Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Education at a Glance 2016 - Country Notes

an OECD publication

Education at a Glance is the authoritative source for information on the state of education around the world. It provides key information on the output of educational institutions; the impact of learning across countries; the financial and human resources invested in education; access, participation and progression in education; and the learning environment and organisation of schools.

The 2016 edition introduces a new indicator on the completion rate of tertiary students and another one on school leaders. It provides more trend data and analysis on diverse topics, such as: teachers’ salaries; graduation rates; expenditure on education; enrolment rates; young adults who are neither employed nor in education or training; class size; and teaching hours. The publication examines gender imbalance in education and the profile of students who attend, and graduate from, vocational education.

The report covers all 35 OECD countries and a number of partner countries (Argentina, Brazil, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Lithuania, the Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia and South Africa).

This edition includes more than 125 figures and 145 tables. The Excel™ spreadsheets used to create them are available via the StatLinks provided throughout the publication. More data is available in the OECD Education Statistics database.

The entry for the United Kingdom

Monday, 19 September 2016

Democracy’s Twilight Hour

a blog post from DEMOS by Sophie Gaston

Nowhere has the anti-establishment rhetoric of the populist forces sweeping across Europe and the United States been more succinctly distilled, or with greater irony, than in former Justice Secretary Michael Gove’s Brexit call to arms: “people have had enough of experts”. It was a curious, but powerful declaration, which captured the zeitgeist as millions turned out to vote in a popular referendum that was clearly about more than just Europe.

Continue reading

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Fuel poverty in the European Union: a concept in need of definition?

an article by Harriet Thomson (The University of York, Heslington, York, UK) and Carolyn Snell and Christine Liddell (affiliations unknown) published in People, Place and Policy Volume 10 Issue 1 (April 2016)


The European Commission has stated that it does not support a European definition of fuel poverty, and that a common definition would be inappropriate due to the diverse energy contexts found across the European Union. Using official EU policy documents from 2001 to 2014, this paper will demonstrate that contrary to the European Commission’s stance, many of the EU institutions and consultative committees are in favour of a common European definition of fuel poverty, and have been arguing for the establishment of a definition for at least seven years.

This paper will argue that a definition is vital for raising the profile of fuel poverty and ensuring it is recognised as a policy issue by all Member States of the EU, particularly at a time of rising energy prices, stagnating wages and growing concerns about energy security and climate change.

Full article

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Academic Knowledge and Contemporary Poverty: The Politics of Homelessness Research

an article by David Farrugia (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Jessica Gerrard (University of Melbourne, Australia) published in Sociology Volume 50 Number 2 (April 2016)


This article explores the field of homelessness research in relation to the dynamics of contemporary inequality and governmentality, arguing that the dominant perspectives within this field have developed in ways that can converge with the demands of neoliberal governance.

The article discusses the causal focus of much homelessness research, the emergence of the ‘orthodoxy’ of homelessness research and new approaches emphasising subjectivity and arguing for a ‘culture of homelessness’. We suggest that homelessness has been constructed as a discrete analytical object extraordinary to the social relations of contemporary inequality.

The authority to represent homelessness legitimately has been constituted through positioning ‘the homeless’ outside of a community of valorised and normatively legitimate subjectivities. The article concludes with reflections on an alternative politics of homelessness research that moves towards a critical engagement with the position of homelessness within the structural dynamics of late modernity.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Exploring Ethnic Inequalities in Admission to Russell Group Universities

an article by Vikki Boliver (Durham University, UK) published in Sociology Volume 50 Number 2 (April 2016)


This article analyses national university applications and admissions data to explore why ethnic minority applicants to Russell Group universities are less likely to receive offers of admission than comparably qualified white applicants.

Contrary to received opinion, the greater tendency of ethnic minorities to choose highly numerically competitive degree subjects only partially accounts for their lower offer rates from Russell Group universities relative to white applicants with the same grades and ‘facilitating subjects’ at A-level.

Moreover, ethnic inequalities in the chances of receiving an admissions offer from a Russell Group university are found to be greater in relation to courses where ethnic minorities make up a larger percentage of applicants. This latter finding raises the possibility that some admissions selectors at some Russell Group universities may be unfairly rejecting a proportion of their ethnic minority applicants in an attempt to achieve a more ethnically representative student body.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Developing meaningfulness at work through emotional intelligence training

an article by Kathryn Thory (University of Strathclyde Business School, Glasgow, UK) published in International Journal of Training and Development Volume 20 Issue 1 (March 2016)


To date, there remains a significant gap in the human resource development (HRD) literature in understanding how training and development contributes to meaningful work. In addition, little is known about how individuals proactively make their work more meaningful.

This article shows how emotional intelligence (EI) training promotes learning about sources of meaningful work and documents managers’ experiences of independently applying to the workplace what they have learnt about meaningfulness from their EI training.

Data is collected from participant observations and interviews with trainers and managers attending three externally provided, ‘popular’ EI training courses. Interpreting the data through Lips-Wiersma and Morris's model of meaningful work enables a clear articulation of managers’ capacity to shape their work environments to create four, interconnected sources of meaningfulness: inner development, expressing one's full potential, unity with others and serving others.

The findings also reveal structural and agential constraints when individuals attempt to create meaningful work. Practically, the study demonstrates the importance of training to enhance work of value and significance and offers recommendations for practitioners.

Full text (HTML)

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Ten more items of trivia for your enjoyment

In praise of footpaths
via 3 Quarks Daily by Emrys Westacott
As an expatriate Brit who has lived in North America for many years, I have sometimes been asked what I miss most about the old country. There's plenty to miss, of course: draught bitter; Prime Minister's Question Time; red phone boxes; racist tabloid newspapers; Henderson's Yorkshire Relish; grey rainy afternoons, especially at the seaside in July. But my answer is always the same: I miss the footpaths.
Continue reading and see a couple of lovely pictures of the Peak District that I cannot get HTTPS to save properly!

What’s the difference between a $20 ukulele and a $1000 ukulele
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
The answer is, not much, but if you are serious about playing, an extra $980 is probably worth it. In this video George Elmes compares his super cheap yellow starter uke with his most recent uke purchase, a $1000 beauty. Listen to him play the same song on each uke.

The expensive uke has a brighter sound, but the $20 uke sounds pretty good. Elmes says the expensive uke holds a tune better, has better action and intonation, and feels better to play, “however, you can still play a tune on this $20 yellow ukulele”.

Mary Ellen Marks (1940 - 2015)
via 3 Quarks Daily: Stefany Anne Golberg at The Smart Set
In a photograph titled “Ward 81″, a woman sits on a bed. She is young, a teenager. She sits cross-legged and wears her clothes and hair like a teenager would. The wall behind this teenage girl is covered in pictures. The pictures, magazine cutouts, are taped to the wall and some of the edges have been carefully rounded with scissors. There are pictures of animals and a picture of a tree. Below a picture of the Mona Lisa the name BRENDA is written in marker. In this room that could belong to any teenager, the walls are strangely close. The bed is pushed up to the radiator and the metal headboard is too white and plain. The young woman’s eyes are blank—one eye tilts toward her nose. Her left arm is outstretched bearing the evidence of self-inflicted wounds and on the wall above the radiator, also written in marker, are the words, “I wish to die.”
Continue reading
Please be aware that the photograph of Brenda clearly shows her self-harm scars. You may wish to leave the story here.

Discovering a new star archaeological museum
via Times Online by Mary Beard
For reasons I shall share in due course, I hitched a ride with the husband who was off to see an icon in Lebanon. I had never been there before, but had always wanted to see Baalbek. One should of course check ahead. It was only by the time that all had been booked that I discovered that Baalbek was very definitely now off limits, But it turned out that there was plenty more good stuff.
Continue reading

10 Ancient Books That Can Inspire You Even Today
via Lifehack by Peter Burns
In this day and age, many people feel lost. They don’t know in what direction their life should be headed, how to overcome the different challenges that life throws at them, or just how to be relaxed and happy. Oftentimes they try to find outside sources to help them in this. The self-help industry is worth billions of dollars and keeps on growing.
Many people spend huge sums of money to try to get answers to their questions. They often don’t know which advice to choose and how to proceed with changing things that need changing.
If you really want to get to the core of self-improvement, happiness and success, it is time to get back to the basics. A wise man once said, that whatever question people have today, a wise man from thousands of years ago had already provided the answer.
The people of yesteryear lived hard, and challenging lives, but that did not stop them from working on improving themselves, achieving their goals and enjoying the little things.
Whatever question you might have, whatever challenge you are trying to overcome, the answer can most likely be found in the one of the books below. Best of all, all of them can be found totally free on the internet.
Continue reading

Tulipmania – When Tulips Caused A Financial Crash
via Arena Flowers by Daisy Chain
Vibrant pink tulips with Dutch windmills along a canal.
In 1593 a handful of tulips were planted by a man named Carolus Clusius at the University of Leiden in Holland. This is considered by many as the birth of Holland’s well known flower business that we know today, and the catalyst for one of the first recorded financial bubbles known as “Tulipmania”, where a tulip buying frenzy saw their prices reach extortionate levels.
Continue reading

What the Hell
via 3 Quarks Daily: Joan Acocella in The New Yorker
Why is a fourteenth-century allegorical poem about sin and redemption still such a draw?
People can’t seem to let go of the Divine Comedy. You’d think that a fourteenth-century allegorical poem on sin and redemption, written in a medieval Italian vernacular and in accord with the Scholastic theology of that period, would have been turned over, long ago, to the scholars in the back carrels.
But no.
By my count there have been something like a hundred English-language translations, and not just by scholars but by blue-chip poets: in the past half century, John Ciardi, Allen Mandelbaum, Robert Pinsky, W. S. Merwin. Liszt and Tchaikovsky have composed music about the poem; Chaucer, Balzac, and Borges have written about it. In other words, the Divine Comedy is more than a text that professors feel has to be brushed up periodically for students. It’s one of the reasons there are professors and students. In some periods devoted to order and decorum in literature – notably the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries – many sophisticated readers scorned the Divine Comedy as a grotesque, impenetrable thing. But not in our time. T. S. Eliot, the lawgiver of early-twentieth-century poetics, placed Dante on the highest possible rung of European poetry. “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them,” he wrote. “There is no third.”
Continue reading

Smuggling for Christ the King
via OUP Blog by Julia G. Young
Guns, ammunition, bootlegged liquor, illegal drugs, counterfeit cash—these are the most common objects that generations of smugglers have carried across the US-Mexico border. Historians of the borderlands, as well as residents of the area, know that government agents on both sides of the line have never been able to gain complete control over this type of trafficking, despite their best efforts. And so, from the late nineteenth century to the present day, the borderlands have been portrayed in popular culture as a site of sin and dissolution, contraband and illicit trade.
Continue reading

Why magenta doesn’t appear in the rainbow
via Boing Boing by Mark Frauenfelder
Steve Mould’s colored flashlights (sometimes called “coloured torches” in distant lands) are useful props in this excellent 5-minute lecture on color mixing. I learned that magenta is not a color. Rather, it is the absence of green.
Continue reading

How are the smallest beasts of the stellar zoo born?
via OUP Blog by Vicente Hernández Hernández and Aina Palau
In the same way as a jungle harbours several species of birds and mammals, the stellar (or almost stellar) zoo also offers a variety of objects with different sizes, masses, temperatures, ages, and other physical properties.
Continue reading