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#1 HEADLINE: The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) revealed here on Wednesday that few countries are on the way to achieve their development and poverty-elimination targets.
The UNDP Human Development Report 2002 drew this conclusion two years after the world leaders set the goals which were to be achieved by 2015. The report said that at the current pace, only 55 countries with 23 percent of the world population are on their way to attain 75 percent of their goals set at the Millennium Declaration. Thirty-three countries, which account for 26 percent of the world population, are unlikely to reach even half of their targets, according to the report. With respect to the issue of education, the report said that 51 nations with 40 percent of the world population are on their way to achieve their universal elementary education target by 2015, or have attained so already. As for the issue of hunger, 57 countries, which account for half of the world population, have reduced by half their hunger- stricken population, or are on the path to obtain their goal. With regard to poverty, the report said that due to a lack of statistics, it was difficult to evaluate the achievements obtained in the poverty-elimination efforts. However, the slow development in many regions has made it difficult to achieve the goals in this regard. The situation in Sub-Saharan Africa is especially difficult, according to the report. Forty-five countries in the region failed to reach their targets and 11 others, including Angola and Somalia, have probably even moved backward. The Human Development Report has been published every year since 1990, and is elaborated by an independent team of experts examining issues of world importance. (XINHUA NEWS AGENCY. July 25, 2002)
#2 HEADLINE: UN Report says human progress improving in most of the world, slipping in former East bloc, sub-Saharan Africa
The United Nations reported many countries in Eastern and Central Europe, the former Soviet Union and sub-Saharan Africa have lost ground over the past decade in terms of life expectancy, education and income per person.
While the UN Human Development Program found progress in most countries in its latest ranking released Wednesday, the report said, more than 60 of 173 countries ranked in this year's human development index have lower income per capita today than before 1990. In 26 countries, incomes are lower than in 1980. Norway retained the top ranking from a year ago, followed by Sweden, Canada and Belgium. Australia slipped from second to fifth, with the United States down one spot in sixth.
All 24 countries at the bottom of the index are in sub-Saharan Africa, with Sierra Leone again ranked last.
The report "shows substantial progress over the last decades in the level of human development in most parts of the world," said UNDP, which released the Human Development Report for 2002 at the Philippines' presidential palace.
"But the report calls attention to tragic exceptions in Eastern and Central Europe, the former Soviet Union and sub-Saharan Africa, where many countries actually have a lower HDI (human development index) today than they did at the start of the 1990s," it said.
Norway has risen six places since 1990, while Sweden and Australia both climbed nine places. The United States, Iceland and France have fallen four spots, while Japan dropped five and Switzerland six. In East Asia, many economies have made striking progress since 1990, despite the financial crises that hit the region toward the end of the decade, the report said. China has risen most, jumping 14 places. Singapore and South Korea have moved up eight places, Thailand 10, and Malaysia 12, it said. (The Associated Press July 23, 2002)
#3 HEADLINE: Tehran schoolgirls can discard headscarves: Critics say it 'encourages nudity'
For the first time since the 1979 revolution, the education ministry is allowing girls to attend all-female schools in Tehran without headscarves -- a move religious hardliners criticized as "encouraging nudity."
The decision, which also applies to teachers, will be limited to 11,000 girls' schools in Tehran when it comes into force in September, the start of the academic year. "The implementation of this plan is not in any contradiction with Islamic and national values," Homeira Rahimi, an official at the education ministry, said in remarks published Thursday.
For the moment, hardliners opposed to President Mohammad Khatami's program of easing political and social restrictions appeared to have limited their unhappiness with the decision to criticizing it in the press. Their restraint is widely interpreted as part of a new pragmatism: A willingness to permit more social freedoms in hopes of dampening challenges to the theocracy's powers. The hardline Jomhuri Islami daily said Thursday the directive was "encouraging the culture of nudity" and was aimed at weakening religious values.
"This is what we've been waiting for for a long time and it's good that we can now do it officially," said Shahrzad Entezari, a 17-year-old high school student. She said the new rule was "better than nothing," and that authorities should realize the "desires of the new generation."
Women in Iran have been expected to follow strict Islamic dress codes since the 1979 revolution, which toppled the pro-western shah and brought Islamic clerics to power. Authorities ordered schools to be segregated and male teachers replaced at girls' schools. However, University classes remained open to both men and women.
After Khatami's 1997 election, many women began defining new boundaries in Islamic clothing. They let their hair cascade from beneath loose scarves. And billowing black chadors or shapeless coats have been cast aside by some young women in favour of elegant knee-length smocks or even tight business-style jackets. Some girls just toss on a baggy sweater. Such liberties would have risked arrest or a beating by morality enforcers only a few years ago.
"Yes, I believe this is a right thing to do, but someone should explain to the people the reason why the restriction was in place for the past 23 years," said Shadi Sadr, a female journalist and law expert. "I think the authorities who imposed it during all these years owe an apology for the wrong regulations which violated the rights of Iranian girls," she said.
Mahin, a teacher who refused to give her other name, said the directive came too late. "It's useless and even harmful to impose unnecessary restrictions on teenage girls," she said. "I think this is inevitable. We cannot force a cultural matter physically. Our girls are good and smart, they can chose the right way," said the high school teacher of more than 20 years. (Calgary Herald August 3, 2002)
#4 HEADLINE:Fewer American babies are dying. Fewer teenage girls are having babies. Smoking is dropping among 8th and 10th graders.
There's encouraging news in a report released Friday that brings together recent figures on the health, economics and education of some 70 million children in the United States. The report was compiled by the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics. Officials celebrated the successes but noted there was no improvement on many measures of well-being.
The best news might be a substantial drop in infant mortality. In 1999, the report said, seven of every 1,000 babies under age one died. That was down from 7.2 in 1998 after declining throughout the 1990s.
The rate fell again in 2000, said a separate report also being released Friday, to 6.9 deaths per 1,000 babies. "It's a triumph of science and health performance," said Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Alexander attributed the reduction to clinical improvements in treatment of respiratory distress syndrome and a reduction in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, achieved largely through a campaign to put babies to sleep on their backs.
OTHER POSITIVE TRENDS INCLUDE:
- More children were covered by health insurance, up from 87 per cent in 1999 to 88 percent in 2000. Officials credited the relatively new State Children's Health Insurance Program, which covers children in working poor families.
- Fewer 8th and 10th graders smoked, though smoking rates for high school seniors were statistically unchanged. Last year, 5.5 per cent of 8th graders smoked, down from 7.4 per cent in 2000; among 10th graders, 12 per cent smoked, down from 14 per cent.
- More children were read to every day by a family member, 58 per cent last year, up from 54 per cent in 1999.
- More youngsters ages two to five had a good diet -- 27 per cent in 1998, up from 21 per cent in 1996.
Numerous measures did not change: In 2000, 16 per cent of children lived in poverty, 76 per cent of toddlers got the recommended immunizations and 87 per cent of young adults finished high school. Drug and alcohol use among junior high and high school students held steady.
In a special feature this year, the report found that in 2001, 19 per cent of children had at least one parent born outside the United States, up from 14 per cent in 1994. (St. John's Press, July 2002)
#5 HEADLINE:Brothels lure university girls TOUGH times were forcing many university students to consider prostitution to pay for food, rent and other needs, Federal Labor said yesterday.
Opposition education spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said an expose in Cosmopolitan magazine showed the sex industry was placing advertisements in universities to try to recruit students. The article cited a study by the Sex Workers Outreach Program which said there were 10,000 sex workers in NSW alone in any one year. Of those, about 10 per cent were university students.
"Sex industry operators are reportedly placing ads on the back of doors in campus and college toilets to lure desperate students with the promise of good pay and flexible hours," said Ms Macklin. "It is appalling to think that young girls straight out of school and struggling to pay their bills in the first year of university are being forced to consider sex work," she said. (The Gold Coast Bulletin July 26, 2002)
#6 HEADLINE: Female students are more focused on school work and plan better than boys, but also worry much more, according to an ACT study of almost 2000 high-school students to be issued today.
The survey of ACT Year 7 and 9, across eight government schools, was part of the Improving the Outcomes of Boys draft report, on the problems in boys' education. Conducted by Dr. Andrew Martin, for the ACT Education Department, the survey found that Year 7 students of both sexes were more motivated than their Year 9 counterparts. The survey measured the thoughts, feelings and behaviours that underpinned academic engagement in school. Students were asked about factors that enhanced or reduced their motivation.
Motivation boosters were factors like self-belief, persistence, ability to manage study and focus. Motivation guzzlers were anxiety, working only to avoid being seen to fail, self-sabotage and a feeling of scant control over how the student was doing at school.
Across both Years 7 and 9, girls did better than boys in managing and planning their study, as well as maintaining focus. Girls were more anxious than boys. In Year 7 they more persistent in their studies, but by Year 9 they had a lower feeling of control over how they were doing than boys. Year 7 boys were sabotaging themselves more than girls, and completing school work to avoid being seen as a failure by teachers or parents.
The results of further ACT surveys are to be included in the second part of the interim report, due out soon. (The Canberra Times July 24, 2002)
#7 HEADLINE: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (Ethiopia and Somalia)
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
In southeastern Ethiopia, a woman like Sedo Osman is a rare sight. She is one of a handful of women teachers striving to get more girls into schools. Sedo explains that she was just one of five women teachers when she was trained to work in Somali Regional State. "I would like to see more girls coming to school," she told IRIN. "But gradually the situation is changing. If I am at the front of the classroom, I can act as a role model to the girls. They can see that they too can become teachers." But the salaries for teachers - which can be as low as 180 Ethiopian birr a month (US $21) - often ensure that many do not stay in the profession for long.
In Ethiopia the mountain that needs to be climbed in terms of education is enormous.
MANY STILL HAVE NO EDUCATION
According to a recent study, some 72 percent of school-age children have no access to formal education. The difference between the enrollment of boys and girls in schools is still vast, despite the fact that the federal government spends 15 per cent of the national budget on education. Dropout rates from primary schools are more than 25 percent.
Even starker is the difference between the regional states of Ethiopia. In the Somali State - with a population of around 3.6 million people - the situation is dismal. Of the 800,000 school-age children (those between the ages of seven to 14) only 10 percent make it into school. Some 1,820 teachers work in the state - one for every 440 pupils.
Fewer than one in 16 girls in the state attends any kind of schooling. The state has the lowest number of qualified teachers and, most alarmingly, the highest dropout rate in the country - close to one-third. School attendance is growing by a tiny two percent a year. The apparent failure of the formal sector of the economy has led to interest in the informal sector, which many believe can help address some of their problems.
Sedo, 25, was trained by Save the Children Fund-UK (SCF-UK) to teach in informal schools it had built in the state. "If more females are educated they might be more able to support their families, and so the benefits will be seen," said Sedo, who teaches Somali and the Koran. "I can now support my family, and so they realise why it was important that I was educated." She works in a school just outside her village of Agajin Libah, some 20 km from the state capital Jijiga. Under the informal scheme, she received 90 days training. SCF-UK is currently training a further 77 women teachers.
TRAINING OF TEACHERS
The Somali Regional State authorities are committed to bringing about change and boosting the numbers of teachers. So far more than 1,200 would-be teachers are receiving training. Nine educational centres have been set up for long-range learning.
Ahmed Shode of the state's education bureau told IRIN that despite the mammoth tasks ahead, the local population was beginning to recognise the importance of schools. "When we saw the capacity of our teachers compared to other regions, it was very low," he said. "So we have started to give them some training. People are now talking about education and getting the chance to learn." A curriculum for informal education - which the education bureau believes holds the key to rapid expansion of schooling - is being replicated around the region.
Education is also a central plank of the federal government's plans. Its education and training policy aims to completely restructure and expand the education system. It is addressing education from the nursery school to the university level and is also extending its efforts to special-needs and informal education.
One of the policy's major goals is to achieve universal enrolment in primary school by 2015. This year alone, the education ministry aimed to increase enrolment from 3.1 million children to seven million. Primary school enrolment is expected to grow from 30 percent to half the school-age population. The enrolment of girls is set to grow from 38 to 45 percent.
However, the authorities and international organisations working in the education sector also face enormous hurdles. Cultural and economic factors - most people in the country have to subsist on the equivalent on a dollar a day - are major impediments. Girls often cannot attend school because they are carrying out domestic duties, such as fetching water, often over long distances.
The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), which is active in the education sector, tries to ensure that new schools are built close to water points and that there is access to sanitary facilities for both males and females. Such facilities act as a magnet to girls seeking education, according to UNICEF. However, some communities, such as the Somali community, are often reluctant to send girls to school. SCF-UK, which helped the authorities in the Somali State in drawing up its informal education curriculum, has built some 20 schools providing informal education there. Each is constructed entirely by the local community at a cost of about 20,000 birr (US $2,352). (Africa News July 30, 2002)
#8 HEADLINE: PanAfrica; Strategy for Education for All -- Twelve African countries are among the 23 developing countries that have been invited by the World Bank to join the Education For All Fast Track.
This initiative is expected to help developing countries meet the Millennium Development Goal of providing every girl and boy with quality primary school education by 2015. The selected countries will be eligible to receive additional financing to support their primary education programmes. The financial support aims at helping these countries to strengthen the quality and delivery of their education systems, and to remove key bottlenecks in school completion. It is expected that some 17 million children in Africa, who do not now attend school in these countries, will have the opportunity to complete primary education.
A communiqué released recently by the World Bank to journalists said that the 23 countries are part of a larger group of 88 low-and middle-income countries, which, without special national and global efforts, will not achieve the goal of a complete primary education for every girl and every boy by 2015.
"We're making an important start here today with these 23 countries. More than 67 million children in these countries have never set foot in a classroom and many more drop out before completing even five or six years of primary school, which is the minimum to be able to read, write and do basic arithmetic. Education for All is an achievable goal but it will not be achieved without extraordinary effort by both the countries and their development partners," World Bank President James D. Wolfensohn was quoted in the communiqué
The Bank estimates that the international community, would need to commit approximately US$3 billion a year in additional financing over the next 10 years to help all low-income developing countries meet the Millennium education goal of leaving no child without a quality primary education.
During the World Education Forum in Dakar in 2000, the World Bank and other donors promised that no country with a viable and sustainable plan for achieving Education for All would be unable to implement it for a lack of resources. At the United Nations Financing for Development Conference in Monterrey, Mexico in March this year, the donor community pledged an additional $12 billion a year to support developing countries in achieving their education plans and other development priorities.
"If you consider the key lessons of aid effectiveness: measuring outcomes, focusing on poor countries that can use development aid most effectively, and having donors coordinate their efforts more systematically, then the G-8 have to acknowledge that financing this EFA Fast-Track for all countries in need would be one of the most compelling and sensible development investments ever made," noted the World Bank communiqué
The interest behind the EFA initiative is the belief that education is one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and for laying the basis for sustained economic growth.
"Economic prosperity and the reduction of global poverty cannot be accomplished unless all children in all countries can at a minimum complete a primary education of good quality. Education alone will not solve this problem, but the problem cannot be solved without education," says Mamphela Ramphele, the World Bank's Managing Director For Human Development.
The participating countries in Africa are, Burkina Faso, Mozambique, Niger, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria. (Africa News July 9, 2002)
#9 HEADLINE: Saudi Arabia -- Three expatriate schools ordered closed -- One for a Mixed Function
Education Minister Dr. Muhammad Al-Rasheed has ordered three international expatriate schools closed--one in Riyadh and two in Jeddah--for violating rules and instructions. The three schools have been asked to pay a fine of SR50,000 each.
Informed sources told Arab News that the Riyadh school was shut down for organizing a mixed ceremony of boys and girls at a public rest house on May 8. The ministry described the function as immodest. "It violated the regulations of school functions and the articles of school license," the ministry said. Al-Rasheed's tough action shows that the ministry would deal firmly with expatriate schools if found breaching its rules and regulations. (ARAB NEWS July 6, 2002)
#10 HEADLINE: Nigeria; Focus On the Menace of Student Cults
No-one paid much attention to three cars as they pulled up on the afternoon of Friday 14 June in a car park at the University of Nigeria's campus at Nsukka, in the southeastern state of Enugu State. All of a sudden, several armed young men jumped out of the cars, raced into a nearby auditorium and opened fire on students swotting for their end-of-semester examinations. By the time the gunsmoke had cleared, 14 students lay dead. Two of the assailants were arrested by fellow students and handed over to the police. The shock and outrage caused by the massacre reverberated throughout the country, and the university was closed indefinitely.
The police put the blame squarely on campus cults. "The university has been shut down because some cult members went there, shooting and killing innocent people," Nwachukwu Egbochukwu, Enugu State's police commissioner said at the time. The three cars used in the operation, he said, had been snatched at gunpoint from their owners hours before the attack.
The Nsukka massacre was the worst manifestation so far of a cancer that had been spreading in Nigeria's tertiary educational institutions for three decades: the menace of student cults, who visit violence on their rivals in a manner comparable to US street gangs. The attack in Nsukka has been blamed on a group identified as the Vikings, who were on an apparent revenge mission on students thought to belong to a rival gang.
Before the Nsukka incident, the president of the Lagos State University's student union, who had been waging an anti-cults campaign, was stabbed to death by suspected cultists. At the Ibadan Polytechnic in the southwest and universities in Okigwe and Port Harcourt in the southeast, several students also died in shootouts involving rival cult groups.
Barely two weeks after the killings at Nsukka, two students of the University of Ado-Ekiti, in the southwest, were shot dead in their residence by suspected cult members. A few days later the scene of violence shifted to nearby Owo. This time students of the town's polytechnic arrested five cult members following an incident and lynched them.
"At least 250 people have been killed in cult wars in Nigeria's tertiary institutions in the last decade," Emeka Akudi, a sociologist who has been studying the phenomenon, told IRIN. "And as the years pass, the casualty rates appear to be increasing." Yet, it is a monster with an innocuous beginning. The phenomenon of campus cults in Nigeria has been traced back to 1952, when Wole Soyinka - winner of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize for Literature - and a group of friends at the University of Ibadan formed the Pyrates Confraternity. Its motto was "Against all conventions".
With the skull and cross bones as their insignia, the Pyrates cultivated a bohemian style that ridiculed the colonial attitudes and mode of dress of the day. This caught on among students and over the next two decades the fraternity, a non-violent body, became established in all universities and tertiary institutions that emerged in post-independence Nigeria.
The emergence of campus cults as they are known in Nigeria today began with a split in the early 1970s in the Pyrates Confraternity. First, a breakaway group formed the Buccaneers Confraternity. Next to emerge was the Black Axe or the Neo-Black Movement. Inter-group rivalry then set in, but skirmishes between them were limited to fist fights.
The 1980s saw the multiplication of cults in the more than 300 institutions of higher learning across Nigeria. New groups such as the Eiye, the Vikings, the Amazons and Jezebels emerged, bringing with them more intensely violent rivalry.
In 1984, Soyinka, perhaps to take the wind out of the sail of the emerging trend, initiated the abolition of the Pyrates Confraternity in all tertiary institutions, but by then the phenomenon of violent cults had developed a life of its own. By the mid-1980s, it had become evident that some of the cults had been co-opted by elements in the intelligence and security services serving the then military government. They were used as foils to the left-wing student unions which, along with university teachers, were among the only remaining bastions of opposition to military rule.
"This was the time guns came into the picture," said Akudi. "Indeed there were instances where some university vice-chancellors actively protected some known cult groups and used them to hound student activists considered troublesome." He said the existence of traditional ancestral cults, some of which have transformed into contemporary ones, alongside the Free Masons and other esoteric organisations, had favoured the activities of student cults. Members of some of these groups bond together for the purpose of protecting political and economic interests, and this is mimicked by the student cults.
Following a violent attack in 1999 at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, in which some student union officials were killed by a members of cult, President Olusegun Obasanjo launched a campaign to eradicate cultism from Nigerian tertiary institutions. Hundreds of students across the country came out openly to renounce their membership of cults and the violence associated with the activities of such groups began to die down.
However, recent events indicate a resurgence. An editorial on 30 July in the respected daily, The Guardian, attempted an explanation: "The violence associated with the cults currently can be attributed to the general breakdown of values which we once held sacrosanct. The premium attached to human life has plummeted so badly that youths can now kill without flinching ... We therefore cannot combat the cults menace without paying attention to the problems of the larger society." (Africa News August 1, 2002)
#11 HEADLINE: Special Ed To Be Eyed For Inequity Gender Biases Might Exist
State Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll yesterday called for closer scrutiny of special-needs enrollments to narrow a statewide gender gap that results in twice as many boys as girls being placed in special education.
Certain psychological and medical disorders are more prevalent in boys, which will make it more difficult for schools to eliminate the disparity altogether, Driscoll said. In response to a Globe report showing that boys dominate special education in nearly all Massachusetts school districts, Driscoll said educators must ensure that boys in such classes have genuine disabilities, not just behavior problems. Driscoll said he wants to make sure that any training or grants the state sponsors do not promote gender bias.
"Anything that we discover through data that points us in a certain direction, we ought to react to it," Driscoll said. "It seems to me we would need more training on differentiating between behavioral issues and disabilities, which means better identification and testing."
Belmont's school superintendent, Peter B. Holland, agrees. Four years ago, Holland established a task force after noticing that girls won more school awards and took more advanced courses in his system than boys. Holland said the success of girls can't be interpreted without looking at the other side of the academic spectrum: 68 percent of Belmont's special education students are boys, according to the DOE numbers.
"I think they're related," Holland said. "The physicality and the ways boys interact with each other and with the rest of the class are different than what young girls do. The identification of needing additional services more often goes to the boys."
But Julia Landau of the Massachusetts Advocacy Center said the state should have watched the numbers all along. The Globe review found wide differences in the boy-girl ratio from district to district in Massachusetts and in communities across the country, especially in more subjective classifications such as emotional or behavior disorders.
Susan McGee Bailey, executive director of the Wellesley Centers for Women, said the numbers hint that schools classify too many boys as being in need of special education, and too few girls. "It's a classic example of where gender stereotypes are bad for girls and bad for boys," said Bailey, who has researched the special education gender divide.
In another special education matter yesterday, Robert Gaudet, a University of Massachusetts education researcher, released a study that tracked significant gains of some disabled students on the MCAS test from 2000 to 2001. In the class of 2003, the first group that must pass MCAS to graduate, Gaudet found that about 47 percent of special education students passed English and 39 percent passed math.
Although those pass rates trail those achieved by other groups of students, such as those in vocational schools or city districts, Gaudet highlighted several dozen schools that slashed failure rates of special education students by large margins. Some tested between 20 and 40 disabled students, but larger districts such as Waltham and Medford also had success with their special education students.
Medford's school superintendent, Roy E. Belson, said his system gave more academic time to students in the city's vocational high school, which many special education students attend. "It's not something you can talk about in the dugout. You've got to go out and take the exam and watch what takes place," Belson said. (The Boston Globe July 9, 2002)
#12 HEADLINE: Girls thrive in own schools -- boys are marginally better
Girls in single-sex schools perform to a higher academic standard than in mixed-sex schools, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research, which also found that they were more likely to defy gender stereotypes in their subjects, especially in sciences. The benefits were less striking for boys in single-sex schools, although researchers found that the lower ability candidates did better when spared the distraction of girls. The research emerged as Estelle Morris, the Education Secretary, said at a London conference that some teachers were not doing enough to raise the performance of primary school boys. (The Times (London) July 10, 2002)
#13 HEADLINE: Where are the Men?: Universities are struggling to understand why the percentage of male graduates is slipping every year
As Morgan State University President Earl Richardson surveyed the sea of newly minted graduates at the school's 126th commencement last month, his joy was tempered by a question that has grown too conspicuous to ignore: Where are all the men?
Not only were the head of student government, the senior class president and 96 of Morgan's 141 honour students women, but so were two-thirds of the university's 860 graduates.
At colleges and universities across the United States, the proportion of bachelor's degrees awarded to women reached a post-war high this year at an estimated 57 per cent. And figures in Canada are similar. At the University of Calgary, for example, almost 61 per cent of the students receiving undergraduate degrees in 2001 were female, as were close to 59 per cent of those getting graduate degrees. The trend, which began in the mid-1980s, has sparked concern among everyone from business leaders to demographers, who applaud the growing academic success of women but maintain the lopsided graduation rate may foretell significant problems.
"This is new. We have thrown the gender switch," said Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and author of The War Against Boys. "What does it mean in the long run that we have females who are significantly more literate, significantly more educated than their male counterparts? It is likely to create a lot of social problems."
Some researchers say the trend could herald a shift in the social dynamic, with educated women unable to find mates of equal educational backgrounds. Business groups are beginning to worry about a possible dwindling share of men to fill top corporate jobs. Last week, the Business Roundtable, an organization of chief executives of some of the nation's top corporations, commissioned a study on the subject.
"We simply can't afford to have half of our population not developing the skill sets that we are going to need to go into the future," said Susan Traiman, director of the group's education initiative. Researchers say the growing disparity between the sexes reflects not just the increasing success of women but also the educational problems of men. High school graduation rates for men are now slightly lower than those for women, and male students make up the majority of those enrolled in special education classes.
After years of being shrugged off, the disparity is prompting increased action. Earlier this month, researchers from Harvard University, the University of Michigan and the United Negro College Fund agreed to study the issue.
"This is a powerful issue we need to stop talking about in generalities and really dig into," said Michael Lomax, president of Dillard University in New Orleans. "I don't understand what is happening in the male community that is making education seem less attractive and less compelling."
Men had made up the majority of college graduates since at least 1870, when the first national survey in the US of bachelor's degrees awarded by colleges and universities found 7,993 male graduates, 1,378 female. Except for a brief period during World War II, that remained the case until female college enrolment overtook male enrolment in the late 1970s. By the early 1980s, women began outnumbering men among four-year college graduates.
"Women are deeply engaged in the educational process, while the boys are stuck where they were decades ago," said Tom Mortenson, a scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, a Washington research organization. Nobody really knows why this is the case, though theories abound. Some researchers believe women have learning styles that are more conducive to the college classroom. Some say men are more vulnerable to the lures of popular culture, or feel more pressure than women to work while in school.
An annual survey of U.S. college freshmen conducted for the Cooperative Institutional Research Program, a national study of higher education, has found consistently that men are more likely than women to spend large amounts of time watching television, partying and exercising during their senior year of high school. Women, meanwhile, report spending more time than men studying or doing homework, talking with teachers outside of class and doing volunteer work.
"I hesitate to say this, but it seems that women have an orientation not only toward achievement, but also toward being good and pleasing others," said Linda Sax, a UCLA education professor, who is writing a book about how women and men develop differently in college. (Calgary Herald July 27, 2002)
#14 HEADLINE: Targeted sex education unsuccessful, study shows
Programs designed to prevent teenage pregnancy or encourage teens to practise abstinence don't appear to work, according to researchers from McMaster University in Hamilton. The team pooled results from 26 controlled studies of randomly selected teens to see whether those taking part in special interventions were less likely to get pregnant, more likely to practise abstinence or at least more likely to put off their first sexual intercourse than teenagers taking conventional sex education. They did not, says lead author Alba DiCenso, a professor in nursing, clinical epidemiology and biostatistics at McMaster.
"It is disappointing," DiCenso says. The research paper was published in the British Medical Journal. All the published and unpublished studies reviewed by DiCenso and her colleagues compared the behaviours of teens who had taken part in special interventions to those of teenagers who had just taken conventional sex education classes in school.
The interventions didn't persuade young women to delay the initiation of sex; they didn't increase the percentage of girls who consistently used birth control; they didn't increase the proportion of young men who routinely used birth control; and they didn't reduce pregnancy rates. (Toronto Star July 20, 2002)
HEADLINE: Don't write off sex education
The role of sex education in preventing teen pregnancies has been sharply questioned in a major review in the British Medical Journal. The review looked at 26 research reports and found the apparent effects of sex education to be slight. As often as not, it was associated with increased risk of early sexual intercourse, reduced use of birth control, and increased the risk of youth pregnancy.
Those scattered results, in a seemingly random pattern, were consistent with the authors' conclusion that sex education has no significant effect. However, they were equally consistent with a conclusion that some sex education programs are beneficial, others are irrelevant, and a few do more harm than good.
Common sense tells us that young people who know the full consequences of their actions, upon their own physical, social, emotional, educational and career development, and upon the future of any children they may conceive, are more likely to make good life choices than those who are less informed. Sex education is only a minor complement to loving families, a supportive society and culture, stimulating schools and a strong economy. But there's no evidence yet to conclude that it serves no purpose. (The Edmonton Journal, July 2002)
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