Today's news

November 17, 2004

Experts just want better robots, says Prince
The Prince of Wales yesterday accused education policy-makers of seeking to turn students into "better robots" rather than filling them with a love of learning for its own sake. The Prince said that so-called "experts" were more interested in education’s value to the economy, rather than its worth in enriching the spirit. He gave warning that the computer-driven nature of modern study was no match for an inspirational teacher. In a letter to the annual conference of the Association of Colleges in Birmingham, The Prince said: "Too often, much of the discussion focuses exclusively in terms of costs and benefits to the economy, as if human beings really ought to become better robots." The criticisms provoked a retort from Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary, who told the conference afterwards that the Government had met its target of helping 750,000 people to improve their basic literacy and numeracy skills.
The Times , Daily Mail , Daily Express

'Lifestyle' focus for GCSE science
The science that all pupils study from the age of 14 is to focus more on "lifestyles", general knowledge and opinion and less on chemistry, biology and physics, says the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. It published a "revised programme of study" that will govern the content of GCSE from 2006, to "ensure increased choice and flexibility for pupils so that they can study science relevant to the 21st century". Instead of learning science, pupils will "learn about the way science and scientists work within society". They will "develop their ability to relate their understanding of science to their own and others' decisions about lifestyles", the QCA said.
Daily Telegraph

Region must counter the attraction of London for graduates
Leeds and other university towns in Yorkshire and the Humber must retain their graduates if they are to build the skills needed to take the region forward over the next decade, according to professional services firm KPMG. Thirty-seven per cent of final-year students at Leeds universities are looking for jobs in London, while only 16 per cent plan to stay in Leeds for their first job, the most recent UK Graduate Careers Survey found.
Yorkshire Post

After 13-month flight, Europe arrives at the moon
More than 30 years after the last Apollo mission, European scientists have made it to the moon. Their experimental Smart-1 probe, powered by a revolutionary Star Trek -style thruster, has entered into orbit around the lunar surface. "Europe has arrived at the moon," David Southwood, director of science at the European Space Agency, said yesterday. After a journey of more than 52 million miles lasting 13 months, the photocopier-size probe swung within 3,000 miles of the moon on Monday night. Its course involved 332 orbits of the Earth.
Guardian , Times , Daily Telegraph

Earth 'heading towards another mass extinction'
The Earth is losing species at a rate comparable to the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, environmentalists warn today. The World Conservation Union's annual Red List of endangered species, released at its conference in Bangkok, lists five species that have been added to the "extinct" category. The list, compiled by a worldwide network of 8,000 scientists, is regarded as the most authoritative statement of the planet's biodiversity and guides environmental policy around the world.
Daily Telegraph

Inuit start to feel the heat in a world warming up
They build their homes on stilts, commute to work on quad bikes down sand-covered streets and look nervously out to sea when a storm nears. But the fate of the 562 residents of Shishmaref, on a small barrier island off the north-western coast of Alaska, looks decided: they are about to become the world’s first "global warming refugees". If they do not abandon their homes, climatologists say, they will die.

Most birds could thrive as climate gets warmer
Two-thirds of bird species could thrive as a result of the warming caused by climate change, according to a survey of almost 54,000 birds published today by a team based at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. While there have been many studies of the impact of climate change on clutch size, fledgling success and other factors, few have focused on how it will affect the conservation status of birds.
Daily Telegraph

Yours for just £1,600 a month
No one expects student accommodation to be spacious and elegant, but Judy Hobson couldn't believe her eyes when she saw the dingy, dilapidated hovel in Camden, north London, that her daughter Marie was about to move into. The small living room, with its two shabby sofas, was so dark because it was windowless, being at the rear of the boarded-up shop. Marie's room was dominated by the double bed with its badly stained mattress. The walls were dirty and there were no curtains over the window. I was reminded of a property in south London where, some years before, I had interviewed a murder victim's wife and family. One good thing has come out of all this. When we return home from a visit, our hall, so badly in need of redecoration, does not look so bad. In fact, our house feels like a palace.
The Guardian ( G2 )

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