Educational Tales Unveiled

The fundamental principles of human folly have been around since antiquity. However, the most definitive account on the matter was only written in 1976 by an Italian economist. Carlo M Cipolla was a professor who taught at several universities in Italy and the University of California, Berkeley. He was also an author and researcher on topics such as clocks, guns, money, and faith. In his essay about stupidity, he tackles all of these themes and more, encapsulating what is arguably the entirety of the human experience.

Cipolla outlines the laws of human stupidity in plain language, making them seem like natural laws that govern the universe. They are as follows:

1. Everyone always underestimates the number of stupid people in circulation.

2. The likelihood of a person being stupid is unrelated to any other trait they exhibit.

3. A stupid person is one who causes others to incur losses while receiving no gain themselves.

4. Non-stupid individuals consistently underestimate the detrimental impact that stupid people can have on them.

Cipolla’s essay offers insight into the factors that differentiate countries on the ascent from those that are steadily declining. Nations that are advancing have a small percentage of stupid people, while possessing a higher than average fraction of intelligent individuals who compensate for any shortcomings that may arise. On the other hand, nations that are on the decline have an alarming proliferation of non-stupid individuals whose actions ultimately contribute to the self-destructive behaviour of their persistently foolish countrymen.

Cipolla’s ideas have inspired a generation of researchers and pundits to examine the role of stupidity in our daily lives. It is a topic that has gained traction in recent years, with the publication of studies that examine how people perceive their own competence, especially within the context of decision-making.

Cipolla died in 2000, but his legacy lives on. His contributions to the analysis of societal stupidity continue to inform and shape our thinking on a variety of subjects. In future articles, we will delve into how scientists and researchers are beginning to apply Cipolla’s work to issues of governance and policy-making, using modern mathematics to find more effective ways to select political leaders who are capable of producing laws that benefit society.

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On Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of 11-year-olds in England will be monitored as they sit a spelling and grammar test for the first time. This 15-minute spelling test will require students to spell words such as "separate," "preferred," and "necessary." Additionally, within the 45-minute grammar exam, the participants will be asked to provide information about colons, apostrophes, ellipses, and subordinate clauses.

The government believes that this test will help to dramatically enhance literacy standards, comparing it to similar examinations taken by students in the US, Canada, and Singapore. However, teaching unions have warned that it may have the opposite effect. The results of the national test for 11-year-olds – popularly known as SATs – will be used to judge schools in league tables which may prompt teachers to only teach to the test.

Moreover, this will cause children to become needlessly anxious about their grades. At the National Union of Teachers (NUT) conference in Liverpool, a motion was passed, demanding a boycott of these tests. The NUT noted that children’s grammar, punctuation, and spelling were already assessed by teachers on a daily basis.

The National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) agreed with the boycott, saying that a portfolio of a student’s work was a better indicator of their spelling and grammar than a new test. Russell Hobby, the general secretary of NAHT, stated that these exams focused on the knowledge of grammar in the abstract and told us nothing about how someone used that knowledge to communicate.

Furthermore, Elizabeth Truss, an education minister, acknowledged that many children struggled with the basics of the English language, leading to them never catching up and becoming poorly literate. Therefore, this new test aims to aid children in grasping the skills they require to understand English and use it correctly, creatively, and effectively.

As Monday saw the reading test for 11-year-olds, teachers have noted an error in the exam materials. In their correct explanation of how to approach the test, pupils were told: "Different question need to be answered in different ways". The Standards and Testing Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Education, is responsible for developing and delivering these national tests.

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At present, the fees for undergraduate courses for full-time students in the UK are at £9,250 per year. This equates to a total cost of £27,750 for a standard three-year degree programme. If a student chooses to pursue their studies on a part-time basis, the fees will be based on the number of credits they take, with the current rate being £77 per taught credit for UK students.

Completing a full undergraduate programme involves obtaining 360 credits, which are divided among modules, with each module carrying a different credit weighting.

For the 2022/2023 academic year, bursaries and scholarships worth over £200,000 will be offered to UK students. Additionally, international students, including those from the European Union, are eligible for awards. A complete list of bursaries and scholarships and their application process is readily available to interested individuals.

The university offers a considerable number of accommodation options either owned, managed, or endorsed by the institution. In the 2021/2022 academic year, there were 1,139 available slots. Individuals renting in a self-catering hall or house should expect to pay at least £152.74 per week, with the maximum rate being £188.02 per week.

Should you require any assistance or information, please contact us through our telephone hotline at +44 (0)208 411 5555 or email us at For inquiries regarding accommodation, please reach out to You can also visit our website,, for more details.

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A recent report from the British Academy has shed light on the UK government’s language capacity deficit, warning that immediate attention is required. The report, titled ‘Lost for Words’, has urged the government to recognise the importance of linguistic skills within its departments. It highlighted that the nation’s diplomatic influence is increasingly at risk, and failure to tackle the lack of language skills could cause serious harm to the country’s position on the global stage.

William Hague, the foreign secretary, has expressed his personal concern regarding the UK’s language deficit, emphasising the severe risk it poses to the UK’s global business standing, as well as its position within the diplomatic world. Hague has outlined that speaking, reading, listening, and writing in a foreign language is fundamental for diplomats to thoroughly understand and communicate with people from different countries.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s language centre reopened in September, indicating a strategic shift by the UK government towards recognising the significance of languages. Hague further emphasised the significance of linguistic capabilities and stated that diplomats cannot get under the skin of a country without such knowledge.

To commemorate the launch of the Lost for Words report, November’s languages festival will host a live chat to discuss the role of languages in diplomacy and national security. A panel consisting of experts on the topic, including Robin Niblett, Matthew Rycroft, Bill Rivers, Richard Brecht, Charles Crawford, and Afzal Amin, will lead the discussion. The event aims to emphasise the importance of languages in an increasingly interconnected and globalised world. Anyone can participate in the discussion by posting their questions in the comments section, or on Twitter through the hashtag #languagesdebate.

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The majority of students do not take work experience seriously until they reach university, where it becomes an opportunity to boost their CV and make connections with potential employers. However, recent reports suggest that work experience is now becoming a necessary prerequisite for sixth formers applying to university. The Sutton Trust’s report reveals that top-tier universities use the personal statements of students as a means of distinguishing between candidates of equal academic ability. As such, students who attend private schools are more likely to secure impressive work placements with well-known companies, giving them an advantage over their peers when it comes to applying for university positions.

Furthermore, some vocational degree courses such as medicine or fashion require candidates to have completed work placements before applying. Sheffield University Medical School states that this is to ensure students have a comprehensive understanding of the complexities and challenges of their chosen profession. However, competition for such placements is fierce, with the NHS advising students to start gaining work experience as early as possible in order to stand out from other candidates.

Although work placements are not typically an entry requirement for humanities courses, they can still help candidates to stand out amongst their peers. Mary Beard, professor of classics at the University of Cambridge, explains that work experience allows admissions tutors to gain a deeper understanding of a prospective student’s analytical and reflective abilities. It is essential for students to reflect thoughtfully on their experience rather than just listing where they worked, as it is the intellectual benefits that arise from work placements that matter. Admissions tutors want to see that students can gain meaningful knowledge and insights from their experiences, and they are uninterested in where those experiences took place.

In conclusion, while work experience is not a substitute for academic achievement, it can significantly enhance a student’s application to university. Academic prowess aside, what admissions tutors are really looking for is intellectual curiosity, passion, and a dedication to learning. Ultimately, it is not the prestige of a work placement that matters, but what students take from the experience and how they apply this knowledge to their future studies and career goals.

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It’s no secret that nowadays it’s becoming increasingly common for people to have to work for free in order to gain employment of any kind. This trend, however, has now extended to teaching at colleges. Education Guardian has recently received correspondence from lecturers at three FE colleges that have resorted to using unpaid tutors to give classes. The question on everyone’s lips is, how widespread has this practice become?

The University and College Union (UCU) has reported that a number of their members have approached them with complaints about the use of unpaid teachers. The UCU has decided to take the matter up with the relevant authorities and employers.

While all school teachers are required to hold a PGCE, there exist three distinct training routes in FE. Of these training routes, the certificate and diploma in lifelong learning are only available to individuals already employed in similar teaching roles. Trainee lecturers in colleges are expected to provide 150 hours of teaching to earn a qualification, which is then awarded based on their performance in the classroom, assessed continuously.

Unfortunately, according to Mary Slater, who educates people wanting to become teachers in a large inner-city college, there are not enough paying jobs to go around. "This year, at least 50% of my students couldn’t get paid jobs, so they’re getting round this requirement by teaching as volunteers instead," she says.

In other words, they are working as unpaid teachers to meet their on-the-job training requirements. Not only that, they are also paying their own fees, which can range from anything between £500 to over £3,000, depending on the level of the course. "Normally an employer would pick up the bill. So they’re not only working for nothing, but paying to work for nothing," says Slater. Next year, the teaching diploma at her college will cost £3,000.

"I can see why this may be OK for the volunteers," says Slater. "If they can’t get paid work, at least they can get the teaching experience that will lead to a qualification. But it means some colleges are getting unpaid teachers. And because of cutbacks in FE, many are not even going to get proper paid jobs when they finish." Currently, those with FE teaching qualifications can’t teach at schools, and the skills they learn aren’t transferable.

Are colleges trying to support aspiring teachers in a tough job market, or are they taking advantage of the situation to boost staffing levels? Are some colleges looking for ways to save money while maintaining teaching hours?

According to Slater, this could be showing symptoms of the latter. She notes that some volunteers at her college are not receiving the proper support or mentoring they require. "Paid staff on teacher training courses are allocated mentors through a formal process so they fare better than those who are there as unpaid volunteers.

"I teach them in a classroom and observe them from a generalist viewpoint, but they need subject-specialist mentoring from the subject department where they are teaching. In many cases, they’re just left to get on with it and used as free labor. They’re not getting the proper training they should. I don’t blame the trainees themselves. I can see why they do it, as for many, there’s no other way to get the in-service qualification."

Slater stated that this has been going on at her college since 2009. "Prior to that, we were strict on who we would take on the course, and they had to have paid, usually part-time, teaching jobs. Now many feel forced to work for free to meet the criteria for qualification. It’s becoming an accepted norm, and that troubles me."

Mike Marshall, also a lecturer, indicated that his college also employs unpaid teachers. "Our college is employing at least two trainee students to deliver a large number of classes unpaid. In one case, the student teacher has replaced a full-time member of staff who emigrated. The college authorities claim they are supporting lecturers in a proper placement, but this isn’t the case. Some have been given so-called extended placements so they’re doing far more hours than they should be. They are being taken advantage of. It’s as simple as that."

Employing unpaid, unqualified teachers could lead to legal consequences, Penny Davies, who also works at a large FE college warns. "They are almost certainly not covered by employer insurance. Some may not have been CRB checked, in which case they should not be in sole charge of classes."

Davies, upon learning that her college used student teachers who were also volunteers, along with a colleague of hers, reported it to the HR department. "We came across instances of three people last year who were actually taking whole classes on their own without a proper attached teacher to supervise them. We then discovered this was happening in two other sections of our college."

According to Davies, HR in their workplace took swift action when informed of the use of unpaid trainee teachers and issued a memo to prohibit the practice. However, she believes that this issue is not unique to their institution and is happening in other colleges as well. Davies urges other instructors to voice their concerns and notify HR or their union if they suspect this practice is taking place. She emphasizes that volunteer work, such as assisting with adult literacy classes, is acceptable as long as there is a paid teacher supervising them. The concern lies with the exploitation of unpaid trainee teachers taking advantage of them to avoid hiring fully paid staff, ultimately undermining the profession and harming job security. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UCU union, supports the need for properly supporting and mentoring trainee teachers for their development and students’ education, while also advocating for a national code to protect them against exploitation. The Association of Colleges denies knowledge of unpaid trainees being used and claims to take the training and development of teachers seriously.

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Oxford and Cambridge are highly ranked universities and often receive media attention, but is their reputation warranted? Furthermore, how challenging is the admission process?

Many of the top positions in the UK are held by graduates of Oxbridge, with 62% of those in the diplomatic service, 58% in law, and 55% in the civil service having been educated there, as reported by the Sutton Trust. However, while these statistics are impressive, Stephen Isherwood from the Association of Graduate Recruiters cautions that Oxbridge may not be the best place for everyone. Students often choose to attend other institutions due to preferences for course content or a preference for a specialized institution. For example, musician Jamie Cullum turned down Oxford in favor of the University of Reading. It is essential to consider the institution, course content, and goals carefully when making a decision.

Despite Oxbridge’s reputation, a degree from these universities does not ensure employment. While many employers target graduates from top universities, recruiters also reject numerous Oxbridge candidates. It is essential to remember that a degree alone does not guarantee admission to the workforce.

If an Oxbridge education is of interest, it is necessary to ignore media stereotypes and understand the reasons behind pursuing the course of study. According to current Oxford University student Naina Bajekal, it is crucial to know why one wants to study a course for the next three or four years. Mike Nicholson, the head of undergraduate admissions at Oxford University, believes there is no particular "Oxford type." The university is interested in bright students passionate about their areas of study.

So, what is involved in the admissions process? Oxford and Cambridge typically receive around five applications for each available spot. Candidates are shortlisted based on predicted A-level grades, GCSE marks, personal statement, school reference, entrance tests, or work submitted. Cambridge promises to interview over 80% of applicants, while 60% of those who applied to Oxford in October 2011 were invited to interview, with 35% receiving offers.

In 2012, 74.3% of students awarded a place at Oxford achieved A*A*A or better, counting solely their best three A-levels. The success rate for Cambridge applicants varies based on the course and is detailed by private and public school on their website.

Both universities take into consideration a candidate’s educational and social backgrounds when making offers. Oxford uses a "flagging" system to support candidates from underprivileged neighborhoods or those with a history of care. Nicholson emphasizes that the flagged candidates interviewed do not displace non-flagged applicants.

Finally, the deadline to apply is 15th October, and the infographic provides admissions statistics from previous years.

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Placing trust in an organization for work experience is a major decision for students. Placements play a crucial role in shaping a student’s career prospects. It offers a platform for students to explore new avenues and challenge themselves beyond the boundaries of lectures and assignments. Nevertheless, placements can sometimes be a setback if the managers lack interest in their development. However, universities collaborate with companies to ensure the appropriate fit for students, and such cases are rare. If students face difficulties, they must take the initiative and find ways to flourish.

Felicity Robinson, a placement development advisor at Bournemouth University, suggests that students take responsibility for their development. She advises them to set objectives and approach their managers positively. Instead of seeking guidance, they must express collaborative efforts towards their growth.

Richard Bailey, senior lecturer in Public Relations at Leeds Metropolitan University, encourages students to take risks and not feel disheartened about making mistakes. Placements offer a unique opportunity to explore a field without worrying about repercussions as they would in a professional workspace.

Sometimes students may require significant support and encouragement, and managers may overlook the students’ inexperience. However, showing initiative and enthusiasm is highly valued by employers.

Samantha Summers, a graduate from the University of Gloucestershire, recommends that students view placements as an opportunity to assess the industry’s suitability. Summers emphasizes how coursework and assignments might not always be relevant, and actually stepping into a role can offer hands-on experience and exposure to new domains.

If students do not enjoy their placement, it is not a wasteful experience. It might lead to students discovering new career paths that better align with their interests. Robinson encourages students to observe their surroundings, question and analyze them.

Experts suggest that students not stress too much about finding the perfect placement. Employers have the responsibility of recruiting suitable students who are suitable for the role. Large organizations may have structured support and well-defined roles, while smaller companies carry higher risks with potentially more substantial rewards.

Robinson’s advice to students is to keep a notebook and write down everything they are asked to do. Additionally, students must ask questions and clarify doubts to presume their progress. Shyness should not hold them back from engaging and learning from mistakes.

In conclusion, placements can shape a student’s career and provide invaluable experience. Students must take responsibility for their development and must not shy away from taking initiative. With the right mindset, even a poor placement experience can offer significant opportunities to learn and grow.

Keep in mind that every experience counts towards enhancing your CV. In the summer of 2011, Paul Noonan undertook an internship with a small firm where he was quickly tasked with various writing assignments such as white papers, industry award entries, pitching to prospective clients, including British Library, and collaborating with prominent print and broadcast journalists. Despite being a student at the time, he rose to the challenge and successfully accomplished his responsibilities.

Whilst it might have been stressful at times, Noonan recounts that his experience not only led to graduating with first-class honours but also allowed him to gain industry-specific knowledge, practical skills, and a robust evidence portfolio. This experience was vital as it enabled him to stand out in the job market compared to his peers who only had theoretical knowledge and no real-life experience.

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Have you ever heard a grown man proudly exclaim "hujus hujus hujus"? It may sound like nonsense to you, and that’s because it’s not English. Latin, as well as other extinct languages, are unfortunately not as commonplace as they used to be. However, instead of mourning the loss of these languages, we should explore their benefits beyond just nostalgia or gaining political power.

Learning a dead language can actually have practical uses, such as making it easier to learn other languages that stem from the same family tree. For example, Latin is the parent language of French and Spanish, making it a useful foundation for those looking to learn those languages. Additionally, learning medieval languages like Old or Middle English, Old Norse, Old French, or Occitan can connect you to a rich cultural heritage of literature that is both familiar and foreign. It can also be a rewarding experience to read texts from centuries ago that describe the same world we live in today.

While there is a perceived association between classical languages like Latin and Greek and elitism, this shouldn’t hinder our appreciation for their value. Classical languages may always be connected to the ruling elite, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be studied and enjoyed by a wider audience. Reforming education may be a challenge, but changing the way we think about and approach extinct languages can be a positive step forward. Embracing the diversity of language can ultimately benefit society in ways we may not even realize yet.

If you’re keen on exploring Indo-European linguistics but find the prospect of learning Latin or Greek either politically unappealing or uninspiring, consider studying Sanskrit instead. With roots older than both Latin and Greek, this language is related to both, making it an intriguing alternative that offers a unique perspective on the family tree of Indo-European languages.

Since the late eighteenth century discovery of the Indo-European language connection, Sanskrit has played a crucial role in European comparative linguistics. Due to this, it was taught in British universities and held a popular status during the 19th century. Although it still holds great academic interest, Sanskrit is no longer the ‘in’ trend it once was in Victorian Britain.

Many of us make erroneous assumptions about "dead" languages. We often throw out statements about the "logical" nature of Latin without possessing much knowledge on the topic, or we casually refer to things as "medieval" when they are, in fact, not medieval at all (as with witch burning). Instead of engaging in passive activities like watching Game of Thrones, consider delving into literature like Beowulf, a text that presents less violence and more beauty, and improves your language skills while connecting you to our past.

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In an effort to distance himself from welfare reforms, Education Secretary Michael Gove removed "children, schools, and families" from the title of his department two days after taking office, replacing it with simply "education". Gove believes that knowledge is separate from familial ties, but this is a misguided notion. Families absolutely impact education, and policies beyond the Education Department are ravaging the lives of many children. Over 300,000 public-sector workers have been terminated since 2010, and numerous jobs have been lost due to high-street store closings. Though a few private-sector jobs have emerged, these positions are usually low-paying, temporary, and part-time, and unemployment-related insecurities have escalated. Children with disabled parents are coping with severe changes to disability living allowance and the punitive introduction of the bedroom tax. As the housing benefit cap takes hold, families must move to cheaper locations, resulting in the displacement of many children from their schools.

These shifts and adjustments are challenging for adults, but for children, they’re confusing and unsettling. They lead to minor inconveniences ("Sorry, no money for Brownies this week"), compromises ("I can’t make it to your birthday party; we’ll be out that day"), and the agony of watching parents experience distress and concern as safety nets vanish. As educators, we know that this creeping instability is significant. It matters in terms of statistics; children from low-income households typically score 1.7 GCSE grades lower than their affluent peers. It also influences the everyday, distracting children who are hungry. It means altering schools, resulting in the loss of friends and learning a disjointed curriculum. It means parents have less money to spare for educational "extras" like revision guides and internet access, while libraries and youth services that might fill those gaps are being slashed. Additionally, when a family is living on the breadline, it is difficult to justify the cost of higher education.

Those on the frontline disprove cynics who believe that these minor cuts won’t make a significant difference to families. Once, while teaching a GCSE student, I discovered that his attendance had become erratic. After investigating, I learned that he and his brother were sharing one pair of school pants. Because his mother couldn’t immediately afford new articles of clothing after one pair had torn, she was only able to send one child to school each day while she attempted to scrape together enough cash for new ones. It seems absurd that simple trousers could jeopardize the future of an otherwise hardworking student. However, these are the sorts of decisions that must be made when families have only a tiny amount of money left after their weekly expenses.

Changing the name of the Education Department allows Gove to dissociate himself from welfare reforms, but it does not remove his government’s actions from our classrooms. The economy has a direct impact on children, and cruel welfare reforms affect them as well. Though teachers do everything they can to create a safe, nurturing environment in the classroom, it is critical that the government does not escape responsibility for the ways its policies impact students. These changes will undoubtedly harm the education of a large number of children. Removing the phrases "children and families" from the department’s door does not alleviate the need for the government to address the reality of the situation.

Laura McInerney was a teacher for six years and is now a Fulbright scholar.

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