International: British Pupils Spend Less Time on Music, Art and Drama

English secondary school students are spending less time on music, art and drama courses than in 2011, new government data has found.

An analysis by Tes of the Department for Education showed that as pupils reach year 10 and 11, time being spent on teaching art, music and drama falls significantly. Art is down 20 percent while music and drama dip 12 percent and 26 percent respectively.

More time is now devoted to English, maths and science, which collectively account for 51 percent of teaching time to GCSE candidates. This represents a growth from 44.5 percent in 2011.

“We believe schools should be making their own curriculum decisions that are in the best interests of the young people in their school,” said Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

“However, the reality is that performance measures are what schools are judged on, so this puts an undue amount of pressure on leaders, governors and trusts.”

Co-director of the Cultural Learning Alliance Sam Cairns said the decline in art lessons at schools is a “social justice issue” that affects poorer students negatively. “The middle classes continue to provide their children with access to arts, if they are no longer provided in school,” said Cairns. “So they continue to enjoy the benefits while the kids whose parents can’t pay don’t get the same boost.”

A spokesperson for the Department said £500 million was to be invested in music and arts education programs between 2016 and 2020 to boost music education and help “talented pupils from all backgrounds attend prestigious arts institutions, such as the Royal Ballet School in London and Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester.”

International: Cambridge Analytica Suspends Alexander Nix following Election Staging Brags

Data mining company Cambridge Analytica has suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix after he was caught bragging about manipulating elections in a tape.

In a hidden camera footage set by UK’s Channel 4 News, the firm’s executives were seen pitching tactics to entrap political opponents and boasting about running election campaigns across the world, including in Kenya in 2013 and 2017.

To a reporter who posed as a fixer for candidates in Sri Lanka, the executives talked about the way the company operated, including offering bribes, spreading false information about the opponents, and sending “some girls around to the candidate’s house”.

Mark Turnbull, managing director of Cambridge Analytica’s political division, also spoke about the firm’s role in Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign in the last two of Kenya’s elections, including providing research, rebranding the party and writing manifesto and speeches.

“We’d stage the whole thing,” Turnbull said in the video.

Cambridge Analytica continues to receive heavy scrutiny, following the revelation by whistleblower Chris Wylie this week that the firm tapped personal information from more than 50 million Facebook accounts without permission for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

The firm, which is partly owned by conservative hedge-fund billionaire Robert Mercer, said Channel 4’s report “edited and scripted to grossly misrepresent the nature of those conversations and how the company conducts its business.”

However, the company’s board said Nix will still be suspended effective immediately pending a full independent investigation.

“In the view of the board, Mr Nix’s recent comments secretly recorded by Channel 4 and other allegations do not represent the values or operations of the firm and his suspension reflects the seriousness with which we view this violation,” the statement read.

“We have asked Julian Malins QC to lead this investigation, the findings of which the Board will share publicly in due course.”

Nix’s suspension came as a British parliamentary summoned Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to testify about how the social media giant allowed the company to access user data. More US politicians also call for Zuckerberg to testify before the congress.