Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Beards for Belgium

It’s not the first time a celebrity has got involved with politics – we’ve had Arnold Schwarzenegger in California and Wyclef Jean in Haiti. But this time, there’s a bit of a twist involved.

Belgian actor Benoit Poelvoorde is urging his fellow countrymen to grow beards until Belgium forms a government. A caretaker government has been running the country since June 2010, which sets a post-war record for a period without government.

Although I’m not sure how many Belgians will put down their razors as a way of supporting the cause, it is positive to see that a prominent figure is using their fame to try and help their country. Hopefully his plea will raise awareness and go some way to encouraging Belgium’s political parties to move forward. Would you grow a beard for your country?


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How long is your working day? As the song goes, a lot of people work 9-5, although here in the UK it’s not unusual for people to be in the office until 6pm or 7pm. However our neighbours in France are renowned for their 35 hour week. Could this be set to change?

A potential future leader of France’s opposition Socialist Party (PS), Manuel Valls, is calling for this tradition to be abolished, saying it holds the economy back. “The world is changing fast, and it is the responsibility of the left to reconcile the French with this need for change. The 35-hour rule affects this country’s competitiveness and it needs to go” he’s quoted as saying.

With France still recovering from the downturn which hit its economy significantly, will this idea get Mr Valls a bigger following? And will the 35 hour week eventually disappear? It was in fact only brought in during the 1990s to try and boost employment anyway. Time will tell, but it could certainly be a good idea to make companies in France more competitive.

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GCSE shake up

Seven years after the Labour government removed the compulsory requirement for students to study a foreign language at age fourteen, the Government of today looks set to change things. A recent article in the Guardian reports that in a shake-up of the league tables, the number of pupils taking a language should increase.

New plans will see every school rewarded for the amount of students who achieve good grades in English, maths, science, a language and one humanity subject. Currently, some schools are seen to boost their league table scores through offering softer subjects like media. This is great news and should see the number of pupils learning a second language increase to the levels seen prior to 2003. In fact, if schools want to rate high in the league tables it will see languages at GCSE being compulsory. With more pupils studying language GCSE’s we hope this will result in more carrying on studying them at A-Level and university. (more…)

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We’ve blogged before about Ed Balls’ announcement that all school children should be given the chance to learn Mandarin at school. But now it appears that the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson also has his own ideas on what the state school curriculum in the UK should be offering kids – the chance to learn Latin!

Boris Johnson is lobbying for Latin to be added to the state school curriculum and was quoted as saying “I firmly believe that we must not starve the minds of students eager to embrace the great intellectual disciplines of Latin……..we cannot possibly understand our modern world unless we understand the ancient world that made us all and there is simply no better way than to make young minds think in a logical and analytical way”.

His comments, as always, have sparked much debate on the subject and so we started a discussion on LinkedIn a few weeks ago to gauge public opinion on the matter, which attracted huge responses. Critics called it typical of Boris and his public school mentality and said that he was simply “grabbing headlines”.  They argued that school children should of course be taught languages at school but what would be beneficial to them would be to learn modern foreign languages that they would, in the future use to further their careers (French, German, Spanish etc). Some also argued that teaching Latin just wasn’t realistic for schools to do – why?  There is simple a lack of Latin teachers.

These arguments are valid, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and there were also plenty of people that agreed with Boris. They argued that encouraging the teaching of any language to children is a good idea – “it opens up your mind to a different culture, a different way of thinking and understanding where we are coming from” all of which are important later in life and in the world of work.

With the election looming and education being a key issue – who knows what will happen – I guess we will just have to wait and see after 6th May!

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There has been a lot of controversy lately over Ed Balls’ announcement that all children should be given the opportunity to learn Mandarin, the world’s most popular language. Critics called it a gimmick, saying that there wouldn’t be enough teachers and that the government should instead concentrate on addressing the lack of mainstream language learning. (more…)

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With Germany feeling the effects of the credit crunch like much of the rest of Europe, political talk has been addressing the issue of unemployment.

The SDP, or social democrats, have promised to create four million jobs if they win the election in September, by transforming Germany into its own version of California’s Silicon Valley and end unemployment by 2020. The FT reports that Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a 67-page “Deutschland Plan”, detailing “how he would create 2m industrial jobs, 1m jobs in the health sector and 500,000 jobs in both the creative and services sectors.”

However the bad news is that most analysts say that the SDP has little or no chance of success in the elections. Let’s hope that whoever is victorious has unemployment near the top of their agenda.

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