Data Dispute: The education ministry has given the go-ahead to a controversial nationwide student database, the Korea Times reports. Critics of the new system, which lets schools post health reports, transcripts, and admissions records on the Internet, are concerned that privacy violations could occur if hackers break into the network. The progressive Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union ordered its 92,000 members to protest the system by striking in late June. The KTU has also threatened to sue any administrator who contributes to the voluntary database.
That's Bologna: Education Minister Vladimir Filippov has announced plans to introduce standardized testing nationwide within two years, reports the Moscow Times. The tests will replace the country's existing system of school finals and individual university admissions exams, and mark the first step in Russia's bid to join the Bologna Process, an initiative to standardize educational methods across Europe. The minister has also expressed hope that unified exams will reduce corruption in school admissions and make it easier for students in far-flung provinces to apply to top institutions. According to Filippov, roughly 1,200 education officials are caught receiving or extorting bribes from students each year.
A Wheel Deal: Students who walk 5-plus kilometers a day to school may now find that distance more manageable, thanks to an initiative sponsored by South Africa's transportation department. According to the East Cape News, the government will distribute bicycles to secondary school students who live in areas of the Eastern Cape province that lackpublic transportation. The bicycles, which become the students' property, are made to suit country roads and require minimal servicing. Transport spokesman Tsepho Machaea says the program is designed to lower the high failure and dropout rates at rural schools. The government will initially spend about $6,500 to supply 159 bicycles to kids at two schools.
Cultural Goulash: In response to a spike in discrimination against students of Gypsy, or Roma, heritage, the Hungarian government has created a new post, Commissioner for Roma Integration. "'Integration' is the politically correct word," newly appointed commissioner Viktoria Mohacsi tells the Agence France-Presse, "but really my job is to achieve desegregation." Researchers recently found that at 178 primary schools known to have significant Roma populations, 330 remedial classes were created for and filled entirely with Roma students. "Many parents want to take their children away from schools where there are a lot of Roma, thinking that the education thereis inferior," explains Gabor Havas, a sociologist at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. "Schools in turn often segregate Roma into different classes or schools to prevent this flight of students."
Vol. 15, Issue 1, Page 13Published in Print: September 1, 2003, as Dispatches