Teaching: ‘Are our kids tough enough? Chinese School’ on BBC2/Part Two

Tuesday evening and time for episode two of the three-part documentary ‘Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School’ on BBC2. I discussed the first show in a recent blog post (read about here), citing the conversations I followed on Twitter, which fuelled and brought extra context (with a strand of humour) to the show. Entering its second week of teaching by five Chinese teachers to 50 teenagers (13 and 14 year olds) at Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire, it began by stating the importance of discipline, “without discipline students don’t learn well”. As I said in the previous post, I thought this programme was a must watch as it directly feeds into my pre-reading (or watching) for the Masters in Education in Academic Practice that I am completing later this year, with a specific focus on internationalising the curriculum and cultural assimilation for international students, specifically Chinese students.

Chinese School BBC2

In this episode, the Chinese teachers faced an uphill battle. From an early age, Chinese students are taught respect and how to respect others. They are cultivated as a human being, they are taught how to be a sensible and responsible citizen. In China, the week starts with a flag raising ceremony to show respect to the country and a sense of belonging…to remind you that you are a citizen of China, have a sense of responsibility and serve the country when you grow up. Respect for the flag and national anthem in the UK doesn’t cut it.

Chinese students study “social education” to pass on traditional China to the next generation…including Confucianism. In China, children are under huge pressure and the majority of children are from a one child family. A lot of parents give their children extra class and homework. The UK students discussed the notion of the Chinese parent always being right and having to respect that…this instigating a British rebellion (in the form of a student bringing in a kettle and cup of tea to class). UK students are not that into a Chinese way of teaching. The UK students perceive that the Chinese students are motivated by their education and want to study.

“In China strong willing to learn…China has some of the most advanced education.”

Teaching method of delivering notes from the front of the class at a much faster Chinese pace where even the capable students find it hard to keep up. Impossibility to command the class…sat talking from the minute they arrive to the minute they leave and used mobile phones throughout. A Uk teacher was observing this session but at no point stepped in to change things. The teachers are disappointed by the students as they saw it as one of the top schools in the UK.

“Chinese teachers do not have the skills to discipline those who have freedom, freedom of speech, freedom to go against the system.”

They don’t know how to manage them. The UK doesn’t have an expectation on the child…they don’t have a lot of pressure. At breaking point, it was time for the Head of the school to intervene. One Chinese teacher stated no job is easy, however he didn’t see teaching at Bohunt would be so hard. Pushed to breaking point…he stated the students were embarrassing the other students bringing shame. He questioned whether he could handle the teaching knowing that he’d done his best and tried. Signs of stress showing in all the Chinese teachers so the Head of the school stepped in to try to reinstate disciplinary boundaries. Chinese teachers are not used to raising their voice in class. 

The Chinese teachers went on to talk of the importance of grammar. In Britain drilling the rules of grammar went out in the 1960s in favour of a more creative approach…the students take more responsibility for their own learning, enquiry based learning, giving the students the tools to learn with…active learning. One Chinese teacher stated,

“Knowledge changes ones destiny.”

…where in the UK they see knowledge as unnecessary. Questionable statement in my view. The reason why UK students fall behind is attitude…it’s their responsibility, they need to value it. Teaching moved onto food, specifically Chinese dumplings. The Chinese students are instilled a sense of collective responsibility where they clean their classroom…they are taught about duty. A parent of one of the UK students stated that there are Chinese teaching methods in UK education that can’t be escaped…but I’m not sure where…and she brushed off the bad behaviour of her son (cup of tea in class boy). This was my response…

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They conclude the episode with a parents evening where the teachers gave presentations to the students’ parents. One parent said it was the school’s responsibility to discipline her children…when it obviously originates from the parental and home culture and I see as one of the main problems with the UK. One Chinese teacher noted that the UK has a good social insurance system (always thought this! The UK don’t realise how lucky they are), that if people don’t get a job, the government will provide…in China, no education, no job, no income. It was interesting to hear the eventually positive parents reactions to the presentations and perspectives of the Chinese teachers and their learning methods and to see their support (and need to reprimand their kids).

As with the previous blog post on episode one, I followed comments and conversations on Twitter some of which are shown below.  and  on Twitter stumbled over a documentary regarding schools in Finland and how they do it – ‘The Finland Phenomenon: Inside The World’s Most Surprising School System’. Today’s watching…I’m still digesting last night’s educational fusion.

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