Sarah Garland

Stories by Sarah Garland

  • Sweden's Scores Plunge in International Tests

    In Sweden, forget stock prices: it's plunging test scores that are causing a national panic. Once 11th in the world in science rankings, Sweden's scores on international eighth-grade tests fell 42 points between 1995 and 2007—one of the worst declines among the 35 nations tested. Reading and math scores showed the same disturbing trend.Some experts say demographic shifts may be contributing to the plunge. Immigrants have increased from 9 percent of Sweden's population in 1990 to 12 percent currently, with many refugees coming from places like Somalia and Iraq. Families are moving away from schools where the newcomers are concentrated, and teachers aren't trained to deal with the increasingly segregated system.But others say a more plausible explanation is Sweden's lax education philosophy. Swedish children aren't graded on their work until the eighth grade, and there are few curriculum standards. Sweden's education minister, Jan Björklund, says this easygoing attitude is changing in...
  • Cashmere Blankets Offer Warmth from Head to Toe

    Cozy and sumptuously soft, cashmere is everyone's favorite fabric for winter. Sweaters, scarves, gloves and socks are toasty, but nothing beats a luxurious cashmere blanket. A delicate braid frames Frette's pure cashmere Olga blanket, which comes in ivory or caramel ($5,800; frette.com). With hand-crocheted detail, the Sienna throw by Rani Arabella is as pretty as a little cardigan and will keep toes warm, too ($740; raniarabella.com). The idyllic scenes of polo games and regattas on Loro Piana's Italian-made cashmere throws are reproduced from 1930s and '40s prints; they're also available in solid colors ($1,650; www.loropiana.com). Two-tone cashmere throws from Olatz come in combos like yellow and magenta or green and purple ($1,200; olatz.com). The cheerful colors are a reminder that spring is just around the corner.
  • Refugees Increase As Global Violence Flares

    One thing worse than fear of recession is fear of war, and to a surprising degree, war is on the rise. While it's been widely noted that the financial crisis in rich Western nations is slowing and in some cases even reversing the flow of economic immigrants, the tide of political refugees is rising. The United Nations reports that the number of refugees fleeing war and repression in their homelands grew by more than a million worldwide last year, to 11.4 million, and is expected to rise again in 2008, as violent crises grow and spread.This ends, at least temporarily, a global outbreak of peace and stability. Refugee flows had been declining since 2002, as conflicts in places like Burundi and Liberia were resolved or hit plateaus, allowing exiles to return home. So far this year, the United Nations has deployed 197 emergency relief missions to crises worldwide, already more than all of last year. The conflicts that produce the most refugees are still in Afghanistan, Iraq and Colombia...
  • Oaxaca City Offers Ruins and Great Food

    Just two years ago, the restaurants and shops in this colonial Mexican city were closed off to outsiders after protesters and soldiers briefly turned it into a battleground. Now peace has returned, and with it, the tourists. ...