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19 Mar, 2014

Emerging New World Order: UK students to get Chinese math teachers

SHANGHAI, March 18 -(Xinhua)  – Shanghai’s education authority has begun drafting a program to recruit math teachers from the city’s schools to teach in the UK at the invitation of the UK Department of Education, according to sources with the city’s education committee on Tuesday.

The invitation came earlier this month after British parliamentary under-secretary of state for education and childcare, Elizabeth Truss, made a visit to Shanghai for a first-hand look at math classes and teaching methods in February.

A Shanghai education official, who declined to be named, said on Tuesday that the municipal education committee is researching details in order to finalize program planning in April. The details include teachers’ salaries, recruitment requirements and the terms of the guest teaching.

Shanghai topped the 2012 international PISA tables for math, while England was ranked in 26th place. The top five were all Asian jurisdictions, with 15-year-olds in Shanghai judged to be three years ahead of their peers in math.

Truss’s trip was part of the UK government’s math improvement program. Truss led a group of education experts to attend three lessons in Shanghai — one in a primary school and the other two in two middle schools.

Truss and other members of the delegation said they were impressed by the children’s fast arithmetic skills and the lively classroom atmosphere.

Wu Guolin, principal of the Shanghai Jianpingxi Middle School, one of the schools that Truss visited, said math teachers from China would bring changes to the UK teaching mode, as Chinese schools focus on applied mathematics in basic education.

He said Chinese schools have borrowed a lot of Western teaching methods, and would continue to do so, as Western teaching gives students more freedom in autonomous thinking.

While visiting Shanghai Fushan Foreign Languages Primary School, Truss observed a grade three junior math class playing 24, an arithmetical card game. Zheng Rujie, math teacher at the school, said the card game is like “thinking gymnastics” for the students and is a good way to practise the arithmetics required in the teaching curriculum.

Shi Huixin, principal of Shanghai Fushan Zhengda Foreign Languages Primary School, said class teaching is just part of the work for Chinese math teachers. Teachers also correct students’ homework and prepare teaching plans.

“While correcting students’ papers, teachers can check students’ mathematical thinking and explain to them when problems are found,” he said.

Liu Zhongtao, a student from Fudan Middle School, was among the students to take the 2012 international PISA test. He said he finished the two-and-a-half-hour exam with one hour to spare.

Tang Shengchang, head of the Shanghai Comparative Study on the International Course in Basic Education, said in addition to the teaching standards, Chinese students’ high performance in math is a result of the social environment.

He explained that in China, math scores are often used to determine the intelligence and learning capabilities of a student from primary school enrollment to elite higher-learning institution recruitment.

“Both teachers and students feel the pressure from the social environment that math performance is important,” he said.