Teacher from BBC’s Chinese School condemns England’s classroom culture

Popular teaching methods in England’s state schools restrict teachers’ autonomy and turn them into mere “performers”, a Chinese star of a recent BBC television series claims.

Assessment for Learning, where teachers look for evidence that students have understood a concept, is curbing staff’s ability to teach, according to Jun Yang-Williams, who appeared on BBC2’s Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School last month.

Ms Yang, who has taught in British schools for 10 years, also claims that an overemphasis on “student-centred learning” and “learning by doing” has an adverse effect on less-affluent students. The effect of this, she argues, is that state schools are providing the public with a “minimum education service, which fails students in many ways, including attitude, respect and academic strength”.

The teacher made a splash in the BBC series with her critical assessment of students at Bohunt School in Hampshire.

In the experiment, five teachers from China took over the education of 50 Bohunt pupils, while a “control group” remained in regular lessons. Students in the “Chinese School” – which featured 12-hour days, class sizes of more than 50 and daily group exercise – outperformed their peers in tests at the end of the series.

Writing for TES online today, Ms Yang is acerbic about the methods used in state schools, particularly when it comes to monitoring student progress. “Assessment for Learning progression every five minutes has turned teachers into performers on the teaching stage, and their lack of autonomy has restricted teachers on how to teach,” she writes.

The practitioner, who now works in the independent sector, says Britain’s private school pupils are more closely aligned with students in China, where areas such as Shanghai outperform England in international education rankings. She claims that this is down to the different teaching methods used.

“The social consequence is that working-class students, who are mostly in state schools, remain within their class level, whereas the middle and upper classes maintain their heritage and social status,” Ms Yang writes.

Her claims were dismissed by Mary Bousted, general secretary of the ATL union, who defended the quality of education provided by England’s state schools. But Dr Bousted agreed with Ms Yang’s criticism of Assessment for Learning.

“It’s a ludicrous statement, saying it is a minimum education service,” Dr Bousted said. “But there is no doubt that requiring evidence of students’ understanding every five minutes is a complete waste of time. You can’t show progress in 20 minutes and teachers have been spending an inordinate amount of time meeting those demands.”

Read Ms Yang’s full article at www.tes.com/news

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