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Latest education news, comment and analysis on schools, colleges, universities, further and higher education and teaching from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice
Updated: 18 min 42 sec ago

Children's authors welcome Ofsted's move to lighten stress on testing

4 hours 24 min ago

Writers including Frank Cottrell Boyce and Piers Torday cheer announcement that the schools inspectorate will now reward a broader style of education

Children’s writers including Frank Cottrell Boyce and Piers Torday have hailed Ofsted’s plans to judge schools on the broad range of their education as “great news”.

“Anything that moves away from making humans fit the demands of algorithms instead of the other way round is great news,” said the Carnegie medal-winning Cottrell Boyce, one of a chorus of authors to welcome the proposed changes.

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The School in the Cloud review – how a computer for slum kids inspired a learning debate

7 hours 2 min ago

This stimulating documentary looks at physicist and TED-talk guru Sugata Mitra’s ideas about using technology to help children learn for themselves

Half term usually brings forth a minor deluge of U-rated animated features, laid out like cinematic kitchen roll to absorb the attention of restless children. This documentary offers, instead, debate-stimulating viewing for all educators enjoying time off, too.

Director Jerry Rothwell has tracked projects set up by Sugata Mitra, a physicist turned TED-talk guru over several years. In the late 90s, Mitra set up an experiment. He made a hole in the wall of his office building in New Delhi, in which he installed a computer screen and mousepad for use by local slum kids. The way he tells the story, after a few months they wanted more expensive graphics cards and a better mouse, and displayed a thirst for knowledge that got Mitra thinking about how our Victorian-designed, factory-style education systems might be improved with modern technology.

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Who are the new PhD loans really for?

7 hours 53 min ago

The government’s new loans can’t plug gaps in research funding, nor do they cover the cost of self-funding

Whether a university education represents value for money has been called into question in recent years, as students have seen their financial support chipped away thanks to the tripling of tuition fees, and scrapping of maintenance grants and healthcare bursaries. Doctoral education, however, has so far mostly been left untouched – or at least, it had been until the recent launch of doctoral student loans.

Related: I've just finished my PhD, and now I feel lost without academia | Anonymous academic

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The myth of meritocracy: who really gets what they deserve?

13 hours 2 min ago

Sorting people by ‘merit’ will do nothing to fix inequality. By Kwame Anthony Appiah

Michael Young was an inconvenient child. His father, an Australian, was a musician and music critic, and his mother, who grew up in Ireland, was a painter of a bohemian bent. They were hard-up, distractible and frequently on the outs with each other. Michael, born in 1915 in Manchester, soon found that neither had much time for him. Once when his parents had seemingly forgotten his birthday, he imagined that he was in for a big end-of-day surprise. But no, they really had forgotten his birthday, which was no surprise at all. He overheard his parents talk about putting him up for adoption and, by his own account, never fully shed his fear of abandonment.

Everything changed for him when, at the age of 14, he was sent to an experimental boarding school at Dartington Hall in Devon. It was the creation of the great progressive philanthropists Leonard and Dorothy Elmhirst, and it sought to change society by changing souls. There it was as if he had been put up for adoption, because the Elmhirsts treated him as a son, encouraging and supporting him for the rest of their lives. Suddenly he was a member of the transnational elite: dining with President Roosevelt, listening in on a conversation between Leonard and Henry Ford.

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Homework for three-year-olds? They’re too young to enter the rat race | Emma Brockes

13 hours 3 min ago

I was an obedient child, and think kids should be stretched. But the amount of schoolwork my children get is unacceptable

Between the hours of 6.30 and 7.15pm nightly, we sit down in my house to do homework. This has been a surprising addition to the schedule, given that my children aren’t yet four years old. More surprising has been my enormous hostility towards it; while my daughters happily apply themselves to reading and writing practice, I pace in the background, indignant that the tiny amount of time we have in the evening has been annexed by the New York City Department of Education.

What’s particularly weird about this is that I never had any objection to doing homework myself. I’m a fairly obedient person. If as a child I’d gone to a progressive school, I doubt I would have liked it, and I sometimes thank God no one thought of forest schools in the late 1970s. As an adult, I belong to a personality type that has never grown out of needing sharp deadlines to function, and I believe, somewhere in my core, that missing one means I will actually die.

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Brexit, cutting ourselves off from our past, and from science funding | Letters

Thu, 18/10/2018 - 20:30
Letters from Prehistoric Society president Clive Gamble, British Academy Europe liaison chair Helen Wallace, Steve Peers and Louise Rowntree and Kelvin Appleton

How hard can it be for the government to stop its Brexit dithering for a moment and remove the planning blight surrounding EU research funding (‘We haven’t got a plan B’: Academics race to safeguard research amid Brexit fears, 16 October)? Archaeology may deal in timescales of many thousands of years but the crisis looming in two years’ time threatens to sweep away our status as a world leader in deep history.

The value of our EU funding is not just monetary. In its explicit support for blue-skies research, it is a rare funding resource. It encourages archaeologists to explore the potential of cutting-edge technologies applied to new evidence from the field and museum archives, and all driven by original questions about who we are and where we came from.

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‘The wolf of racial bias’: the admissions lawsuit rocking Harvard

Thu, 18/10/2018 - 18:17

As a trial on alleged Asian American discrimination that may decide the fate of affirmative action plays out in Boston, both sides charge the other with racism

A trial that could eventually decide the fate of affirmative action programs in the United States is playing out in Boston as a lawsuit that alleges Harvard has intentionally and systematically discriminated against Asian Americans brings the Ivy League school to court.

Supporters of the lawsuit say Harvard illegally discriminates against Asian Americans, putting a cap on the number of Asians admitted to the university and making it harder for Asian applicants to get in.

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Graduate blues: how to handle the move back home

Thu, 18/10/2018 - 18:06

The post-university slump is real, but there are ways you can pick yourself up when you’re missing your old life

Three years of study, plus a year as a sabbatical officer on the students’ union, and here I am. A part of me never considered that this moment would actually come: after four long years at university, I’m living back at home. Returning after such a long period of freedom can be daunting, so here’s how to ease the transition.

Set boundaries with your family. Coming back home, one thing I’ve been more than a little concerned about is the question of everyone’s expectations. The last time I lived in my house I was a teenager, getting told off for not making my bed and still texting my mum every hour to let her know where I was on nights out. Surely the goalposts have shifted? Consider having a sit-down chat with your family to work out what you should expect from each other – for example, how you’ll contribute financially, or what you’ll do to help around the house.

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What does a rock look like? Oxford reveals sample interview questions

Thu, 18/10/2018 - 16:10

Annual release of interview questions comes with suggested ways of answering them

How you listen to music, what a rock looks like, and what historians cannot know about the past are among this year’s list of sample interview questions published by Oxford University.

The annual release of interview questions and suggested ways of answering them are designed to prepare aspiring students for the ordeal of trying to get into one of the world’s most elite institutions.

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Let’s abolish school holidays. It’ll save you feeding the children

Thu, 18/10/2018 - 14:00

What is the least you can get away with giving your kids for lunch at half-term before it starts looking like neglect?

Before we get going let’s accept that we all love our kids and wish only the best for the little darlings. Agreed? Good. With that established, let’s move on. Isn’t having to find something, dammit, anything to feed them across school holidays of the sort that are just beginning a total and utter pain in the arse?

People who usually leave the house for work suddenly find themselves marooned at home, without adult company, standing in front of a fridge, the contents of which simply aren’t engineered for an extra daily meal. Those of us who always work from home have different issues. We usually pass lunch standing in front of the fridge, prodding leftovers to see whether they’ve developed a furry crust, eating salami straight from the packet and eyeing cautiously a half-eaten packet of cheese strings. As a result, we are justifiably baffled by how demanding our own children are. I give you breakfast. I sort dinner. And now you want more? Can’t you go out and get a job or chase a fox or something? So what if you’re only seven.

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We need to reach children before they decide university isn't for them | Christopher Birchall

Thu, 18/10/2018 - 09:30

To boost social mobility, universities need to start speaking to children from disadvantaged backgrounds at a younger age

Traditionally, universities looking to widen access have focused on secondary aged children preparing to take their next step in education. This is certainly an important moment in a young person’s life, but in many cases it may be too late to shape their decision-making. Universities are looking to solve problems which can become entrenched far earlier in a child’s education.

In 2016, a Ucas survey pointed out that children who know they want to enter higher education by age 10 or earlier are 2.6 times more likely to end up at a more competitive university than someone who decided in their late teens. This is why universities need to do more work in primary schools.

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Can the language of the Vikings fight off the invasion of English?

Wed, 17/10/2018 - 17:00

Icelandic has retained its literary vigour since the Sagas, but TV and tourism are a growing threat

“Coffee and kleina,” reads a large sign at a roadside coffee shop by one of the main roads in Reykjavik. Not so many years ago, such a billboard would simply have read: “Kaffi og kleina” – in the language of the Vikings, the official language of Iceland.

It is a privilege of the few to be able to read and write Icelandic, a language understood by only around 400,000 people worldwide. Icelandic, in which the historic Sagas were written in the 13th and 14th centuries, has changed so little since then on our small and isolated island, that we can still more or less read them as they were first written.

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Science Fair review – riveting lessons from the smartest kids in school

Wed, 17/10/2018 - 16:00

This sharp, refreshing documentary charts the fortunes of high-school students in the unashamed pursuit of excellence

This National Geographic documentary is a really watchable, enjoyable account of America’s annual International Science and Engineering Fair, a gigantic competition open to high-school science students from all over the globe. At the annual final in Los Angeles, 1,700 young people must present their projects in trade-fair-type booths and be prepared to answer questions from judges who tour around, taking notes. Translators are provided.

This film follows a handful of these competitors: outspoken, smart, idealistic, unburdened by false modesty, and with a sublime kind of innocence. It is refreshing to watch something unashamedly concerned with excellence and objectivity, a contest that cannot be won by the person who shouts loudest about it being rigged or culturally biased, and it is also refreshing to see that scientists are not being belittled as “nerds”, or encouraged to humblebrag themselves by using this term.

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Archeological find changes date of Pompeii's destruction

Τρίτη, 16/10/2018 - 21:36

Inscription suggests Mount Vesuvius erupted weeks later than previously thought

A newly-discovered inscription at Pompeii proves the city was destroyed by Mount Vesuvius after 17 October AD79 and not on 24 August as previously thought.

Archeologists recently discovered that a worker had inscribed the date of “the 16th day before the calends of November”, meaning 17 October, on a house at Pompeii, the head of archeology at the site, Massimo Osanna, told Italian media.

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Academics are being harassed over their research into transgender issues | Letter

Τρίτη, 16/10/2018 - 19:38
It is not transphobic to investigate this area from a range of critical perspectives, say 54 academics who are also concerned about proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act

We represent a newly formed network of over 100 academics, most of whom are currently employed in UK universities. We are concerned, from a range of academic perspectives, about proposed governmental reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, and their interaction with the Equality Act.

Our subject areas include: sociology, philosophy, law, criminology, evidence-informed policy, medicine, psychology, education, history, English, social work, computer science, cognitive science, anthropology, political science, economics, and history of art. This week, following an opportunity offered to us by Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne, we have submitted to the consultation a number of letters, outlining, as individuals, concerns about the introduction of self-ID for gender reassignment.

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'She's better than the Maybot': PM upstaged by actual robot

Τρίτη, 16/10/2018 - 19:11

Sadly the education committee failed to ask Pepper the robot the naughtiest thing she’s ever done

On Monday, the prime minister spent the best part of two hours failing to explain why she had bothered to come to the House of Commons to give a statement on the progress of the Brexit negotiations when she didn’t have anything to say. Theresa May crashed and burned into random binary numbers as her circuits overloaded. The four pot plants could have given a better demonstration of intelligent life.

A day later, with a little help from her handlers at Middlesex University, Pepper the robot – a 3ft tall wannabe Star Wars extra – was pushed into the education select committee to show what decent computer programming can achieve. “Good morning,” Pepper said to the Conservative committee chairman, Robert Halfon. “Thank you for inviting me to give evidence today.” The committee looked impressed. This was a more coherent start than many politicians had made.

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Snubbed, cheated, erased: the scandal of architecture's invisible women

Τρίτη, 16/10/2018 - 17:23

They are among the most talented architects of their age. Yet the credit, praise and awards have gone to the men instead. Meet the women who are tired of being written out of history

Denise Scott Brown was an associate professor when she married Robert Venturi in 1967. She had taught at the universities of Pennsylvania and Berkeley, and initiated the first programme in the new school of architecture at the University of California. She had a substantial publication record, enthusiastic students, and the respect of her colleagues.

The first sign that marriage had changed things came when an architect whose work she had reviewed said: “We at the office think it was Bob writing, using your name.” It was an indication of what was to come for the rest of her career. Scott Brown was relegated to being the wife of the famous postmodern architect Bob Venturi – who died last month – rather than one half of an equal creative and intellectual partnership that changed the world of architecture as we know it.

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Frontline training scheme poses a threat to social work education

Τρίτη, 16/10/2018 - 13:57

Government should halt £50m tender to extend the fast-track children’s social work training programme

A recent Society Guardian piece suggested social work academics and the Frontline fast-track training scheme should end their “feud”. This distracts from important questions about what Frontline means for the future of social work education and practice.

Frontline is seen by the academic community as a significant threat to the traditional model of university-based generic social work education and training, which prepares practitioners to work with children and adults.

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The UK's green discoveries: plastic-eating enzymes and seawater biofuels

Τρίτη, 16/10/2018 - 09:30

Researchers across the UK are working hard to prevent further climate breakdown. Here are their latest findings

We don’t have long to get our act together on climate change, according to a UN report released earlier this month. In the next 12 years, we need to reverse the trend of Earth’s increasing temperature or face drought, floods and extreme heat – and devastating knock-on effects felt by all life on the planet.

But what can we do? And can we do it quickly enough? Researchers in universities across the UK are working on answers to these huge questions. Here are some of their most exciting recent sustainability findings.

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‘There’s no plan B’: academics race to safeguard research against Brexit

Τρίτη, 16/10/2018 - 09:15

With science, IT and archaeology among subjects heavily funded by the EU, leaving with no deal would be cataclysmic, say universities

Prof Chris Gosden, director of the institute of archaeology at Oxford University, is bracing himself for potential disaster after Brexit. Europe funds 38% of archaeological research in the UK and with no plan B, Gosden fears his discipline could dwindle unless an agreement is reached on science.

“Losing EU funding would mean that British archaeology would shrink,” Gosden says. “Our discipline has had a great 50 years. It is really sad to think that in 10 years it could be much smaller.”

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