Category Archives: Scan

Scan of Ed News: U.S. travel ban and higher education

On January 27, 2017, United States President Donald Trump issued an Executive Order temporarily withholding entry to the U.S. to individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries. In addition, aspects of the current visa and refugee program were suspended. The order has affected many people and caused confusion worldwide. Since it was established, news reports show that the order is also having an impact on higher education institutions around the world. Therefore, we decided to conduct a brief scan of reports that share information on how the ban will effect higher education, and how school leaders in the U.S. and around the world are responding.

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

Universities and scholars are grappling with what the restrictions of the travel ban means for students and scholarship. One primary concern is for international students and faculty who are  studying and working in U.S. institutions, but who happened to be outside of the country when the order was signed and are now unable to return.  Additional concerns have been raised about the future of longstanding partnerships between universities in the US and in affected countries, such as Iran.  Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president at the American Council on Education, was quoted in the Times Higher Education: “What we have is, frankly, a matter of significant concern and a great deal of confusion and very little clarity.”

According to Business Insider, tens of thousands of students across the country could be affected. Dallas News detailed how the ban will impact students in colleges and universities in Texas. Southern Methodist University has 49 students from the seven affected countries; The University of North Texas has 85 students; the Dallas County Community College District has 47; UT-Dallas has 127; Texas Tech University has 149; UT-Austin has 110; and the University of Houston has 280. Students and staff are being warned not to travel and to avoid the Texas-Mexico border checkpoints.

A coalition of 598 college and university presidents signed a letter to President Trump urging that the travel ban be rescinded. As reported by The Hill, this letter was sent to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly through the American Council on Education (ACE). As reported in The Boston Globe and in Time Magazine, these higher education leaders said that the order “specifically prevents talented, law-abiding students and scholars from the affected regions from reaching our campuses. American higher education has benefitted tremendously from this country’s long history of embracing immigrants from around the world.”

Additional reports share individual responses from presidents of Princeton, RutgersHarvard, MIT and Carnegie Mellon.  The Association of American Universities and the International Congress for School Effectiveness and Improvement also issued statements. Also, as reported in The Independent UK, more than 4,500 scholars from Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East have signed a petition calling for a boycott of international conferences held in the U.S.

Since the implementation of the Executive Order, there has been some speculation that the travel ban could benefit countries wiling to take the displaced students and faculty—such as Canada, Australia, and Ireland. For example, Memorial University of Newfoundland, in Canada, has offered to waive the application fees of students applying from the seven countries named in the Executive Order—hoping to attract new talent to the school. In an article just published in the New England Journal of Medicine, two physicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center explore the consequences of the travel ban and point out that international medical graduates currently fill gaps in the American healthcare system, particularly in rural areas.

Meanwhile, protests and demonstrations continue. Yesterday, hundreds of New York City high school students walked out of school in protest of the ban. As reported in Chalkbeat, students filled Manhattan’s Foley Square, chanting “No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!” College students have also been protesting in many states, including Vermont, Maine, Illinois, California, Massachusetts,  and even in the UK.

Deirdre Faughey

Scan of Ed News: Exploring what the #Brexit vote means for #education in the UK

576d421757868Since the British voted to leave the European Union we have seen a variety of news reports focusing on how the move will affect the British educational system. In this short scan we share some of the conversations we have seen emerge in the past few weeks.

One strand of articles point out what the Brexit vote supposedly reveals about the overall quality of the British education system. According to the Evening Standard, the Chief Executive of Credit Suisse, Tidjane Thiam, said that the level of inequality he witnessed in Britain explained the outcome of the vote. Thiam argued that Britain should raise taxes to counteract the impact of globalization. According to an editorial in the Telegraph, the vote represents “an appetite among young people for a more internationalist approach to education.” As John Walmsley argues, three-quarters of 18-24 year olds voted to remain in the European Union, either out of a desire to live and travel throughout Europe, to help refugees, to effectively battle climate change, or access the European single market. Walmsley writes, “Even in an unstable modern world…young people simply do not have the same concerns with immigration, collaboration and pluralism that older generations have.” According to Peter Horrocks of The Open University, writing for The Times Higher Education (THE), the fact that the outcome of the vote correlated closely with percentage degree attainment shows a pressing need for a more inclusive and diverse higher education sector that offers the flexibility and support that students rightly demand, alongside specific policies to address their particular needs.”

Another strand of articles point to the implications of the Brexit vote. Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, argues in Schools Week that the short term impact of the vote will be “distraction and delay,” resulting in the disruption of policies that need the attention and focus of policymakers. Long term, Hobby shares his concern that the vote might serve as impetus for change in both leadership and education policy (for example, will funding for early childhood education remain a priority?). Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, writing for the Huffington Post UK, argues that the most likely immediate implication will be a reduction in the number of EU students studying in the UK, citing the approximately 125,000 EU students studying in UK institutions, and the nearly 3.7 billion pounds and 380,000 jobs they contribute to the economy. These European students might be more likely in the future to choose non-UK universities to study in, such as those in Germany or the Netherlands. Rakhmat speculates that UK universities might end up recruiting more students from developing countries, such as China, India and Indonesia. This shift might influence educational outcomes as well, as many EU students arrive with an advanced educational background. In another article in the Huffington Post UK, Steve Spriggs agrees that British schools might suffer the loss of some 5,000 students from EU countries who currently attend British boarding schools. As he argues, “An exodus of international students would mean a vast net outflow of money from the UK from associated industries: student accommodation, cultural tourist events to name but a few.” However, Spriggs also raises a question about teachers, citing speculation that up to 400,000 teachers might be forced to leave the UK at a time when there is already a shortage of qualified teachers. On July 5th, NHT teachers organized a one-day strike to protest what they see as a crisis point. As Lola Okolosie argues in The Guardian, in addition to the unknown implications of the Brexit vote, teachers are concerned about the loss of jobs, cuts to per pupil spending, and the national commitment to make all schools academies by 2020.

Mark Tucker,  president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Center on Education and the Economy, also provides one take on the implications of Brexit for education and the US election. As he puts it in a recent Washington Post article, “Just as in England, those with the least education are those who have been hurt most by globalization and free trade.  They are most likely, as we see now in the way they are reacting to the candidacies of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, to reject not just the leaders of their parties but also the experts they think have ignored them and their interests.”  He concludes, “The Brexit vote is a warning shot across our bow.  Will we hear it?”

-Deirdre Faughey

 

Teacher collaboration and professional development around the world

Last month, at the American Educational Research Association Conference held in Chicago, I attended a presentation that offered multiple perspectives on the recent findings in the 2013 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) report. As the OECD explains, the TALIS report asks teachers and principals who they are, where they teach and how they feel about their work.

Linda Darling-Hammond focused on what the TALIS report can teach us about teachers in the United States. She explained that teachers in the U.S. have insufficient time for planning and collaboration during the school day, which means that they are often left to do this work alone at home. U.S. teachers report that they experience less helpful feedback (coming from principals more often than peers), and sporadic professional development. Yet, collaborative practices and self-efficacy were indicated as drivers of job satisfaction.

Andy Hargreaves argued that while collaboration can be important to job satisfaction, we need to develop a much deeper understanding of what effective collaboration looks like. He argued that we need to know more about why collaborative practices are not always embraced by teachers. As self-efficacy was also related to job satisfaction, Hargreaves suggested that we also think about collective efficacy—the belief that we have in what we can do together, not just alone. Further work needs to be done, he explained, to develop our understanding of when collaboration is useful, when it is simplistic, and when it takes the form of “contrived collegiality.”

With this attention to collaboration and professional development, I decided to conduct a scan of education news around the world to see what I could learn about how different countries are addressing the topic. This scan showed that countries are grappling with several issues, such as the quality, time, and funding for professional development.

In British Columbia, the government is proposing to create professional development standards. Education Minister Peter Fassbender views the establishment of such standards as an act that would put the teaching profession on par with other professions, such as the legal, accounting, or nursing professions. While teachers are currently required to attend professional development sessions, new legislation would determine what those session cover; however, Fassbender says there will be no increase in funding to support the new standards. Concerns have been raised about the privitization of professional development, and the lack of teacher input.

In Australia, ACT teachers have spent a year arguing that they need guaranteed time each week for professional development and collaboration. According to Union Secretary Glenn Fowler, “Teachers do not trust their employer to protect them from snow-balling workloads, and we say to the employer if there is no guaranteed and quarantined time made in the new agreement, we will never see it, and that time may continue to get stripped away from teachers.”

Meanwhile, teachers in Ireland oppose a plan for mandatory continuing professional development (CPD). While most Irish teachers place high value on CPD, a majority fear that “if compulsory, it would promote a ‘compliance mentality’ with minimal real engagement.”

New Zealand has established Communities of Schools as part of their Investing in Educational Success initiative. These schools will set their own achievement goals and will be funded to allow teachers the time to “work with and learn from each other, supported by new teaching and leadership roles.” While funding for these new positions is proving controversial, as one principal shared, “You have to change things. You can’t stay in your same structures, if you do you will end up with the same result: busy schools that are too busy to share.”

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has noticed how busy teachers in Scotland are as well, and called for a period of “consolidataion and calm.” Flanagan said teachers needed breathing space after the delivery of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and new exams:”The last thing Scottish teachers need to hear at the moment is that the pace of change needs to be stepped up.” He called for additional resources and support for professional development.

Deirdre Faughey

The “biggest-ever” league table?

The latest education report from the OECD ranks 76 countries according to the percentage of the population that lacks basic skills. The report, by Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and Ludger Woessmann of the University of Munich, derives the ranking from the latest test scores from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15-year-olds and the 2011 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for 14-year-olds. In what BBC News called the “biggest-ever education league table,” Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan (again) top the charts. Coming in at number six, Finland is the top-ranking non-Asian country. Our latest scan of education news around the world finds many media reports highlighting the relative ranking of particular countries, but a number mention as well the report’s claims of a connection between improving performance on the tests and economic growth. At the same time, it is worth noting that not everyone agrees there is a straightforward relationship between performance on tests like PISA and TIMMS and economic outcomes. James Heckman and colleagues Tim Kautz, Ron Diris, Bas ter Weel, Lex Borghans, in particular, have emphasized that current tests like PISA and TIMMS “do not adequately capture non-cognitive skills, personality traits, goals, character, motivations, and preferences that are valued in the labour market, in school, and in many other domains.” As they explain in Fostering and measuring skills: Improving cognitive and non-cognitive skills to promote lifetime success and Hard evidence on soft skills, for many outcomes, the predictive power of non-cognitive skills rivals or exceeds that of cognitive skills.

“Global school rankings: Interactive map shows standards of education across the world,” The Independent

“Asian kids race ahead on learning: OECD,” The Australian

Bottom in EU on OECD education league, again,” Cyprus Mail

“New education rankings from the OECD put Finland in sixth position worldwide—the top European country and the first non-Asian country in the list,” yle UUTISET

“Ireland ranks 15th in global league table for maths, science; GDP would be boosted by 2.3 per cent if universal basic skill levels were achieved,” Irish Times

“OECD report links school achievement and economic growth; despite oil wealth, Arab world trails far behind,” Israel Times

“When it comes to education, Singapore is a world-beater,”  The Straights Times

“Turkey ranks 41st in education on OECD report of 76 countries,” Today’s Zambian

UK below Poland and Vietnam in biggest ever international education rankings, TES Connect

“Improving Basic Education Can Boost U.S. Economy by $27 Trillion,” U.S. News & World Report

–Thomas Hatch

Early childhood education and the economy

A scan of online news reports published in countries around the world over the past month found that current reports on the topic of early childhood education show a range of economic concerns. While the news in some countries focuses on early childhood education as it relates to childcare, others focus on the connection between education in the early years and economic development. For example, reports from China focus on education as one aspect of whole child development, and similarly, reports from Thailand, India, and Australia, emphasized that early childhood education can be a crucial factor in lifting individuals out of poverty. Other reports focus on the ways in which early childhood education can be an overall investment in a country’s future.

In a recent article, titled “Household income and preschool attendance in China,” Xin Gong, Di Xu, and Wen-Jui Ham, found a positive association between household income and preschool attendance in both rural and urban settings. By showing that household income is influential in determining which children access early childhood education, this article relates with findings presented in a recent report on early childhood development by UNICEF. The UNICEF report points out that “millions of children, especially the most marginalized, are excluded from school,” and finds that international funding for education is on the decline. Yet, according to an article in Want China TimesChina has increased spending on early childhood education, budgeting 50 billion yuan ($8 billion) for a three-year project to provide access to quality education.

Singapore presents the example of a country that, according to the World Bank, placed “education at the core of the nation’s development.” Yet, as an article in The Huffington Post explained, “early-childhood education is one of the few spots where Singapore is not yet a world leader.” However, in response to the 2012 Economist Intelligence Unit, which ranked Singapore’s early childhood education system 29th in the world, the government has “announced funding initiatives for subsidies for parents and childcare centers, new sources of scholarship money for teachers, and the creation of new preschools and kindergartens.”

In Australia, a Productivity Report on Childcare and Early Childhood Learning, released on February 20th, received a critical reception in the press because it did not recommend an increase in funding. Instead, the report recommended the simplification of a complicated system with the introduction of a single early learning subsidy. Geraldine Neylon, writing for The Conversation, called this a “missed opportunity” to build upon prior reforms that focused on teacher quality. In another commentary, published in The Sydney Morning Herald, Matt Wade emphasized that while the current system is due for an overhaul, an investment in early education would lead to greater economic gains for the entire country. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abbott has suggested policy reforms that would (similar to the report’s recommendations) make childcare more affordable and less regulated, noting in particular that such a move would potentially enable more women to join the workforce. As John Cherry, advocacy manager with the non-profit Goodstart Early Learning, explained in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald: “The number one reform objective is to make childcare more accessible and more affordable for low and middle income families….The number two objective is to continue to raise the quality of care so that children have a better start to their school education. The number three one is to make sure that vulnerable children are getting the support that they need. That costs money.”

Deirdre Faughey

News scan: Germany and Ireland

This week, a scan of the news coming from Europe led us to put several links on Twitter; however, over the past year we’ve noticed more than one report on related topics. Here is a brief description of news coming out of Germany and Ireland. Next week, we will take a closer look at reports coming out of Central and South American countries.

Germany

According to a new study, Germany will not be able to meet ambitious education goals the country set for itself in 2008. Angela Merkel aimed to cut the dropout rate from 8% to 4%, but as of 2013 the rate stood at 5.7%. The German government is also struggling to reduce the number of young people (aged 20-29) who were without any professional qualification.  Interestingly, another report pointed out that there has been an ongoing Twitter debate (in German) about the country’s educational system, sparked by one girl who tweeted, “I am almost 18 and have no idea about taxes, rent or insurance. But, I can analyze a poem. In 4 languages.” The debate is raging over the purpose of an education and whether or not schools should prepare students for “life.”

 

Ireland

Teachers are protesting in Ireland because they disagree with government reforms that aim to move student evaluations away from standardized testing and towards a performance-based model, which would allow portfolios and other options. Teachers are concerned that the new assessments will force teachers to judge their own students, rather than advocate for them. They also object to the amount of time teachers will need to spend on the new assessments. Pasi Sahlsburg responded to the teachers’ plan to strike by saying that teachers need to take on more complex roles in order to boost the profession. In addition to seeing themselves differently, teachers need to see the students differently–and that’s what the alternative assessment model is all about. According to Sahlsburg, the situation in Ireland is “unique globally in many ways. Internationally it is more common that teachers are the ones that insist more freedom and autonomy in assessing and grading their students rather than the other way round.” In this case, an additional issue might be that teachers are wary of new, complex practices that they don’t have the capacity to carry out—practices that might seem unnecessary, particularly after Irish students just achieved test results that surpassed those the country set for the year 2020.

Deirdre Faughey

OECD measures financial literacy of students around the world

The OECD released the results of an exam that aimed to assess the financial literacy of students in Australia, Belgium (Flemish Community), Shanghai-China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Israel, Italy, Latvia, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain and the United States. As we have done with other OECD test results, we conducted a search of international news reports on the results of this exam by country. Note that aside from the deluge of results from US media sources, Australia and New Zealand were two countries that reported extensively on the results  – with the Australian headlines distinctly contradictory. In general, much of the reporting focused on the fact that the majority of teenagers in the world don’t know enough about financial issues. The OECD noted that, similar to results on other OECD tests, student performance tends to fall along class lines, with “more socio-economically advantaged students scor[ing] much higher than less-advantaged students on average across participating OECD countries and economies.”

We also spoke with Anand Marri, Vice president and Head of Economic Education at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Associate Professor at Teachers College Columbia University, about the results. He pointed out that the financial literacy of students likely reflects the financial literacy of teachers as well as other adults. Without a concerted effort to enable teachers to develop their financial literacy and to make financial literacy an explicit part of the curriculum, we should not expect many students to develop financial skills on their own. Yet in the United States, only 15 out of 50 states have graduation requirements related to personal literacy and the vast majority of social studies teachers have not taken more than one economics course. He also noted, as the OECD report pointed out, that financial literacy is highly correlated with performance in math and reading, but that it would be particularly interesting to know more about the teaching of financial literacy and the preparation of those who teach financial literacy in countries that score higher in financial literacy than their math and reading performance would predict (like Australia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, the Flemish Community of Belgium and New Zealand).

Australia 

Aus students lack financial literacy skills: OECD (www.ifa.com.au)

Disadvantaged youth have poor financial literacy – study (www.probonoaustralia.com.au)

Australian students get top marks for financial literacy (www.financialstandard.com.au)

Aussie teens show financial smarts (www.dailytelegraph.com.au)

Columbia

Columbian students last place Pisa financial literacy exam (www.colombiareports.co)

Central Eurpoe, Baltic countries:

Central European, Baltic Teens Score Well in OECD Financial Test (http://blogs.wsj.com)

Czech Republich

Czech teenagers rank sixth in international financial literacy survey (http://radio.cz/en)

Israel

Israeli teens get a failing grade for financial literacy (www.haaretz.com)

Italy

Italian teens can’t handle money: Report (www.thelocal.it)

Shanghai – China

Students in Shanghai score highest for financial literacy (Irish Times)  

Spain

Spanish 15-year-olds lack financial literacy proficiency (www.globalpost.com)

US

American Students score below average in financial literacy (www.forbes.com)

American teenagers outranked by Chinese in money smarts (www.cnn.com)

US Students fail to make the grade on financial literacy (www.time.com)

New Zealand  

Financial literacy depends on wealth (www.stuff.co.nz)

Pisa results shed the spotlight on financial literacy levels (http://www.scoop.co.nz)

Kiwi teens 5th best at managing money (www.3news.co.nz)

UK

Is the UK falling behind? OECD results underscore the importance of financial literacy for future growth (http://www.economicvoice.com)