A reality TV show has brought together five Chinese teachers with fifty British students — and with some interesting results.
The goal of the experiment was to see how well British children aged 13 and 14 could deal with more stringent Chinese teaching methods. According to Javier Espinoza of the Telegraph, the results will be revealed on the three-part BBC2 documentary entitled Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School.
Fifty children from Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire were taught by Chinese teachers for a month. Though the creators of the documentary note that this was not a scientific endeavor, the results were an interesting study of how teaching methods, and the larger culture, differ in Britain and China.
The Chinese teachers felt that the British children were rude and undisciplined, writes Tristan Stewart-Robertson of the Scotsman, after witnessing a girl flee from class crying upon hearing bad news about her favorite band and another student who brought tea to classes.
Li Aiyun of Nanjing Foreign Language School expressed dismay over a lack of commitment from the students:
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.
Wei Zhao, who taught Mandarin for 14 years in Communist China, blamed the poor work ethic of British students on Britain’s welfare system:
Even if [English pupils] 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 in a different way.
These teachers are used to 12-hour days in which they mostly stand in front of the class and lecture, writes Steve Doughty of the Daily Mail.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that Shanghai math students are three years ahead of those in the UK, which is 26 places behind in their world ranking.
However, the head teacher at the host school, Neil Strowger, disagreed with the assessment of the Chinese teachers. Strowger said that their methods were “mind-numbingly boring” and:
If you visited my school in the week when cameras were not there you would not see behavior 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.
According to Alan Tyers of BT, he is right: his school is rated very well by Ofsted, suggesting that these middle-class children can focus better on the work when there are not distractions like television cameras and easily-angered teachers.