School for thought

Updated: 2015-08-28 08:28

By Zhang Zhouxiang and Zhang Chunyan(China Daily Europe)

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And one common point emerges: Cultural and country differences really matter, and the two countries can learn from each other's strong points to offset their own weaknesses.

Kathryn James, deputy general secretary of the UK National Association of Head Teachers, says: "It is always helpful for school leaders to learn from different systems, and the best teachers are continually questioning how best to teach their students.

Bohunt's Strowger says: "We took part in the program, and together with research we've done in Sweden, the Netherlands and the United States, as well as with a number of major companies, it provides fresh input on how we might improve the education we provide.

"The results of the program show that, when applied here in the UK, the Chinese approach to teaching can help the most academic students do well in tests," he says.

Chinese experts note that being exam-oriented is a serious flaw with the Chinese education system.

"Academic achievement has been used too often, too long and almost everywhere in reality as the only indicator for the evaluation of the performance of students, teachers and schools. But the real mission of education and schooling is of course much broader than this," says Li Jun with the University of Hong Kong.

"Chinese education used to have many soft components, such as diversity, individuality, morality, humanity and spirituality," Li says. "Chinese education should re-discover and re-embrace this soft heritage, and encourage innovative and alternative ways of teaching and learning."

Strowger adds: "An education is about so much more than only doing well in the exam hall. It is to create well-rounded individuals who can succeed in the classroom, in the world of work and throughout life."

Sun Jin, an associate professor of international and comparative education at Beijing Normal University, who is now a visiting scholar in Germany, says: "What China can learn from the UK and the West as a whole is to encourage its students to be more creative, independent and gain more social responsibility."

"The UK needs to promote the authority of teachers so as to make teaching more efficient and better exploit the potential of teachers," he says.

""China has long been learning from the West through various reforms and now a majority of its well-funded schools are adopting their ideas. The West, the UK included, is still arrogant and disdains using any idea from China. Actually both need to learn from each other."

Last year, at the launch of a China-UK exchange program for math teachers, Shen Yang, minister counselor at the Chinese embassy in London, said: "Through practical teaching and experience-sharing, teachers from both countries are trying to discover the differences between the two math education systems, raise standards and learn from each other."

David Thomas, who has worked as a head of math at a central London comprehensive school and as an adviser at the Department for Education, says: "Creativity is borne out of knowledge, not ignorance. Think of any great creative leap in any field. It will have been taken by a person with deep understanding of the traditions of their day - but who was able to challenge them in a meaningful way because of their knowledge. So it is because I want our children growing up able to challenge the status quo that I want to learn from Chinese teaching."

Contact the reporters at and zhangchunyan

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