Clean Sweep: New South Wales parents who want to be more involved in their children’s classrooms may soon have a whole new way to pitch in. A provincial government proposal would allow principals to save money by reducing custodial services and having parents help pick up the slack by cleaning windows, classrooms, and playgrounds. But the school cleaners’ union is calling the idea a dirty trick. "This is an attack on the jobs of nearly 7,000 low-waged school cleaners," Annie Owens, state secretary of the Liquor, Hospitality, and Miscellaneous workers’ union, told the Australian. "Our aim is to ensure we get the best outcome for all concerned," said a spokesman for Commerce Minister John Della Bosca.
Hemmed In: Going to great lengths to make sure its schoolgirls don’t show too much leg, Suffolk’s Kesgrave High School is inverting last century’s battle over who wears the pants in class. The school now requires that girls do just that, citing an epidemic of inappropriately short skirts. "We simply do not want our girls going outside with a ‘come-hither look,’" school governor Margaret Young told the Guardian, citing class time wasted measuring skirts for dress-code compliance. "Now instead of having to discipline pupils on uniform inaccuracies, teachers can get on with teaching." Young added that short skirts look "dreadful" on the many students who ride their bicycles to school each day.
Starting Early: As the rates of HIV, AIDS, and teen pregnancy continue to grow in rural areas, the southern city of Guangzhou plans to teach sex education to students starting in kindergarten. The China Daily reports that the move—a response to proposals from the city’s People’s Congress—is intended to give children the facts of life before they reach the age at which they become sexually active. "Sex and health education in students’ early years is necessary," said Liao Chan, a local doctor and People’s Congress deputy. Chan said too many students now get their birds-and-bees information from pornographic magazines and Web sites. "The number of students who have premarital sexual activities and schoolgirls who have induced abortion are increasing now."
Don’t Ask: Paron Israsena, director of the Darunsikkhalai School for Innovative Learning, doesn’t want his students to listen to him. "We want to change from traditional teaching—having students wait for knowledge," Israsena told the Nation."[We] encourage them to learn and find answers for themselves." Students at the school must come up with their own projects and gather the information needed to complete them by trial and error, though they do get some guidance from "facilitators," as their teachers are now called. "It’s very much like a real workplace, where different people have to cooperate," says DSIL mother Chucharee Keesiri.
Vol. 16, Issue 2, Page 17Published in Print: October 1, 2004, as Dispatches