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Published in Print: October 1, 2003, as Dispatches


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Calling Plan: "Roll call" has a new ring to it in two Irish schools. In an effort to curb truancy, administrators have begun sending parents text messages on their mobile phones when their children are absent. "It's a natural progression from the old style of roll call," David Sweeney, principal of Dublin's Portmarnock Community School, told "It's quick and efficient, and we're very pleased with it." The new system has lowered absenteeism rates at his school even though some students have been slow to provide their parents' wireless numbers.


Bent Out of Shape: Under pressure from the Catholic church, Croatian authorities have scrapped plans to launch optional yoga classes for the country's schoolteachers, the Agence France-Presse reports. The church argued that yoga, physical exercise with roots in Hinduism, was a masked attempt to introduce Hindu religious practices into Croatian schools. According to the Croatian Council of Bishops, teachers who attended the classes would be indoctrinated with Hinduism and "obviously pass on what they had learned to their pupils." Yoga teacher Paramahans Swami Maheshwarananda denies any intention to convert Croats.


It's a Gas: Educators at Myeka High School in Ndwedwe, South Africa, have taken recycling to a new level. Inspired by a science project conducted by two Myeka students, officials have installed a low-pressure gas generator that converts student and teacher waste into biogas. Collected in tanks connected to 16 toilets, the biogas powers everything from Bunsen burners in the science lab to refrigerators in the home economics classroom, reports the Sunday Times. Educators also use human, cow, and horse dung to fertilize the school vegetable garden. "We are proud that we can rely on ourselves to get power for the school," said student Rubin Gumede.


Classroom Close- Up: Is nothing sacred to British TV producers? The industry that created "Big Brother," "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire," and "American Idol" has now turned its cameras on education. For "That'll Teach 'Em," a six-part series that aired on England's Channel 4 in August and September, 30 modern- day teenagers agreed to be transported to the lost world of slide rules, inkwells, thick uniforms, and army cots at a 1950s-style state boarding school. Producers took pains to make the experience historically accurate, recreating the type of schoolwork done, games played, and even food served. Series producer Simon Rockwell, a former teacher, told the Daily Telegraph that he designed the project to illustrate how much British education has changed over the past half century. "Kids today are better equipped for more independent work," he said. "They aren't spoon-fed, as I was, and they can assess information rather than store it."

—Aviva Werner

Vol. 15, Issue 2, Page 13

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