This blog will be about the vast differences between the Chinese and British education systems. I will reference the recent BBC Programme “Are our kids tough enough” which aired in July 2015 to emphasise my points.
Five Chinese teachers came to a secondary school in Hampshire, to instil Chinese teaching methods to a group of fifty teenagers. The aim of the 3 week experiment was to compare English and Chinese teaching methods and see how both parties can learn from each other to further propel the children’s learning. The teachers came in to teach English, Maths, Science, PE and Mandarin.
One of the first stark differences between the two methods is the length of the school day. In China, lessons begin at 7am and run until 7pm. Morning exercise routines, strict behavioural codes and lots of competition are all part of the daily schedule! This was of course quite shocking for the British kids who are used to a 9am to 3.30pm day. On top of the 12 hour day, the pressure is still high as Chinese students are set homework to complete in the evenings when they get home.
In order to encourage each other, one of the tasks set by the Chinese teachers was to ask a student to read out good behavioural practice, which was quite an embarrassing thing for the British student to do, in front of all their peers. This happened in the midst of the daily flag raising ceremony, which is a very important part of the Chinese school day.
The Maths lessons especially were taught in a very different way. The British Maths teacher usually has his class around tables and encouraging them to ask questions and interact, whereas the Chinese Maths teacher relied on the students remembering loads of formulas and not really asking many questions. This reminded me of when I studied Chinese in China; we would spend many hours rote learning blocks of text and relied heavily on our memory to help us get the highest marks.
The PE lessons were very competitive and one student became quite upset about the fact she wasn’t doing as well as the others. The British PE teacher had to console her by saying that she is stronger in other subjects so it evens itself out. In the Chinese way of teaching, you must excel in every subject to be seen as successful to the school, and to your parents.
Another part of the experiment was introducing parts of Chinese culture to the students, one of them was fan dancing- many of the British children embraced this.
Nine Chinese rings is a puzzle where you have to remove the metal rings from the handle. It is a logical puzzle and interestingly, only one of the students cracked it in the classroom, much to the distaste and frustration of the others in the class!
What I found quite shocking about the programme was that the British teachers were fairly unprofessional in their approach to the experiment, saying “it is unfair that our kids have to sit there for an hour being shouted at from the front of the classroom.” They didn’t seem to want to embrace the whole experiment with open arms.
The whole experiment led to the children playing up and misbehaving to the Chinese teachers, including one student who brought a kettle into the class and attempted to make a cup of tea whilst the teacher was leading the class at the front!
This unruly behaviour put a lot of strain onto the Chinese teachers; because the children wouldn’t listen or take the classes seriously. This is something the teachers are not accustomed to as in China, Chinese children have a lot of respect for their teachers and it would be a rare occurrence for them to misbehave and stop listening in class.
I believe that the teachers lost face in this instance, which is a huge thing in Chinese culture. They were embarrassed and upset that the children would not co-operate, and concerned that they may not get the grades they deserve.
I was really impressed by their strength and courage to carry on and make sure the students got the grades they deserved. In the end the results spoke for themselves as the children who were taught in the Chinese way of teaching achieved better grades than the British way!
I don’t believe one way of teaching is better than any other but I feel there are lessons to be learnt from each other to help students achieve their best. Overall, it was a really fascinating watch to see how bringing in dissimilar teaching methods can really rock the boat- in a good way!
Try this link from the BBC to get a feel for the Chinese school day: Typical School Day in China