Weekly Highlight: 06.05.2008

Denmark: no more free school choice?

Free school choice to end
02.05.2008

A majority in Copenhagen’s city council are ready to put an end to parents’ ability to send their children to the school of their choice.
Free choice of city schools for primary and secondary school students will be a thing of the past if city council passes a new proposal to limit children to two or three local educational facilities, reports Berlingske Tidende newspaper.
Currently, parents may send their kids to any school lying within Copenhagen municipality. But a majority in city council are set to change that in the interests of furthering integration.
‘If we’re going to have a real community school, then everyone in the local districts should be represented,’ said Jan Andreasen, Social Democratic member of the city’s Children and Youth Committee. ‘Integration will only succeed if parents don’t flee from their local schools.’
Many parents of children with ethnic Danish background do not want to send their children to schools where many of the students are Muslim, while Muslim parents are often hesitant to break the pattern of sending their children to the same schools.
Parents’ organisation School and Society indicated it doesn’t believe that forced integration is a solution to the problem.
‘We already have a very large number of parents applying to send their kids to private schools and I think this proposal would just make the situation even worse,’ said the organisation’s president, Thomas Damkjær Petersen.
The proposal will be taken up in the Children and Youth Committee before being sent on to the Education Ministry, where its approval would mean a law change. (RC)

Finland:

Midwives Call for More Natural Births
Published 06.05.2008, 10.56 (updated 06.05.2008, 10.59)

All births in Finland are treated as though they are high-risk, according to the Federation of Finnish Midwives. The group says that Finland provides too many unnecessary caesarean sections, induced labours and epidurals.
In Finland, 70 percent of women giving birth for the first time receive an epidural, while 20 percent undergo a C-section. Meanwhile, half of all women receive an epidural. Just one decade ago, only around one-quarter of women underwent a C-section. Furthermore, hospitals vary considerably in their practices.
According to the federation, hospitals cater too much to patients.
“It’s unnecessary to administer an epidural to a mother who demands one when there is no medical reason to give it to her,” says the director of the federation, Terhi Virtanen.
“If an epidural is given too early, the birthing process can be halted. Then medications are needed to speed up the birth, which can lead to assisted suction deliveries and serious tears,” she adds.
Virtanen says women who have previously had C-sections are the most frequent recipients of the operation.
The federation has prepared a report on natural births. It says it hopes to work with physicians to compile recommendations for handling low risk births.

Netherlands:

Cabinet to tackle high baby death rate
Tuesday 06 May 2008

Health minister Ab Klink is working on plans to try to tackle the death rate for new born babies in the Netherlands, which some say is high among western European countries, the NRC reports on Tuesday.
‘Of every 1,000 babies, 13.4 die during the pregnancy or in the first month after birth,’ the paper says, quoting health council figures.
Klink is setting up a special committee which will be charged with reducing the baby death rate, the NRC says. In the meantime, he wants to involve social and healthcare groups in improving help to parents. The plans are contained in a concept letter which is circulating in medical circles.
Klink stressed that the Dutch tradition of encouraging home births was not at issue. ‘Far too many women, gynaecologists and researchers think it is a good institution,’ the paper quoted Klink as saying. ‘Home births cannot be regarded as being responsible for the higher baby death rate.’
In particular, Klink thinks improving prenatal care to immigrants and low-skilled households will bring positive results, the NRC says.

Norway:

Norwegians stump out cigs at record rate
First published: 05 May 2008, 12:45

In 1976, four out of 10 Norwegians smoked cigarettes daily. In 2007, the number had sunk to 2 out of 10.
“There’s no other country that has a faster rate of reducing smoking than Norway,” said Karl Erik Lund, a researcher in the Norwegian Institute for Alcohol and Drug Research (SIRUS).
He attributes this to a combination of official campaigns, increasing restrictions and high taxes. But he also says the symbolic idea of smoking has “turned upside down – from positive to negative.”
More women than men smoke in Norway now. While 23 percent of women say they smoke daily, 21 percent of men say they do.
However, the amount of men who use snuff has been growing rapidly. Among men between 16 and 44 years, there has been a tripling of snuff use since 1985.
Lund also thinks the smoking numbers will continue to fall.
“There is nothing that indicates we have met the bottom of the smokers yet. The number of smokers will continue to go down in the years that come. It is natural to believe that we will come down towards the 5-10 percent level of daily smokers in Norway,” he said.

Sweden:

Swedish for Immigrants enrolment hits all time high
Published: 4 May 08 10:17 CET

65,222 students attended Swedish for Immigrants (SFI) courses in 2007. The highest number ever and 24 percent up on 2006.
The number of beginners starting SFI courses in the 2006/07 academic year was the highest since 1993/94 when 35,500 signed up.
Over 130 language groups were represented in the 2006/07 academic year. Arabic was the most common mother tongue, with over 20 percent of students speaking Arabic as a first language. Many of the languages were spoken by only a handful of students.
62 percent of the beginners who started SFI courses in 2004/05 passed one of their courses and of those almost half gained top grades.
The level of prior education varies greatly among SFI students. The Swedish Board of Education (Skolverket) reported in a memorandum that there is a close correlation between the basic education of students and success in the SFI course.
Those with Polish as a mother tongue typically had the highest number of years of basic school education with over 90 percent having a minimum of 10 years school education before signing up for the course. Only 20 percent of those of Somali origin had more than 10 years school education.
The Board’s statistics also indicated that younger students proved more successful than older and that there were clear differences among different language groups depending on the similarity of their mother tongue to Swedish.
The average age of SFI students in 2006/07 was 32-years-old and 57 percent of the students were women.
SFI courses were offered in 251 of Sweden’s 290 local authorities in 2006/07.

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