A group of Chinese teachers has branded British kids ill disciplined and emotionally immature after being tasked with teaching at UK comprehensive schools.
Traditional “chalk and talk” teaching methods favoured by the Chinese have been credited with sending their country rocketing up the international league tables in science, maths and literacy. Britain, which has been moving away from these methods in favour of more “collaborative” learning has meanwhile slipped down, being ranked 20th by the OECD in January this year.
Now, five teachers have travelled from across China to the UK to teach 13 and 14 year olds at Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire for four weeks, as part of a television documentary due to be aired on BBC Two.
The teachers, who typically stand in front of their charges for 12 hours a day in China, are portrayed in the trailer shouting “listen to me”, “just use your brain” and “no talking, no questions” at bewildered looking British children, according to the Daily Mail.
It was a culture shock for both parties, with the teachers surprised by how unruly the British kids were. Li Aiyun, from Nanjing Foreign Language School, said: “When I handed out the homework sheets, I expected everybody to be concentrated on the homework. But when I walked in the classroom some students were chatting, some students were eating, somebody was even putting make-up on her face. I had to control myself, or I would be crazy.
“About half of them tried their best to follow me. And the other half? Who knows what they were doing?”
Science teacher Yang Jun, who taught in Xian, central China, added: “In China we don’t need classroom management skills because everyone is disciplined by nature, by families, by society. Whereas here it is the most challenging part of teaching.”
She was particularly surprised by one girl who left the classroom in tears upon hearing the news that Zayn Malik had left boyband One Direction. “I found it difficult to understand such emotional behaviour over a pop band,” Miss Yang commented.
Their colleague Wei Zhao believed she knew why the children were so unfocussed: “Even if they don’t work, they can get money, they don’t worry about it.
“But in China they can’t get these things so they know, ‘I need to study hard, I need to work hard to get money to support my family'”, she said.
“If the British Government really cut benefits down to force people to go to work they might see things in a different way.”
The strict teaching methods employed by the Chinese teachers didn’t impress Bohunt head teacher Neil Strowger, who described their techniques as “mind-numbingly boring”. He also disputed that the children were as ill-disciplined as depicted in the documentary, blaming the teachers themselves for causing the problems.
“If you visited my school in the week when cameras were not there you would not see behaviour like that. There is no low-level disruption,” he said. “However, if you go into a class and do not treat the students with respect then you are going to get problems.”
Mr Strowger added: “I don’t believe we are somehow causing our children to fail by having a welfare state.”
Last November 70 British teachers visited Shanghai to study Chinese classroom methods in a bid to uncover the secret of their success, only to find that the traditional teaching methods progressively abandoned in the UK since the 1960s were at the core of it.
Writing in The Conversation, Kevin Donnelly, Senior Research Fellow at the School of Education at Australian Catholic University said: “The Chinese favour a “chalk and talk” approach, whereas countries such as the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand have been moving away from this direct form of teaching to a more collaborative form of learning where students take greater control.
“Given China’s success in international tests such as PISA, TIMSS and PIRLS, it seems we have been misguided in abandoning the traditional, teacher-directed method of learning where the teacher spends more time standing at the front of the class, directing learning and controlling classroom activities.”
Boring they may be, but there’s no doubt that the Chinese teachers take no prisoners in their bid for results. Miss Yang summarised the do-or-die approach, commenting: “You have different syllabuses to suit different students’ ability. We don’t. We have one syllabus, one standard; you survive or you die. It’s up to you.”