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Chinese teachers in UK trigger debate

By Zhang Zhouxiang in London | China Daily | Updated: 2015-08-06 07:39

Many people in Britain say the nation's own education system needs to improve after a BBC documentary about Chinese teaching methods sparked fierce debate.

The documentary, Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School, broadcast on Tuesday evening, focused on Bohunt School in Hampshire, southwest of London, where five Chinese teachers were recruited to teach 50 ninth-graders for a month using the same teaching methods they apply in China.

The documentary had an audience of 1.8 million and an 8.6 percent audience rating on Tuesday. The ranking for the whole week has not been announced, but with 1.8 million viewers in one night, it was more popular than the No 2 show the previous week.

The documentary also sparked fierce discussion online. Before and after it was broadcast, it had already become one of the top topics on Twitter, with many education specialists commenting and retweeting.

Many British Twitter users complained not about the Chinese teachers, but about their own country's education system.

"They are right. British education has gone soft. Teachers are abused and students have no discipline," Twitter user@dkenstone said.

On the BBC website, a debate titled "What can British schools learn from the Chinese education system?" became especially popular. One Twitter user commented, "If British schools, in the main, are places of constant supply of entertainment to pupils (at break time and during lessons alike) then the name of these institutions should be changed from schools to something else, maybe comedy clubs instead of schools - where the chief clown is normally the head teacher."

Kathryn James, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers in Britain, defended the British school system and said it had advantages over China's.

"It is always helpful for school leaders to learn from different systems," she said.

"However, student autonomy, questioning and the development of skills to allow students to think for themselves-key elements in British pedagogical approaches - do not appear to be part of the Chinese approach. As teachers involved in the program take lessons from the experiment, no doubt the Chinese teachers featured will also learn from the UK's approach to teaching."

Richard Spencer, a correspondent for The Daily Telegraph who lived in China for six years with his children attending schools in the country, wrote in a column: "Chinese education is not, of course, perfect. One of the curiosities leaving a Britain where everyone worried about the state of our schools was to find the same is everywhere, even in China."

Zhang Chunyan contributed to this story.


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