Letters: Your Views

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Who says the future still

belongs to boys?

I THINK Professor Kress ("The Future Still Belongs to Boys", Education, 11 June) has got it wrong. Like many others, he incorrectly equates the exchange of information with communication. My own experience relates to the design and evaluation of capital investment projects in many parts of the world, a process informed in recent years by some sophisticated IT. I can assure Professor Kress that, in practice, project success or failure depends largely on how well the stakeholders are able to make each other understand what they expect to get out of the project and what they intend to put in. This has everything to do with people being able to express themselves clearly in words; it has very little to do with a facility with IT.

If they can learn to read and write well, the girls will have nothing to fear. The boys may be the fastest at slinging project data about the globe, but it will be the girls who decide whether or not there will be a project at all.

(Dr) Martin Evans

Cambridge

GUNTHER KRESS'S analysis of how boys are outstripping girls in accessing new technologies, accords with some of my own findings about the differences between boys and girls.

Girls' and boys' uses of books and computers were inversely proportionate to each other, with many more girls hooked on books. The boys preferred computer games.

However, one has to ask which boys and girls are most affected by the changes. My most recent data on adolescents' use at home shows a very strong socio-economic bias in who gets to use what and for what purposes. In middle-class families, where PCs are available, and family members use technology for work as well as pleasure, girls are equally swift to see the advantage of becoming computer literate and to get access to new networks of information.

In less advantaged homes, even when technology is available, it is usually limited to play stations and computer gaming, areas where boys dominate and often regulate the access of their sisters.

Elaine Millard

Department of Educational Studies

University of Sheffield

SPEAKING AS a grammar school girl, I would like to say that it is not the minds of girls which are at fault but the options offered to us by the education system and the media. For example, in the school which I go to, IT and IS GCSEs are not normally offered.

At the moment, I am looking for an opportunity to do IT out of school, but not having much luck. The curriculum encourages schools to offer IT in a cross-curricular way. There is little space for IT as a separate subject.

Mary Hamilton

King Edward VI Camp Hill School for

Girls, Birmingham

Vocational vacations

CHRIS WOODHEAD, (Personally Speaking, Education+, 28 May, ) was quoted as admitting that he drifted into teaching because the long holidays would give him time for his real passion - rock climbing. Now that he has risen to high office he advises shorter holidays for teachers. The teachers would be ill-advised to surrender their holiday entitlement for a one- off increase of 20 per cent or more.

They would run into a long period of inflation plus one per cent or less as the norm for scale increases, and the Treasury would win back the holiday entitlement increase by miserly increases and restructuring of the scales where performance-related pay figured more prominently - meaning large bonuses for a few teachers but decline in real terms of the basic scales. Ten or 15 years on, there would be nothing to show.

Roger Smith

London SW3

Please be gentle with us

AS A parent of a year nine pupil and a year 11 pupil, I agreed with much of Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer's advice to parents ("What to say when those results arrive", Education, 11 June).

As a school governor I then found myself musing on the list of DON'Ts and how these would apply to schools rather than individual pupils.

l Don't punish them physically, materially or even emotionally, for failure or, even worse, simply for disappointing you. Shame and humiliation are rarely spurs to renewed effort.

Mr Blunkett, Mr Woodhead, please note.

l Don't belittle their success. "Okay but half the class got an A, so what's so good?"

Recognise, at last, that all schools are unique. No more comparative school profiles and benchmarking. No more ritual cries of "standards falling" from the media when GCSE and A-level results are published.

l Don't ask how everyone else in the class did, or compare their marks with those of brothers and sisters.

Realise that all year groups and the children within them are different and that comparison is not necessarily a tool for raising standards. Goodbye league tables.

l Don't steal their success - "Without me making you work hard, you wouldn't have done it so well" - or feed off it.

The introduction of Advanced Skill Teachers will be dropped and additional spinal points for excellence will be abolished.

Confused?

Helen Dalton

Datchet, Berkshire

Poverty is the problem

IT IS with a sense of shock that I read of Southampton University having to offer an immunisation programme to combat meningitis among students. ("University offers students jab to fight meningitis", report, 8 June) alongside another article about students prostituting their bodies to pay for the debts incurred as a result of working for a degree ("Students work in sex club to fund courses").

This is merely treating the symptom of the problem, poverty.

Julian Turnbull

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Please send your letters to Wendy Berliner, Editor, Education, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5DL. Please include a daytime telephone number. Fax letters to Education on 0171 293 2451; or e-mail: educ@independent.co.uk

Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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