A group of teachers from China – in the UK to film a documentary about British schools – have slammed the standard of behaviour seen in the classroom, with one even taking aim at the country’s welfare state which she sees as overly generous.
Wei Zhao said: “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’. If the British government really cut benefits down to force people to go to work they might see things a different way.”
Yang Jun, meanwhile, hit out at the poor classroom behaviour. “In China we don’t need classroom management skills because everyone is disciplined by nature, by families, by society,” she said, “whereas here it is the most challenging part of teaching.”
Streaming by ability also came in for criticism with Yang adding, “You have different teaching programmes for different pupils. You have different syllabuses to suit different students’ abilities. We don’t. We have one syllabus, one standard. You survive or you die. It’s up to you.”
The last part of this particular quote will unnerve some in the UK, given the regular reports of high suicide rates among Chinese schoolchildren, often attributed to the pressures they face at school. In addition, the Head Teacher of one of the schools featured in the three-part documentary, which begins tomorrow on BBC Two, defended his school. Bohunt Head Neil Strowger said: “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. However, if you go into a class and do not treat the students with respect then you are going to get problems.
“I don’t believe we are somehow causing our children to fail by having a welfare state,” he added.
The school, in Liphook, Hampshire, had taken to Twitter last month to promote the programme:
Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School featuring Bohunt on BBC2 first of 3 episodes starts next Tuesday. Educating Liphook it is not!
— Bohunt (@BohuntSchool) July 28, 2015
Western governments have long been interested in the education methods employed by China and other countries in east Asia such as South Korea and Singapore; all of whom regularly rank highly in international league tables. However, a 2014 study of Australian children by the University of London found that cultural factors were at least as big a factor as the learning methods that these countries adopted in their schools. Second generation immigrants from east Asia to Australia scored on average 102 points more that their native Australian counterparts in the 2014 PISA maths test despite being schooled in the same environment.