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Tuition fees

As the government votes tomorrow on the new tuition fees regime, I find myself coming round to the view that the policy may be a good one. The essential question is: who should pay for university education? The government from general taxation, or former students in the form of a graduate tax or a repayment scheme? As a left-leaning person I have always liked the idea of the taxpayer contributing to services which are for the public good. But I also like the notion of progressive taxation since it compensates for awful inequalities in salaries.

The government's scheme is, in effect, a very progressive form of graduate taxation/repayment. The more you earn, the more you pay. If you don't earn much at all, then you pay nothing. Non-graduates, who tend to earn less, pay relatively little.

Will the thought of a huge debt put some young people off higher education? We cannot be sure, though it seems that when fees were first introduced they did not stop the number of applications rising.  Maybe the thought of a postgraduate debt could be a test of a student's real motivation. I suspect most will make that rational judgment that a degree will often lead to a higher income, or that if they do not get a reasonably paid job then they won't pay anyway.

What I haven't yet grasped is how the scheme will help to reduce the government deficit, since the money will only start to be recouped in four years. I also wonder what will happen to graduates who go and work overseas. Will they pay back their fees? I also wonder how difficult and costly it will be to chase up the enormous number of graduates as their careers progress.

In the meantime, there is the far less reported issue of the government's overall funding for universities which is set to fall considerably. The government plans to only fund STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). Universities will have to fund other subjects themselves. I'm not quite sure how this will affect students' subject choices. Is the idea that creating more places in STEM subjects and fewer places in non-STEM subjects will force students to opt for maths, science and engineering? I am not sure this would work and in any case I would rather see students being able to choose subjects they are interested in, rather than ones the government think are strategically important. Education for education's sake.


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What teachers are saying about The Language Teacher Toolkit

"The Language Teacher Toolkit is a really useful book for language teachers to either read all the way through or dip into. What I like about it is that the authors Steve Smith and Gianfranco Conti are totally upfront about what they believe to be good practice but back it up with research evidence." (Ernesto Macaro, Oxford University Department of Education)

"I absolutely love this book based on research and full of activities..  The best manual I've read so far. One of our PDs from the Australian Board of Studies recommended your book as an excellent resource.  I look forward to the conference here in Sydney." Michela Pezzi, Teacher, Australia, Facebook)

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Making words memorable

Most teachers and researchers would agree that knowing words is even more important than knowing grammar if you wish to be proficient in a language. As linguist David Wilkins wrote in 1972: "Without grammar little can be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed."One of the frustrations for teachers is pupils' inability to retain vocabulary for productive use. A good deal of research has been done over the years into how pupils might better keep words in memory. Two concepts which have come to the fore are spacing and interleaving.

Spaced practice

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Here is Professor Macaro's review:
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