Home > Commentary, Education Policy, Teaching > Can, or should, we learn from China?

Can, or should, we learn from China?

This post was originally published here on Labour Teachers on 20th October 2015.

This morning the Chinese ambassador was on the Marr show, and he got a few questions on human rights and the alleged abuses of such by the regime in China. The main focus was around the deal to work with China on nuclear power. A decision that has come under cast criticism from almost everywhere.

This made me question a few things as this isn’t the only Chinese import the government seems keen on; almost every DoE document has some reference to Shanghai and it’s place in the PISA rankings. I’ve seen Vanessa Pittard speak a number of times over the last few years and Shanghai was a main feature of all those speeches.

We are shipping teachers in and sending ours over there to see what we can learn. So why is there no outrage over this? This is the same country we shouldn’t be working with in other sectors because of human rights abuses so why is it ok to embrace them in education? Isn’t that an area where we want to ensure human rights are protected?

I remember watching the opening ceremony of the Bejing Olympics with my friend Will. I mentioned it was spectacular and he said: “that’s the sort of thing you can do with a population who do whatever you say under the threat of death.” Now this is, of course, an over simplification but it is rooted in the truth.

This fear of the establishment is wide ranging and must be instilled from a young age. What sort of threats are issued within schools? I don’t know but I bet there are none of the behavioural issues that are prevalent within British school, so I’d guess that the issues facing teachers here and there are very different. No behaviour management problems, no need to try increase engagement and buy in, no need for teachers to be motivators.

It leaves me pondering two questions: “Can we learn anything from China on education?”  And “Should we even be engaging with them?”

  1. October 23, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    The main reason we shouldn’t be copying the Chinese, is that Chinese pupils in the UK also do better than any other group. It’s a culture of hard work and respect for education rather than any magic way of teaching. More here – https://ollieorange2.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/the-chinese-way/

  2. October 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    It comes as no surprise that I take issue with his article but I’ll start by saying I like Stephen. His contributions on his blog are more prolific and thoughtful than mine. I’ve told him directly that I admire him and my rebuttal of the points in his post in no way take away from what I know him to be – a kind, hardworking, brilliant maths teacher.
    I’ll start with where we agree and some uncontestable truths:

    The Chinese ambassador was on the Marr Show.
    In some aspects China doesn’t have a great human rights (but that’s not the whole story)
    Stephen has indeed heard Vanessa Pittard talk about Shanghai.

    Read the rest of my grievances here: http://mrreddy.com/blog/2015/10/what-can-we-learn-from-shanghai-teachers/

  1. October 24, 2015 at 12:01 pm

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