Home > Commentary, Education Policy, Pedagogy, Teaching > Shanghai – further thoughts

Shanghai – further thoughts

On Friday night I looked on my phone to discover a massive amount of twitter notifications. While I had been watching a rugby match my newsfeed had been lit up by people attacking and defending a post I’d written which most of them perceived as a negative response to an impending visit to our shores by a number of teachers from Shanghai (not to be confused with China, as I keep being told by many people.)

In actual fact I hadn’t written a blog post on the subject at all. What I had done was write a blog post posing some questions that occurred to me while watching an ambassador from China (I think, he could have been from Shanghai I guess) face a grilling from Andrew Marr on his Sunday morning show.

I had tried to outline my thinking around questions that occurred to me while watching the show, namely: “why is there outrage at working with China on these energy projects because of their human rights breaches but no one expresses these worries about working with them in education?”, and, “is it a superior pedagogy that allows them to excel or the culture/lack of behaviour issues?” These questions were simplified to “Can, or should,  we learn from China?” And I’m extremely interested in whether we can or should.

In general the reponses I got were either “I’d not thought about it like that, you have posed some interesting questions.” Or “Yes we should engage, that’s how we can eliminate their breach if human rights,” or ” I worked in China,  it’s not a fear of the state that drives them to succeed and behave but pressure from home.” I had lengthy discussions with two friends who have taught English there and was intrigued to find out more about the education system. I was certainly starting to lean towards a yes in each column.

Then on Friday I saw a tweet from Bruno Reddy (@MrReddyMaths). Bruno is someone I both like and respect,  and his tweet stated that was angry and disappointed with my post, and implied it was bigoted and racist. This shocked me, bigotry and racism are two things I hate and will stand against at any opportunity and I couldn’t understand where he was coming from. I ask for further clarification and Bruno duly obliged, writing his grievances in this well thought out post. It’s a great post, it gave me some information I was unaware of and furthered my understanding of some of the issues involved so I’m thankful for him for writing it. I do, however, feel that he has taken some inference that were unintended and have explained this in a comment, recreated here:

Your first grievance is against a view I don’t hold. I never said teachers coming here was a bad thing. Although having read your thoughts I can see my choice of language could lead to this inference and I apologise for that.

I feel I should say, however, that it is current,  not historic, human rights abuses that worry me. And I wouldn’t support removal of Germany cars because of Hitler but I would definitely support stopping of imports if Germany policy were to return to that of his day.

I will admit the next grievance is also my fault, although not my intention. Again I worded badly my sentiment that the massive cultural differences may in fact be more important to success than the pedagogical approach. That said, having read your post and spoken to friend who have taught there I’m now fairly sure we can learn from them.

As far as the iraq/Grimsby China Shanghai comparison goes, I feel again I may have massive mislead my thoughts. I was watching a Chinese ambassador get a hard time about human rights and had just read a numerous of articles suggesting we shouldn’t engage with China on new energy generation and I wondered why this sentiment wasn’t held to education.

The post was intended to explain the reasons I had come to ponder these questions and then ask the questions, (can and should we learn form China on education?).

It has lead to many discussions which have me leaning firmly to the side of “yes” and “yes”.

The debate on my twitter feed included a lot of points that assumed I was attacking the exchange programme that is due to take place in November, I had actually forgotten it was due then. Had I been thinking of the exchange I would have said Shanghai rather than China. There were also people suggesting I go and see the teacher’s before commenting, I’m hoping to be able to do that anyway as I’m genuinely interested in what we can learn from them. Speaking to one teacher who has been observed by Chinese guests the main take away he got was that their pupils would have learned the year 8 curriculum by year 5.

The questions are ones I still ponder, I really don’t understand why the folk objecting to working with China on energy don’t object to working with them in education. I really don’t think we can implement a pedagogical model as it is from a culture as wholly different to ours, such as Shanghai is. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything. In the same way that I can’t implement another teachers style exactly, but I can certainly pick up tips and use parts of it to improve my own style.

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  1. yi
    October 25, 2015 at 10:52 pm

    I am a maths teacher by also was a student whom educated in Shanghai 17 years ago. I agree with what you said here. There are a lot of things we can pick up or adapt to our teaching. This is not related to the human rights.

  1. December 31, 2015 at 12:06 pm

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