The BBC Documentary brings a number of Chinese teachers into an English school to see how the students perform under Chinese teaching methods.
Being used to classes sizes of up to 50, the Chinese method appears to be largely what we would now consider to be old-fashioned ‘chalk and talk’, with little interaction in the classroom. Material is covered at a much faster pace and there is focus on repetition and memorising (learning by rote). There is a priority on Maths and competition is encouraged. Chinese teachers are used to being respected and obeyed with very few disciplinary issues.
Not surprisingly this all comes as a shock to the system to both the teachers and the children in the English school. Many of the students lose concentration quickly and the teachers are unable to keep the classroom quiet. One of the teachers suggested that this is because the welfare state means that gaining a good education is not an imperative for economic survival so children do not take their education as seriously.
Undoubtedly, most in the educational establishment would consider the Chinese methods archaic, inhibiting creativity, ‘real’ understanding and perhaps even cruel compared to our modern, more ‘exploratory’, ‘child-centric’ methods of learning. Yet Chinese students attainment, particularly in Maths, Science and Technology, soars above ours, and these areas are likely to be drivers of future economic prosperity.
Is it desirable, or culturally possible for us to close this gap and if so how? Can we learn anything from the Chinese methods or would this be simply trying to turn the clock back?