In teaching methods, China and Britain have lessons for each other

Photo: SUST-Ulster Cooperation Program


The mainland’s education system should focus more on building students’ personalities and soft skills and less on their exam results, experts from China and Britain say.

The calls follow remarks by President Xi Jinping at an annual meeting of the Confucius Institute in Britain that the two countries should learn from each other’s education sectors.

Xi referred to a BBC documentary about a four-week experiment in which five Chinese teachers taught a class at a British middle school with their “Chinese teaching model”.

He said the programme had shown British people that strict teachers could drive students to achieve – and Chinese parents that they needed to let children relax occasionally.

Over the past few years Shanghai students have outperformed international and regional counterparts in the Programme for International Student Assessment test, particularly in mathematics.


Last year the British education minister led a delegation to Shanghai to see how the subject was taught at primary schools.

And in a collaboration between Shanghai and British authorities, the city has sent dozens of primary school teachers on stints in Britain.”[The programme is] very good. It shows that China is ahead of Britain in teaching mathematics and Britain has to learn,” said Anthony Seldon, a leading education expert and vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham in Britain. “But [it] is only half the story.”

He said the gaokao system, in which high school graduates sit tests for university entrance, was “out of date and damaging young people”.

Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said China and Britain could use education exchange arrangements to understand their own problems.

“For example, Chinese students have enormous pressure on their academic studies while the education system in Britain values individuals’ traits but lacks a universal standard for students to achieve,” he said.

Xiong added that the mainland should learn from Britain and adopt a broader criteria to assess students.

(Credit: South China Morning Post)

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