Education News Magazine

Would Chinese-style education work on British kids?

Chinese teachersPerhaps as a result of the amount of time spent together, teacher-pupil relationships got better and some pupils began to express a preference for the Chinese style.

They liked having to copy "stuff" from the board as they thought this would help them remember it. Some more able pupils also liked the lecture style of the Chinese classroom.

What have I learned from the experiment? I believe that a longer school day would have value for our pupils and that teachers should not on occasion be afraid of delivering monologues in the classroom.

It is, however, abundantly clear to me that Chinese parents, culture and values are the real reasons that Shanghai Province tops the oft-cited Pisa tables rather than superior teaching practice.

No educational approach or policy is going to turn back the British cultural clock to the 1950s. Nor should it seek to.

Image caption Pupils are shown how to do eye exercises

Rosie Lunskey, 15, a pupil at Bohunt

I'm a normal teenager - I like my sleep and my freedom. But I traded it all in for more school than sleep each day, for four weeks with pushy teachers, all while wearing a completely atrocious tracksuit for almost 12 hours a day.

The project wasn't what I expected - I had envisioned something like normal school but maybe with a little more homework or a silent classroom.

That is most definitely not what I got. It felt like we had no say in our education and what the teachers said went.

Acting like robots was the right way to go. For me, it was something I found difficult to get used to. I'm used to speaking my mind in class, being bold, giving ideas, often working in groups to advance my skills and improve my knowledge.

But a lot of the time in the experiment, the only thing I felt I was learning was how to copy notes really fast and listen to the teacher lecture us.

One of the hardest things to deal with was different expectations of me as a student. It felt like we had to always be the best. That there was no longer any point in trying if you weren't going to be top of the class. Only the scores on tests mattered.

The classroom environment felt stressful and enclosed. When you have 50 other pupils in the room it's hard enough to concentrate without being made to feel as if you are competing against them all the time.

Science was particularly challenging. On one of the first days we were having the normal, slightly boring lectures from Ms Yang. Then we were given questions to answer on the subject and I understood nothing. I hadn't realised I would be this self-conscious, not being able to pick up a new topic at such speed and it got to me.

Image caption Pupils get ready to learn about fan dancing

I felt stressed out sitting in my lesson completely muddled. It was awful knowing I not only had my peers watching me, but the cameras too. I felt stupid and just utterly pulled under by the weight of everything. The Chinese teachers think the pupils in their classes are like bulletproof sponges, sucking in information yet conveniently ignoring the fact they are tired and very bored.

However there were definitely some good bits. I loved learning about fan dancing and Chinese cookery. These were certainly welcome distractions from dull lectures about Pythagoras's theorem and English grammar. I shall always remember trying out Chinese-style education - it was one of the most interesting months of my life.

Simon Zou, who taught maths and acted as form teacher

Image caption Simon Zou

Interesting facts:

Albert John "The Great" Thurgood (11 January 1874 – 8 May 1927) was an Australian rules footballer in the Victorian Football Association (VFA), Victorian Football League (VFL) and the Western Australian Football Association (WAFA).
He is considered one of the great...

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