Reexamining Failure: Though it’s their country’s official language, English proved a tough subject for some Kiwi teachers—at least by the standards of one proficiency exam. The test, which certifies foreign-born teachers, has been repeatedly criticized as too difficult even for native speakers: Two-thirds of instructors at an Auckland primary school couldn’t pass it. One foreign teacher who served for 10 years as a European Union translator and taught autistic children has failed the test by just a few points four times. “As a special needs teacher, she is absolutely brilliant,” principal Laure Lamason told the Sunday Star-Times. “Neither I nor her pupils’ parents want to lose her.” The director of New Zealand’s Teachers Council supported the exam’s reliability but declined to take it himself.
Safe House Schools: Failed asylum-seekers who stay in the country illegally are subject to arrest, but the government is considering guaranteed schooling for their children. National authorities have even agreed to ease the transition for local jurisdictions by providing an additional $6.3 million for their education, reports the Local. The National Police Board, on the other hand, staunchly opposes the idea. Law enforcement officials are ordered to locate about 10,000 refugee families a year, and one officer pointed out that police don’t corner such children in schools. “But you could, of course, follow the child home, see the street, see where the mother or father is living,” he added.
Inflamed Teachers: Students who insult their teachers in online journals may soon face lawsuits. While the wildly popular practice, called blogging, is encouraged as a way to improve writing skills, about half a dozen secondary schools have begun prohibiting “flaming” directed toward teachers. “I’ve had vulgarities hurled against me, my parents, and my whole family in some students’ blogs,” science teacher Tham King Loong told the Straits Times. Lawyers say these students can be prosecuted for defamation even if the teacher isn’t named, and the Singapore Teachers’ Union has agreed to back any educator who wants to take legal action.
Book Sensibility: A Nova Scotia school board canceled a field trip to see a stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird because it might make black students uncomfortable, according to the Ottawa Citizen. The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel details the rampant racism in the 1920s American South, a topic one English teacher thought valuable for his 11th grade students despite the book’s removal from the local curriculum in the 1990s. But the liberal use of “the ‘n’ word” would distress black students, said the board’s coordinator of race relations, who is also black. Still, the English teacher has been told he does have options: “Just because it was taken off a list to make room for other books ... doesn’t mean we’re banning books,” an education spokeswoman said.
Vol. 17, Issue 03, Page 11Published in Print: November 1, 2005, as Dispatches