Parents stumped by children’s tech questions offered help

Child and adult watch planes
Image captionAlmost two-thirds of parents admitted giving incorrect answers to children’s science questions

Questions on science and technology from children stump most parents, research suggests.

Some 83% of 1,000 parents polled said they had been unable to answer science, maths and engineering questions.

But, in an online session run by Mumsnet and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), experts will give parents answers to queries like: “How do planes stay up?”

The event is part of a week-long campaign to boost engineering careers.

IET president Naomi Climer said Tomorrow’s Engineers Week aimed to “inspire and nurture” future talent.

Expert help

Almost two-thirds (63%) said they had given a child an incorrect answer instead of admitting they were clueless, while 61% were so afraid of being wrong they avoided answering altogether.

Some 59% of parents admitted thinking their children knew more about engineering and technology than they did, while more than one in 10 (12%) referred the question to the other parent.

“The findings have given us some interesting insight into how poorly equipped UK parents are when it comes to tackling their child’s often tricky questions,” said Ms Climer.

Girl with electronics
Image captionMany parents believe their children know more about engineering and technology than they do

The IET has put together a top team of engineers to answer those questions, live on Twitter for an hour, starting at 13:00 GMT on Wednesday, including experts from fields as varied as computing, design, architecture, science, space travel, sound, lighting and engineering.

Muddled mums and dazed dads are asked to post their questions using the hashtag #AsktheEngineers – and wait for expert responses.

Tomorrow’s Engineers Week and the IET’s own Engineer a Better Worldcampaign hope to inspire teenagers to consider some of the “amazing careers” possible in engineering.

Events in the first week of November include a special Big Bang Fair at the Houses of Parliament on 5 November, where teenagers will demonstrate their science and engineering skills to MPs.

Elsewhere, workshops and demonstrations take place all week, with scientists, engineers and designers across the UK describing careers ranging from medical engineering, coastal defence and bridge-building to manufacturing processes, power production, energy saving and the arts.

David Cameron bids to speed up adoption process

Parent and child hands
Image captionChildren should be placed in loving homes as soon as possible, says Mr Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron wants to increase dramatically the number of children currently in care who move in with their adoptive families before the required legal work is completed.

Some 10% of adopted children are already placed with families early, according to his office.

But Mr Cameron wants these numbers to double as soon as possible.

Town hall bosses said it was also “vital” to address court delays and speed up legal proceedings.

The prime minister said too few councils were using early placement schemes and doubling the numbers would see 500 more children settled in new homes sooner.

The same set of figures suggests 68 of England’s 152 local authorities have no early placements ahead of adoption, say officials.

And he added: “I want to make sure that we do everything we can so children are placed in a loving home as soon as possible.”

‘Real progress’

Mr Cameron’s statement means all councils are now required to reveal how many children go to live with their adoptive families early.

These schemes can cut by half the time families have to wait for the legal process to be completed, ministers believe.

“It is a tragedy that there are still too many children waiting to be placed with a loving family. We have made real progress but it remains a problem,” said Mr Cameron.

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Media captionChildren’s Minister Edward Timpson: “We think councils can do much better.”

The government also plans tougher regulations to ensure councils carry out stringent assessments on special guardianship orders, where children go to live with relatives.

This is to avoid the risk of children being placed with “distant unsuitable relations they have never met”, in the words of the announcement by the prime minister’s office.

The announcement also includes plans to boost regional adoption agencies where councils merge to give children access to up to 10 times as many prospective adopters.

So far 140 councils have announced plans to merge, but the government says it will intervene to ensure they are all included by 2020.

Child on swing
Image captionAdoption rates fell back after court rulings said councils should also consider other options

Adoption organisations welcomed the plans.

“For vulnerable children who have been taken into care, there is nothing more beneficial than being placed as early as possible with a loving family,” said Carol Homden, chief executive of the Coram children’s charity.

Adoption UK chief executive Hugh Thornbery said any initiative that placed children in a secure family setting without unnecessary delay was clearly in children’s best interests.

But he warned families needed ongoing support once the process was complete.

“What is missing from today’s announcement is a guarantee of future funding for therapy to support adopted families,” he said.

The Local Government Association said councils were already merging and streamlining services to boost adoption rates and cut delays.

“Locally-led initiatives are far more effective than centrally-imposed structures and processes, and it is encouraging that central government is continuing to support the excellent work that is under way across the country,” said Roy Perry, chairman of the LGA’s children and young people board.

“But a focus on social work practice is only one part of the solution, and it is vital that court delays are also addressed and legal proceedings sped up if we are to continue to provide much-needed homes for children.”

But adoption is not right for every child, warned Mr Perry.

“Local and national government must continue to strive to improve the experience of all children in care, whether they are being looked after by friends or family, in foster care or a special guardianship arrangement, or in residential care.”

Adoption rates rose after initiatives by the last government, but fell back after several court judgements said local councils needed to consider all options such as placements with birth relatives, before seeking adoption.

Poor support failing most vulnerable young people, say MPs

Young woman silhouette
Image captionYoung people leaving care often struggle, says the report

Too many of the most vulnerable young people in England are “cut adrift when they need help the most”, says the head of a powerful committee of MPs.

The Public Accounts Committee says there has been a “systemic failing” in support to young people leaving foster care or children’s homes.

Its chair Meg Hillier MP says young adults are “let down by the system that’s supposed to support them”.

The government says it is committed to improving the lives of care leavers.

The committee found outcomes for the 10,000 young people aged 16 or over who leave care each year are “poor and worsening”.

Its report says the quality and cost of support to care leavers “varies unacceptably” between local authorities.

Ofsted has rated two-thirds of council care leaver services inadequate or requiring improvement, say the MPs.

“The scale of variability in the quality and cost of support, and a lack of understanding of what causes this, show that this is a systemic issue, rather than a problem in just a few local authorities,” says the report.

Young people must leave local authority care by their 18th birthday “whereas 50% of all 22-year-olds still live at home” it notes.

These children have often had difficult lives with 62% in care because of abuse or neglect, it adds.

“Those leaving care may struggle to cope with the transition to adulthood and may experience social exclusion, unemployment, health problems, or end up in custody.”

Image captionCare leavers are almost three times as likely to not be in education, employment and training

Some 41% of 19-year-old care leavers were not in education, employment or training in 2014 compared with 15% of the age group as a whole, says the report.

It welcomes government initiatives to improve the lives of care leavers and acknowledges more good practice is emerging but says there is more still to do.

“It’s time the government reviewed its care leavers’ strategy to make sure these young people get the full support they need,” said Ms Hillier.

The Department for Education should take formal responsibility for improving the system, the MPs urge.

In particular they believe the DfE should improve care leavers’ access to apprenticeships and training, suitable accommodation and better advice.

Budget cuts

Town Hall bosses said 40% cuts to their budgets meant providing care leavers with adequate support was “becoming an increasing challenge” which councils could not handle alone.

“We urgently need to see the whole system properly funded and joined up to ensure children and young people receive the support they need, when they need it,” said Roy Perry, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People’s Board.

The Department for Education said its reforms would help care leavers make a successful transition to adulthood.

These include giving every care leaver a personal adviser and allowing young people to continue to live with their foster families after 18, though councils complain funding for the latter is “significantly underestimated”.

A DfE spokesman said the government was also funding apprenticeship programmes for care leavers and encouraging Ofsted to focus more on care leaver support.

“But we want to go further, which is why we’ve committed to update the cross-government Care Leavers Strategy to improve support for these young people,” said the spokesman.

Snake ‘not guilty of killing Cleopatra’

Cleopatra played by Elizabeth Taylor
Image captionElizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. The queen’s life and death have become part of popular legend

The story that Cleopatra, ancient queen of Egypt, was killed by a snake bite has been rejected as “impossible” by University of Manchester academics.

Egyptologists and snake experts have combined to examine the plausibility of the tale of the queen being killed by a cobra hidden in a basket of figs.

They believe a snake big enough to kill the queen and two maids would not have been small enough to be concealed.

They also challenge the credibility of three consecutive fatal bites.

Cleopatra, who died at the age of 39 in 30BC, was a ruler of Egypt who became embroiled in power struggles within the Roman empire.

But her story and her death have become part of popular legend, portrayed in fictional form from Hollywood epics to Carry On films and television comedy.

‘Infamy, infamy’

From Roman sources onwards, her death has often been attributed to a poisonous snake or “asp”, with the queen using the fatal bite as a way of ending her own life.

But Egyptologist Joyce Tyldesley and Andrew Gray, curator of herpetology at Manchester Museum, say the supposed culprit – a cobra – would have been too physically big to be concealed in the way that has been portrayed.

Glenda Jackson as Cleopatra
Image captionGlenda Jackson and Eric Morecambe: Could a cobra really be concealed in a basket?

They are typically 5-6ft long and can grow to 8ft (2.5m), and the Manchester experts reject the idea such a snake could be hidden in the way suggested.

Even if such a snake had been smuggled in to Cleopatra, they say it would have been very unlikely that it could have killed Cleopatra and two of her servants in quick succession.

“Not only are cobras too big, but there’s just a 10% chance you would die from a snake bite: most bites are dry bites that don’t inject venom,” said Mr Gray.

“That’s not to say they aren’t dangerous: the venom causes necrosis and will certainly kill you, but quite slowly.

“So it would be impossible to use a snake to kill two or three people one after the other.

“Snakes use venom to protect themselves and for hunting – so they conserve their venom and use it in times of need.”

Dr Tyldesley, author of Cleopatra: Egypt’s Last Queen, is a contributor to a free online course – a Mooc – about ancient Egypt made by the university.

The course, A History of Ancient Egypt, is being launched next week and will study Egypt from before the pharaohs through the relationships with Greece and Rome and ending with Cleopatra.

Maharashtra schools to focus on better attendance, teaching skills

Maharashtra schools to focus on better attendance, teaching skills
Only schools that achieve 100% success will be termed progressive.
PUNE: Government schools in the state are up for an overhaul.Innovative teaching methods with toys and props, teacher training, biometric attendance and bringing drop-out rate to zero are on the cards.

Schools and directors of education have been given a year’s time to meet their targets as part of the state education department’s ‘Educationally Progressive Maharashtra’ programme.

Only schools that achieve 100% success will be termed progressive. The state government has set goals for teachers, education officers at state, district and block levels to help schools achieve 100% results. Administrative officers also must ensure that schools under their jurisdiction are completely digitised and part of the SARAL system.

State education secretary Nand Kumar said, “Teachers have been asked to visit schools that have been nominated ideal. Teachers believe that 100% literacy is not achievable but they have to visit schools in Kumthe and Vai in Satara and Miraj in Sangli to change their minds. These visits will help them in making their schools progressive as per the state government parameters.”

Kumar said that ever since the Right to Education Act (2010) came into effect, there has been widespread misconception that Continuous Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE), no-detention policy, no public or board exams till Std VIII, age-appropriate admissions come in the way of quality education.

To clear these misconceptions, tackle the problem of low learning levels and regional disparities, the state has rolled out a multi-year programme called Pragat Shaikshanik (Educationally Progressive) Maharashtra in June 2015. The main objective of the programme is to ensure age/grade appropriate competencies in all students by providing an environment for quality improvement in teachers, students and administrators.

Aparna Sivakumar of Change Agents for School Education and Research (Caser), said, “Focus on textbook content has promoted rote learning. The state is changing the way learning assessments are done, pushing concept understanding and competencies rather than theoretical knowledge.”

“The state is also planning to support multiple innovative programmes – digital schools, ISO 9000 schools, activity-based learning, and multi-lingual classroom (this will be particularly relevant for schools that have migrant children). Teachers will also be supported to integrate out-of-school children in classrooms and provide them special training,” said Kumar.

Plan of action

– With an aim of ensuring that by 2016-17, no child will be below grade level, efforts have been initiated to capacity build all the key players – resource persons, cluster- and block-level officers, teachers, community and supporting agencies

– Education officers will be entrusted to help teachers improve on subjects, pedagogy and child psychology

– To provide a supporting and empowering environment for teachers, communities of practice and networks of active teachers in various subjects are being formalised (digital and physical)

– Mentors who can support and motivate teachers in nearby areas are being identified; self- and peer- learning modules and resources for teachers who need additional support are being created

– Quality cells at the district level are being streamlined and professional development programmes are going to be driven by demand and need

– Departments will be made more accountable and increase synergy, job charts will be reviewed, teachers will be rationalised to reach underserved schools, a constructive performance review system for teachers will be instituted and manual, administrative tasks will be streamlined and digitised

From racing cars to automatic scanners and robots, IITM students come up with solutions to various issues

CHENNAI: It can take a lot of time and energy to convert an old book in to an ebook. Students of Indian Institute of Technology have come up with an innovative technology that can automatically flip the pages of a book and scan them.

The automatic book scanner designed and developed by a two-member second year engineering students was one of the 41 student projects displayed and demonstrated at the Centre for Innovation (CFI- a student lab) Open House held at IIT-Madras on Saturday.

Second year electrical engineering student Nishant Singh explained that his automatic book scanner has a flipping mechanism that help turn the pages once they are scanned. “Suction is applied, which grips the page and turns it. The scanning system is, otherwise, the same as the one that is now being used across the world,” he said.

The students said that they have developed the scanner in a period of three months and that they have plans to make many improvisation to the instrument.

“We will make the suction device accordingly to scan books with different types of paper quality. We will also improve the speed. At present, it can scan two pages in 30 seconds,” Nishant Singh said. “We are also looking at replacing the scanner with a camera,” he added.

From racing cars, underwater vehicles to image processing systems, GSM based irrigation systems and all terrain robots, students have designed and developed these technologies that were outside their main academic domain.

“We have noticed that the level of participation has increased over the years. Through CFI, students can try out any idea and work in a group. Their ideas are relatively simple but advanced and sophisticated,” said Prof Bhaskar Ramamurthi, IITM director.

While the seed funding for these projects is provided by CFI, which receives funds from the alumni, few of these groups have even turned in to startups.

Apart from student projects, there were also four companies started by graduates part of Nirmaan, a pre-incubator model. The companies offered solutions to various issues including home services, helping farmers setup solar panels in minimum space, making shopping simple through app-based payments and wireless charging systems.

Oxford University publishes sample interview questions

Oxford GargoyleImage copyrightThinkstock
Image captionInterview questions are not designed to catch candidates out, says the university

Place a 30cm ruler on top of one finger from each hand. What happens when you bring your fingers together?

Can archaeology prove or disprove the Bible?

Two tricky questions of the sort asked at interviews for Oxford University places,which are being published by the university ahead of the application deadline for 2016 entry on Wednesday.

The aim is to dispel false rumours, explained Oxford’s education and outreach director, Samina Khan.

‘An academic conversation’

“We know there are still lots of myths about the Oxford interview, so we put as much information as possible out there to allow students to see the reality of the process,” said Dr Khan.

“Tutors simply want to see how students think and respond to new ideas.

“We are not interested in catching students out.”

With this in mind, the university asked admissions tutors in a range of subjects for sample questions and tips on answering.

“Interviews are not about reciting what you already know,” said Dr Khan.

She reassured candidates that the interview was a chance to show how they can apply their thinking to new problems in ways that will both challenge them and allow them to shine.

She added: “They are an academic conversation in a subject area between tutors and candidate, similar to the undergraduate tutorials which current Oxford students attend every week.

“It is often best to start responding by making very obvious observations and build up discussion from there, rather than assuming that there is a hidden meaning or a highly complicated answer you have to jump to immediately,” she advised.

Familiar surroundings

So what of the ruler question, aimed at prospective engineering students?

Steve Collins of University College Oxford says he would never ask it as an opening question – which would allow candidates to get comfortable by firstly discussing something familiar.

“This question would come later in the interview, when we present candidates with an unfamiliar scenario,” he explained.

Sample questions

Woman with rulerImage copyrightThinkstock

Engineering: Place a 30cm ruler on top of one finger from each hand. What happens when you bring your fingers together?

“Almost everyone in this example will expect the ruler to topple off the side where the finger is closest to the centre of the ruler, because they expect this finger to reach the centre of the ruler first. They then complete the “experiment” and find both fingers reach the centre of the ruler at the same time and the ruler remains balanced on two fingers.

“We like to see how candidates react to what is usually an unexpected result and then encourage them to repeat the experiment slowly. With prompting to consider moments and friction, the candidate will come to the conclusion there is a larger force on the finger that is closest to the centre of the ruler.

“This means that there is more friction between the ruler and this finger and therefore the ruler slides over the finger furthest from the centre first. This argument will apply until the fingers are the same distance from the centre.

“The candidate should then be able to explain why both fingers reach the centre of the rule at the same time as observed.

“We might even discuss the fact that the coefficient of static friction is higher than the coefficient of dynamic friction. Therefore the “moving” finger gets closer to the centre than the static finger before the finger starts to move over the other finger.”

Prof Steve Collins, engineering tutor, University College

Qumran cave - dead sea scrollsImage copyrightThinkstock

Oriental studies: Can archaeology prove or disprove the Bible?

“I would be looking for an answer that showed the candidate could appreciate the Bible was a collection of documents written and transmitted over several centuries, and containing important traditions that have a bearing on history, but that academic study of the Bible means it has to be examined carefully to see when and where these traditions had come from and for what purpose they had been written,

“They should recognise archaeology relies on non-literary sources preserved from ancient periods such as the remains of buildings and tools.

“These can often be dated by scientific means (and so appear more objective than literature), but we still frequently need additional information such as inscriptions or evidence from other similar sites in order to make sense of the ancient remains.

“In the end I would hope the candidate would work towards a realisation of the very different nature of these types of evidence, which sometimes gives a complementary picture, while in others it may be contradictory.

“Both require very careful interpretation, and just arguing that “The Bible says” or that “Archaeology proves” is much too simplistic.”

Dr Alison Salvesen, oriental studies tutor, Mansfield College

Bank dealing room computersImage copyrightThinkstock

Economics and management: Do Bankers deserve their high pay or should government limit it?

“A simple answer might be that since banks are generally private firms and workers are free to work where they wish, then the pay they receive is just the outcome of a competitive labour market.

“In this story, bankers earn a lot because they are very skilled and have rare talents. It is hard to see a reason for government intervention in this case, though on equity grounds one may want to have a progressive income tax system that redistributes some of this income.

“A good candidate would wonder why seemingly equivalently talented people can get paid so much more in banking than in other occupations. Do we really believe bankers are so much better than other workers in terms of skill?

“An alternative story is that the banking industry is not competitive and generates profits above what a competitive market would produce. In this case, there is a role for government intervention to make the market more competitive. The key point is for candidates to think about the economics of pay rather than just whether they think it is fair or not.”

Prof Brian Bell, economics tutor, Lady Margaret Hall

Pound coin in handImage copyrightThinkstock

Experimental Psychology: Imagine 100 people all put £1 into a pot. Each person has to choose a number between 0 and 100. The prize goes to the person whose number is closest to 2/3 of the average of all of the numbers chosen. What number will you choose and why?

“Some people’s first guess is 2/3 of 100, i.e. 66 or 67, in which case I’d ask them what numbers everyone else would have to pick for them to win. In this case, everyone else would have to choose 100, which is unlikely. More often people first guess 2/3 of 50 (= 33), which seems intuitively more likely.

“At this point, and usually without prompting, the recursive nature of the solution becomes clear: If there is good reason for me to choose 33, then maybe everyone else will choose 33 too, in which case I should choose 2/3 of 33… but then everyone will think this and choose 2/3 of 33 too, so I should choose 2/3 of that number… and so on.

“Assuming everyone thinks like this, then everyone will eventually settle on zero as their choice – this is the formal “game theory” solution. At this point, I’d ask questions that bring out the candidate’s broader reasoning skills in terms of thinking how we could define what it is rational to do in this game…

“The question also has a psychological angle in thinking about reasons for people’s behaviour and choices. Will everyone put in the same effort? Will everyone be motivated to win?

“We’re interested in seeing how people think through a problem, figure out what are the relevant factors and respond when new information is provided.”

Prof Nick Yeung, experimental psychology tutor, University College

Test tubesImage copyrightThinkstock

Biomedical studies: Why is sugar in your urine a good indicator that you might have diabetes?

“This question builds on general knowledge and material studied at school in biology and chemistry to assess how students approach a clinically relevant problem. It’s commonly known that diabetes is associated with sugar (glucose) in the urine.

“This question asks students to think about why this occurs. Students have usually have learnt that the kidneys filter blood to remove waste products, such as urea, that must be eliminated from the body but many other useful substances which must not be lost, including glucose, are also filtered.

“Given that glucose is not normally found in the urine, students are asked to speculate as to how it can all be recovered as the urine passes through the kidney’s tubules.

The process involves reabsorption by a carrier protein that binds the glucose molecules and moves them out of the renal tubule and back into the blood.

“Students should appreciate that, in binding glucose, the carrier will share properties with enzymes, about which they will have learned at school: the capacity to reabsorb glucose is finite because once all of the carriers are working maximally, no further glucose reabsorption can occur.

“A successful applicant will make the connection that an elevated level of glucose in the blood in diabetes leads to increased filtration of glucose by the kidneys and saturation of the carriers that perform the reabsorption, resulting in ‘overspill’ of glucose in the urine.”

A single-day exam for CAT this year

NEW DELHI: The format for the Common Admission Test (CAT) will see major changes this year. The test, which has been conducted on multiple days over two sessions since 2009, when it became computer-based, will now be conducted in as many sessions in a single day.

Introduction of non-multiple choice questions along with an on-screen calculator are the other changes made to this year’s CAT format.

The test duration would be longer with each section lasting 60 minutes. There will be three sections — Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension; Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning and Quantitative Ability. Earlier, there was no sectional time limit and candidates could move between sections.

“With the introduction of sectional timings, CAT 2015 is now like three short tests. Each section will be given 60 minutes and once the time is over, a candidate cannot come back to that section,” said MBA Guru founder director Deekshant Sahrawat. “Therefore, candidates can no longer give more time to a section they are weak in. So they will have to increase their skills for all sections and qualify in each of them. In a way CAT 2015 has become a knowledge test than a management one.”

South Korean scholars boycott state-issued textbook project

South Korean scholars boycott state-issued textbook project
Professors from more than 20 South Korean universities said they would not contribute to the textbooks.

SEOUL: Hundreds of South Korean scholars have declared they are boycotting the writing of state-issued history textbooks out of concern that that they will teach distorted views on the country’s recent past.

Conservative President Park Geun-hye’s government plans to require middle and high schools to use textbooks edited by the government after 2017, instead of allowing schools to choose from eight private publishers, as is currently the case.

The move toward state-issued textbooks is the latest in a series of efforts by conservative leaders in South Korea and Japan to shape school history books to reflect their political views, and has sparked fierce criticism from academics and opposition parties.

Professors from more than 20 South Korean universities said they would not contribute to the textbooks because they believe the government is moving to soften descriptions of the brutal dictatorships that preceded South Korea’s bloody transition toward democracy in the 1980s. The Korean History Research Association, the country’s largest group of historians, with nearly 800 members, has declared it won’t participate in the writing process.

Opposition leader Moon Jae-in, who lost the 2002 presidential election to Park, said in a Facebook post Saturday that the directive to revert to state-issued textbooks signals an attempt at “beautifying” past dictatorships, and added that such textbooks would be “global embarrassments”.

In announcing the controversial plans on Monday, Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea argued that the current history textbooks are too left-leaning and encourage views sympathetic to North Korea, and called for school books that are “objective” and “balanced.” The plan was to recruit professional historians to help write the new textbooks.

Before leaving for her current trip to the United States, Park defended the move toward state-issued textbooks by saying history classes must inspire “pride” in students for being South Korean citizens. Park is the daughter of slain military dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea in the 1960s and ’70s, and whose legacy as a successful economic strategist is marred by brutal records of civilian oppression.

Lee Shincheol, a historian at Seoul’s Sungkyunkwan University and a contributing author of one of the current textbooks, said that the government’s criticism makes little sense because private publishers had been required to follow editorial guidelines set by the Education Ministry and have their content reviewed by a state-run history institution. For the government to insist on full control over textbooks would eliminate academic freedom and result in politicized historical narratives, Lee said.

“Even Korea’s feudal monarchs had granted autonomy to royal chroniclers, but Park’s concept of history is more outdated than that of old kings,” he said.

The government of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also in recent years has been criticized for trying to influence textbooks for political purposes.

Japan’s Education Ministry last year introduced a textbook screening policy that required private publishers reflect the government’s official position on contentious issues in modern history to “balance out” references to Japan’s wartime aggression. However, Japan hasn’t been using state-issued textbooks since the end of World War II, Lee said.

It was Park’s father who introduced state-issued history textbooks in 1974, two years after he declared martial law amid widening student protests and rammed through a new constitution that effectively made him president for life. It was not until the early 2000s when South Korea began liberalizing the production of history textbooks, and since 2011, all history books used in middle and high schools have been written by private publishers.

Park’s decision to revert to the old textbook system seems to be an effort to rally her conservative supporters in a country deeply split along ideological and generational lines, according to an official at Moon’s party, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules. South Korea holds its next parliamentary elections in April next year.

UGC seeks Karnataka State Open University clarification about PhD programmes

MYSURU: There is no respite for the Karnataka State Open University (KS OU) which is trying to regain the recognition of the University Grants Commission ( UGC) for its courses. The UGC recently wrote to the letter to the varsity seeking clarification regarding its website notifying course work examination schedule in November and December even though the commission has denied permission for doctoral programmes.

UGC education officer Megha Kaushik on October 9 and 12 wrote to the KSOU registrar stating that UGC through its regulations of 2009 has denied KSOU permission to take up PhD programmes through the distance mode. The DEC also issued a show cause notice. It sought clarification that despite lack of permission, the KSOU website still notifies course work examination in November and December.

Megha Kaushik also sought a clarification regarding ambiguity about their collaborative institutions and malpractice charges by MLA G Madhusudana, member of the varsity’s board of management.

UGC received a letter on October 5 from Madhusudana complaining of malpractice and wrong-doing by the university. Kaushik requested the varsity to furnish the clarification to the Distance Education Bureau for further action regarding the complaint and on renewal of recognition of KSOU programmes in distance learning mode.

Earlier, Madhusudana had expressed unhappiness over the conduct of KSOU authorities in offering the programmes. In his letter to UGC joint secretary Renu Bathra, he mentioned that KSOU is conferring degrees, master’s degrees and diplomas in technical and paramedical fields even though the university or its 203 collaborative institutes and 4500 study centres have the necessary infrastructure. Despite UGC notices and derecognision of courses, KSOU has sold certificates through these centres through corrupt practices, he alleged.

He also alleged that KSOU in spite of swearing an affidavit before the UGC about discontinuing its relationship with firms and study centres has conducted annual examinations, evaluation, provided marks cards along with admission for second, third and fourth year students and had continued with the MPhil and PhD courses.