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West Meets East In Teacher Exchange

For two weeks at the end of 2018, sixteen secondary maths teachers and seventy primary school teachers were given the opportunity to visit Shanghai and work alongside local maths teachers.

For two weeks at the end of 2018, sixteen secondary maths teachers and seventy primary school teachers were given the opportunity to visit Shanghai and work alongside local maths teachers. Miss Sinnerton was privileged enough to be one of the secondary maths teachers. To say it was the opportunity of a lifetime would be an understatement.

Students in Shanghai outperform students in England in mathematics and place Shanghai at the top of global rankings in maths education. There are many cultural factors which contribute to this. Including old Confucian Chinese tales told through the generations which encourage students to work hard in school to achieve success. This is reflected in the amount of independent study students do to improve their understanding. Education is highly prized in Shanghai and particularly mathematics, which is seen as the “key to success” in life.

Class sizes are much larger in Shanghai, with up to 50 students being in one class (although it did not feel like it). Students stand up to provide answers in lesson and it is common for students to be selected to come up and write their answers on the board. There is a conducive culture in the classroom meaning students do not feel embarrassed if they make a mistake, rather they see it as an opportunity to learn.

Teaching in Shanghai is very different to here in England, as more time is allotted to planning and marking than actually teaching. Shanghai teachers often teach a maximum of two forty minute lessons a day. The time given to their planning is evident in their lessons as each step of the learning journey is carefully mapped out. This allows students to develop a secure understanding of mathematics and gives them a solid foundation to build upon.

Over the past two weeks the Shanghai teachers have been staying in London and teaching at a school in Bermondsey. During their visit they put on a showcase lesson to a total of 200 secondary maths teachers from across London, Kent and Medway. The day was a success with people from the Department for Education and Professors of education also attending. After the lesson all attendees were given the opportunity to ask Miss Sinnerton and her Chinese counterparts questions about the lessons and about teaching in Shanghai. The intended outcome of this event and project is that maths teaching in England will take elements of the Shanghai way of teaching maths.

Despite all the hard work there was time to do some sightseeing. On Miss Sinnerton’s day off she visited the World Finance Centre, which is nicknamed the “bottle opener”. It is one of the tallest buildings in China standing at 492 metres, it is unique as it has a glass bridge at the top. This made for a very scary walk while trying not to look down! One evening in Miss Sinnerton had the opportunity to see the Chinese acrobats. She said “They were phenomenal and for most of the show my eyes could not believe what they were seeing. I feel greatly privileged and honoured to have been given the opportunity to be a part of this project and look forward to implementing some of what I have learnt in my classroom at Fulston Manor School”.