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UK University dropout steady at 22%

An drive to reduce the number of university dropouts has had no effect, according to a report from a committee of MPs. The proportion of students who fail to complete their degree has remained at 22% for five years.

Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee, said, “Five years from our last report on student retention the percentage of students dropping out has not budged from 22%. This is despite some £800m being paid to universities over the same period to help retain students most likely to withdraw from courses early.”

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Poorer students, older students, disabled students and those with families – non-traditional students the government is keen to attract – are more likely to drop out. In 2005, St George’s hospital medical school, Oxford University, the Royal Veterinary College, Warwick and Bristol universities had below 3% drop out rates.

‘For universities with consistently low retention rates the funding council’s regional teams should agree specific improvement plans,’ the committee’s report says, citing personal difficulties, dissatisfaction with courses and  financial pressure as reasons why students drop out.

A third of teachers ‘struggle with technology’: study

A third of teachers struggle to use the technology schools are equipped with and want more support and training, according to the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), U.K. NFER’s first Teacher Voice Omnibus Survey (TVOS), which was completed by about 1,000 teachers, including heads and newly qualified classroom teachers, shows widespread use of information technology in schools 80% said it had made a difference to the way they teach.

But a ‘sizeable minority’ (33%) felt they lacked the necessary skills to exploit the technology available to them and needed more support and information  to integrate information and communication technology (ICT) in lessons, NFER found.

However, NFER said when compared to research conducted in 2004, the findings suggest that teacher competence in using ICT has improved overall. Two thirds (67%) said they had the ICT skills to exploit the technology available to them and 62% said ICT helps to raise pupil attainment. Teachers also said ICT leadership in schools could be improved. Just 27% of respondents felt that the leadership of ICT pedagogy in their school was inspirational and only 44% said that their school is innovative in its use of ICT.

Czech science award for school students

The Czech company Ceska Hlava, in collaboration with the Czech Senate and the Czech Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, has launched a competition for secondary school students.  Entitled ‘Innovating Minds – Czech Awards for Young Europeans’, the natural sciences and technology competition is open to all European students up to 19 years of age.

The prize will be awarded in five categories: information and communication technology (ICT), health and quality of life, environment, product and technology innovations and design and architecture. Applicants must submit their project synopsis online, including an independent expert’s review provided, for instance, by a science teacher. The applications for the Innovating Minds Award 2008 have to be submitted before  10 September. The award ceremony will then be held in October 2008  in Prague. An international jury will select the winners in each category. The jury is made up of scientists, politicians and experts  from industry

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