Giving vulnerable children a boarding school place can dramatically improve their future, Government study finds

Giving vulnerable children a boarding school place can dramatically improve their future, a Government study has found.

Out of a cohort of youngsters who were previously in care and then sent to a boarding school, the majority were subsequently taken off their local council’s risk register, the research is expected to show.

The study, which is due to be published this summer, follows the progress of 52 children who looked after by Norfolk Council Council and sent to boarding schools.

In the past, similar schemes have failed to get off the ground. Last year, a multi-million pound Government backed project to give disadvantaged children free places at top boarding schools was axed.

Buttle UK, the charity leading the project, said it was unable to proceed because local authorities were not willing to refer children.

It is thought that the new research will encourage local authorities across the country to work more closely with boarding schools. “We have now got a body of longitudinal research we hope will help other local authorities see what the benefits can be,” Mr Read said.

More than 80 councils have signed up to the partnership scheme so far, which is backed by the schools minister Lord Agnew and Lord Adonis, a former Labour education minister. Currently, only about 100 children go to private boarding schools paid for by councils but Colin Morrison, chair of the BSP, hopes this will climb to about 1,000 a year within five years.

The Boarding Schools Partnership initiative is reminiscent of the Assisted Places scheme, set up in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s Government. Under the scheme, children were provided with free or subsidised places to private schools if they achieved a top score in the entrance exam.

The scheme was axed by Labour in 1997, with the then Prime Minister Tony Blair arguing that it was elitist and a waste of public money.

Basic English Grammar for Basic Students

Hello Class !

Last week , we have discussed about Simple Sentences and Compound Sentences .

Let’s review some ideas today .

A Sentences is a group of words which has complete sense.

There are also other groups of words called “Phrases” and “Clauses” , which do not make complete sense.

The difference between “a Phrase” and “a Clause” is that “a Phrase has NO VERBS in it” , but “a Clause has”.

A Simple Sentence is a sentence which has only one main Verb.

When these two Simple Sentences are joined together to form a new sentence , it is called “a Compound Sentence” .

We have already done some exercises on these in the last week’s Lesson.

Today , let’s study about “Complex Sentences”.

If we join “one Simple Sentence” and “one Clause which has not complete sense” , we get a “Complex Sentence”.

e.g . I met the man who had no money to buy food.

He pitied the child whom the teacher asked so many difficult questions.

She went home which is in a small village.

I cannot go home when it is very near to the Final Examination.

The author is going to a place where there are so many fishermen.

I have done my research in the villages where there are many small-scale fishermen.

I do not know why he respond like this.

All these above sentences are Complex Sentences , because the Clauses in these sentences ( the underlined portion ) has no complete sense by itself , although they have Verbs.

The main part of the sentences are Simple Sentences. ( those which are not underlined .)

So , we come to the Conclusion that when we join two Simple Sentences , we get a “Compound Sentence” .

( If we join one Simple Sentence and a phrase, which has No Verbs , we get only a Simple Sentence .

e.g. I saw the book on my table.

The boy ran into the house.

He will come to dinner tonight. )

And when we join one Simple Sentence and a Clause, which has a Verb, but not a complete sense , we get a Complex Sentence.

These Clauses are in different Clause , such as Adjectival Clause or Adjective Clause , Adverbial Clause or Adverb Clause and Noun Clause , which is the Subject or the Object of the sentence.

But , all these will be discussed and studied next week.

And here comes the exercises for today’s lesson.

Exercise 42 .

I. State which are Simple, Compound or Complex Sentences from the followings.

(a) The boy stands at the entrance to the hall.

(b) The boy stands at the entrance to the hall where there is a very grand exhibition.

(c) The boy stands at the entrance of the hall, for he wants to meet his friends first.

(d) The boy stands at the entrance of the hall, which is one a grand ballroom.

(e) The boy stands at the entrance of the hall when he sees his girl friend coming up the stairs.

(f) I will go to town this weekend.

(g) Neither my friend nor me will go to town this weekend.

(h) I will go to town this weekend , to buy some new clothes.

(i) I will go to town this weekend if the headmaster gives me leave.

(j) I will go to town which is not far away from our village.

II. Make 5 Complex Sentence of your own.

That’s all for today , Class .

Hope that you can do all the exercises very well !

Bye Bye Class ! See you next week !

Your English Teacher (GNLM).


Here are the answers to the last week exercise .

Exercise 42

I. Examples of Simple Sentences.

(1) You can come back home on weekends.

(2) She can read very well.

(3) I write a letter to him.

(4) We do not want to go home.

(5) He sits quietly in the room.

II. Examples of Compound Sentences.

(1) She will go to school and he will go to the theatre.

(2) You can go back , but your brother cannot.

(3) Neither the father or the son had no responsibility.

(4) Either you or I will go to solve this problem.

(5) He cannot come home this week , for there is an important meeting.

III. Connect the following sentences into Compound Sentences.

(a) She will wake up early for she will cook the rice.

(b) Maung Maung can do the Maths , but Hla Hla cannot.

(c) You can go home now, but your brother cannot.

(d) Neither she nor her sister can sing sweetly.

(e) Both Mother and Father will come back home.

(f) She will not go out today, because she has a fever.

(g) He tried a lot , but he failed.

(h) The rich man has to pay the ransom money or they will kill his only son.

(i) Both cats and dogs are noisy.

(j) Will you bring the money or bring back the longyi ?

Hope that you all have done well !

That’s all for today Class.

Bye Bye !

See you next week !

Cheating at UKs top universities soars by 30%

The number of students caught cheating at the UK’s top universities has shot up by a third in three years, with experts warning that institutions are ignoring the problem.

Figures compiled by the Guardian from freedom of information requests to Russell Group universities – a group of 24 leading institutions that includes Oxford and Cambridge – shows the number of academic misconduct cases surged by 30%, from 2,640 to 3,721, between the academic years 2014-15 and 2016-17.

Experts have expressed concern about the findings.

Thomas Lancaster, a senior teaching fellow at Imperial College London and one of the UK’s leading experts on essay cheating, said: “A growing number of young people also feel more pressure than ever before, often turning to cheating to help them get through their degrees. It’s also easier to access websites that offer paid-to-order essays.”

Lancaster said universities were getting better at recording incidents, but that they were often inconsistent in how they tackled cheating, with many “assuming it’s not their problem”.

Leeds University recorded one of the biggest rises in reports of cheating. Cases more than doubled from 181 to 433, in three years. At Glasgow University, the number shot up from 161 to 394.

A Leeds University spokesperson said it had improved processes for collecting information about academic misconduct cases.

A spokesperson for Glasgow University said it had clear and robust procedures in place to deal with cases of academic misconduct that were reviewed regularly.

The figures come as government concern grows about contract cheating, where students employ ghostwriters to complete assignments.

The then universities minister Jo Johnson announced a crackdown a year ago, but since then only a handful of the 24 Russell Group universities recorded details of contract cheating separately. Most have not updated their academic misconduct processes in the last year, although a number are reviewing them.

“Universities need to keep better records about the different types of academic misconduct students are engaging in. We still don’t have accurate numbers breaking down how many students are being caught copying from different sources and how many are contract cheating,” said Lancaster.

“We’re still seeing ‘essay mills’ blatantly advertise around university campuses. In the past weeks alone, I know of one essay firm going around university to university … and handing out shiny business cards to students.”

Jo Grady, a senior lecturer in employment relations at Sheffield University, has seen people handing out cards this month. “Anecdotally, I have noticed more what appear to be bespoke essays and dissertations being submitted over the past few years. You can spot these because … they are normally quite generic and don’t address the key themes of the module,” she said.

Companies selling essays target universities at key times during stressful assessment periods, Grady said. “They hope to hook students who are anxious and perhaps desperate, so they hand out business cards outside departmental buildings like vultures.”

Yinbo Yu, from the National Union of Students’ international students office, said: “With greater levels of debt and higher costs associated with study, students are now under heightened pressure from different directions. It is easy to see how the so-called ‘contract cheating’ websites can prey upon the vulnerabilities of students.”

Concern has been raised about essay-mill websites using aggressive marketing tactics to target students. This includes spamming them with emails about their services, and messages sent directly on social media sites such as Twitter.

The Advertising Standards Agency ruled earlier this year that essay-mill websites must warn students they face being punished by their universities for submitting fake work. The watchdog said the UK Essays website had been misleading customers by failing to make them aware of the risks associated with submitting purchased essays.

Ian Kimber of the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA), said cheating continued to “pose a real threat to UK higher education’s reputation for excellence”.

“Our guidance for universities and colleges, published last year, offers practical advice on detecting and addressing contract cheating – but it’s clear that there is more work to be done,” he said.

A Department for Education spokesperson said it took malpractice very seriously and had asked the QAA, Universities UK and the NUS to produce new guidance, which was published last October.

I thought US universities were driven by profit until I moved to the UK

I expected a culture shock when I crossed the Atlantic, but I didn’t anticipate how corporatised British universities would be

Last July my family sold our home, loaded what remained into storage and moved to the UK. As an American academic, I was driven to take this step by a state that I felt was undermining humanities subjects, and which was repeatedly threatening to allow firearms on campus.

While I expected culture shock in my transition to a new country, I was not as aware of the trade-offs I would be making by crossing the Atlantic. Humanities departments in American universities have become precarious as the core liberal arts curriculum has been downgraded and enrolment numbers have plummeted. Yet the corporatisation of British academia is far more advanced than in the US.

Over the past months, academics at pre-1992 universities in the UK have . But many of my new colleagues are more critical of universities’ neoliberal direction and want to wean them from this profit-driven model. This system has its roots in 2012, when tuition fees in the UK increased to £9,000. With the subsequent uncapping of student numbers, this has led many universities to rapidly expand their programmes.

The result has been the doubling or tripling of staff teaching loads in some departments. Meanwhile, to keep enrolment artificially high, universities have lowered the A-level entry points they require from new students. At the same time, the government has imposed new metrics aimed at evaluating teaching through the , which include student outcomes.

By quantifying the quality of the “product” sold to students, they are attempting to attract students to a particular institution. By ensuring a steady flow of tuition fees, managers have justified their growing salaries. Class sizes have increased and the curriculum has been diluted.

My UK colleagues have spoken of their loss of autonomy in the classroom over the past decade. Many now teach courses they have not designed and mark student work based on criteria they did not develop. While some justify this by saying it ensures the consistency of student experience and fairness in decision-making, the result has been to undermine the skill and judgment of lecturers, many of whom trained for a decade or more.

Meanwhile, it feels like educational experience is being steadily reduced to a standardised output. In the process of commodification, learning as a goal in and of itself has been eroded, pedagogical innovation has been discouraged, and opportunities to establish meaningful connections with our students have been lost.

Instead, university management is obsessed with metrics. This has led to what I call British academic-speak, a language laced with so many acronyms that newcomers need a dictionary. These are words invented by senior managers to justify assessment exercises and strategic goals. While Ref, Tef and Athena SWAN are alleged to have the worthy goals of improved teaching, research and gender balance, these data-collecting exercises are fuelled by the unrecompensed labour of colleagues. They take time away from real work to contribute to the managerial overreach of the overpaid upper echelons of the university establishment.

Through the recent pension strikes, staff have found common cause in combating the marketisation of higher education. The most optimistic believe it is possible to re-establish universities’ main duty of properly educating future generations to tackle global challenges. The mood in universities has changed. With new solidarity between staff and students, not even all-powerful vice-chancellors will be able to turn back the clock. We hope that British universities will never be the same again.

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The teachers strikes prove it: the media is finally seeing Americas new labor landscape

Fifty thousand teachers dressed in red closed down Phoenix, Arizona, on Friday – the latest in a series of strikes by educators across America.

The media is abuzz with the strikes, finally waking up to the giant forces that seem to be reshaping the labor landscape in America.
Media attention was also unusually high when I covered the 110-mile March for Education by striking teachers across Oklahoma earlier this month. Local news helicopters buzzed overhead and CNN – fresh off covering the West Virginia teachers’ strike – covered the story in depth.
But where were they last year during the historic March on Mississippi against Nissan, led by Senator Bernie Sanders and Danny Glover?

Last March, as more than 5,000 union supporters marched down the highway singing, “We are ready, we are ready, Nissan”, a young civil rights lawyer from Memphis noticed my tattered yellow-and-white mesh “Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild” hat and asked if I was the only the only member of the national press there that day. I didn’t encounter any others.

Indeed, from 2015 to 2017, when I lived in Chattanooga and then Louisville, and journeyed more than 20,000 miles around the south in a rusted-out 2003 Dodge Neon, I was the only full-time labor reporter in the south working for my labor news co-op, Payday Report, which I founded with a settlement I received after being fired from Politico, where I had led a union drive.

Since I moved back to my hometown of Pittsburgh, there hasn’t been a single full-time labor reporter in the south, the country’s fastest-growing economic region and the site of many new auto plants with many workers making poverty wages.

Perhaps that explains why so much of the media has been initially seemed shocked by the strikes in southern states such as Oklahoma, Kentucky, and West Virginia.
Just eight months ago, after the union drive at Nissan was defeated, many in the media were saying that it was too difficult to organize the south. But after the recent teachers’ strikes, the vote at Nissan looks more like an indicator of the growing desire for change than a death blow to unions.

Lost in the rush to analyze the election results at Nissan was how Nissan workers had pushed the United Auto Workers union for a vote despite lacking the support needed to win, because they wanted to start a debate about how companies fight dirty against union drives in the south.

Nissan spent hundreds of thousands of dollars running negative TV ads in a successful effort to defeat the union. The media paid attention to those ads. While the union lost by a margin of 2,244 to 1,307, the loss and ensuing media coverage had a lasting effect on many workers who voted no in the plant.

“Some of the people, who regretted their decision afterward, saw how big it was because Saturday morning it hit national news and it was everywhere that Nissan workers rejected their union,” said one worker, Robert Hathorn.

The teachers’ strikes have brought into sharp focus forces that have been reshaping the landscape for workers in America. Nissan, the union-backed Fight for $15 campaign for minimum wage workers and now the teachers have shown that after years of attack from anti-union powers, organized labor can still make a difference.

The fact that the staff of so many digital media outlets have decided to join unions has probably helped, giving journalists, who have often had to fight management to organize, a deeper understanding of the issues.
“I know for me personally, it was really eye-opening,” says Sara Steffens, secretary-treasurer of Communications Workers of America, who was fired while leading a union drive at the Contra Costa Times in 2008. “If they are fighting this hard then this must be extremely powerful.”

Steffens says she has seen a big shift in the way reporters are covering labor as a result of recent organizing in the industry.

The media’s renewed interest in labor could be a powerful motivator for others considering action, said MaryBe McMillan, the first female president of North Carolina’s AFL-CIO. “I think the more the media covers uprisings in red states like West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky, the more people see that despite the legal obstacles and challenges that workers face in these states, there is a real interest in rising up against the horrible repressive walls that are in those states.”

Problems remain. Newsrooms are still overwhelmingly white. While nearly 40% of Americans identify as non-white, only 17% of reporters identify as non-white, according to data published by the American Society of News Editors.

Many feel that the lack of diversity has led the media to paint the teachers’ strikes as “red state rebellions” while ignoring the role throughout the south have played in helping to propel these strikes.

“We have to do work of lifting up the stories of people of color,” says Attica Scott, the only black woman in the Kentucky’s general assembly. “We gotta make sure that we are bringing those stories to the forefront as well so that people see that this a movement that impacts all of us and all of us need to be lifted up and have our stories shared.”

Strikes are spreading: bus drivers in Georgia, university employees in California, and Tennessee. Something big is happening in America – and it’s finally carrying the media with it.

Myanmar university students expelled after education protest

YANGON (AFP) – Fourteen students have been expelled from a Myanmar university after staging a campus protest calling for more education funding, an activist said on Saturday (Jan 27), sparking concern over eroding freedoms in the fledgling democracy.

The four-day rally at Yadanabon University in Mandalay drew some 100 students before it was broken up by police on Thursday.

It was the first student protest under Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian administration, which took power in early 2016.
The latest case to draw rebuke was the expulsion of 14 students in Mandalay, who participated in the rally calling for more national spending on education.

“We… were given a letter saying that we were expelled for breaking regulations,” Kyaw Thiha Ye Kyaw, a 22-year-old law student at Yadanabon, told AFP.

“Our demands are not for us… but for all students and all educational staff around Myanmar,” he added.

Mandalay’s chief minister Zaw Myint Maung refused to answer reporters’ questions about the case, saying only: “We are just acting according to the law.” Other officials could not be reached for comment.

Yan Myo Thein, an Myanmar analyst and former political prisoner, slammed the “harsh decision” by a government that was “lifted on the shoulders of generations of students.” “This decision neglects the many sacrifies made for Myanmar’s democracy,” he said, adding that the government should consider the students’ demands.

Myanmar’s education system deteriorated dramatically after a bloody junta crackdown on a student-led uprising in 1988, which left up to 3,000 dead and saw the rise of Suu Kyi’s opposition.

Many students were killed or expelled from school, while universities were shuttered for several years.

Shortly after taking office, Suu Kyi delivered on a pledge to free dozens of students jailed in 2015 for leading protests calling for education reforms.

Why more Southeast Asian students are choosing China for higher education

It is easy to confuse Ko Ko Kyaw for a local university student in China. He dresses like one – padded bomber jacket and ripped slim-cut jeans with white trainers, which is typical attire for a sporty Chinese male millennial.

But more importantly, the Myanmar-national speaks like a local Chinese, bantering comfortably in putonghua, or Mandarin, like someone who was born in China and has been speaking the language his entire life.

Terms that only local Chinese would be familiar with roll off Ko Ko Kyaw’s tongue with ease, even though he only started having formal lessons five years ago. He even speaks English with a Chinese accent.

The 22-year-old accountancy student at Shanghai’s Jiaotong University is part of a growing number of Southeast Asian students who have chosen to pursue their higher education in China.

“I got interested in China after attending a summer camp in Kunming,” recalled Ko Ko Kyaw in perfect mandarin. Kunming, which borders Myanmar, is a city in Yunnan Province in China’s southwest.

“China and Myanmar have many joint ventures, providing more job opportunities. My experience in China will give me an advantage when applying for a job back home,” he told Channel NewsAsia.

For 21-year-old Laotian Pingpanya Phommilath, China was also his first choice when considering where to get a university degree. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public administration at Fudan University.

“China is becoming stronger and its economy is getting bigger,” he told Channel NewsAsia in an email interview. “There are many Chinese in my country. So studying in China means better prospects (for me).”

For many of these Southeast Asian students, a degree earned in China can lead to better job prospects at home as China and Southeast Asia forge closer economic ties.

This is partly why an estimated 80,000 students from Southeast Asia chose to enrol in Chinese universities in 2016, a 15 per cent increase from 2014, according to the China University and College Admission System (CUCAS), an online information and application portal with links to the country’s Education Ministry.

Students from countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) now form the biggest group of foreign students studying in China’s higher education institutes, overtaking South Koreans.

Elsewhere, student numbers from the United States, the third largest group, saw a dip in the same period.

But the key reason why more students are choosing China is the availability of generous scholarships from the Chinese government awarded as part of the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative – the country’s flagship foreign policy to strengthen trade, social and political links with Southeast Asia.

“As part of promoting the initiative, the government has been encouraging more students to come to China to study, so they’ve invested a lot resources.” said Zhou Dong, chairman of CUCAS.

“In 2016, the government allocated 50,400 scholarship spots covering tuition, accommodation and monthly living expenses,” he added.

China is said to have set aside 23 billion yuan (US$3.6 billion) for such scholarships in 2016, said Lucian Koh, Managing Director of Singapore Success Stories, a consultancy that designs education programmes. Clients for Singapore Success Stories include sovereign wealth fund Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

“China can post these talents who have graduated from here back into their respective home countries to develop infrastructure, financial services, logistics services for China,” said Mr Koh.

“For China to be more accepted in the global community in terms of its rise as a new superpower, it starts with people,” he added. “In Chinese, they call them ‘Zhihua Youhua’ students which means (students) who know China and are friendly to China – these graduates will be the best ambassadors for the country.”

Koh estimates that eight to nine out of every ten foreign students in China receive some form of funding from the Chinese government.

“We’re neighbours, after all. China is geographically close to ASEAN and most of the countries have cultures and customs which are fundamentally East Asian,” said CUCAS’ Zhou, referring to the wide Chinese diaspora and pockets of ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asian countries.


For Malaysian businessman Lee Kwok Yat, China offers the best of both worlds – affordable tuition fees and good quality education.

The 53-year-old businessman’s daughter is studying to be a doctor at Wuhan University.

“When you first talk about China, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) comes to mind. But when I found out that they also offer courses in medicine in English, I was very pleased.” he said.

“In Malaysia, if you want to go to a public university, it’s very, very difficult. And to study in a private medical school will easily cost RM500,000 (US$128,000). So I think its too much for me.”

Mr Lee said total expenses for his daughter’s studies in China come to slightly over RM200,000, less than half the cost if she had stayed in Malaysia.

“Right now there are 45 universities in China that offer spots for international students. Over 3,000 spots are reserved for international students per year for medical courses. (There is a) good chance to get admitted.” he said, adding that in comparison there are only a few hundred spots for medicine courses in Malaysia’s public universities.

At least a fifth of degree programmes in each of China’s top 150 universities are taught entirely in English. And these include popular courses in business, medicine and engineering, targeted at foreign students.

The formula worked. China is now the world’s third most popular destination for higher education, after the UK and the US.

For the Chinese universities, having a bigger foreign student population improves their global reputation and rankings. More subject courses taught in China made it to the world’s best 50 list on the often cited global QS university rankings.

However, more may not necessarily mean better. The US and UK still dominate the top spots in global rankings for best courses in business, engineering and medicine and for their research capabilities and results.

“Institutions in the west enjoy a lot of free play in the areas they want to do research in (and) in distribution of funds.” said Lucian Koh from Singapore Success Stories. “But in Chinese universities, they’re limited. (And) very much dictated by the government,” he added.


This implies that there are restrictions on what students can choose to do research on.

Controversial political topics are generally off limits.

For her masters thesis, 23-year-old Jolene Liew had proposed to do a comparative study between Uighur Muslims in China’s far west province Xinjiang and Muslims from Brunei, where she comes from. But she was told by her professors in Fudan University that the topic was too sensitive.

Jolene moved to Shanghai last September after receiving an all-expenses paid scholarship to do a two-year masters in international politics at Fudan University. The Bruneian government scholar had obtained a bachelor’s degree in politics and international relations at the University of Bath in the UK.

Even though she was disappointed at the restriction, Jolene said she was still appreciative of what the programme offers, such as workshops with students from Korea and Japan. And at the end of the day, she said she came for the full China experience.

“It’s good to have some eastern oriental view points to balance my western bias,” she said, “I take this as an opportunity for me to learn new aspect(s) of life, as well as to prove to people that you don’t necessarily have to go to the west to enjoy quality, academic experiences, or even to learn something new.”

After all, Jolene receives the best education China can offer. Fudan is one of the country’s top five universities and is number seven on Asia’s top ten list for 2018.

But being in the company of China’s most outstanding and competitive students can prove to be quite intense.

“No one in the world can compare with students in China. They are really (intense) in studying,” said Myanmar student Ko Ko Kyaw.

“It’s highly stressful. From when they were young until the national entrance (level), they have been studying and studying. They’re always studying even at university.”

Malaysian Oh Jing En, 22, who studies Radio and Television at Fudan University, told Channel NewsAsia that she takes the competition in her stride.

“Most Chinese students take their studies very seriously. They approach teachers after class on their own and are able to handle stress well during exams.”

Indonesian Kevin P Tenggario, who is majoring in Economics at Fudan University, said the pressure only makes him want to work harder.

“Even though teachers sometimes tell us not to compare with the Chinese students, but being in the same course, we still want to work harder and spend more time learning.”


Afghan mum cradling baby during university exam goes viral

Afghan farmer Jahantab Ahmadi sits on the ground, her baby resting in her lap, as she focuses on the university entrance exam she hopes will help her fulfil her dreams.

The powerful photo, taken by a professor at Nasir Khusraw private university in central Afghanistan, has gone viral after striking a chord in a country where most women are illiterate and treated as second-class citizens.

The picture has sparked an outpouring of admiration and offers of financial help for the 25-year-old mother of three.

“I don’t want to be deprived of my studies,” Ahmadi, who comes from a remote farming village in Daikundi province where wheat, corn and potatoes provide a meagre income, told AFP in Kabul.

“I want to work outside the house. I want to become a doctor, someone who serves women in my community or society.”

Ahmadi passed the exam after undertaking an arduous journey to reach the provincial capital Nili — two hours on foot through mountains and nine hours in public transport on a bumpy road.

An online GoFundMe campaign launched by the Afghan Youth Association to help pay for her university fees has so far raised more than $14,000 — a fortune in a country where about 39 percent of the population lives in poverty.

Ahmadi appears a little bemused by the attention triggered by the photo of her cradling baby Khizran during the exam last month, which she only found out about later.

“My friends in the village told me ‘you have been photographed’. I said ‘how did I not know that I was being photographed and they said ‘you were concentrating on the paper,” she said, smiling shyly.

At the beginning of the test, which was held outdoors, Ahmadi sat at a desk with Khizran in her lap.

But the infant had an ear ache and would not stop crying. To keep her quiet and not disturb others, Ahmadi sat on the ground in the shade of another person — and kept writing.

“I had to concentrate on the baby and do the paper,” she said.

– University a ‘life goal’ –
Ahmadi’s story has resonated with social media users across the country, who have praised her determination to be educated.

“You are a true world champion, you have shown that a Hazara girl can do anything in any conditions or circumstances,” Nazar Hussein Akbari wrote on Facebook, referring to her ethnicity.

Another user posted: “I hope this hard-working woman reaches her goals.”

Afghan women’s rights activist Zahra Yagana was also impressed. She contacted Ahmadi and convinced her to come to Kabul to study.

The family is staying with Yagana while she helps Ahmadi get into a private university in the Afghan capital.

“If she had to study in Daikundi it would be difficult for her,” Yagana told AFP at her apartment.

“The standard of education is low. There is no student hostel in Daikundi and she would have to live in a rented house.

“We will give her a house (in Kabul). There are many friends who have promised to help her. We are trying to find a job for her husband and also raise money for her children to go to school.”

For Ahmadi, this would be the fulfilment of her dreams.

“My life goal was to get admitted into university,” said Ahmadi, who finished high school after she got married at the age of 18.

“But due to our poor economic situation and poverty I could not afford to study for three or four years.”

Afghanistan’s general literacy rate is one of the lowest in the world — just 36 percent, according to official figures. It is much lower for women.

“I don’t want to be left behind,” she said.

Major changes to Myanmars education sector under way

The vast majority of children in Myanmar attend government-run schools, beginning formal classes each June once they have reached five years of age. Children currently spend five years at primary school, four in lower secondary and two in upper secondary. According to Ministry of Education (MoE) figures, in the 2015/16 school year Myanmar had 45,387 schools catering to 8.85m children. Of these, some 63%, or 28,519 facilities, were primary schools (with 5.18m students) and 14%, or 6224 institutions, were lower secondary schools (enrolling 2.8m students). The country had a total of 322,514 teachers, with a teacher-student ratio of one teacher for every 27 pupils, according to UNESCO figures.

During primary school, which is meant to be compulsory, the curriculum emphasises the basics, such as maths, science and English. In the final two years of secondary school, the subjects of science and technology are conducted in English. In March 2016 Reuters reported that the 2014 census revealed that one in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 – about 1.7m young people – were working instead of attending school. Many families need children to earn an income, and often parents cannot afford the cost of books, uniforms and other school-related fees.

According to UNESCO data, there were 284,278 young children not enrolled in school in 2014, compared with 649,341 in 2010. Thus, it is clear the nation’s net enrolment rates have been improving since the country embarked on its political reforms. At the primary level, the net enrolment rate was 94.5% in 2014, compared with 87.8% in 2010, while at the secondary level the rate was 48.3% in 2014, up from 45.1% four years before.

Alternative Choices
As well as government schools, children can attend schools operated by and for religious or ethnic groups. Institutions run by Buddhist monks are seen as playing a crucial role in the education system because they cater to the children of families who cannot afford education, particularly those in remote areas. Although often poorly resourced and usually reliant on donations, monastic schools, which fall under the remit of the Ministry of Religious Affairs, are thought to be responsible for the education of between 150,000 and 300,000 children, according to the Philippines-based newspaper Daily Inquirer. Schools operated by ethnic communities serve a similar purpose in a country that has more than 135 ethnic groups and has been embroiled in long-running conflicts with minorities in border areas, some of which continue.

The new government is supportive of recent moves making education more inclusive and encouraging instruction in more local languages. In Mon State, for example, the Mon language has been taught since 2013/14 in 380 schools where the Mon ethnic group form the majority of students, according to a February 2016 report from the Myanmar Times. The UN Children’s Fund, which is leading a language and peace-building initiative across Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, is also developing a similar programme in Kayin State.

The Myanmar Education Consortium (MEC), with funds from the UK and Australian governments, has $22m to invest in the country’s education system over the next few years, focusing on both ethnic community schools and monastic institutions. The MEC found that 72% of monastic schools’ income came from individual donations. An increasing number of private schools have also been established since 2012, when legislation was passed allowing private institutions to open. Most cater to Myanmar’s upper class, as well as the children of expatriates working in the country.

The Bill
Spending on education has been rising steadily since the military began to loosen its grip on power, supported by a sharp increase in support from foreign donors. As a percentage of GDP spending on education rose from 0.7% in FY 2011/12 to 2.1% in FY 2013/14. Yet, despite the increase, Myanmar remains well behind its ASEAN neighbours, which spend an average of 3.6% of GDP on education. The NLD is also currently reviewing budget allocations for FY 2016/17, but it has indicated it wants to devote more resources to the sector. Under the National Education Sector Plan (NESP) 2016-20, the policy framework for the reform of the education system, funding for education rose from MMK310bn ($251.8m) in FY 2012/13 to MMK1.4trn ($1.1bn) in 2015/16 and MMK1.5trn ($1.2bn) in FY 2016/17. The government has also said a 5% tax on mobile phones could be directed to education.

This increased spending has allowed the ministry to hire more teachers and expand free education. Some 72,000 “daily wage” teachers have been hired as funds have risen and efforts have been made to improve teachers’ skills, according to the NESP. The government has also been able to invest more in school infrastructure. Between 2010/11 and 2014/15 the MoE built 7616 new schools, with 11,776 classrooms, according to the draft version of the NESP from late 2015. Some 8945 schools were renovated, improving 13,555 classrooms.

Reforming The System
The new government has ambitious plans to reform education from top to bottom. The rote learning of facts is no longer seen as the best way to prepare the country’s young people for the future. “Major shifts are required in the coming years to transform the national education system and ensure that all students progress through the education cycle, achieve quality learning standards, and fulfil their career and lifelong learning goals and aspirations,” the MoE wrote in its introduction to the NESP.

Conceived under the previous government, the NESP is expected to be launched by the end of 2016, with some modifications by the new administration, U Win Aung, a consultant for the government’s Comprehensive Education Sector Review (CESR), told. The NESP focuses on nine key areas: preschool education; basic education, including improvements in access and inclusion; curriculum; assessment; teacher training and management; alternative educational programmes; technical and vocational education and training (TVET); higher education; and education sector management. The changes made by the new government have put a greater emphasis on improving the quality of compulsory primary education, addressing the problem of out-of-school children, and developing TVET as an alternative to a more academic education, CESR’s U Win Aung told OBG.

Many of the provisions of the NESP were enshrined in the National Education Law (NEL) 2014 and the NEL Amendment 2015. Staring in the 2017/18 academic year, the country will adopt the K-12 structure, extending schooling by two years, and education will also be made free, as stipulated in the NEL. Steps will also be taken to improve not only access to education, but also creating the conditions that will keep children in school. The NESP also notes that drop-out rates remain high during the transition from primary to middle school and from there to high school.

Under the NEL and NESP, the MoE has also promised to decentralise decision making, empower head teachers, school managers and parent-teacher associations, as well as improve accountability across the system between township education officers and schools, and vice versa. It is also committed to introducing mechanisms to track the implementation of reforms, including independent quality audits and dedicated school improvement plans. The education curriculum itself will undergo a revision, emphasising not only problem solving and higher-order thinking skills, but also personal development and employability. The MoE has said content will be reduced to a “manageable level” so that students have the time to understand concepts and complete courses within the academic year. Local curricula will also be developed to support the languages, culture and tradition of all the country’s ethnic groups.

The system of assessment and examination will also be overhauled. The focus will shift to class-based assessments with examinations at the end of the primary (grade 5), lower-secondary (grade 9) and upper-secondary (grade 12) levels. The changes will require modernisation of the Department of Myanmar Examinations at the MoE, as well as the development of IT systems and monitoring mechanisms to set up the exams and track results.

In Action
Officials acknowledge the difficulties of implementing such an ambitious plan, which will take many years to have a real impact on the country’s children. Sufficient financial resources and the support of international partners, including foreign governments (the British Council is providing assistance), international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and aid agencies are seen as crucial to the NESP’s success, according to Win Aung. The MoE will also need to improve its administrative and implementation skills to push the ambitious programme through, he added.

“This plan is quite an incredible transformation, if it is implemented,” Lynne Heslop, the British Council’s education director, told OBG. “Usually in countries that make changes to their reforms, they do it bit by bit… But here, Myanmar is transforming the whole system over the next five years.”

Nurturing Creative Thinking
“We have been under authoritarian governance for so many years that many people are well-trained in how to behave,” U Win Aung told OBG. “Asians mostly live in a culture of harmony and respect for superiors, whether teachers or parents, so if we are asking questions or giving our frank opinion, we are breaking the rules. These are deep-rooted cultural practices, but we have to overcome such barriers.”

Myanmar is not the only country in the region that is looking to reform its education system to lessen the emphasis on rote learning and memorisation and to better prepare children for the jobs of the future. Malaysia, which aims to become a high-income country by 2020, has introduced similar initiatives and a comparable reform plan through its Education Blueprint 2013-25. Indonesia is also working to improve the national schooling system by putting a greater emphasis on subjects like science, technology, engineering and maths. Even Singapore, which regularly tops international education rankings, is seeking to move away from high-stakes examinations and to nurture more-well-rounded students.

Training Teachers
Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbours have identified the quality of teaching as crucial to the success of their reforms, as has Myanmar, which included reforms for the training and management of teachers in the NEL. The revised system will include a teacher quality assessment system that will reward those who deliver measurable achievements in student learning.

The MoE has also proposed changes to salaries and promotion mechanisms to encourage experienced teachers to remain at primary schools. Currently, promotion means moving up to middle school and high school, leaving the youngest children with the most inexperienced teachers. Officials want to raise standards by creating primary school experts – teachers who have performed well or gained significant experience – to work in that segment. According to a September 2016 report from the Myanmar Times, the MoE’s Department of Basic Education currently employs 369,919 teachers, with starting salaries ranging from MMK155,000 ($126) for a newly qualified primary school teacher to MMK175,000 ($142) for a high school teacher. The department spends about 85% of its budget on teachers’ salaries.

Since 2012 the British Council has been working with the MoE on teacher training, particularly for English-language instruction, providing expatriate teachers, trainers and teaching materials. It has also been working with community and monastic schools to improve English-language instruction there, coaching local staff in the latest techniques, including classroom management, effective presentation and the use of flashcards, songs, games and other interactive teaching methods.

Meanwhile, The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based international non-profit has been donating new English-language educational and children’s books to Myanmar. In the past eight years, it has provided nearly 200,000 books to more than 400 educational and research institutions throughout the country. It has also worked with other organisations to publish children’s story books in local languages, and with the Myanmar Library Association is undertaking a pilot project in six high schools to Yangon, Mandalay and Magway to revitalise run-down libraries.

International Involvement
Myanmar’s ambitious plans for its state school system count on the assistance and input of international experts, including NGOs. The NESP anticipates a particular need in the area of non-formal education, helping people find alternative routes to learning and, eventually, work. The MoE estimates some 2.7m people aged between five and 29 years have either never enrolled in school or dropped out of formal education. Some 3.5m adults over the age of 15 are thought to be illiterate.

The NLD committed to addressing the problem in its manifesto and aims to partner with NGOs to deliver alternative education at all levels, from primary to tertiary and adult learning. The programme is designed to give everyone in Myanmar the opportunity to advance, even if the traditional academic route proves inappropriate. However, there will also be opportunities for school-age children to re-join the mainstream system. Myanmar is also looking to foreign investment to expand its network of private schools and aid the recovery of higher education, particularly with alternative education pathways and vocational training.

Private Schools
While most children attend schools under the MoE, private institutions have started to open, though a new, more comprehensive law on private education is awaiting the approval of the Parliament. Catering largely to expatriates and wealthy local families who want their children to have an international, English-language education, there are now 438 private schools with about 100,000 students on their books, according to MoE figures. Official supervision is limited. “There could be some opportunities for international businesspeople to get involved in the education sector,” U Win Aung told OBG.

For example, Dulwich College International has joined forces with Singapore-based investment holding company Yoma Strategic to open two international schools in Yangon. Dulwich has already taken control of the operations of Pun Hlaing International School and will start classes at a purpose-built Star City campus in 2017. The venture has set aside $100m for the school, which will be disbursed in stages by Yoma. The outfit expects to cater to as many as 1400 students aged between two and 18 years once fully operational, with the first phase due to be completed in 2017. The growth in private schools, as in many other parts of the economy, has created competition for staff, pushing up salaries. The fee schedule within the private sector reflects the nature of the teaching staff. “The fees are going to be set largely by the international market,” Fraser White, Dulwich College International’s founder and executive chairman, told local media. “However, we have made a particular commitment here in Myanmar to develop a scholarship scheme so that the best students will be able to access the school.”

Tertiary Education
Higher education is also a significant part of the civilian government’s educational reforms – a far cry from their military predecessors who sought to undermine higher education by closing institutions and dispersing management across 13 different ministries, including agriculture and transport.

The MoE’s Department of Higher Education controls only 66 of the 163 institutions of higher learning. “In order to sustain economic growth and compete in the global economy, Myanmar’s higher education institutions will be reformed to enable greater knowledge production and to develop highly skilled research centres to support social and economic development,” the NESP stated.

As a University of Oxford graduate, State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has gravitated towards the UK for assistance in rehabilitating the education* system. Myanmar’s parliamentarians have visited UK institutions to get an understanding of the British systems, while geoscientists from Oxford and Heriot-Watt’s Institute of Petroleum Engineering have visited Myanmar. According to Kevin Mackenzie, director of the British Council in Myanmar for the four years until July 2016, there has been a drive towards autonomy – a key part of the reforms envisaged under the NESP. Speaking to weekly magazine Times Higher Education in July 2016, he said, “Rectors are more accessible. The new government is open for business and has a better idea of what university autonomy is.”

US universities have also shown a willingness to help. Academics from 10 US institutions visited in 2013 under the Institute of International Education’s (IIE) International Partnership Programme. Arizona State University agreed to look into the possibility of working with schools in Myanmar to offer a joint certificate in religious studies, while Rutgers University has offered financial support to academics that spend short periods lecturing in Myanmar. However, some obstacles remain. For example, Johns Hopkins University pulled out of a proposed project with the University of Yangon in 2015 due to concerns about academic autonomy.

As elsewhere in Myanmar’s education system, reform in the tertiary sector requires systemic change and will take time to achieve. Just 11% of Myanmar’s young people received any kind of higher education in 2013. Places at universities remain limited, meaning that only those who pass the matriculation exam at the very top of their class – usually the top 30% – are accepted, according to figures from City College Yangon. A 2013 IIE report found learning materials, and the courses themselves, were outdated and the training received by the lecturers of doubtful quality.

The University of Yangon, the country’s most prestigious institution, was shut down following the student-led uprising of 1988 and only reopened at the end of 2013. Other institutions were moved to remote campuses further away from urban centres as a way of isolating opposition to military rule. Student unions were also banned.

As it sets about rebuilding the system, the NLD government plans to bring higher education back under the MoE, while also offering more clarity on the obligations and responsibilities that autonomy entails for tertiary institutions. Officials aim to establish a Higher Education Quality Assurance Agency to develop national quality standards and ensure accountability. Regulation will also be key to the success of the emerging private sector too, where most institutions are profit-driven and no legislation yet exists governing the operation of non-profits. Without oversight lenders are unwilling to back such enterprises, so they are often self-funded. “People are looking for quick bucks, and these are long-term investments. We have to be patient,” Deepak Neopane, founder of City College Yangon, which opened in 2013 with the goal of training qualified engineers and is supported by private investors, told OBG.

The college currently has about 100 students working towards a higher national diploma, a pre-degree UK qualification, and the institution is talking to some UK universities about partnerships that would allow students to continue their studies for two more years to gain a degree. Still, Neopane said, “UK universities want some stability and regulations before they jump in.”

As the NLD maps out its plans for upcoming reforms across Myanmar, the benefits of changes to the education system will take many years to be felt. The government’s recognition that education is a crucial part of its long-term goal of creating a more prosperous and inclusive nation is only one component of a multifaceted effort.

One in five children could be at risk of mental health issues, study suggests

The study, of more than 850,000 seven to 14-year-olds in the UK, asked children questions related to how they felt about themselves and school Shutterstock

Almost one in five children could be at risk of mental health issues later in life, according to research.

Nearly a fifth (19 per cent) of youngsters show signs of low self-worth and doubt their learning abilities – which a new report argues are strong indicators that a child’s wellbeing is at risk.

Boys are just as likely to be vulnerable as girls, the report from GL Assessment, a provider of assessments for schools, found.

The study, of more than 850,000 seven to 14-year-olds in the UK, asked children questions related to how they felt about themselves and school.

More than one in 20 children (6 per cent) exhibit extremely poor attitudes to their learning and have very low self-regard, making them especially vulnerable, the study found.

Jonny Benjamin, a mental health campaigner, wrote in the report: “I believe there is more worry and pressure on children than ever and it’s starting younger.”

When asked why this might be, Dr Adam Boddison, chief executive of charity nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs), said school accountability pressures had played a part.

He told The Independent: “For children and young people in schools, the accountability agenda means there is increasing pressure on teachers and therefore on pupils to achieve more.

“This is happening at the same time as increasing complexity of special educational needs (SEN) and reduced resources in schools, as well as less access to external support services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).”

Dr Boddison added that the narrowing of the curriculum – such a reduction in citizenship and personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education – may have contributed as well.

In the report, Greg Watson, chief executive of GL Assessment, said: “Almost a fifth of [pupils] have negative feelings towards school and struggle with issues like self-regard and their perceived capabilities as learners. These often-hidden attitudinal issues can have a big impact on attainment.

“But it’s not only academic performance we should be worried about. These negative attitudes are precisely those that practitioners fear put children’s wellbeing at risk.

“When you add in other issues, such as a lax work ethic and a poor attendance record, the chances of children becoming unhappy or even ill increase significantly.”