China is known for having one of the most successful math programs worldwide. Its students score at the top on international math tests. In an effort to bring up domestic test scores, some countries are attempting to emulate China’s teaching methods. The Globe and Mail explored this in a recent article.

A method worth importing

China uses the “mastery” method of teaching. This means that instructors will not move on from a topic until it is fully understood by each student. Their education system previously drew criticism for being more rote over thought. However, it is undeniable that the mastery method has produced extremely favorable results for China.

In recent years, China has been experiencing an educational crisis. As more of its top students leave the country to study and work abroad, China has adapted a new educational approach. This includes changing the system from one that creates engineers and bureaucrats to one that fosters experimentation and modernization. The change has further increased the appeal of China’s methods to other countries.

Britain’s interest

Recently, the British Government has begun implementing China’s math program. They have allocated $71 million to train instructors to best replicate the practices used by the Chinese education system. Britain is also sending instructors overseas for more in-depth training and has even invited instructors from Shanghai to teach in British schools.

Currently, over 60 textbooks from China are being prepared for use in Britain. The Oxford University Press is creating their own set of books that is based on the math program in Singapore.

Experts still have doubts as to whether or not China’s methods can be adapted by another country. They fear that the differences in China’s and Britain’s education systems beyond the curriculum will make it difficult. In China, all instructors, even at the primary level, conduct new research, collaborate with fellow teachers, and share new ideas and theories continuously. Furthermore, a large number of families in China hire private tutors to help with their children’s studies. Both these factors will make duplicating China’s success difficult for Britain.

Even with this uncertainty, the British government remains optimistic. In fact, HarperCollins, the publishing company supplying the texts for Britain, is working towards adapting Shanghai textbooks in even more subjects. In the end, only time will tell if adopting the Chinese method of math instruction will produce the results that the British government desires.

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This post was written by Rebecca Vermette