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IN THE SPOTLIGHT
In The News
In Indonesia, quality to drop along with “International” A new and far-reaching regulation imposed by the Education Ministry went into effect in December, forcing international schools to comply with sweeping changes in how they can operate, which the ministry contends is aimed at weeding out low-quality schools that charge a premium by adding “international” to their name. The regulation, conceived at least two years ago, was part of a wider push by the Education Ministry to make the national education system reflect “Indonesian values,” including by putting more emphasis on civics, morality, and Islamic education. Critics insist these changes will essentially dumb down the system, threatening to undermine the competitiveness of Indonesian graduates in an increasingly globalized world (Jakarta Globe, 12/1/14). Liberia to reopen schools as Ebola spread slows As the number of new Ebola cases in Liberia slows, government officials have announced plans to reopen schools in February after shuttering them six months ago to prevent the spread of the virus. George Wuo, a director at the Education Ministry, said authorities were assessing around 500 schools across the country for reopening (Reuters, 1/6/15). Data show U.S. schools retain fewer students Grade-retention rates have declined, dropping from about 3% to 1.5% between 2005 and 2010, according to a recent study. Education researchers and others say the reasons for the decline are unclear, but some suggest the rise of intervention programs and federal education initiatives may have played a part in the trend (National Public Radio, 12/12/14). 3D printing helps provide lessons in math Some students at an elementary school in Washington state recently used 3D-printed catapults to learn math concepts. Shaun Cornwall, a SciTech teacher of 4th- and 5th-grade students, printed 50 mini catapults as holiday gifts his students. The design, which was created by Microsoft and made available for free on Thingiverse, was quite the hit. After playing with the toys, students fired five shots and recorded the distance of each, making a chart and collecting data to calculate the mean, median, mode, and range (3DPrint.com, 12/30/2014). Finland to phase out handwriting instruction Finland has announced plans to phase out handwriting lessons by 2016 and instead teach typing skills. The shift is part of a broader movement away from longhand and toward digital communications (Helsingin Sanomat, 11/20/14). Musical training may bolster mental function in children Learning to play a musical instrument may help relieve anxiety and bolster emotional control and attention among children, according to a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. Researchers said musical training was also tied to changes in brain areas associated with executive functioning, working memory, and organization (Medical News Today, 12/29/14). New Zealand researchers study effects of iPad on thinking, learning A New Zealand university has received additional funding for its research into how iPads affect learning for students. Dr. Garry Falloon, of University of Waikato, has a special interest in eLearning and has been working with iPads and Leamington Primary School for about three years. “This is the way of the future. There’s no doubt about it. It’s just finding the way to use it.” Dr. Falloon has been looking at the kinds of conversation and thinking that happen when students have a specially-designed task to complete using iPads, and he can analyze their interactions with a specially-made app embedded in the machine that records their voices and where their fingers are on the screen (Waikato Times, 12/20/14).? Book claims public schools outperform private schools The recent publication of a scholarly book has reopened the debate surrounding the academic achievement of public vs. private schools. Public schools achieve the same or better mathematics results as private schools with demographically similar students, concludes The Public School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools, published in November by the University of Chicago Press. Authors Christopher and Sarah Lubienski, a husband-and-wife team of education professors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, suggest that vouchers, which provide public funding for private school tuition, are based on the premise that private schools do better—an assumption that is undercut by the book’s overall findings (Education Week, 5/14/14). Ontario weaves financial literacy into curriculum Officials in Ontario, Canada, are proposing integration of financial literacy across the curriculum, beginning in Year 4. Some, however, are concerned that the plan may be too ambitious, noting that many teachers will need additional tools and resources to teach financial literacy (The Toronto Star, 12/16/14). Analysis considers effects of class size in Florida Florida lawmakers decided several years ago to repeal a school-size law and focus instead on class-size limits, according to this article. Now, a government watch group is reporting that smaller schools—not necessarily smaller class sizes—can have a bigger effect on improving student achievement (State Impact, 1/5/15).
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