China Vs Britain: Classroom Experiment Ignites Global Debate


Are Our Kids Tough Enough-Chinese School/Via BBC.

A documentary produced by the BBC has sparked a heated debate across the UK and China.

Are Our Kids Tough Enough?: Chinese School is a new, three-part series in which five Chinese teachers are sent to teach British students from Bohunt School in Hampshire.

The experiment was designed to test how the 50 Year 9 students would cope with the intensity of Chinese teaching methods, while the rest of their year group continued with their normal school routine. Once the experiment was over, both groups were subjected to exams in Maths, Science and also Mandarin, to see which nationality employs the most effective teaching methods.

The Chinese education system is often regarded as strict and unforgiving, with native students undertaking lengthy periods of tuition, and teachers employing a disciplinary approach that some consider harsh and heavy-handed.

Bohunt’s guest teachers soon became “acclimatised” to British student mentality, regarding the students’ disruptive, challenging and often lazy behaviour with a certain level of contempt, but the Year 9s found it difficult to adapt to Asia’s extreme methodologies.

Pupils involved in the experiment were required to wear a special uniform, and began their day at 7.00am for the duration of the investigation. Throughout the experiment, classroom chat and question asking were prohibited, a common practice within state schools in China. Lessons were firmly structured around note-taking and repetition, and daily group exercise was also deemed compulsory. The students were required to clean their classroom personally, and were also made to perform eye exercises throughout break periods. It was necessary for the students to sit through 12-hour days at school, with two timetabled meal breaks for the duration of the experiment.

Language barriers were not a problem since teachers were required to be able to teach entirely in English to participate in the show. Despite this, the teachers were not prepared for the stark differences between Chinese and British students.

Li Aiyun of the Nanjing Foreign Language School told the British media that she was used to students concentrating on their homework once they had received the relevant sheets, but the reaction from Bohunt’s Year 9s was an entirely different story:

“…when I walked in the classroom some students were chatting, some students were eating, somebody was even putting make-up on her face. I had to control myself, or I would be crazy. About half of them tried their best to follow me. And the other half? Who knows what they are doing.”

Yang Jun, a Chinese-qualified teacher based in the UK, supported Aiyun’s statement. She also participated in the show, and was left entirely shocked when a student fled the classroom in tears after discovering Zayn Malik had split from One Direction.

She said: “In China, we don’t need to have classroom management skills because everyone is disciplined by birth, by nature, by society. Whereas here that is the most challenging part of teaching.”

Yang also questioned Britain’s individualised approach to learning: “You have different syllabuses to suit different students’ ability. We don’t. We have one syllabus, one standard; you survive or you die. It’s up to you.”

After spending one month at the school, the Chinese teachers suggested that Britain’s charitable welfare system could be the cause of British students’ negligence and distinct lack of ambition.

Wei Zhao, a tutor of Mandarin with 14 years’ experience of teaching in communist China, suggested that welfare cuts could be key to drumming up British students’ academic motivation.

She said: “Even if they don’t work, they can get money, they don’t worry about it. But in China they can’t get these things so they know ‘I need to study hard, I need to work hard and get money for my family’.

“If the British Government really cut benefits down to force people to go to work they might see things in a different way.”

Rosie Lunskey, a 15 year old participant of the Bohunt School experiment, described to BBC journalists how she clashed with the Chinese teachers: “Acting like robots was the right way to go. I’m used to speaking my mind in class, being bold, giving ideas, often working in groups to advance my skills and improve my knowledge.

“But a lot of the time in the experiment, the only thing I felt like I was learning was how to copy notes really fast and listen to the teacher lecture us.”

The programme has generated debate across both China and the UK, with many suggesting teenagers should be taught with firmer rules and regulation:

Whilst others maintain that Chinese teaching methodologies encourage academic regurgitation, when they should be taught to be inquisitive and think more independently:

Are Our Kids Tough Enough?: Chinese School, is broadcast on Tuesday 4 August at 21:00 BST on BBC Two (not Scotland) or on 6 August at 20:00 in Scotland. The second series is broadcast on 11 August, or 13 August in Scotland.

Image via Shutterstock.

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