Opinion / Blog

Chinese school - the Bohunt experiment (part 1)

By MichaelM ( Updated: 2015-08-11 10:24

Recently, you may have viewed Part 1 of a BBC documentary series about an experiment that was conducted at the private Bohunt School. Bohunt is in the large village of Liphook in the East Hampshire district of Hampshire in the south of England.

Five native Chinese teachers accepted the task of teaching these British students using a Chinese format of structured schedules and teaching styles in their classrooms. Four female teachers and one male teacher taught 50 British ninth graders for four weeks.

Classes began at 7 a.m. and often didn't finish until 12 hours later. Morning exercise became a part of the daily routine, along with the students learning facial exercises to relieve stress and fatigue. Also, the Chinese math teacher, Simon Zou, gave each student a Chinese ring puzzle and challenged them to solve it. They learned all of their normal subjects plus they were introduced to Mandarin via a Chinese class.

The documentary set out to show the contrast between a traditional Chinese teaching style versus the teaching style of British teachers. Here are my observations and comments regarding this first part of the series (the other parts will air later this month) .

First, it is interesting that the British are forced to look to Chinese education to find ways to improve their own educational system. It is well known that Chinese students excel in many areas that their Western counterparts do not, particularly in the sciences and math. These areas of study eventually lead to occupations that include technology, science, engineering, computer science and other jobs that require more linear thinking rather than creative or critical thinking.

Second, the documentary is (to me) only partly believable. The behavior of the students seemed staged. I learned through a little research that in Liphook, “amateur drama has been a feature of village life since before World War II. Liphook Amateur Dramatic Society (LADS) existed at least between the 1930s (revived 1955) and 1969. Two companies currently (2014) exist - Liphook Amateur Productions (LAMPS) and The MAD (Methodist Amateur Dramatic) Company“ – to quote Wikipedia.

The students blatantly misbehaved in front of the cameras. Students were quite rude, which I would say is certainly not normal from what I know about most British people (and especially students).

Third, if this video is truly an objective depiction of Bohunt School, it must surely be a dreadful school. I would never allow my child to attend such a place. However, I sincerely doubt that it is that bad. The video likely shows a bias by the BBC or the producer against the government and/or the education system in England.

Fourth, the 'truth' about all Chinese students and classes being as 'perfect' as is portrayed in this video, is also inaccurate. I've been teaching here for four years. I've had the opportunity to visit and teach in many schools as part of a company that places foreign teachers.

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