May 27, 2014, by educationguestblog
Shanghai 10 – what our Shanghai colleagues really think!
The Shanghai Normal University students have had a hectic time in Nottingham and have done a good deal of travel and tourism around their school work. The high spot of the visit was the three days they spent in primary classes with their partner students from the School Direct programme. The schools hosted the shanghai students, involved them in a little teaching and gave them a great introduction to the primary years. This gave them a chance to explore the inclusion, differentiation and working practices we have discussed in seminars. The Shanghai students were amazed by the imagination and sheer hard work the UK teachers put in and could not get over how difficult it is to teach every subject. They were also worried that the teachers did not have shared offices where they could coach struggling children in their free periods!
The Shanghai students did some active, imaginative presentations to the whole School Direct group, which picked out real educational issues for discussion and examination. The use of role play and very visual materials did not conceal interest in a couple of big issues where England and Shanghai are educational worlds apart.
The presentation about the Early Years (EY) delivered a real surprise. The students found similarities in the goals and aspirations of EY education. There were many small differences between EY education in Shanghai and England, like the lack of nap time in the EY, and the different focuses of our play areas in EY settings. However, the biggest surprise for the Shanghai students was that they saw English EY provision in Nursery and Reception as much too formal. They told us about expectations for young children in Shanghai and noted that “in Shanghai, before school (at 6-7), children are not allowed to do reading and writing pinyin or characters because they are not developed enough. They must be learning about stories and listening to develop understanding. In England, your children do a lot of phonics and number very early.” This was not what we expected, given the fabled pressures of the Shanghai system. It does raise some questions….
The other educational issue which featured in two presentations about primary education was differentiation. Our
School Direct students and, indeed, all teachers work very hard at differentiation- matching work to the ability of the children, so that all children have access to the curriculum. We see this as empowering children to succeed and including pupils of all abilities in the class. The Shanghai students saw something quite different.
Their role play about a concerned parent made clear that setting different work for children of different abilities could be a matter of worry and shame for families and children. Moreover, they believed that unless all children achieved the class level, they would not be able to keep making effective progress. Differentiation was not an idea we managed to sell to our visitors.
There were other areas we found fascinating- like our lessons being very long, our tiny amounts of languages teaching. It is fascinating to see these things thro
ugh new eyes. However, presentations concluded with the award of certificated by Terry Whysall and a tea party for the Headteacher, mentors and School Direct trainees. Now we are off to Shanghai to follow up these issues..