Friday, June 20th, 2014
The Swedish town of Hallstahammars is reportedly considering a school-sanctioned ban on homework, in an attempt to encourage students to learn efficiently, which means minimizing the stress that can come with an unmanageable homework load. More from ABC News:
Leena Millberg, the head of schools in Hallstahammars, said officials for the municipal government are still investigating if the proposal to ban homework makes sense. However, the students of Hallstahammars shouldn’t jump for joy just yet. Millberg said if the proposal does go through it’s likely that the school day would be lengthened.
“When children learn to read, for example … we often give them homework to train,” Millberg told ABC News. “If we want to do that in the school day, we may need to make the school day a bit longer.”
The debate is not unique to the town hall of Hallstahammars, according to education experts.
Arguments for and against homework have raged on and off for decades according to Harris Cooper, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, who has researched how homework impacts families.
“It comes in waves,” said Cooper. “Generally it comes into public consciousness, giving kids too much or too little, depending on broader societal [news].”
Cooper said when a country’s reading or math comprehension is ranked lower than expected it can lead officials to want to ramp up homework. However, when studies show children are overworked or stressed, Cooper said officials will look at pulling back on assignments. In 2012, French President Francoise Hollande proposed banning homework in the country, though that proposal did not go through.
Cooper said he did not know of a country or region that has fully banned homework from schools. “Homework has been with us for a century,” said Cooper.
Image: Girl doing homework, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
A group of 9 women have undergone successful womb transplant surgeries in Sweden, and their next step will be to attempt to become pregnant via in vitro fertilization (IVF)–a medical first, if successful. More from Time.com:
The women, mostly in their 30s, who were either born without a uterus or had it removed because of cancer, are part of the first major experiment to see if a woman with a transplanted uterus can become pregnant and give birth to the child. The women received wombs donated from relatives. Women from two previous womb transplant attempts–in Turkey and Saudi Arabia–both failed to carry a baby.
Scientists in several countries are working on similar operations, but the Swedish group is the most advanced, the AP reports. Dr. Mats Brannstrom, chair of the obstetrics and gynecology department at the University of Gothenburg, will hold a workshop next month on how to perform womb transplants and publish their findings.
Image: Surgeons, via Shutterstock
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Friday, January 11th, 2013
A new analysis by the Institute of Medicine of global health care costs and outcomes has revealed the troubling statistic that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is more than double the rates in Japan, Sweden, and some other developed countries. America lags behind 16 other countries, despite the fact that infant mortality rates have been steadily dropping over the last decade. From The Washington Post:
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“Although U.S. infant mortality declined by 20 percent between 1990 and 2010,” the report notes, “other high-income countries experienced much steeper declines and halved their infant mortality rates over those two decades.”
As to what explains the high infant mortality rate, the researchers aren’t quite sure. They say it is not explained by ethnic diversity in the United States. While U.S. minorities do tend to have a higher infant mortality rate, non-Hispanic whites in the United States also have worse outcomes than those in peer nations.
Image: Earth, via Shutterstock
Friday, November 9th, 2012
Sweden’s government has drafted legislation that would prevent images of babies from appearing in formula ads, the Huffington Post reports. Ads for formula would only be permitted in scientific journals, and free samples or discounts on the product would be prohibited, as well. Supporters cite research lauding the health benefits babies derived from breast milk, including antibodies associated with fewer colds, healthier digestive systems, and decreased likelihood of developing allergies. Critics argue that reiterating the idea that “the breast is best” is harshly judgmental towards women who are unable or choose not to nurse. If the bill is passed, the law would take effect in August 2013.
Image: Baby drinking from bottle via Shutterstock
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Monday, August 6th, 2012
Swedish fathers currently get two months of paid paternity leave, but their government is considering whether to extend that to three months. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Sweden’s paternity-leave benefits, enjoyed by citizens and foreign residents alike, are the most generous in the world—and a debate is under way nationwide over whether to extend them even further. Sweden should require men to take a minimum of three months’ leave, instead of the current two months, some politicians argue.
Fathers currently can take off work for as long as 240 days with a government-backed paycheck. Even if a father decides to take a more modest leave than allowed, he must take at least two months before the child is 8 years old to receive the government benefits.
Scores of dads can be seen during typical business hours strolling the streets of Stockholm, Gothenburg and other big cities pushing a stroller with one hand and nursing a cup from Espresso House or Wayne’s Coffee in the other. It isn’t uncommon to see men feeding babies and changing diapers in Stockholm’s famous Djugarden park island, which is within view of some of the city’s biggest companies and financial institutions.
Since being instituted in 1974, the paternity-leave policy has evolved from being a mechanism to encourage women to join what was a depleted workforce in the 1970s, to serve as a tool for gender equality and home stability today.
The Swedish government will pay 80% of a parent’s salary—up to a cap of about $65,000—for 13 months. One parent can sign over all but two of these months to the other.
Government statistics show the vast majority of fathers take off at least the minimum two months. And about 72% of working-age women living in Sweden are employed at least part time, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Image: Father and baby, via Shutterstock
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