Shanghai teachers have solved all the problems
It is a known stereotype that children from Asia are smarter, especially when it comes to maths and science. But why is this? Surely one race cannot completely dominate purely from genetics? It all comes down to the education system and the work ethic. England can learn a lot from the leading country in the field, which is why they established the Shanghai-England teacher exchange in 2014. Earlier this month, the second edition of the exchange took place and 68 teachers from Shanghai came to teach in England.
Many teachers were originally under the impression that there was nothing different about the teaching methods in Asia and in England and the results were down to social aspects such as the economy or how much more driven Asian mothers are. However, since the BBC documentary that aired during the summer, more people have woken up to the fact that we have a lot to learn from the Shanghai Classroom.
If we make a direct comparison, England is severely lagging behind. At the age of 15, we are all taking part in our GCSEs, of which our results are highly variable. However, in Shanghai, the 15 year olds are doing the equivalent of our A2 exams. On top of that, they are by far the highest score in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) international maths league table. And for those cynics, money does not even come into this equation as our top 10% of the wealthiest children are not scoring anywhere near as good grades as the poorest 30% in Shanghai! It is quite an eye-opener.
So what do the Shanghai teachers do that is so different to our teachers in England? First of all, English teachers seem to have the common misconception that whole-class teaching is not as effective and incredibly boring. The Shanghai teachers have shown that their children enjoy these group classes a great deal and having the children interact with other as a class is highly beneficial. By constantly asking questions to the group and encouraging the children to ask questions, it shares knowledge across the class and makes it a much more fun learning environment.
Another major difference is that a great deal of work has gone into the Shanghai curriculum. Every teacher in Shanghai teaches from the same curriculum, ensuring the same level of instruction across the board. The teaching resources in Shanghai are the key to their success. These resources are used as a foundation upon which each teacher builds on. If we compare this to England, where a recent survey showed that only 10% of teachers used textbooks to teach. This means that our children’s’ future is left in individual teachers’ hands. It is pretty much a lucky dip whether our children pass or fail their maths exams.
So, it is clear to see that Shanghai’s method of teaching maths may be far superior to that of England. Many would also think that children in Shanghai would be unhappy and working all the time. However, another recent survey showed that 85% of children were happy at school, which was still more than those in England.
Yet UK teachers have expressed doubts and there is still much to debate. Watch this space. Please feel free to comment or tweet us @Beamathsteacher. We look forward to hearing your views.