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Justine Greening’s First Official Visit to China Boosts UK-China Cooperation in Education

2016-12-07 17:52:49 Jun-Yang Williams

A few days ago on 5th December, Justine Greening made her first official visit to China since her appointment in July as Secretary of State for Education.

Accompanied by Lorna Bertrand, deputy director of the International Evidence and Partnerships, DfE, and other distinguished officials, Greening visited Shanghai Yangjing Juyuan Experimental School (洋泾菊园实验学校)

and Donghua University (东华大学), where she observed Shanghai Maths lessons and exchanged views with students and teachers. She hoped that Chinese and British schools would be able to collaborate in STEM courses and Art creation in the near future.

Shanghai Yangjing Juyuan Experimental School (洋泾菊园实验学校) was set as a center for Sino-British exchange programme for mathematics teachers. Ms Wang Li, a Maths teacher from the school, was sent to Meole Brace Church of England Primary School in 2014. She said: “I was paired up with a local teacher, and I noticed that she differentiated her lesson plans for each child. But Chinese teachers would rather plan their lessons for the whole class using textbooks. This way children do not feel different from others.” Professionally, she felt her experience in England was very beneficial, and she learnt techniques such as “hands on” activities, and how to make lessons fun.

Personally, I cannot agree more with Ms Wang Li. I dare to speak out my thought as I was keen to get on with the job, and feared to be scrutinized too often. Teachers should not be afraid to deliver academically rigorous knowledge, and schools should feel free to offer a broad knowledge-based curriculum to all pupils, together with a Maths mastery approach. In my view, engaging students with busy activities and making lessons fun do not necessarily mean effective teaching and learning have taken place. The fact that students are busy with activities can ease the demand of teachers’ subject explanations in-depth. As a result of this, students would find it hard to extrapolate, extend, expand and even induce their knowledge, which Chinese students are confident with.

This October, as a keynote speaker, I had the pleasure to attend the Festival of Education at Wellington College, Shanghai, and met the Headteacher, teachers and parents. I was amazed to see how closely the school is working with parents, and equally, how deeply parents are involved in their children’s school life. This strong sense of community is perhaps what we need to look at. Educating children is considered a teacher’s job. Setting role models as parents home and being closely involved in children’s school work do not seem to be the norm in the UK. Low expectations, low attendance, poor attitude and behavior become the major challenges for schools.

Last September, “UK-China Strategic Framework in Education” agreement has been signed. Both countries announced their commitment to expanding collaboration across higher, vocational and school education. It was reported that “links will be created between 200 schools in the UK and China to organise exchange visits and work together on policy and curriculum development, in an effort to improve the provision of high-quality basic education in both countries.”

In line with this policy, Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

“Education collaboration between the UK and China is vital if we are to learn from each other’s successes and to help us use international evidence of best practice to drive up academic standards in our schools.”

It is an exciting time for teachers and schools of both counties to learn from each other. As a British trained Chinese teacher of Science, I want to build a bridge between the two countries. I want Chinese people to understand Britain and its study abroad options better and I want English people to gain a deeper understanding of China and its culture. The world is getting increasingly smaller opportunities are available to all countries. Be prepared!

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