UK

Chinese Maths Teachers Drafted In To Boost British Pupils' Numeracy

12/03/2014 09:16 GMT | Updated 12/03/2014 09:59 GMT

Maths teachers from China will be shipped over to boost British pupil performance in the subject and to overhaul the way the UK teaches numeracy.

Around 60 English-speaking teachers from cities such as Shanghai will be taking part in a new exchange programme which will also see English maths teachers working in schools in China, the Department for Education said.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss, who has recently visited the country to examine how it teaches the subject, has said England can learn from Asian nations which have topped international league tables in key subjects.

china school maths teacher

Around 60 English-speaking teachers from cities such as Shanghai will be taking part in a new exchange programme

But Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, called it "ridiculous to suggest that teachers brought in from China will have any more knowledge or expertise than teachers from other countries or indeed our own."

"One of the key findings from Pisa 2012 was that the United Kingdom performs around the average in mathematics and reading, and above average in science," she continued.

"The UK's performance is similar to that of Denmark, France, Iceland, New Zealand and Norway.

Under the exchange programme, the visiting teachers will be based in 30 new maths "hubs" - schools that will specialise and lead on maths teaching, from this autumn, trying out new methods on how to help struggling pupils, dealing with homework and feedback as well as giving practical demonstrations and masterclasses for school staff.

At the same time, two English maths teachers from each of the new "hubs" will spend at least a month in Chinese schools to learn more about the nation's teaching techniques.

The methods and practices that are shared through the programme will then be passed on to other teachers and schools in England, the DfE said.

Truss said: "We are determined to drive up standards in our schools and give our young people the skills they need to succeed in the global race.

"Good maths qualifications have the greatest earnings potential and provide the strongest protection against unemployment.

"High-quality maths teaching is an essential part of that and this collaborative, teacher-led programme is a fantastic opportunity for us - there is so much evidence that teacher-to-teacher, school-to-school programmes are hugely effective.

"We have some brilliant maths teachers in this country but what I saw in Shanghai - and other Chinese cities - has only strengthened my belief that we can learn from them."

Recent international tests put the area of Shanghai, along with a number of other Asian regions, at the top for maths skills.

More than half a million 15-year-olds took part in the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment study, with the findings published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development in December.

Overall, the UK came 26th in maths with an average score of 494. This was broadly the same as the average for the subject, and on a par with nations such as the Czech Republic, France and Norway.

But it also left the UK lagging far behind leading areas including Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

A new analysis of the data, published last month, found that the children of cleaners in Shanghai and Singapore outperform the sons and daughters of UK doctors and lawyers in global maths tests.

A separate survey by the business group CBI, published last year, concluded around three in 10 employers are dissatisfied with the standard of school and college leavers' numeracy skills.

The DfE has said the government was prioritising maths because of the subject's importance to young people competing for jobs, as well as its importance to the economy.

A number of reforms are already being introduced, such as banning calculators from tests for 11-year-olds, requiring teenagers who do not get a grade C at GCSE in maths to continue studying the subject, new maths qualifications for post-16 students and bursaries to attract top maths graduates into teaching.