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Japan removes language barrier in nursing exams

Japan will provide English translations in a professional nursing exam to remove a language hurdle for foreign applicants after almost all of them failed the test this year, officials said Wednesday.

Hundreds of nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines have been allowed to work temporarily in rapidly ageing Japan, but they have to pass the Japanese language test if they hope to stay longer than a few years.

To respond to rising complaints that the tests are discriminatory, the health ministry has also decided to simplify the wording of some of the exam questions ahead of the next test in February, ministry officials said.

Historically, Japan has imposed tight limits on immigration but has allowed several hundred certified nurses and caregivers from Indonesia and the Philippines into the country to help make up a shortage of health-care workers.

Those who hope to stay longer than three years in the case of nurses, and four years in the case of caregivers, need to pass the examinations, forcing them to quickly learn thousands of Japanese characters and medical terms.

This year only three people—two Indonesian nurses and one from the Philippines—passed the test, while the other 251 applicants failed.

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Pupils do better at school if teachers are not fixated on test results

Children perform best in exams when teachers are not overly concerned about their test results, according to research in the United Kingdom published last August 13.

Pupils show greater motivation, are better behaved and are more likely to be independent and strategic thinkers when teachers are not obsessed by grades, the study by the Institute of Education found.

Government policy increasingly points teachers in the opposite direction, encouraging them to concentrate on students’ results, said the study’s author, Chris Watkins, a reader in education at the institute.

Ministers have placed teachers under so much pressure to ensure students perform well in national exams that they increasingly talk at their pupils, rather than talk to them and ask them open questions, he said. The latter leads students to deepen their learning and perform at their optimum, according to Watkins, who analyzed the findings of more than 100 international studies on how teachers can best help pupils to learn.

The word “learning” was rarely heard in classrooms, he said, while teachers were more worried about their pupils’ performance in exams. They had resorted to narrowing the curriculum and drilling pupils for tests, Watkins argued, and this made the students less motivated.

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Music in background during study may mess up memory, study finds
By Robert Preidt, HealthDay

Studying for an exam while listening to music is not smart, because background music can impair your ability to perform memory tasks, new research has found.

Study participants were asked to recall a list of eight consonants in the order they were presented. They did this while in five different sound environments: quiet surroundings; music they liked; music they disliked; changing state (a sequence of random digits); and steady state (a sequence of steady digits such as “3, 3, 3, 3”).

The participants’ recall ability was poorest when listening to music, regardless of whether they liked or disliked it, and in changing-state conditions. The most accurate recall occurred when participants performed the task in steady-state environments, according to the study published online in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.

“The poorer performance of the music and changing-state sounds are due to the acoustical variation within those environments. This impairs the ability to recall the order of items, via rehearsal, within the presented list,” explained lead researcher Nick Perham, a lecturer in the School of Psychology at the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff, in a news release from the journal's publisher.

“Mental arithmetic also requires the ability to retain order information in the short-term via rehearsal, and may be similarly affected by their performance in the presence of changing-state, background environments,” he added.

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Thousands of unused words in Oxford Press vault

“Wurfing,” “polkadodge” and “nonversation” are among the words stored in secret files after being rejected for inclusion by the Oxford English Dictionary, it has been disclosed.

Millions of “non words” which failed to make the dictionary lie unused in a vault owned by the Oxford University Press.

“Wurfing” means surfing the internet at work, while “polkadodge” describes the strange little dance two passing people do when they try to avoid each other but move in the same direction, and “nonversation” denotes a pointless chat.

These words were recently submitted for use in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) but will remain dormant unless they enter common parlance in the future.

Graphic designer Luke Ngakane, 22, uncovered hundreds of “non words” as part of a project for Kingston University, London.

He said: “I was fascinated when I read that the Oxford University Press has a vault where all their failed words, which didn’t make the dictionary, are kept. This storeroom contains millions of words and some of them date back hundreds of years.”

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Canada now global leader in young college graduates; US falls from 1st to 12th

Canada is now the global leader in higher education among young adults, with 55.8 percent of that population holding an associate degree or better as of 2007, while the  United States has fallen from first to 12th in the share of adults ages 25 to 34 with postsecondary degrees.

This is according to a new report from the College Board, which said that the US—with 40.4 percent of young adults holding postsecondary credentials—sits 11 places back of Canada. The United States ranks somewhat higher, sixth, among all nations when older adults are added to the equation, the report said.

The report, presented to Capitol Hill policymakers last July 22, is backed by a commission of highly placed educators who have set a goal for the United States to reclaim world leadership in college completion—and attain a 55 percent completion rate—by 2025.

The campaign mirrors President Obama’s quest to reclaim world leadership in college graduates by 2020, although it gives the country five more years to get there. The Commission on Access, Admissions and Success in Higher Education set its goal in December 2008, seven months before Obama's American Graduation Initiative.

“I don’t think what we’re saying and what the president’s saying are that different,” said Gaston Caperton, president of the College Board, the New York nonprofit agency responsible for the SAT and AP tests.

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Debate on charging fees for online news content remains unresolved

ASPEN, Colorado—Top technology and media executives wrapped up a three-day conference here during which they grappled with—and left unresolved—the question of whether readers will pay for news online.

Firmly in the paid camp in the “paid vs. free” debate was News Corp.’s head of digital operations Jon Miller who said charging online readers is a notion that has been “accepted at a variety of levels.”

“It’s more about how it gets done,” Miller told participants in the Fortune Brainstorm Tech event which ended last July 24 in this Colorado ski resort.

With newspapers and magazines facing competition from free content on the Web and declining circulation and print advertising revenue, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has been leading the charge to get newspaper readers to pay online.

The Wall Street Journal, a News Corp. title, is currently the only major US newspaper to charge readers for full access to its website and one of the few to buck the trend of eroding circulation.

Miller said charging readers is “an idea whose time has come,” but others disagreed including Jimmy Pitaro, Yahoo!’s vice president for media.

“We firmly believe that free is the future,” said Pitaro, whose Yahoo! News is one of the most popular news destinations on the Web.

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As English spreads, Indonesians fear for their language
By Norimitsu Onishi, The New York Times

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Paulina Sugiarto’s three children played together at a mall here the other day, chattering not in Indonesia’s national language, but English. Their fluency often draws admiring questions from other Indonesian parents Ms. Sugiarto encounters in this city’s upscale malls.

At a mall in Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital, Paulina Sugiarto and her three children, who speak fluent English, looked over comic books in Indonesian.

But the children’s ability in English obscured the fact that, though born and raised in Indonesia, they were struggling with the Indonesian language, known as Bahasa Indonesia. Their parents, who grew up speaking the Indonesian language but went to college in the United States and Australia, talk to their children in English. And the children attend a private school where English is the main language of instruction.

“They know they’re Indonesian,” Ms. Sugiarto, 34, said. “They love Indonesia. They just can’t speak Bahasa Indonesia. It’s tragic.”

Indonesia’s linguistic legacy is increasingly under threat as growing numbers of wealthy and upper-middle-class families shun public schools where Indonesian remains the main language but English is often taught poorly. They are turning, instead, to private schools that focus on English and devote little time, if any, to Indonesian.

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Millions of books get digitized for the disabled
By Stephanie Steinberg, USA Today

For those who are blind, dyslexic or have diseases like multiple sclerosis and have difficulty turning book pages, reading the latest best seller just got easier.

Brewster Kahle, a digital librarian and founder of a virtual library called the Internet Archive, has launched a worldwide campaign to double the number of books available for print-disabled people.

The Internet Archive began scanning books in 2004 and now has more than 1 million available in DAISY format, or Digital Accessible Information System, a means of creating “talking” books that can be downloaded to a handheld device. Unlike books on tape, the digital format makes it easier for print-disabled people to navigate books because they can speed up, slow down and skip around from chapter to chapter.

About 7 million books are downloaded by Internet Archive users around the world each month, Kahle says. With 20 scanning centers in the USA and eight in countries around the world, the archive scans more than 1,000 books a day from more than 150 libraries, including the Library of Congress— the largest library in the world that also offers online digitalized collections of books, articles and newspapers.

The U.S. government, foundations and libraries provide funding for the Internet Archive. To help with the campaign, Kahle received a grant from the city of San Francisco to employ 100 “digital technicians” who work to scan books that people and organizations are donating for the project. The technicians were all formerly unemployed or underemployed single parents.

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Battle intensifies for $2 billion English-teaching business in China

In South Korea, pushy parents who want their children to get ahead in learning English send them for an operation to elongate the tongue, in the belief that it will make pronunciation easier.

Such is the national obsession with having a fluent command of the language that drastic measures are taken in some cases when children are just six months old. China has not yet reached the same level of fanaticism over spoken English, but it is not far off.

Chinese children with affluent parents are packed off to classes staffed by American, Canadian and British teachers as soon as they can speak. High school students are frequently enrolled in extra-curricular classes to cram for the English component of the university entrance exam. And young professionals aspiring to a more interesting and lucrative career flock to classrooms and online lessons and even stadiums alongside tens of thousands of other evangelical linguists.

To meet this rising demand, there are now an estimated 30,000 organizations or companies offering private English classes in China. The market has nearly doubled in size in the last five years and is now worth around $3.1bn.

Disney English, a subsidiary of the US entertainment giant, has rapidly expanded since launching in October 2008, after thousands of parents signed their toddlers up for its special curriculum of Disney-themed classes.

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Study shows teens benefit from later school day

CHICAGO (AP)—Giving teens 30 extra minutes to start their school day leads to more alertness in class, better moods, less tardiness, and even healthier breakfasts, a small study found.

“The results were stunning. There’s no other word to use,” said Patricia Moss, academic dean at the Rhode Island boarding school where the study was done. “We didn't think we'd get that much bang for the buck.”

The results appear in July’s Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The results mirror those at a few schools that have delayed starting times more than half an hour.

Researchers say there’s a reason why even 30 minutes can make a big difference. Teens tend to be in their deepest sleep around dawn—when they typically need to arise for school. Interrupting that sleep can leave them groggy, especially since they also tend to have trouble falling asleep before 11 p.m.

“There's biological science to this that I think provides compelling evidence as to why this makes sense,” said Brown University sleep researcher Dr. Judith Owens, the study's lead author and a pediatrician at Hasbro Children's Hospital in Providence, R.I.

An Archives editorial said the study adds to “a growing body of evidence that changing the start time for high schools is good for adolescents.”

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Aggressive teachers harm pupils’ education, says an academic
By Graeme Paton, Education Editor,

Shouting at children and handing out too many detentions in the classroom can seriously undermine pupils’ education, according to an academic.

A hard-line approach to discipline can easily backfire because children fail to learn properly when they are scared, it was claimed.

In a blow to traditionalists, Dr Andrew Curran said that pupils were better stimulated by rewards and a “loving” culture generated by teachers.

He said almost half of pupils were turned off lessons in the first six months of secondary education because of the shock caused by moving from the more secure surroundings of a small primary school.

It comes despite claims from Sir Alan Steer, the Government's chief advisor on behaviour, that the threat of a “right royal rollicking” was the best way to crack down on troublemakers.

But Dr Curran, paediatric neurologist at Alder Hey Children's Hospital, Merseyside, said pupils could not learn in a hostile environment.

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“Inchoate” tops list of most-looked-up New York Times words

WASHINGTON (AFP)—What are the 50 words that stump readers of The New York Times the most?

The newspaper on Tuesday published its annual list of the words that readers have looked up the most frequently on using the website’ built-in American Heritage dictionary tool.

“Inchoate,” “profligacy,” “sui generis,” “austerity” and “profligate” topped the list followed by “baldenfreude,” a non-existent word that a New York Times columnist threw into an article, puzzling readers.

“Opprobrium,” “apostates,” “solipsistic” and “obduracy” were next on the list of the most-frequently looked up words followed by “internecine,” “soporific,” “Kristallnacht,” “peripatetic” and “nascent.”

The top word, “inchoate,” which means not yet completed, was used in 13 news articles and seven op-ed pieces or editorials between January 1 and May 26 of this year and was looked up a total of 8,172 times.

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Spelling champ’s victory hat-trick for Indian-Americans

Is it because of Indian colonial history with Britain or is it something at the level of genetic programming? Whatever the explanation, there is no denying that Indians have a penchant for the English language, a trans-generational, linguistic love affair that gets transmitted even to far-flung diaspora.

This week, the Scripps National Spelling Bee in the United States was—for the third consecutive year and for the eighth time in the last 11 years—won by an Indian-American, Anamika Veeramani of North Royalton, Ohio.

Anamika won after nine nerve-wracking rounds, culminating in her correctly spelling “stromuhr,” a device used to measure blood flow velocity. She fought her way through earlier rounds successfully spelling words like “foggara,” “osteomyelitis,” “mirin,” “nahcolite,” “epiphysis,” and, in the penultimate round, “juvia,” a term for a Brazilian nut.

Anamika, an eighth grade student at the Incarnate Word Academy in Parma Heights, was competing in her second consecutive Spelling Bee, after tying at fifth place last year. This year’s competition began on Wednesday with 273 competitors who qualified through locally sponsored bees in their home communities.

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Britain’s new romance language is English
By Jennifer Quinn, Associated Press

LONDON—Love may have its own language—but that’s not good enough for the British government.

It wants English, too.

Starting this fall, the spouse of a citizen who is coming from outside the European Union and wants to live in Britain will have to prove he or she has a basic command of English.

The move, announced Wednesday by the new Conservative government of Prime Minister David Cameron, comes as countries across Europe tighten their rules on immigration amid rising unemployment rates and concerns about the ability of newcomers to integrate.

The famously tolerant Netherlands was holding an election Wednesday in which a far-right party that wants to ban all immigration from nonwestern countries has a shot at doubling its seats in Parliament.

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Quebec government struggles with access to English-language education

QUEBEC (AHN)—Canada’s divisions between its English-speaking and French-speaking communities arose again this week in a dispute in Quebec’s legislature over access to English-language public education.

The separatist Parti Quebecois is using procedural maneuvers to block a vote on a law that would broaden the rights of children to receive education in English.

Members of the Liberal government proposed the law but set aside a vote on it in the face of fierce opposition.

The proposed legislation, Bill 103, would amend the Charter of the French Language.
The charter designates French as the official language of Quebec.

In 2002, Parti Quebecois succeeded in passing a law that limited children’s access to education in English.

Last October, the Supreme Court overturned it.

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