Greek tragedy for education opportunities

Marathon poster in Athens

When considering the effects of the debt crisis on Greece, most people probably think of long queues outside banks and protests in the streets.

A less visible but perhaps further reaching outcome is that Greece’s education system has become one of the most unequal in the developed world.

Although education in Greece is free, public schools are suffering from spending cuts imposed as a condition of the bailout agreements.

In practice, over the last 30 years it has become increasingly necessary for students to pay for expensive private tuition to pass the famously difficult Panhellenic exams required to get to university.

But with unemployment rising and salaries falling, many poor and middle-class families are struggling to pay for this extra tuition.

A World Economic Forum report this month ranked Greece last of 30 advanced economies for education because of the close relationship between students’ performance and their parents’ income.

And a professor of law and economics at the University of Athens warns that losing talented students from poor backgrounds is a “national catastrophe” which could hinder Greece’s long-term economic recovery.

Tuition costs

Greece’s education system was designed around the principle of equality.

Article 16 of the constitution

Tablet computers widely used by under fives

Tablet computersIn families which own tablet computers, almost a third of children aged under five have their own device, according to a study by the universities of Sheffield and Edinburgh.

Children use their computers for more than an hour a day, researchers say.

The study showed YouTube was the most popular destination.

Jackie Marsh of the University of Sheffield said parents needed to check the appropriateness of what their infant children were using online.

The study revealed the widespread use of tablet computers among toddlers, averaging an hour and 19 minutes on weekdays and slightly longer at weekends.

Online generation

Most were able to use touchscreens to control the computer and were using them to play games, watch television, films and online videos.

The Economic and Social Research Council-funded project examined computer use in 2,000 families with one or more tablet computers – and found that 31% of under-fives had their own device.

“It may seem surprising that in homes with a tablet, nearly a third of under-fives have their own device,” said Lydia Plowman of the University of Edinburgh.

“But when parents upgrade their tablet, many pass on their older model to their children. Budget models are also popular gifts.”


Denmark reinvents lessons for reluctant learners

Students in transparent classHow do you get young adults back into education if they dropped out and had a negative experience of learning?

How do you show those who failed first time round that the door is still open? How do you get out-of-work youngsters to decide that it’s worth their while to get qualifications?

Reaching out to the educationally excluded isn’t some kind of philanthropic exercise. It’s a very practical and often intractable economic problem for many developed countries.

It is a worst-of-both-worlds position of having unemployed youngsters at the same time as having firms struggling to cope with a shortage of skilled staff.

Denmark is no exception. About 12% of the country’s 15 to 29-year-olds are counted as not in education, employment or training or “Neet”. At the same time there are “talent shortages” for a range of skilled jobs which means recruiting overseas.

Connected classroom

But where are these young adults going to study?

Voksenuddannelsescenter Syd – or VUC Syd – is offering a different kind of model for such young learners.

This adult education centre, beside a fjord in Haderslev in southern Denmark, is based in a state-of-the-art, £25m building that seems to have gone to

10 years after Hurricane Katrina, charters playing key role in rebuilding failing schools

NEW ORLEANS — Ten years ago, with schools in New Orleans struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana made the fateful decision to pull most of those schools into the existing Recovery School District, whose mission was to take failing schools and turn them into charter schools.

A decade later, 90 percent of New Orleans students attend charters, as ratios of charter schools continue to grow in major urban areas. New Orleans is at the cutting edge, but nationally the impact of charters continue to grow steadily, with 51 percent of Detroit, 44 percent of Washington, D.C., attending charters. Other large charter cities are Flint, Michigan; Gary, Indiana; and Kansas City, Missouri; each of which has more than 35 percent of children in charters.

Nationally, charters are disproportionately an urban and lower-income phenomenon. in 2011, the federal government reported that 36 percent of charter schools had 75 percent or more students on free or reduced lunch, compared to a national average of 23 percent.

Five percent of American children now attend charters, with more than 2.7 million students, a growth rate of more than 70 percent over the past five years, according to the The National Alliance

Pastors at forefront of helping Oregon town cope with grief

ROSEBURG, Ore. — When pastor Jon Nutter got a text message last Thursday about the shooting at Umpqua Community College and realized how many had been killed or injured, he immediately formed a prayer circle at Starbucks where he was sitting.

He then rushed to open his church in Roseburg to anyone in need of counseling, and drove to the Douglas County Fairgrounds, where officials were reuniting students with family members.

As bus after bus rolled into the fairgrounds on Thursday carrying students, faculty and staff, Nutter and about two dozen other local pastors held uncontrollably crying students, formed prayer circles, listened to eyewitnesses recount the rampage that killed nine and watched tearful reunions with parents and spouses.

The pastors also comforted parents and spouses who waited for the last bus of students. Five hours after the shooting, a dozen remaining family members were ushered into a room at the fairgrounds, said Nutter, who was also in the room. Officials notified them there would be no more buses coming.

“They had been waiting for a long time, hoping, praying,” said Nutter, pastor of Hucrest Community Church of God. “People were crying, yelling, some families were angry, others going into denial and shock.”


UVU student determined to rebuild hometown school in earthquake torn Nepal

OREM — One Utah Valley University student returned home to Nepal recently with one goal — to rebuild the Shree Shiva Shakti Elementary School, which crumpled to rubble in the April earthquake.

At first, Sagar Basnet, who experienced quakes when he was in middle school, wasn’t worried about the earthquake with its epicenter in his hometown of Gorkha, Nepal. But once he heard it was a 7.6 in magnitude, he immediately phoned from Utah to find out if his family was OK. Upon learning his family was safe, Basnet said he began a month-long process of watching for updates on social media and

“I was sad and depressed,” Basnet said. “One day I saw a post on Twitter saying thousands of children had lost their schools due to (the) earthquake and I wanted to give back a new hope to these kids who went through (this) devastating earthquake.”

More than 16,000 public and private school classrooms were damaged in the April earthquake, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Basnet said civil engineers surveyed these schools and tagged them with either green or red stickers — green stickers meant the school was safe and red meant the

North Korea releases detained South Korean student

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea on Monday freed a South Korean national who is a student at New York University, in a possible sign it wants better ties with rival Seoul and may back away from a recent threat to launch a long-range rocket later this month.

North Korean state media said it “deported” Won Moon Joo, 21, at the border village of Panmunjom as a “humanitarian” measure about six months after he had been arrested for crossing the Chinese border into North Korea. It didn’t elaborate.

South Korean officials confirmed Joo’s repatriation. The National Intelligence Service, South Korea’s main spy agency, said it will investigate whether Joo violated the country’s anti-North Korean security law, which prohibits unapproved travel to the North.

Joo has permanent residency status in the United States. The exact motivation for his travel to North Korea wasn’t clear.

North Korea often uses detainees in attempts to win political concessions and aid from rivals Seoul and Washington, and a South Korean analyst said it may have calculated that since Joo’s alleged crime was relatively minor, his release might boost the impoverished, authoritarian country’s international image and lead to more investment and tourism.

Ten days ago, Joo was presented to

Clinton pitches new gun controls following Oregon shooting

MANCHESTER, N.H. — Hillary Rodham Clinton offered an emotional plea for tougher gun control laws on Monday, vowing after last week’s deadly Oregon school shooting to tighten regulations on firearms buyers and sellers with a combination of congressional and executive action.

Joined by the mother of a 6-year-old victim of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the Democratic presidential candidate said there was little “new” and “nothing unique” about her plans — aside from her determination to take action.

During a campaign appearance at a town hall, Clinton decried the “extremism” that she said has come to characterize the debate over the nation’s gun laws. She veered between sadness and anger, accusing her Republican opponents of “surrender” to a difficult political problem.

“This epidemic of gun violence knows no boundaries, knows no limits of any kind,” she told the crowd of several hundred. “How many people have to die before we actually act, before we come together as a nation? It’s time for us to say we’re better than this.”

Clinton has made strengthening the nation’s gun laws a centerpiece of her presidential campaign following a series of mass shootings in the past few months.

Her campaign rolled out a robust set of proposals