Thursday, March 17, 2011


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG draws the obvious inference from the way the NSW Labor Party government is running the shredders red-hot

The Sussex St corruption machine is covering its tracks

Thousands expected to celebrate Pat's Day

From Dublin to Dandenong people around the world will today don green and down a pint of Guinness to celebrate St Patrick's Day. While 5.5 million pints of Ireland’s most famous stout flow on any normal day, today more than 13 million are expected to be downed as the Irish, and Irish at heart, tip their hat to the annual celebration.

At Southbank’s P.J. O'Brien’s, considered Melbourne's most authentic Irish pub, manager Trisha Spaulding expects to pour more than 5000 of the traditional Irish drink. Ms Spaulding said the pub had ordered an extra 40 kegs of Guinness to cope with the demand.

Staff started arriving at the pub at 5am to get ready for the early 8am opening. More than 100 people are already booked in for breakfast and Ms Spaulding said the day would run into the early hours of tomorrow morning. "They just love it, it’s a good drinking day, and for us, it’s the biggest day of the year."

The Irish believe there are two types of people in the world: the Irish, and those that wish they were. And Ms Spaulding couldn’t agree more. "There are a lot of wannabe Irish that come out today," she said.

Pipers and Iish dancers will perform at the pub throughout the day while various bands and a DJ have also been booked.

Ms Spaulding said the staff, almost all of whom are Irish backpackers, added an authentic touch to the day.


UK immigration concession for New Zealand, Australian shearers

I was wondering how this would work out. Britain has millions of sheep and not all of them walk on two legs. Experienced and highly skilled antipodean shearers have become essential to getting the flock shorn in recent years. That the seasons occur at opposite times of the year in Britain and Australia makes it a logical arrangement

Sheep shearers from New Zealand and Australia should have no problems coming to the UK for the season due to an transitional scheme put in place by the UK Border Agency.

A UK immigration concession has been arranged for overseas skilled shearers to stop a UK skills shortage.

Each year hundreds of skilled shearers are recruited from the southern hemisphere for the shearing season in the UK, however efforts to tighten up Britain's immigration laws meant sheep shearing was removed from a list of approved occupations for a UK Visa.

Chief Executive of the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, Jill Hewitt, said her organisation had been working with government to put the scheme in place which will allow shearers to come on a seasonal temporary basis.

“The NAAC has been actively involved in the process and is confident the UK will not suffer from a shortage of shearers this year,” she said. “We are working closely with shearing contractors in the UK, and shearing associations in New Zealand and Australia, to try and ensure the smooth passage of shearers to the UK.”

British High Commission communication manager, Chris Harrington, said shearers will be allowed to enter the United Kingdom on a concessionary basis, which means they do not have to get a visa but must prove to a British immigration officer that they are genuine shearers.



Four current articles below

Anyone Who Says Violence Never Solved Anything....

Is such an abject idiot it is probably not even worth engaging in conversation with her. Seriously. Violence never solved anything? What solved the problem of Nazi Germany? Butterfly cakes and Darjeeling tea? When you are faced with evil, it is simply cowardly not to stand against it, even if standing against it sometimes means using your fists.

If someone was attacking my family, for example, I wouldn’t hesitate to do whatever it took to protect them. And if someone was attacking your family and you stood by and tried to negotiate while they were being beaten or worse, I would think you a miserable excuse for a human being.

So when I saw this video of an incident at Chifley College’s Dunheved Campus in western Sydney, gol darn if I wasn’t cheering at the end:

That is one bully who will hesitate to bully again.

When this was posted on Facebook and Youtube (and then removed), the vast majority of commenters supported and even celebrated the right of the boy who was attacked to defend himself. I think he showed admirable patience and restraint.

But guess what the authorities said? Police and bullying experts are concerned by the video’s publication on Facebook and the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the older boy’s retaliation against his attacker. “We don’t believe that violence is ever the answer,” Mr Dalgleish says. “We believe there are other ways that children can manage this.”

What a jerk.

Both the boys were suspended by school authorities.

What jerks.

The boy who was attacked had a right to defend himself. No one else was. No teacher was in sight.

That other young people agreed so strongly gives me hope that despite the best efforts of counsellors and social workers, a large part of this generation is refusing to be moulded into a bunch of lily livered nancies.


Unrealistic school bullying policies

SCHOOLS are still using ineffective anti-bullying strategies and some aren't putting their policies into practice, experts warn, as the rate of bullying in Queensland playgrounds continues to climb.

Experts say schools need to be more effective not work harder. Research shows a campaign to encourage child "bystanders" to confront bullies is basically futile, the Courier-Mail reported.

The research, to be presented at a conference in Brisbane tomorrow by renowned bullying expert Professor Donna Cross, will reveal most children are too scared to confront peers who bully. But it also shows "bystanders" can make a crucial difference by supporting victims after the attack.

Prof Cross said it was "almost unrealistic" to ask children to confront bullies on behalf of victims. "Our data is showing that kids won't. They are afraid that they will be targeted (next)," she said.

"But they do say: 'You know what? I can go over to the person who has been victimised and invite them to join my group or get them to come with me.' "Extinguishing the audience will be a very powerful message to children that bully."

She said most schools trying hard to deal with bullying weren't concentrating on this approach and they needed more resources to help them deal with the issue. "They need time to assess their practices . . . and then address those issues, instead of saying: 'I need to do more.' Most schools have policies . . . but they sit on the shelf."

Queensland's state-appointed bullying expert, psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg, said bystanders were the main emphasis of his workshops in state schools. "The problem at the moment is we have the Genovese syndrome or bystander effect people don't want to get involved in conflict," he said.


Blacks don't want to send their kids to school with the children of other blacks

I guess I can't blame them. But if blacks don't think much of black children, why should other people think differently?

RACIAL pressures have boiled over again in Dubbo with the Minister for Education, Verity Firth, restructuring the city's school system in a way critics argue will effectively create a separate campus for Aborigines.

The decision will partially reverse the last major reorganisation, in 1988, when the three high schools were amalgamated as Dubbo College, although retaining three campuses.

The South Dubbo campus, for years 7 to 9, will revert to a comprehensive school for years 7 to 12. Delroy campus, in West Dubbo, will continue to cater for years 7 to 9, and Dubbo College senior campus for years 10 to 12.

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The fact that the Delroy campus is in West Dubbo, which has a higher proportion of indigenous families, and will accordingly have a higher indigenous student population, has inflamed local sentiment.

West Dubbo is the site of the failed Gordon Estate, which had a high concentration of Aborigines but became racked with violence and antisocial behaviour.

There are far more non-indigenous families in West Dubbo, but with the creation of a comprehensive high school in South Dubbo, it is expected many non-indigenous families will send their children there.

Alca Simpson, a member of the local Aboriginal Education Consultative Group, said in a letter to the local paper, the Daily Liberal, that the government was implementing discriminatory policies of the past.

He said past policies had restricted "the self-determination of indigenous students in the public education system in Dubbo".

A meeting of a P&C Association at South Dubbo campus discussed the issue but Mr Simpson said teachers who supported the new system became instant association members and stacked the meeting.

"It is my opinion that this was never about student outcomes as far as the NSW Teachers Federation are concerned but only about teachers' wants and needs," Mr Simpson said.

He regarded it as "a planned move to attack the credibility of honest, hard-working parents and citizens because they chose to voice their opinion and their democratic right to write a letter".

"Why should teachers [union members] who have not shown any interest in attending meetings before last week now show such a big concern over their P&C committee?

"I would also make it public knowledge that the executive and members of the local AECG have … submitted a letter of complete no confidence in the minister's recommendations in regard to the restructuring of the existing Dubbo College Education model."

The acting president of the NSW Teachers Federation, Gary Zadkovich, said yesterday that claims that an apartheid system was being created in Dubbo were wrong.

There had been problems since the creation of the college system in Dubbo and Ms Firth had decided to give parents two options: a comprehensive high school or a college system. "There are concerns about the model proposed by the minister, in that it may lead to negative consequences. "The federation's policy is that we prefer to have stand-alone, years 7 to 12, comprehensive high schools," he said.

A spokeswoman for Ms Firth said the new structure would not result in racially segregated education in Dubbo.


Australian universities giving undeserved grades to overseas students

There have been some notorious instances of this

Gigi Foster knows her disturbing research findings on international students won't make her many friends. In a university sector grown dependent on international fee revenue, it might not do much to progress her academic career either.

But the audience she wants to reach is not academe but the policy-makers. It's at this level where change could be driven to address the poor language and cultural skills she says are undermining their performance. "It is risky for me, but it is my duty to look at this," says Foster, a Harvard graduate who moved to Australia in 2003.

But she believes her research provides evidence that universities are too often turning a blind eye to the poor written and verbal English skills of many international students. She says her statistical analysis reveals that international students are being allowed to underperform and this is being camouflaged to an extent by grade inflation.

At the same time, these poor English skills weigh on the results of domestic students in the same tutorials. "I want Australian policy-makers to see what is actually happening," Foster says.

But she believes concerns over fee revenue, sensitivities over the potential for appearing "xenophobic" and political correctness are preventing the sector from confronting the issues.

Wary of the reaction her analysis is likely to generate, she says she put all her "econometric firepower" into trying to disprove the findings, but the effects wouldn't go away.

She says she is astounded that no one in the sector had previously sought to analyse the detailed student data available in universities. With the help of funding from the Australian Research Council, Foster analysed detailed data on 12,846 students made available by the business faculties of the University of South Australia and the University of Technology, Sydney, including enrolment and applications data from 2008 and 2009. The data covered student demographics, course and tutorial selection and marks.

Her main statistical findings are that international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds underperform domestic students based on mean marks by four points on a 100 grade scale. She interprets this to be a result of language and cultural barriers.

But she also found that the underperformance is less pronounced when there are proportionately more international students in the class. Effectively, international student marks are buoyed when there are large concentrations of such students, with the stunning finding that classes comprised entirely of international students would on average be 6.5 points higher than those courses comprised solely of domestic students.

She believes this may be evidence that international students are benefiting from markers "grading on the curve" to keep mark distributions similar across course offerings, but effectively they are lowering grading standards.

"The research provides evidence that international non-English-speaking background students effectively free ride on each other, ending up with higher marks than they would have otherwise obtained," she says.

She also found that for every 1 per cent increase in the number of international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in tutorials, the marks of domestic students in the tutorials fell by 0.0134 points.

The key policy implication, she says, is that international students from non-English-speaking backgrounds should have extensive language and cultural training before starting higher education programs. "The sector is too cash-strapped, or thinks it is too cash-strapped, that it isn't willing to put the fees international students are paying towards that," Foster says.

But while her analysis, published as a preliminary working paper, may stack up statistically, other researchers say they are wary of the interpretations Foster is putting on the results.

University of Melbourne international education expert Simon Marginson and Melbourne Institute economist Ross Williams have not been convinced by some of her interpretations. They point out that international students benefit from being grouped together in that they co-operate more and feel less isolated. "All the research tells us that group co-operation between international students is the norm, especially among same culture internationals," Marginson says.

He says while the study is potentially important, it needs more explanation and wider analysis. Williams also is concerned that in interpreting her results, Foster may be exaggerating the importance of some of the statistical differences she found.

But for RMIT University higher education policy adviser Gavin Moodie, the research is important and Foster's interpretations are valid. "The size and the extent of the effect is much greater than I anticipated and it does seem to be a systemic problem," he says. "Now is the time for case study and individual interviews to be done to find out the particular problem and what to do about it."

Moodie points to the finding that the presence of domestic students from non-English-speaking backgrounds in tutorials had a positive influence on international students' marks, suggesting the issue may not simply be poor English skills but the result of cultural barriers.

Foster, who is also undergraduate co-ordinator at the University of NSW, believes her research will resonate with academics who are having to overlook the lack of English skills in assessing students. She says the most common request from students is for English language support, but there are not enough places available.

Business academic Tony English of Flinders University says he has long complained of what he claims is "soft" marking of international and domestic students with poor English skills, only to feel ostracised as a result. "If you raise these issues at a public forum, some people will behave towards you as if they have suddenly realised that you are carrying something like bird flu," English says.

He says academics are subject to implicit but unvoiced and unwritten pressure from management to overlook the lack of English skills of students. Furthermore, those failing large numbers of students risk having their teaching skills criticised, as well as being undermined by negative student feedback. As a result, too many academics are unwilling make a fuss because it could cost them a promotion and perhaps their job, especially if they are casuals.

As English writes in this week's HES, the combination of faculty grade distribution requirements and poor English skills means academics come under pressure if their failure rates are too high. "The whole system is designed to progress students who shouldn't be progressed," he says. "People are pretending this isn't happening and that degrees are what they always were. But I think it is fraudulent."

A former part-time adjunct lecturer in business at a large Sydney university who didn't wish to be named told the HES the lack of English skills of many of his international students appeared to make a mockery of the university's entry criteria based on test scores.

He says he never felt pressure to pass students but he found himself having to ignore their bad English and awarding marks on what he suspected students were trying to express. He says during his five years of teaching, he was shocked to find not once had a member of the faculty sat in on one of his courses to assess his teaching ability.

He notes that last year, out of a class of 110 students, more than 80 were international and, of these, 40 had such bad English that he felt it was compromising their performance. "It isn't international students who are a problem. It is those students who don't have enough English proficiency to be there in the first place who are the problem," he says.


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