The UK Department of Education will grant $54.3 million (USD) in funding to 8,000 primary schools across the country to help them implement the methods of teaching math that originate in China.
The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment showed that 15-year olds in China were a year ahead in the subjects of maths of their British peers. According to the rankings, Britain took 26th place, writes Rimjhim Naudiyal of Exam Watch. After the survey results were revealed, the British government decided to bring home 120 teachers from China as a part of the ‘Shanghai Maths’ project to share expertise with their British colleagues.
As the BBC noted, in the beginning 700 British teachers will be trained to support schools in maths mastery, which was adopted for the first time in the country back in 2014. The National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics has trained about 140 primary school educators to adopt the new approach, and 35 school-led centers of excellence in maths tutoring — the so-called math hubs — will lead the project expansion.
Speaking at the Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, UK Schools Minister Nick Gibb said that the Chinese method of math teaching should become a standard fixture in England. In Glasgow last week, Gibb added:
”We are witnessing a renaissance in maths teaching in this country, with good ideas from around the world helping to enliven our classrooms.”
One of the leading coordinators of China-UK math exchange program, Lyu Jiexin from Shanghai Normal University, commented that the British initiative is a step toward the improvement of teaching. As reported by The Hindu, the project leader emphasized that the UK does not intend to copy/paste the Shanghai style of math tutoring. The government aims to renovate its math education standards completely. In the future, the focus will be on understanding the material, not on just memorizing it:
“Teaching for mastery focuses on deep conceptual learning, developing secure foundations that students can buil throughout their education.”
When a piece of mathematics has been fully grasped and mastered, continued the project coordinator, it can be used further as a foundation for new, advanced mathematical learning. On the contrary, if the student just memorizes a math problem without understanding it, then the foundation will not be solid enough to gain additional knowledge. In the end, rote learning would have a negative impact on the future of these students.
The general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, Russell Hobby, said:
“Support for the more effective teaching of maths is always welcome, especially when it is not forced on schools.”
Hobby also commented that the success of the project would depend strongly on a sufficient number of motivated and well-prepared professionals to deliver it. He recommended the government invest in teacher recruitment and retention.
Charlie Stripp, director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics, also welcomed the idea. According to him, the project expansion was great news for math education in the UK. Teaching for mastery, he concluded, would be exciting not only for the educators but also for the students, notes The Free Press Journal.