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StChris

BBC Show: Are British Kids Tough Enough to Handle Chinese School?

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StChris

There's a new BBC documentary which takes 5 Chinese teachers and gives them responsibility for educating a class of 50 British schoolkids for a few weeks. The students are given/subjected to the full Chinese educational experience, complete with polyester uniforms, 12 hour days and endless maths classes. This is all against a background where some politicians have been worried about the fact that the UK has fallen so far behind the Chinese in the international PISA exams (particularly in maths and science).

 

I'd actually say it was more of a reality TV show than a documentary, as some scenes seem a little false, but I still think it's worth a watch.

 

http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTMwMTU1ODkxMg==.html?from=s1.8-1-1.2

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StChris

I had a quick glance through the messages left by the Chinese viewers. The one I liked the most was: 干得漂亮,终于报酬了! Looks like we're finally even after all that opium business   :mrgreen:

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Angelina

Interesting show. I have already seen it.

I am not sure if Chinese schools are a good decision for your children, at least because of the competition. However, the show pointed out how effective Chinese education is. You go to class to learn science, you learn science. The kids on the show seemed to slow the class down and waste their teacher's time. Not to mention slowing the speed of what other kids in their class were learning.

Obviously expensive public schools (private in the U.S.) in the UK must be great. However, for those who can't afford it, Chinese schools don't seem to waste your time. That's the impression I got from watching the show. They did not mention how difficult it is to get into good Chinese schools.

One interesting moment was when a girl told her Chinese teacher "you can't just say how Chinese students do better than us" or something similar.

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Mr John

A Chinese friend recommended the show as well. I watched about twenty mintues of the first episode.

 

As you point out, it's more reality t.v show than documentary - which bothers me a bit - but there may still be enough there to persist with it.

 

It did get me thinking a bit more about the distinction between teacher and student centred approaches to teaching. I'm sure this has been covered somewhere before, but it'd be really interested to hear other people's opinions about the relative strengths and weaknesses of each.

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gato

The directors tended to include interviews with the most extreme kids in the class (whether it's those with disciplinary problems or crying issues in PE classes). Which makes it more like the Kardashians than the classic BBC "7 Up" documentary series. Still somewhat interesting.

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Angelina

@Mr John

I prefer a teacher centered approach where the teacher makes sure they don't hurt the imagination of the students. Also, lessons should be entertaining enough to capture the students' attention.

Some student centered approaches seem to be too much of an entertainment though. If the child likes eating ice-cream and watching cartoons all day, maybe the teacher should know better and without punishing the student manage to change that. Yes, the students should be happy and satisfied all the time, however, the point of education should not be to make sure the students are happy by giving them what they want and 就够了. It is much more complex. The point is to transmit knowledge while learning from your students. To share what you know without limiting the capacity of the student to learn more than you one day.

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davoosh

I agree with Angelina. My experience in UK schools has been that the student-centred approach can go too far and everything ends up dumbed down to the extent that trivial things are over-praised without much learning or effort directed towards learning coming from the students.

 

At the end of the day, a teacher is trying to transmit knowledge and there's only so many ways that can be done before the student will eventually have to use some of their own brain and will power to actually learn. Sure, have some fun with it and make it interactive, etc. but the UK system in state schools seems to take a lot of responsibility away from the students.

 

It's quite common to hear things such as "A lesson only goes badly if the teacher isn't inspirational enough".

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StChris

I think that some of the special features of the Chinese system are as much to do with necessity rather than deliberate choices guided by a different educational ideology. I'm sure they would have fewer than 50 students per class if they could afford the extra teachers. The more students per class, the more important it becomes to keep everyone quiet and disciplined. Although I felt sorry for the kids having to sit and watch while the chemistry teacher did the experiment at the front, the lack of experiments in Chinese science classes might have more to do with the cost of equipment and materials rather than an ideological adherence to 填鸭式教学法.

 

I read an article about the programme where the head teacher of the school said that the superior performance of the Chinese students had more to do with attitudes towards education in families and general society at large rather than teaching methods. I think there's a lot of truth in this. I was recently reading 韩寒's book 《三重门》. The two male friends in the novel fall in love with the 校花. When they ask what kind of boys she likes, she tells them that the boy has to have the second best exam results in the school for her to even consider being his girlfriend (the top student being herself). I think it's hard to imagine an American book or movie where the hottest girl in school falls for the geeky top student (it's much more likely to be the captain of the football team). Academic ability seems much more respected in east Asia.

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Angelina

Can you imagine a British or an American school where the hottest girl in school is also the top student?

I love China.

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LiMo

 It sounds like they're going to compare the results from the students taught by Chinese with the rest of the school (or an equivalent sample, it hasn't been made clear). It's fairly pointless in my opinion as the results won't be even close to a valid measure of the comparative efficacy of the two methods. As StChris said I think many aspects of the Chinese method are due to necessity. Science equipment is expensive, teachers are limited and so on.

 

As soon as I heard about the show I signed inwardly because I knew that it would the classic, "the Chinese are going to take over the world with their massive population of geniuses."A lot of this is just used by politicians to push through their own reforms. One of the best books I've read is Chinese Whispers by Ben Chu which systematically examines and evaluates many of the myths we hold about China. One of the most insightful things he said is that China has always and still is being used as a canvas on which we paint our own dreams and nightmares. "China is a wonderful place where everyone respects their elders." "China is an authoritarian state that is training it's people to take over the world." And so on and so forth. And the real China is just lost in the scaremongering and stereotyping.There are definitely things about the Chinese approach to education that need to be adopted here in Britain but, as people have already mentioned there's some confusion about how and why Chinese students get such good results. The most recent political bollocks has been to decide that exams are the be all and end all in life, just like in China, therefore we must do more exams. Despite all evidence and common sense pointing to the fact that all exams do is make you good at passing exams. I think the biggest factor, as you guys have said is that there's just SO much more incentive for a child in China to do well in school than there often is in the west where average living standards are so much higher.

 

 

 

I read an article about the programme where the head teacher of the school said that the superior performance of the Chinese students had more to do with attitudes towards education in families and general society at large rather than teaching methods.

 

I *totally* agree with this. From what I've seen good education starts at home. Children who don't care about school have parents who don't care about school and/or those silly parents who didn't manage to gain their child's respect from an early age and now have children who talk back and treat their parents just like they treat teachers: an unfortunate nuisance that can be fun at times but is mostly ignored or avoided whenever possible.

I am ashamed of and sickened by the massive lack of respect for teachers and education in general. You can see from the attitude of the students that they just don't value school. In most other countries the parents and teachers work together to educate children, in Britain the children and parents work together to undermine and prosecute teachers. My mum's a teacher and, yes lots of parents are wonderful, but there's a significant amount who's first reflex, no matter what has happened, is to blame the teachers. It's no wonder students don't respect them when they know they can just run to mummy and daddy and let them tear the teachers apart. Children are very smart. They understand how to divide and conquer. Unfortunately it's basically part of the culture now.

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Flickserve

LiMo

Excellent insights. Lack of respect for education in general. My children went to a local Hong Kong school for primary education. The big incentive was that they get a chinese education. But, they also learnt good habits on being disciplined to do homework and respect for their work.

A lot of western education is said to get people to 'think for themselves'. True. But sometimes I think it's also a coverup for many (not all) to hide behind lower academic acheivement.

My father was also a teacher in a London inner city comprehensive. I remember stories he would bring back. Threats by pupils to stab teachers was one. Second was how disruptive 'pupils' would negatively influence those who did want to learn. My father eventually took early retirement.

I guess you can lose the love of teaching if you continually have pupils who are disruptive, argumentive, insolent and lack respect as a person (to a teacher). When the attitude comes down from parents or they just don't care, you have no hope whatsoever.

Trying to think back why this happens in the UK, I think social welfare has a part to play. However, there are other countries who are better than UK (Probably Nordic countries) and other who are worse (across the channel). Is it an inflated sense of self opinion?

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Mr John

Already some really interesting comments.

 

The reason I ask is because I'm currently completing a Master of Teaching (Primary). Most of the theory is based on Vygotsky's understanding of how people learn. So there's a lot about the "social nature" of learning and the importance of understanding the different experiences and understandings students bring to the classroom. On paper, it sounds great. In practice, it places an enormous responsibility on a teacher in terms of content knowledge, understanding of how to construct and interpret assessment data reliably etc. Basically, in its ideal form, assessment is something which occurs at all times - and adjustments need to be made accordingly for each student - in order to pitch work at the most suitable level. As far as I can see, there are two main problems with this approach;

 

1. It assumes that the social, cultural and political values of a given society support such an approach.

2. In the hands of a novice, it can lead to lots of aimless "reflection" and a tendency to focus too much on how people "feel" about things.

 

Anyhow, keep them coming. Most of the people in my course have little interest in talking about the theoretical aspects of teaching, so this is a great outlet for me haha.

 

Lastly, does anyone else think that the total amount of time spent studying is a more important factor - with respect to results - than many of the factors mentioned above? I'm assuming here that students from Asian countries, on average, tend to study significantly more than their western counterparts.

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Tianjin42

I've not seen the show but will watch. Just to comment and echo some of the comments above.

It does sound like there are some stereotypes on display. Perhaps the dynamics are changing a little.

I do think that the case for creativity is overstated a little when talking about education in for example, the UK but creating that outlet and encouraging creativity is very much a positive trait.

A return to 100% exams instead of including coursework for example, would be a change for the worse.

By chance I met a very good friend this weekend - a very senior Chinese teacher in Tianjin. This guy is a brilliant teacher and someone who spent two years at British schools as part of an education mission so he knows what he is talking about when comparing the systems.

He noted that the school day has been reduced by two hours since I worked with him in 2009 but also that in his opinion, at the schools in Tianjin at least - discipline is as much a problem as it is in the UK. Whereas ten years ago he feels that generally speaking, the parents certainly viewed school as a partnership with parents; now that has changed dramatically.

As well as a general decline in discipline amongst students, he mentioned two recent cases where students were found cheating in tests. Both were disciplined and their names written on the noticeboard stating what they had done. In these two cases the parents came in, one parent told the school to take the name down or they would speak to people connected to the local education authority to have the teacher fired (perhaps unlikely but an unpleasant threat nonetheless). The other student's mother came in and after arguing that her son's name must be taken down said she would jump out if the window (4th floor) if this wasn't rectified then it would be a disaster for the school.

As absurd as all this sounds, he suggested it isn't as uncommon as one would think (he works with the local education authority) and said that between 2009 and today there has been a sea change in terms of discipline and school-parent relations. He joked that when he was there in the UK everyone thought that Chinese students and families were ultra-disciplined but that those views might need an update over the next few years.

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somethingfunny

Ask any teacher and they'll tell you the number one factor in student success at school is parents social and economic background.

 

While I'm interested in this subject, I'm reluctant to watch the show as I think it's reality-style format will just annoy me.  I've heard about scenes where kids are acting up a lot - not surprising if you shove a massive camera in their face and have a producer egging them on for something that will make good TV.  It's a bit like how Derren Brown uses the shock of running up to someone with a crew of people, camera and microphone and the surprise that generates to then relieve them of all their valuable possessions.  There was a TV series in the UK a while ago following a group of teachers on the "Teach First" programme for recent graduates.  While they would allow cameras in the classroom, where it came to making assessments of teachers ability, cameras were strictly forbidden because of the effect they had on classroom dynamics.

 

Also, this:

 

 

 

As soon as I heard about the show I signed inwardly because I knew that it would the classic, "the Chinese are going to take over the world with their massive population of geniuses."

 

The rest of the world is obsessed with the idea being a genius making machine.  It simply isn't true, no matter how much China buys into its own idea of greatness.  There are so many anecdotes that relate to this but one I heard was a co-worker how said that UCLA had appointed it's youngest maths professor ever and he was Chinese, therefore China is the best in the world at maths.  Now, its a shame when you have to explain to people why this logic is bad, so I won't bother doing so here.  But the worrying thing is that it's not just the west projecting their fears and dreams onto China, but it's also working in the opposite direction as well.

 

I spoke to a friend of mine about the TV show and we got to the bit about kids crying during PE class and all he said was "Yeah, I just figured those were the kids that actually wanted to do some sport."

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GaHanna

Oh, correct me if I am wrong, but this calculation of China being the best is from Shanghai, and not China as a whole, right?

 

I was talking to a friend's (Chinese in China) son just yesterday and in our short discussion I asked him what was he doing in his holidays. He told me that he still had classes to go to at school. In fact, a parent from his class reported this to some authorities and the school was warned. He tells me that now the classes still go on and that there is some sort of alarm system where the teacher can escape if anyone approaches the class. He is a clever boy and he told me that the school was in the process of preparing the students for the high school entrance exam. Go figure.

 

I remember my school holidays. Long days. There are a lot of films on the subject of kids larking around in their long summer holidays. I went to a grammar school that began at 9.30 in the morning and finished at 3.30. We had a lot of homework but a holiday was a holiday. My school has come up with Nobel Laureates, in fact, leaders of all persuasions. Yes, there was a lot of discipline and the social factors were very important. Hence my reference to Shanghai.

 

Another friend's daughter is off to high school in Toronto soon. Her mother, a doctor, will stay with her awhile to help her settle in with her homestay. I told her to tell her daughter to enjoy her freed up time to do her self-study and er, to do, nothing.

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somethingfunny

GaHanna, you're exactly right.  There's really no other way to look at it when you consider it like this:  In China they have 12 hour school days and everyone wants to go to Oxford or Cambridge.  In the UK they have 6 hour school days and no-one wants to go to Peking or Tsinghua.  I went to an entirely average state school but as long as you worked hard there was a chance you could get into Oxford or Cambridge, as indeed, some of my classmates did.

 

As for the PISA rankings, I believe it was just Shanghai but would have to take a closer look to see exactly how the rankings are calculated... maybe someone more in the know can enlighten us.

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gato

Just Shanghai.

The BBC Bohunt Hampshire experiment seems like an experiment deigned to fail. How could anyone expect converting year 9 students overnight from 6-hour school days to a 12-hour school days, taught by foreigners who speak English as a second language, and expect it go well?

Did the students' parents sign consent forms to allow their kids to be subjected to this for an entire month?

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Angelina

I am not interested in British culture. Maybe they offer more money and better facilities. Can it compensate for the feeling of being sexy as a nerd? (post #9)

The UK has a stronger army (thus better facilities), China has a stronger emphasis on education.

Obviously the UK offers a very good environment, especially when it comes to higher education. However, the UK is not my cup of tea, they never had tea anyway.

Some of my friends were grading the 高考. There is a lot of critical thinking involved. You need to spend hours memorizing characters AND be able to think critically.

 

 

 

 

 

 

edited 

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realmayo
If a Chinese student has the money, she/he can go to Oxford/Cambridge and have access to good facilities

 

Really? Given that there are lots of Chinese students with money, but most of them don't go to Oxford or Cambridge, I guess they all choose other universities instead?

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Angelina

There are many Chinese students with money who are studying abroad.

 

 

 

edited 

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