An attack on the senses is the only way to describe Chengdu, China. Its vibrancy of colour, sound, smells and ‘roll a six to start’ weather changes (!) and has given context to the teaching and learning that I have been able to share in over the past week.
Having spent the last 2 days in various forms of the Chinese education system, it may seem to many a linear, outcome/Gaokao (end of year high school tests), driven structure, but the methodology behind the practice is one of pure simplicity; They want Chinese students to do the best they can in all areas, including developing them as multicultural and global learners. They invest in their future, the pupils and all students who attend their schools, (sometimes until 9:30pm!). There is an obvious caveat to this vision, All are those who’s parents can and do send them to fee paying schools.
The large and vast elephant in the room is the population, China’s currently sits at 1.3 billion, just a ridiculous and incomprehensible number of people across this physically diverse and challenging country. This means the average school size is around 3000, The Chinese Experimental Foreign Language school (CEFLS) for example has a population at around 6500 pupils and 439 staff members. I use the CEFLS as our example as it is based in the city of Chengdu, 14 million strong and home of the Panda Breeding Sanctuary. Its students undertake a variety of programs and studies are all aimed at teaching them English to use abroad and return to develop the Chinese economy, culture and society. But we now seem to be hearing voices of opposition to the traditional ways that Chinese teaching and learning is taking place.
They are now looking to focus on the processes, not just the outcomes. They want to enable pupils to become better life-long learners, develop an active role in the learning process, rather than the passive stance that can be observed at the moment. More creative, more dynamic and nebulous thoughts, questioning, formatively assessing each other and asking ‘Why’ and ‘What if’?
Lily and Scarlet are two pupils experiencing the seed change in their learning, lessons that are team taught, planned with the focus on the learning methods rather than the overall outcome. They were honest about the barriers they saw when it came to adapting the current style of education in their country;
‘The class are still so big, 50, sometimes 60 and we can’t always get the work completed if we are asked to talk in groups first’ mused Scarlet, 14 and fascinated by the piano and all things jazz!
‘I like when we are able to show our learning to the class at the board, although I know that not all schools have that money so they may not have my same facilities’
said Lily, a grade 11 student who is desperate to attend Warwick University in the UK to study and then teach maths. That is the contextualised goal for the majority of the pupils, to travel to the top universities in the US or UK to develop their learning skills even further.
The worry here is with our new educational reforms being put into place, an obvious reaction to PISA scores, media articles about comparing our system to those across the world and the fear our pupils will not be able to compete on the global stage, are we moving more towards a system that other countries, China being one of them, is looking to now maybe not move away from, but definitely is looking to change and develop it? Surely if countries and systems are beginning to recognise that they need more of a dichotomy in their educational outlook, developing rich variety through collaboration and sharing of good practice, we should not be so quick to abolish these traits already evident in our own system.
Yes a mixture, but always pupil focussed and led- contextualise for that generation.
The presentation given about T&L sharing strategies can be located here and here Enjoy!