Tuesday, November 14, 2017

British Schools Hope to Improve Performance With Chinese Textbooks

What a load of rubbish!  Chinese students do better because they have higher IQs, because they are not allowed to be disruptive and because they work harder.  Two of those could be applied in Britian but instead they concentrate on the least likely cause.  And the Chinese texts will probably be unsuitable for Britain's dumber and less committed students

In the latest report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Chinese mainland (consisting of the Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, and Guangdong provinces) ranked fifth among nations with the world’s highest math scores. According to the report, around one in four students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China are considered top-performing in mathematics. The United Kingdom, by contrast, was ranked 27th among nations, despite performing much better in reading and science.

These low math scores have generated concern among British educators, who hope to see their rankings improve to match those of China. In 2014, the UK’s National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics (NCETM) partnered with Shanghai academics to implement Asian styles of teaching in a small group of British schools and academy trusts. By 2016, the UK Department for Education had allocated $50.3 million in funding to unleash this “master” mathematics program across 8,000 primary schools.

A press release from the Department for Education says the new program will focus on “children being taught as a whole class, building depth of understanding of the structure of maths.” According to this approach, each lesson focuses on a single mathematical concept, which the class will continue to cover until every student has a firm understanding. As a result, much of the funding for this educational overhaul will go toward training educators to adopt this new pedagogy.

Another key component of a “master” mathematics education is the use of high-quality textbooks. Until now, the NCETM has relied on Chinese textbooks to train British teachers, but a recent deal between HarperCollins and the Shanghai Century Publishing Group aims to make these textbooks available to British students as well.

“To my knowledge this has never happened in history before—that textbooks created for students in China will be translated exactly as they have been developed and sold for use in British schools,” said Colin Hughes, the managing director of Collins Learning (a UK division of HarperCollins), in a statement to China Daily.

The idea of integrating Chinese textbooks into British schools has gained popularity in the UK over the last few years. The nation’s School Reform Minister, Nick Gibb, has been particularly vocal about his belief that international textbooks are key to improving education standards.

“In this country, textbooks simply do not match up to the best in the world, resulting in poorly designed resources, damaging and undermining good teaching,” Gibb said at a 2014 Publishers Association conference. At the same conference, Gibb also cited research from the UK education expert Tim Oates, who argues that textbooks, not teachers, are responsible for England’s declining education standards.

Other experts have expressed reservations about requiring UK schools to adopt Chinese textbooks, arguing that it could undermine the many positive aspects of a British education. “A one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to improve children’s learning,” wrote Ruth Merttens, a professor at the University of St. Mark and St. John, in an essay for The Guardian. “Worse still, it undermines more important features of our culture and heritage, where we punch above our weight in creativity.”

Still others fear that the British educational system is ill-equipped to handle the rigor of a Chinese curriculum. In Shanghai, for instance, many students endure 10- to 12-hour school days, in addition to attending private tutoring sessions and school on Saturdays. While the average student around the world spends about five hours on homework each week, Shanghai students spend nearly 14 hours a week on their assignments. Much of this preparation is geared toward passing the university entrance examination, or “gaokao.”

By contrast, a UK education is far less time-consuming and devotes more attention to individual learning. British educators also tend to move quickly from one subject to the next and cover a wide range of subjects, rather than specializing in a single area like mathematics. Interestingly enough, the Chinese Ministry of Education has recently turned to the UK for guidance on how encourage creativity in primary schools.

With Chinese and British schools excelling in different areas, it remains to be seen whether the UK will benefit significantly from China’s “master” mathematics program (or whether China will benefit from the UK’s creativity initiatives). Nevertheless, in a nation where only 10 percent of math teachers rely on textbooks, perhaps British educators could use some international help.


£52-a-week new private school ‘based on Easyjet’

Scotland’s first no-frills private school plans to adopt an “Easyjet” financial model that founders believe will allow establishments to emerge across the country.

A new charity, the Schools Educational Trust, intends to charge as little as £52 a week for private education, a price that it believes would make opting out of the state sector an option for families on average incomes.

James Tooley, professor of education policy at Newcastle University, who is also behind more advanced plans to open a cheap private school in Durham, insisted his model could be financially sustainable by operating with low profit margins in a similar approach to that of budget airlines and hotels.

It is understood that work has begun on finding a site for a small school, probably in Edinburgh but possibly in Glasgow, for 200 pupils. If the project is successful, it is hoped that others of a similar size will open elsewhere.

“Private education is not affordable for most people,” Professor Tooley said at the charity’s launch event in Edinburgh yesterday, chaired by Lord Digby Jones, the crossbench peer and former UK trade minister.

“Digby came up from Milan yesterday, he flew British Airways business class. He could also have flown Easyjet. In [private] education, all we offer at the moment is British Airways business class, there’s no Easyjet equivalent. Yet both will still get you to Edinburgh.

“Or, to mix my analogies, you can come and experience the beauty of Edinburgh and stay at the Balmoral, the poshest hotel here. Or you can stay at the youth hostel and still enjoy Edinburgh. You can still experience education at a low-cost level.”

Giving an example, he highlighted potential rental costs of £20,000 a year, or £100 a child in a school of 200. Another £1,550 per child could go on teacher and principal salaries. If all other costs could be covered with the remaining £1,050 per child from the £2,700 annual fees, the school would break even.

In comparison, private schools in Scotland charge an average of £14,000 a year, with the most expensive setting fees of £26,000 for a day school place.

“If costs are less [than £2,700 per child], even a tiny bit less, you can create a surplus which you can reinvest in the business to expand the business,” Professor Tooley, a founding trustee of the new charity, said. “I’m talking about the creation of a very low-margin business, but if you’ve got enough children there, you can create a viable business which would be of interest to investors, donors, and most importantly, parents.”

He has helped set up low-cost private schools in developing countries over the past decade. He said he had become passionate about the idea after noticing cheap, fee-paying schools appearing in some of the poorest parts of the world, including Sierra Leone, Somaliland and Liberia, which outperformed publicly-run counterparts.

“This is an extraordinary global phenomenon — low-cost private schools are serving poor families, outperforming the government schools and they’re affordable to the poor,” he said.

Ross Greer, education spokesman for the Scottish Greens, said: “Comparing schools to airlines is probably an indicator this scheme is unlikely to take off.

“Education should not be a business. Creating another tier of private education, where those with enough money can withdraw from state schools, will only create more closed loops of privilege and inequality.”


Civic Education To Save The Republic

If the American republic is in trouble, better civic education is the answer.  That is the conclusion reached by a number of papers and studies in recent years, including “The Republic is (Still) at Risk—and Civics is Part of the Solution” presented to the Democracy at a Crossroads National Summit a few weeks ago.

Consider a few compelling data points:

* In the last National Assessment of Educational Progress testing, only 18% of 8th graders were “proficient” or above in history, and only 23% in government.  A mere 1-2% were “advanced.”  By the way, if you believe students learn what is tested, those exams are no longer given in the 4th and 12th grades, only in the 8th

* Xavier University found that one-third of Americans could not pass the civics portion of the American citizenship test, whereas immigrants pass at a 97.5% rate.

* A poll of 18-34 year-olds found that 77% could not name a senator from their home state. And don’t remind me about those who think Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.

While civic ignorance is itself a major problem, its effect is compounded when it is applied to particular issues of the day.  For example, a You.gov poll found that those under 30 preferred socialism over capitalism 43%-30%.  Similarly, a Reason-Rupe poll of 18-24 year olds showed that 58% supported socialism.  But when Reason-Rupe asked a follow-up question whether governments or markets should manage the economy, young people said markets by a 2-1 margin.  Essentially, they do not understand what socialism is.

The same ignorance is manifest in a recent study about free speech and the First Amendment by Hoover Institution and Brookings Institution fellow John Villasenor.   Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment, say 44% of college students, with 51% saying it’s ok to disrupt an offensive speech with which you disagree, and 19% saying it’s fine to use violence for that purpose.  Another 62% of college students mistakenly believe the First Amendment requires a controversial speaker on one side to be balanced by a speaker on the other side.  Wow.

Part of the problem is that civics and history are not required by most of our colleges and universities, so those going into the teaching profession are not well prepared themselves.  Moreover, these days the emphasis in colleges and schools is on “civic engagement”—getting involved—rather than civic education or knowledge.  One would think the latter should precede the former.  The recent and heavy emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has been important, but it has also crowded out courses and investments in civics and history.

A few states are awakening to the problem and beginning to address it.  Florida now requires a middle school course in civics with follow-on testing with good results.  Illinois mandates a high school civics course with teacher development to support it.  The Ashbrook Center in Ohio has gone national with its programs to retrain history and civics teachers to teach using primary documents, rather than relying exclusively on typically boring and frequently biased textbooks.  There are several points of light, but not nearly enough.

A statement attributed to Abraham Lincoln delivers a frightening prospect:  “The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”  If you are concerned about the direction of America, it is time to do something about the study of civics, which is the real long-term solution.


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