The culture war over ‘LGBT lessons’ is based on distortion. Here are the facts

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If you are the parent of a school-aged child, you’ve probably heard that “primary sex ed” will be mandatory from September. Even if you aren’t a parent, you’ve likely heard of No Outsiders, the “LGBT curriculum” that has sparked protests by a number of Muslim parents at Parkfield community school in Birmingham, resulting in hundreds of children being withdrawn.

No Outsiders has been suspended, but the protests have spread throughout Birmingham and to Manchester, with hundreds more parents threatening to withdraw their children from schools. Two weeks ago, BBC Question Time brought this conflict to the nation at large by asking: “Is it morally right that five-year-old children learn about LGBTQ+ issues in school?”

The discussion has turned into a full-on culture war, with religious communities pitted against education experts. But this didn’t need to happen.

As one of the founders of a charity combating gender stereotypes at primary school – and aiming for all faiths, races and backgrounds to be able to access our message – I have followed these stories closely. And I have winced as those framing the debate have muddled up and sensationalised the conversation to the point that no one could blame parents for feeling confused about what their children will be learning.

So, let’s take a step back and get clear on what we’re actually talking about. No Outsiders teaches primary school pupils to celebrate diversity – including of race, religion, and sexual orientation. In other words, it teaches children to respect differences protected by the Equality Act. It is not a “LGBT curriculum”. It also isn’t what is being mandated for primary schools – it is one programme created by one teacher in Birmingham, which has been voluntarily taught by some schools.

Next, there is no mandatory “primary sex ed”. Parliament voted to approve a new primary school subject called “relationships education”, and there isn’t a bit of sex in it. The key teachings are about the importance of friendships, family and other relationships, as well as how to stay safe. This could just have easily have been called “life skills”.

But it wasn’t. It was grouped in with relationships and sex education (RSE) for secondary school pupils, which meant people started referring to “primary sex ed”. It’s also been conflated with No Outsiders, which much of the media has shorthanded as ‘LGBT lessons’. What is coming next year is now, to many, “pro-LGBT sex education for five-year-olds”, and of course this is a hard sell to some religious communities. I know my progressive but devout Muslim father would be reluctant to get on board with that.

Let me be clear – I am in favour of teaching our kids that diversity of sexuality is an asset to our society. But to a five-year-old, that means knowing that different types of families exist, can be caring and deserve respect. This is all that’s required by the new guidance, and I don’t think you would have gotten a heated national debate over that line. In fact, many schools already teach this as part of their duty to promote the British values of tolerance and individual liberty.

However, the fury provoked by No Outsiders and RSE shows us just how polarising anything related to sex is, which is why it’s really unhelpful that this topic was sexed up unnecessarily.

Well-organised forces looking for a fight have bolstered the recent protests, and there was blatant homophobia on display that shouldn’t be indulged. However, it wasn’t inevitable that the agitators would get such traction. The language initially used by those setting the terms – the government, media and education sector – mattered. Now the genie is largely out of the bottle. Schools across the country will have a harder time implementing the new guidance among communities that are dead set against it, but perhaps stand to benefit from it most.

Let’s remember why this is important: children need to know how people should treat each other so they understand consent later in life. Children need the tools to develop stable emotional bonds they can lean on for support. Children need to respect different types of families so fewer kids get bullied.

Confidence and tolerance aren’t just for the progressive middle classes. Next time, let’s think more about how we frame the debate for those families inclined to be sceptical – and let’s not take the culture-war bait.

 Janeen Hayat is a teacher and co-founder of You Be You, a charity working to combat gender stereotypes in primary schools

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Does Zimbabwe have a higher literacy rate than SA?

Africa/ Zimbabwe / 15.01.2019/ Source:

South Africa is set to hold national elections in 2019, a year the ruling African National Congress marks its 107th anniversary.

Radio 702 talk show host Bruce Whitfield spoke to Bonang Mohale, head of Business Leadership South Africa, about what he expects from the party’s election manifesto at its launch on 12 January.

Mohale said he was looking at six issues. One was education, which he described as «the most tragic story of the last 25 years».

He said Zimbabwe’s former president, Robert Mugabe, «boasts of 94% literacy rate. South Africa’s is nowhere near that.»

Do statistics back up his claim?

Education experts previously told Africa Check that comparing literacy rates can be difficult, as countries often have different definitions of literacy.

Zimbabwe’s most recent labour force survey estimated that 97,6% of people older than 15 were literate in 2014. These were people who said they had completed Grade 3.

South Africa’s 2017 general household survey estimated that 94,3% of people older than 20 were literate. But these were people who said they could read and write with «no difficulty» or «some difficulty».

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) calculates its own estimates of literacy.

Its latest estimate for both countries is for 2014. That year South Africa’s literacy rate was 94,1% for people 15 years and older.

Unesco used data from Zimbabwe’s 2014 Multiple Indicators Cluster and Health Survey to estimate the country’s literacy rate as 88.7% of people 15 years and older.

The data for Zimbabwe was based on a reading assessment – not self-reporting. A reading test is likely to produce a lower rate, Unesco says.

Literacy rate comparisons should be made with caution, as there are differences in the definitions used and the way people are surveyed.


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Privatisation in education: private schools dominate national education

By Binod Ghimire

Sep 28, 2018-Two days after the federal parliament endorsed the Act on Compulsory and Free Education, Private and Boarding Schools’ Organisation Nepal (PABSON) slammed the provisions in the new law that increases the share of scholarship they must offer students. The umbrella body of private schools has issued a deadline for the government to amend the provision or face protests.

Earlier this month, the new education law had increased the share of scholarship to 15 percent from the existing 10 percent through a unanimous vote in both the Houses of Parliament. The Ministry of Education, the line ministry which had drafted the Act, has yet to respond to PABSON’s threat to boycott the law.

Although the ministry has been monitoring the private schools and prepared an annual report on institutions that charge exorbitant fees, the government has not taken any action against a single private school that has violated the rules.

In 2011, the government had introduced 5 percent tax to the private schools, which was later revoked when PABSON refused to honour it. The organisation has also rejected the 2012 Supreme Court order imposing a moratorium on fee increment for three years. Education experts say that the organisation’s past behaviour and their continued dismissal of government regulations show how the private education sector has become increasingly powerful just as their numbers—both in terms of schools and student enrolment—continue to go up.

The government, which had nationalised all community and private schools in 1971, reversed its course nine years later in 1980 and even opened the door to for-profit schools for the first time. The expansion of private schools has been going on unabated since.

Today, private schools occupy about 19 percent of share in the country’s education system. A recent economic survey by the Ministry of Finance shows that out of the total 35,601 schools in the country, 6,566 are privately owned. In the last six years, there has been nearly 5 percent increase in the number of private schools across the country—and it continues to rise despite the country’s adoption of a new constitution that ensures free school education to every Nepali citizen.

“I thought the government, through the Compulsory and Free Education Act, would take some measures towards containing the growth of private schools and promoting the public schools,” said Binaya Kusiyat, a professor at the Tribhuvan University and an independent researcher. “Allowing private schools to function as they have been for all these years is making a mockery of the socialism-oriented constitution.”

Kusiyat said his study shows that the entire school education can be made free even if the government allocates the budget as per its global commitment. Currently, the education sector receives around Rs125 billion annually, which is just 10 percent of national budget against the global commitment of 20 percent. It is an international benchmark to allocate 20 percent of country’s national budget or around 6 percent of the GDP for the education sector.

Education experts say it is ironic that capitalist countries have a minimal presence of the private schools while a country like Nepal, which is led by a socialist or a communist party, has become a fertile ground for commercialising education.

According to a 2015  report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which compiles educational data from a majority of nations across the globe each year, less than 9 percent students from the United States attend private schools. The number is even lower in New Zealand, Canada, and the United Kingdom, where the share of private schools is just 6 percent.

Countries like Finland, Norway, and Singapore, whose school education is considered among the best in the world, have about three percent private schools.

“The number of students going to private schools is decreasing in capitalist countries but it’s exactly opposite in ours,” Kedar Bhakta Mathema, education expert and former vice-chancellor of the Tribhuvan University, told the Post. “We were very optimistic that the country would change. But the present developments do not give us much hope.” Mathema said there is no enthusiasm in the governing officials to improve the public education system, which means they are directly and indirectly promoting the private sector.

Mathema also alluded to the fact that there is little chance the government will take any strong measures to control the haphazard expansion of private schools because many political leaders—and their families—are involved in running these schools. Around 45 members of the second Constituent Assembly were directly involved in running private schools or colleges. In the current federal parliament, there are about two dozen lawmakers who own and run private education institutions.

Earlier this year, Man Prasad Wagle, an education expert and professor at the Kathmandu University, presented a report suggesting that the government should gradually phase out private schools while facilitating a shift towards technical education or university education. The suggestion made public in April said the phasing out process should start from the first grade, which will take 12 years to end the private sectors’ presence in the education sector.

Education Minister Giriraj Mani Pokharel, who comes from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, said the government is not in a position to take ownership of the entire education system because it simply does not have the budget.

“We cannot ignore the contribution of the private sector,” Pokharel told the Post during an interaction last week. “Both private and public schools can go hand in hand and complement each other.”


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