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2018-01-10 16:23:44
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 Education spending rising but access to higher education remains unequal in most countries, says OECD

 

Governments should increase investment in early childhood programmes and maintain reasonable costs for higher education in order to reduce inequality, boost social mobility and improve people’s employment prospects, according to a new OECD report.  Education at a Glance reveals stark differences between countries in the opportunities they offer young people to enter higher education, notably for children of poor families or whose parents have had a limited education.

 

“Countries need an increasingly educated and skilled workforce to succeed in today’s knowledge economy,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría. “Investing from an early age is crucial to lay the foundations of later success. High quality education and skills have to be among the number one priorities for governments, for economies and for societies. Supporting the poorest and ensuring equal access is another important pillar in an inclusive education policy strategy.”

 

Australia, Finland, Ireland and Sweden have the highest success rates in the OECD for young people with poorly-educated parents attaining a tertiary degree. But in Italy, Portugal, Turkey and the United States, more than 40% of young people from low educational backgrounds have not completed upper secondary education, and less than 20% have attained tertiary qualifications.

 

Enrolling children early in formal education and keeping schools mixed in terms of social backgrounds have more impact in boosting educational equality than other factors, such as parental support or the cost of tuition fees. Addressing inequality early is key as little can be done to remedy poor outcomes later in school, without compromising the quality of higher education, says the OECD.

 

Enrolment in early childhood education has risen over the past few years, from 64% of 3-year-olds in 2005 to 69% in 2010, and from 77% of 4-year-olds to 81% in 2010. Starting school at an early age pays off in the long run: OECD’s PISA tests of 15-year-olds show that, in most countries, pupils who have attended pre-primary education tend to perform better than those who have not. It also shows that longer pre-primary education, smaller pupil-to-teacher ratios and higher public expenditure per child all enhance the positive effects of pre-primary schooling.

 

New data also reveal the importance of a good education for social mobility and access to good, well-paid jobs. The earnings gap and employment rate between people with higher education and the less educated continued to rise during the global recession. A 25-64 year-old man with higher education earned 67% more in 2010 than one with upper secondary education, up from 58% in 2008. For women, the earnings premium grew to 59% in 2010 from 54% in 2008

 

Countries gain long-term economic and social benefits from investing more in education, the report notes. On average, OECD countries receive a net return of over USD 100 000 in increased income tax and other savings for each man in higher education, almost 4 times their investment. For women the return is 2.5 times. Well-educated people also live longer, are more likely to vote and have more supportive attitudes to equal rights for minorities, according to new data and analysis in this year’s edition.

 

Public and private spending on education continued to rise, even during the economic downturn. Between 2008 and 2009, total investment - by governments, enterprises and individuals - increased in 24 out of 31 OECD countries for which data are available. But while public spending on education as a percentage of total public expenditure remained at 13% on average across the OECD in both 2005 and 2009, it fell in 19 out of 32 countries over that period.

  

The increasing costs of entry to higher education for many families may impede countries’ own goals of increasing educational attainment in their populations, warns the OECD. 

 

Pope urges 'humane' US migrant response

Pope Francis has told the US Congress that the US must see migrants as "persons" and not as "numbers".

Speaking to a rare joint session, the Pope said immigrants should be treated "with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated".

In the same address, the pontiff renewed his call for ending the death penalty, and for better treatment of the poor and disadvantaged.

He was warmly greeted by 500 lawmakers, justices and officials.

After entering the chamber to thunderous applause, he said the world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since World War Two, and noted the immense challenges that the crisis presents.

But he drew particular attention to the movement of migrants from Central America to the United States in search of a better life - a reference which drew a standing ovation.

"We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation," he said.

For years, hopes of wide-reaching immigration reform have been dashed by political disagreements in Washington.

 

And President Barack Obama's attempt to allow 11 million undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation has been stalled by a legal challenge.

 

Active Listening

Active listening is a skill that can be acquired and developed with practice.  However, active listening can be difficult to master and will, therefore, take time and patience to develop.

'Active listening' means, as its name suggests, actively listening. That is fully concentrating on what is being said rather than just passively ‘hearing’ the message of the speaker.

Active listening involves listening with all senses.  As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening - otherwise the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.

Interest can be conveyed to the speaker by using both verbal and non-verbal messages such as maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and smiling, agreeing by saying ‘Yes’ or simply ‘Mmm hmm’ to encourage them to continue.  By providing this 'feedback' the person speaking will usually feel more at ease and therefore communicate more easily, openly and honestly.

Listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills.  Listening is not something that just happens (that is hearing), listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker.  Listeners should remain neutral and non-judgmental, this means trying not to take sides or form opinions, especially early in the conversation.  Active listening is also about patience - pauses and short periods of silence should be accepted. Listeners should not be tempted to jump in with questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence.  Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, they should, therefore, be given adequate time for that.

 

Active listening not only means focusing fully on the speaker but also actively showing verbal and non-verbal signs of listening. Generally speakers want listeners to demonstrate ‘active listening’ by responding appropriately to what they are saying. Appropriate responses to listening can be both verbal and non-verbal.

 

Fossil teeth place humans in Asia '20,000 years early'

Fossil finds from China have shaken up the traditional narrative of humankind's dispersal from Africa.

Scientists working in Daoxian, south China, have discovered teeth belonging to modern humans that date to at least 80,000 years ago. This is 20,000 years earlier than the widely accepted "Out of Africa" migration that led to the successful peopling of the globe by our species.

Several lines of evidence - including genetics and archaeology - support a dispersal of our species from Africa 60,000 years ago. Early modern humans living in the horn of Africa are thought to have crossed the Red Sea via the Bab el Mandeb straits, taking advantage of low water levels.

All non-African people alive today are thought to derive from this diaspora. Now, excavations at Fuyan Cave in Daoxian have unearthed a trove of 47 human teeth.

'Game-changer'

Prof Chris Stringer, from London's Natural History Museum said the new study was "a game-changer" in the debate about the spread of modern humans.

"Many workers (often including me) have argued that the early dispersal of modern humans from Africa into the Levant recorded by the fossils from Skhul and Qafzeh at about 120,000 years ago was essentially a failed dispersal which went little or no further than Israel."

"However, the large sample of teeth from Daoxian seem unquestionably modern in their size and morphology, and they look to be well-dated by uranium-thorium methods to at least 80,000 years. At first sight this seems to be consistent with an early dispersal across southern Asia by a population resembling those known from Skhul and Qafzeh.

"But the Daoxian fossils resemble recent human teeth much more than they look like those from Skhul and Qafzeh, which retain more primitive traits. So either there must have been rapid evolution of the dentitions of a Skhul-Qafzeh type population in Asia by about 80,000 years, or the Daoxian teeth represent a hitherto-unsuspected early and separate dispersal of more modern-looking humans."

Dr Martinón-Torres said the study could also shed light on why it took Homo sapiens another 40,000 years to settle Europe.

Perhaps the presence of the Neanderthals kept our species out of westernmost Eurasia until our evolutionary cousins started to dwindle in number. However, it's also possible that modern humans - who started out as a tropical species - were not as well-conditioned as the Neanderthals for the icy climate in Europe.

She noted that while modern humans occupied the warmer south of China 80,000 years ago, the colder regions of central and northern China appear to be settled by more primitive human groups who may have been Asian relatives of the Neanderthals.

 

 

 

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