What Ya China Say?
Shanghai seem to have an amazing culture where teachers are highly respected and the PISA statistics back up that they should be. However I am extremely confused at the desire to import a system wholesale in to our educational environment. Different cultures and different environments and expectations are not things you can just dismiss.
That is not to say that there wasn’t anything of interest at the Shanghai CPD day I attended, certainly there was plenty to think about. Much I feel has been touched upon already by the Lecturers we have and I can only think that this is indicative that teacher training is heading in the right direction. Other ideas clearly work well for the teachers in Shanghai yet does that make them better than the way things are done here? Does a PISA ranking indicate better teaching or is it other factors that it is really measuring. Perhaps more people are drawn to teaching and therefore it creates and environment where teachers are just better overall? Maybe the students have more respect for learning than in the UK?
I found that the students had time to blow off steam every 35 minutes particularly interesting. It is easier to focus for 30-40 minutes have a 10 min break then focus again than to sit through up to 120 mins of a lesson.
I was intrigued also that the students have use of only a text book and a homework book. In the text book they are allowed to make notes and do the problems in them. This however seem to be the opposite of what I have seen suggested by people such as Dan Meyer. I did find the use of laws intriguing, where many are suggesting relational understanding over instrumental this seems to run contrary to this idea should we really only be relying on one style when both could be better? However I do feel that it is not exactly revolutionary and certainly not any simpler than the methods used in the UK.
My three favorite things to come out of this was the opportunity given to students to discuss maths which lead to lessons where they research topics, the use of concept/no concept and, always discussing special cases such as one and zero. I would also have been interested to discover how they approached the square root of a negative number as a special case. Unfortunately I had not thought about this at the time.
Clearly there are beneficial things to come out of this but there is a huge cost involved. Could this have been used in more beneficial ways? I am also confused as to why the country to visit was Shanghai, yes it is top of the PISA rankings but could we look at countries in Europe where the ideals and culture is less of a drastic change? Could we have sent people to each of the different top 10 countries and then come together to note the similarities and differences between them? This may have been more valuable allowing for a more coherent understanding of what works across the board and which idea would fit well for the UK.
Are we saying it’s my way or the Shanghai way?