Foreign Snippets

Students reject religious teaching bill                

INDONESIAN student bodies representing four faiths are urging the government to cancel a planned law on religious teaching in schools, saying it could trigger national disintegration. 

A controversial article, expected to be endorsed by parliament as part of a new education bill later this month, will give “impetus to the anti-pluralism movement which could potentially trigger disintegration” in Indonesia, the college or university student groups said in a statement. 

“The government must not dominate regulations on religious teachings since it is a very private matter in this country's education system,” said the statement, which was endorsed by Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu student bodies. 

The article stipulates that all students, even in religion-based schools, have the right to receive instruction in their own faith. Religion-based schools which are open to children from other faiths will in future have to provide religious teachers for those faiths. – AFP 


Teachers play truant in Kashmir 

SEVERAL critical posts in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir's department of education remain vacant as teachers and administrators refused to work in insurgency-hit areas. 

Nearly 200 education positions are vacant in the districts of Doda and Udhampur. “It's been ages since we saw a principal or senior staff in these schools,” a teacher from Doda said. “Posts are lying vacant. Most staffers have not bothered to turn up.” 

The teacher said some schools in these districts are a two-day walk through militant-infested areas. 

“Who in their right minds would want to go there?” 

As a stop-gap arrangement, the government will appoint local people as teachers in some schools, and may shift other schools to safer areas. 

The government has also decided to construct 412 new schools under the federal government's ambitious “Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan” (universalisation of primary education) scheme. 

One teacher from Doda said: “The students attend regularly. It's the teachers who play truant.” – dpa 


German students skip school 

ABOUT one-third of 243 students at a German school in Bejing did not show up to class Monday after the Easter vacation because of fears they could catch the potentially deadly SARS virus. 

Unlike Chinese schools in the capital which are to remain closed for at least two more weeks, the embassy-affiliated German school decided to open despite the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. 

However, officials at the school ordered precautionary procedures such as taking the temperatures of all pupils entering the school, and spraying their hands with disinfectant. Some other internatio-nal schools in Beijing also remained open and took the same measures. 

Parents made the final decision about whether their children would attend or not, with 75 students staying home, more than school administrators expected. 

Some families decided not to return to Beijing at all after the Easter break and in some cases companies paid for transportation back to Germany. – dpa 


End to protest against Bristol 

AN organisation representing fee-paying schools in Britain said it would stop recommending that students refrain from applying to a university which has been accused of discriminating in favour of public-sector pupils. 

Graham Able, chairman of the Headmasters and Headmistresses' Conference (HHC), said fee-paying private schools no longer believed there was “anything untoward” about the way Bristol University in the southwest of England was choosing students for its degree courses. 

“I think we are in a position where we just move on from that situation as things change and misunderstandings are clarified,” he told a meeting of private school principals in Brighton, England.  

“We are increasingly reassured that their admissions' procedure will be fair and I am sure we will have as many candidates applying to Bristol this year as we've had in previous years.” 

Bristol was targeted in February by the HHC and the Girls Schools Association amid claims that it was setting lower admission standards for students from state-funded schools. – AFP 


Save the Children in Ethiopia 

SAVE the Children organisations from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Britain and the United States have pledged to strengthen access to education for all school-age children in Ethiopia and to implement the Education for All (EFA) objectives by 2015. 

Ethiopia's primary school enrolment presently stands at 61.6%, up from below 30% in 1985. 

The Save the Children alliance has also committed itself to increasing the amount allocated annually by each branch to basic education activities and programmes. 

Save the Children Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Britain and the US have been active in mother and childcare work in Ethiopia for nearly three decades. They said they have spent a joint annual average of about US$3.5mil (RM13.3mil) on basic education activities in the country. – dpa 

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