that is short on money, staff, and equipment.
Today, some 401,000 students are studying at federally financed technical institutes, up from 102,000 just nine years ago. One in four students is pursuing a bachelor's degree or higher.
"There has been a radical change," says Eliezer Pacheco, the assistant secretary for vocational and technological education at Brazil's Education Ministry. "Now these institutes offer everything from basic education to graduate courses and doctorates in professional areas."
"Professional education is now firmly on the national agenda," Mr. Pacheco adds. The annual budget for vocational institutes over the last eight years, he says, has gone from $385 million to $3.8 billion.
The sweeping expansion was started by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil's president from 2003 until the end of last year. Himself a former factory worker and union leader before graduating into politics, Lula, as he is known in Brazil, understood that the country needed more skilled craftspeople and university graduates to compete globally.
Brazil's first technical institute was built in 1909, and when Lula took power, there were 140 of them spread across the nation. Today, the federal government runs 401 institutes, and almost 150 more are slated to open by 2015. (Hundreds of staterun institutes are also being built or modernized.)
The vocational institutes develop their programs around the demands of surrounding industries and local job markets.
In more rural areas, for example, courses relate to agriculture. In industrial regions, disciplines such as mechanics are more common. All institutes offer teacher training. The campus here in Guarulhos, on the northeastern border of São Paulo, strives to meet the needs of a bustling city with an industrial center and pockets of hightech enterprise. Much of the academic program is based around mechanics and electronics.
Highschool students can study subjects like information technology and industrial automation at the institute while pursuing their diplomas. Graduate students can learn systems analysis and development. And highschool graduates can take courses to become math teachers, a particular demand in the region.
"We have people doing doctorates and master's and technical students who work during the day and study at night," says Mônica Bravo, director of the Guarulhos campus. "The overall picture is one in which all these ingredients come together to form rounded working citizens. That is how we see our role."
Some students here began by taking technical courses, then decided to continue on and pursue a degree. They say the institute's familiarity, combined with its location, are important factors in helping them decide to continue their studies.
"Having the chance to take a graduate degree here changed my life," says Caio Silva, who is pursuing a degree in industrial automation. "Everything I have in my professional life is down to this institute."
A System Under Pressure
While many in Brazil's vocationaleducation system like this new, broader mission, it also presents challenges. At the Guarulhos institute, for example, many of the classrooms are empty because Ms. Bravo does not have the budget to hire enough professors or buy necessary equipment. And the poor quality of basic education in Brazil has made it hard to produce enough qualified teachers to lead some of the planned new classes.
"It's not easy," Ms. Bravo admits. "It's a slow process, but we are getting there."
Independent analysts laud the expansion of the system but say it is not enough. Ryon Braga, president of Hoper Educação, a universityconsultancy firm, estimates that Brazil needs three times as many vocational institutes as it has now to meet demand, and more courses in areas such as health and information technology.
More attention must be given to ensuring that firstrate staff and equipment are available to fill these new buildings, adds José Cerchi Fusari, a retired professor at the University of São Paulo who specialized in teacher training. Another problem is the lack of prestige granted to the vocational institutes. In Brazil, unlike most parts of Colombia and Chile, vocational credits do not transfer to fouryear universities, preventing students from continuing their education there.
"If we modified that, then the courses might be more valued," Mr. Braga says. "There is a culture of inferiority. Youngsters that need professional qualifications to get a job when they leave school reject technical education because they think it has no status."
Adds Mr. Fusari: "The initiative is positive, there's no doubt about that." Given the speed of Brazil's economic development, he says, the faster the country can produce welleducated professionals, the better. "But I think it's too early to say if it's a success. This is like having a 6yearold child. I can't say how he'll turn out in the future."