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Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School

As a sequel to the recent BBC 2 experiment Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School (The Guardian 5 August, A comic clash of cultural differences), The Institute of Education has recently caused something of a flutter in educational dovecots by conducting independent research which demonstrates that a group of British pupils who were taught Maths and Science in the traditional way outperformed their peers by 10 per cent. A.P. Herbert, famous novelist, playwright and law reform activist memorably described himself as having been “self-educated at Eton and King’s”. The Chinese teachers who participated in BBC 2’s documentary might be forgiven for thinking that nothing has changed given our predilection for oh-so-trendy methods whereby the teacher ‘facilitates’ the learning of UK wunderkind. Those at the Chalkface despair of the endless cosmetic re-branding and psychobabble which ignores one simple truth: namely that our children are being consistently short-changed by a reluctance to enforce strong discipline, respect for teachers and a solid work ethic, as well as by overvaluing open-ended learning at the expense of traditional whole-class methods. Neil Strowger, Headteacher of the school where the experiment took place, has condescendingly suggested that Chinese methods were tantamount to prison. Such reasoning is back to front. As Victor Hugo put it, “He who opens a school door closes a prison” – I’m willing to bet that his ideal school was closer to the Chinese than the British model!

(Published in The Guardian, August 2015)

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