The Department for Education (DfE) is in the second year of a Shanghai-England teacher exchange, which aims to raise English pupils’ maths skills. While some consider this to be a controversial move, David Reynolds, professor of education at Southampton University, said that it could improve test results within four years.
Shanghai currently tops the international maths league table published by the OECD, while UK pupils lag behind in 26th position. Teachers from Shanghai approach teaching of the subject differently, concentrating on one single mathematical concept at a time. This method will be taught methodically and in great depth, and the class will not move on until every student has mastered the lesson.
Currently, almost 70 maths teachers from Shanghai are working in English secondary schools. They are demonstrating their teacher-led “mastery method” to English counterparts, which involves whole-class, interactive teaching to an all-ability group.
A clear difference highlighted by the teachers from Shanghai is that UK students get given much less homework. Miss Yingzhen Guo, who is currently teaching maths at St Mark’s Catholic School in Hounslow, west London, said: "They understand and answer the questions quickly. Next day I ask them and maybe they forget. In China they do a lot of work at home."
In China, students are given homework everyday, and a test once a week. Many children also have private tutoring and weekend school. In the UK, pupils are rarely given maths homework more than once or twice a week.
Schools minister Nick Gibb, who is leading the Shanghai project, writing in the Guardian, described the experiment as "one of the most valuable education initiatives undertaken by our government over the past few years."
"Shanghai mathematics teaching works because it is meticulous. Every step of a lesson is deliberate, purposeful and precise. If the Shanghai teacher exchange can show enough English teachers the merits of such practice, it will have been a resounding success," he wrote.
Posted by Alan Douglas