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Headlines for August 12-20

Canada Commits Funds to Support Quebec’s Child Care System

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government will transfer CAN$6 billion (US$4.8 billion) over the next five years to Quebec as part of its new national child care program. Quebec is the only Canadian province that already has a universal subsidized child care system in place, so these funds will be used to add needed additional spaces for children and to raise pay for early childhood educators. Quebec offers child care to all families for CAN$8.50 (US$6.8) per day. Quebec Premier Francois Legault said that the province needs about 37,000 more child care spaces to serve all families who need child care. This year Canada has already signed child-care funding agreements with British Columbia, Nova Scotia, Yukon, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador. For more, see Global News.

Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau
Canadian Prime Minister Justine Trudeau

With Exams Cancelled, Record Number of Britons Ace A-Levels, Gaps Widen

gcse exams

After England’s Advanced-level (A-level) exams were cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic for the second year in a row, the proportion of students achieving at the highest levels hit a record high of nearly 45 percent. In 2019, the last time exams were held for A-level courses, only about 25 percent of students achieved at the highest levels. For the past two years, teachers assigned grades to students based on school exams and coursework. To ensure standard grading, a sample of grades in one in five schools across the country were verified by the exam board. Exam board officials said the higher grades this year reflected the fact that students had multiple chances to show that they could do well and that no student had their results ruined by a single “bad day.” The results have also highlighted inequity across the country. Some 70 percent of private school students achieved top marks this year, compared to 39 percent of public school students. And while schools in London saw 48 percent of students achieve top grades, schools in the north of England saw only 39 percent of students achieving top grades. These gaps existed before this year, but are wider than in previous years. Despite this, the Department for Education believes the gaps would have been even worse if the exams were held as usual this year.

Singapore Program Supports Disadvantaged Students, Improves School Attendance

Singapore reports that its Uplift Community Pilot project, which started in January 2020, has improved the school attendance rate for 80 percent of participating students. Uplift Community is part of a larger inter-agency initiative led by the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce which aims to improve equity and strengthen supports for students from disadvantaged families. The pilot project asks schools to identify students from disadvantaged backgrounds who exhibit early signs of absenteeism. Those students are then assigned to designated Uplift coordinators, known as “family befrienders,” who provide homework supervision, academic coaching, enrichment opportunities in the arts and sports, and mentoring. Given its early success, the government plans to expand the program to reach more students. Read more in The Straits Times.

A Day in the Life of a Singapore Teacher

New Zealand Reports Good Results of Healthy School Lunch Pilot Program

Chris Hipkins, New Zealand's Education Minister
Chris Hipkins, New Zealand's Education Minister

The Ministry of Education in New Zealand just released an interim evaluation of its Healthy School Lunch pilot, also known as the Ka Ora Ka Ako, that found the pilot highly successful. The program was established in 2019 as part of the government’s Child Youth and Wellbeing Strategy, and targets schools with the highest concentrations of students from disadvantaged backgrounds and provides free lunch to all students at those schools. More than 200,000 students in 960 schools are currently receiving lunches under the program. To evaluate the program, researchers looked at students’ food journals, what was served for lunch, and school attendance rates; they also consulted focus groups made up of school staff. As a result of the lunch program, the pilot showed significant increases in the types of healthy foods that were both available and consumed, as well as fewer students “at risk of impaired health quality of life” because of insufficient nutrition. The most disadvantaged learners benefitted the most, with these students also reporting improvement in their mental wellbeing. The program will continue to be evaluated as it expands to more schools across the nation. Read more about the pilot evaluation at the Ministry of Education.