Holding Back: During a recent investigation into a sudden
nationwide decline in the number of 12th graders, South Africa's
Department of Education discovered that many high schools are holding
back academically weak 11th graders who meet the requirements to move
up a grade but might not pass their exit exams. Apparently,
administrators at schools with low pass rates have turned to this
tactic to shake off the stigma that comes with being designated
"dysfunctional" and to qualify for salary bonuses given to educators
who improve graduation rates. It does work—Naledi Secondary
School in Soweto, for one, raised its matriculation rate from 19
percent to 70 percent with a smaller and smarter class last
year—but government officials are scandalized by the trend.
"Schools should stop compromising learners in order to obtain better
results," department representative Molatwane Likhethe told the Mail
& Guardian's magazine for teachers. "Bad results are not the
end of the world."
Crunch Time: The recent shortening of the school week in Japan to five days is wearing on students and teachers alike, the Japan Times reports. Intended to ease the pressure of school life, the new schedule appears to be having the opposite effect, according to a teachers' union poll of 16,200 educators. Teachers complained of increasingly demanding schedules and not enough time to complete all of their preparation. They also voiced concern about their students' lack of focus in the classroom due to packed days. Only a small percentage of teachers offered positive feedback on the revised week, which eliminated two Saturday classes per month.
Artful Arrangement: After a prestigious national children's art competition selected several students from Caol Primary School as finalists in October, it was revealed that the preteens are paying the salary of their school's art teacher. Faced with infrequent and rudimentary lessons at their cash-strapped school, the kids asked local artist Rob Fairley what it would take to get him to teach there. "I told them, 'You'll have to start paying me,'" Fairley recounted in the Daily Telegraph. For the past five years, the students have covered his nearly $32,000 annual salary by raising money through art sales, donations from businesses, and other fund-raisers.
Common Good: A recent rash of crimes committed by individuals who excelled in Thailand's educational system has prompted the government to introduce "goodness" grades in its high schools. Starting next academic year, students will be evaluated on their emotional maturity and moral integrity, the Nation reports. Teachers will record students' positive contributions to school and community in special report books. The records ultimately will factor into college admissions, with the hope that those with high moral values—and not just good grades—will be accepted.
Vol. 14, Issue 5, Page 11Published in Print: February 1, 2003, as Dispatches