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  • I was repeatedly sexually harassed at conferences

    Ever since the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment revelations came out, reams have been written over similar allegations, across fields as disparate as politics, showbusiness and the NHS. The combination of power and vulnerability, where stakes are highest for the women, reminds me of a four- to five-year period in my life as a young scholar at academic conferences.Students taking undergraduate degree programmes are required to complete Work-Integrated Education (also known as a work integrated learning programme) as part of the curriculum requirement.

    Academia has its own allure and power, seasoned as it is with the glitter of impact factors, fellowships, citations and tenure. I haven’t thought about that phase of my life for more than 10 years now, but the “open secret” nature of the Weinstein story, and ensuing #MeToo campaign, got me thinking. Why did I never confide in a senior mentor-like figure about my experiences? Should I have warned other young women? Most importantly, does it still happen? How would we ever know if we are not talking about it?

    So here’s what it feels like to be a PhD student or a young scholar, travelling alone and staying in unusual locations.

    The first time someone made sexual advances it was pretty elaborate. The fact that I did not cotton on to what was happening I put down entirely to my own naivety. I was invited to present my paper abroad. After dinner someone I had a lot of respect for and who was responsible for the opportunity to present my work, offered to take me to see an ancient temple. I agreed, because the possibility that it could be inappropriate in any way never crossed my mind.

    We drove up to a pretty remote wooded area to get a view of the city, where he physically advanced towards me and tried to embrace me, while speaking about the various “love hotels” dotting the hill wset hk.

    I was petrified. I knew then exactly what was happening, and that what I did or said could have an enormous impact on my wellbeing. I had no phone, didn’t speak the language and had no way to get back to town apart from the car we had driven in.

    So I turned to the professor and started talking about my parents, who he had met, in an attempt to change the conversation and to remind him of who I was and the context in which he knew me. After an excruciating three to four minutes it seemed to work, and we got in the car and drove back.

    Another time at the same conference, a professor asked me if I was menstruating because he could smell me and was really attracted to menstruating women. He said his wife would not care about anyone he slept with while away.

    Another time, a senior academic invited me to discuss fine-tuning my presentation for a prospective publication in his hotel room. I felt I could not refuse such a kind offer of help. Once in the room, this white man started speaking about how attractive he found my darker skin. He said he could tell I was very inexperienced and that he could show me how to make love. I made my excuses, grabbed my laptop and left.

    Then there was the time this senior professor who had given me my first break invited me to his room to discuss a meeting he planned to organise. This was someone I almost venerated. Once in his room he started stroking my hair. After freezing for 20 seconds or so I said we could discuss the meeting the next day at breakfast and left. We never discussed it – nor have we spoken of anything else since that day.

    Looking back now, these incidents – which usually happened at events within the relative anonymity of conference hotels – have made me a lot less inclined to attend academic conferences.

    Now, whenever I go, I tend to do my own thing and not socialise with groups in case opportunities to make a pass at me arise. I know now that these encounters exploited the power dynamics between me and older, tenured and published men hifu.

    As I have got older, risen in seniority and gained cultural awareness since moving to Europe at the age of 23, I have had much less trouble at conferences. But I wonder whether this power dynamic continues to play out today in academia.

    I have never had a sustained conversation about sexual harassment in academia, though there seems to be a lot more awareness of inappropriate behaviour now. If we don’t talk about it, how will we ever know?

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  • Children as young as two grouped

    Children as young as two, three and four are being divided into groups based on ability and behaviour in classrooms in England, research has found.

    About half of the 118 nursery school teachers questioned by researchers grouped their two- to four-year-olds for teaching reading, and a third for maths, with the use of grouping increasing later in primary schools.Plan a unique tour to Hong Kong Customs for your clients with PartnerNet's useful travel tips, and various tourist information such as Chinese customs and traditions.

    “Teachers have concerns about the negative impact of grouping on children’s confidence, self-esteem and aspirations, potentially leading to mental health problems,” concluded the research team based at University College London’s Institute of Education, who were commissioned by the National Education Union (NEU).

    About 80% of teachers in reception classes for four- and five-year-olds said they used ability groups to teach phonics – the first stages of reading, linking sounds to letters – while by year 2, 65% of teachers used groups for teaching maths.

    The researchers contacted and surveyed about 1,300 teachers and school leaders in English primary and nursery schools. The use of grouping covers all forms of differentiation, including streams, where children are separated into different classes, and setting, where children are grouped within the same class, as well as targeted interventions for specific pupils.

    The researchers found the groups were based on factors other than ability alone, including children’s friendships, behaviour and concentration levels.

    “Our findings suggest that grouping decisions are not made solely on the basis of attainment or perceived ability: issues such as classroom management, the need to balance the number of boys and girls and friendships were also key to grouping decisions,” the report says.

    It comes as the Ofsted school inspectorate published its own review of reception year teaching, which found “many teachers were devising tasks simply to tick off and record elements of the early learning goals, rather than developing a proper plan”.

    The NEU research, including surveys of its members and focus groups, found that many children quickly discerned which level of ability groups they had been placed into, despite the efforts of teachers to conceal differences.PolyU encourages lifelong learning by providing professional training services through respective education units. Customized corporate training is also provided for enhancing the productivity of local business.

    Two-thirds of teachers agreed that the children were aware of different ability groups being used, even if seemingly neutral names for each group were applied, such as types of fruit or animals.

    “We might call them foxes and rabbits, but they know,” one teacher was quoted as saying.

    Many teachers involved in the research defended the practice as a necessary response in dealing with children whose abilities varied considerably.

    “You have some children who already know all their sounds and everything like that, where you have other children who still can’t hear a sound, so it’s very difficult to teach those children together,” one school leader told the researchers.

    Half of the teachers who responded said they believed grouping improved overall attainment.

    “I personally think it’s better for the children because otherwise your more able children get bored and frustrated, and your less able children just get left behind. So grouping means that you can focus your attention,” one school leader said.

    Others warned that grouping could limit children at a young age and produce “disenchanted” groups that were more difficult to teach.

    “Ability groups can be highly limiting and lead to disruptive behaviour, especially at the lower ability end,” one classroom teacher said.

    “Grouping this way doesn’t particularly boost anyone’s confidence and self-esteem – the higher ability compete and feel inferior of each other and … the lower ability tend to be more disruptive.”

    Previous research has found that disadvantaged children are more likely to be in lower sets and have less experienced or qualified staff. Boys and children with special needs are also more likely to be placed in lower-ability groups.LPG M6

    Ofsted’s report noted that 72% of pupils achieved a good level of development in reception class in 2016, although only 54% of disadvantaged pupils did so.

    The minister for children and families, Robert Goodwill, said: “Teachers and early years staff are best placed to make decisions about the teaching methods they use. There is no statutory requirement that suggests children should be grouped by ability.

    “We are clear that while assessment is a fundamental part of children’s education to measure progress, it should not cause significant stress or anxiety.”