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Shanghai impresses UK education team

Updated: 2014-02-26

( China Daily )

Schools' teaching methods helping students excel, says British official

A senior British education official said she was impressed with how much time Shanghai teachers spend in at-school training and the positive attitude of students during a two-day visit to the city for a firsthand look at teaching methods.

Elizabeth Truss, under secretary of state for education and childcare, and her delegation of education experts from the United Kingdom began their visit on Monday with a stop at the Shanghai Municipal Education Commission, followed by a tour of Shanghai Normal University.

On Tuesday, they visited three schools - Shanghai Fushan Foreign Language Primary School, Shanghai Jianping West Middle School and Shanghai High School - to sit in on math classes.

In 2012, Shanghai's students topped the Program for International Student Assessment in math, while the UK students ranked 26th.

"It's really interesting to visit these Shanghai schools and look at how they teach," Truss said on Tuesday at a news conference.

"We wanted to find out the reason for Shanghai students' high performance in PISA. These schools are excellent because of their teaching and mathematics."

She said the visit is the latest step in the government's drive to raise teaching standards in math at British schools. She added that the education department is looking to encourage more students to study mathematics and science.

Truss and her delegation will also be visiting other Chinese cities, as well as other countries, to learn more about teaching methods. The group will leave Shanghai for Wuhan, Hubei province, on Wednesday.

Truss said she was impressed with Shanghai's specialized teachers, who city officials said have a deeper understanding of specific subjects and are an important factor at education institutes.

Truss said UK elementary school teachers may not major in the subjects they are teaching and often teach a number of subjects.

"In the UK, teachers spend more time in class and in contact with students. There is less time for learning," she said.

In Shanghai, teachers spend more time in training activities to broaden their knowledge base, she said. Teachers also share their knowledge and experiences with each other. She believed that these practices can help improve teaching in the UK.

"Students (in Shanghai) were asked to verbalize the concept of knowledge and also write it down on the blackboard," said Truss when asked to recall an interesting method for training students.

"I asked some students about their aspirations, and they said they want to be scientists. This is rare in England," she added.

Truss also said she will look to build long-term education-based relationships between Shanghai and England.

China's education has long been criticized for its methods of rote learning and memorization, but the Shanghai students' performance in 2012 grabbed headlines worldwide.

Zhang Minxuan, president of Shanghai Normal University, believed the 2012 performance was part of the city's achievements after 30 years of education reforms.

"Shanghai's development in education does not fully represent the whole country, but to some extent, it represents the future trends of China's education development," Zhang said.

The Shanghai education commission said on Tuesday that an education delegation from South Africa will visit Shanghai in the near future to learn about the city's teaching experiences.

 Shanghai impresses UK education team

Elizabeth Truss (center), British under secretary of state with responsibility for education and childcare, attends a math class for third-graders at a primary school in Shanghai on Monday. Gao Erqiang / China Daily