Students in the United Kingdom will be using textbooks almost identical to students in the Chinese megacity of Shanghai from January 2018, in a bid to improve ailing mathematics test results.
The UK government will implement the initiative, worth US$54 million, whereby half of all primary school teachers will use the Real Shanghai Mathematics textbook series, with the option to implement the course’s 36 books into their curriculum.
The materials will be roughly the same, simply replacing Chinese renminbi symbols with the British pound. According to a New York Times report, Shanghai students topped international standardised testing of mathematics in 2010 based upon a “mastery” approach to maths education.
“Maths mastery involves children being taught as a whole class, building depth of understanding of the structure of maths, supported by the use of high-quality textbooks,” the British government said last July.
“With the help of up to GBP41 million of funding, more than 8,000 primary schools – half of the total number in England – will receive support to adopt the approach, which is used by some of the leading performers in maths in the world, including Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.”
Unlike many Western countries, Chinese students’ performance in mathematics is above average in the OECD.
Data from the Programme for International Student Assessment released in 2015 by the OECD showed one in four students in Shanghai is a top performer in mathematics.
This means students can handle tasks that require the ability to formulate complex situations mathematically, using symbolic representations.
The UK, meanwhile, had slightly lower numbers of top performers in mathematics than the OECD average. Students in the United States perform worse.
“All this time, Asians have been learning from the Western education system,” Yong Zhao, a professor of education at University of Kansas said as quoted by the New York Times.
“Suddenly, it’s the reverse.”