News at a glance

Reading ability isn't in the genes, academic claims

Children do not inherit their reading ability from their parents, new research has found. John Jerrim, of the University of London's Institute of Education, claimed there was insufficient evidence to show that children's reading skills were genetically determined. Genes previously identified as important for reading ability explained only 2-3 per cent of children's scores in reading tests, whereas family background and socio-economic circumstances had a much greater effect, Dr Jerrim said. "Any suggestion that we use genetics to drive education policy is more science fiction than science fact," he added.

Common Core cracks as state adopts own standards

An attempt to introduce a national curriculum to US schools suffered a major setback on Monday as one of the first states to adopt the Common Core State Standards became the first to formally abandon them. The Indiana State Board of Education voted overwhelmingly to introduce its own state-wide standards for maths and English, drawn up by local universities and representatives from the science and technology industries. Indiana adopted the Common Core in 2010 and was eventually followed by 44 other states. But the scheme has come under pressure from right-wing Tea Party activists, who argue that the standards were created without adequate local input.

Education `mafia' fuels cheating in Indian exams

An education "mafia" is helping Indian students to cheat in their school exams, it was reported this week. According to The Times of India, the "nakal mafia" operates in the state of Uttar Pradesh, which enters more students for exams than almost any other school board in the world. It is claimed that the mafia charges school authorities and students for help in the tests, and answers are sometimes dictated to students or written on the blackboard. Other pupils are provided with completed answer sheets and occasionally someone will even sit an exam on their behalf, a local teacher told the newspaper. Most incidents go unreported, as teachers, headteachers and education department officials are all complicit, the newspaper claims.

Major homophobic bullying project launched

A project to help prevent homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in England's schools is under way, the Department for Education has announced. The first phase will involve social research agency NatCen conducting a full review of all the available evidence and existing practices designed to help schools tackle the problem. In a recent Youth Chances survey, 49 per cent of lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender young people said that their time at school was affected by discrimination or fear of discrimination. Jenny Willott, minister for women and equalities, said that playground taunts could "seriously affect children's health and well-being, lead to poor educational performance and prevent them getting ahead in life".

Sex education compares girls to `unclean' chocolate

Students in the US state of Mississippi are being taught to compare women who have had sex to a dirty piece of chocolate. The sex education curriculum adopted by almost two-thirds of the state's schools recommends that teachers educate students - particularly girls - about the importance of virginity. Among the exercises used to emphasise this point is one that asks students to unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around the class and then consider whether they would want to eat it. The intention, said a Mississippi public health worker, was "to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she's had sex.That shouldn't be the lesson we send kids."

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