BBC Solent interview on ‘Are our kids tough enough? Chinese School’ Episode 3 (19 August 2015)

BBC Solent interview on ‘Are our kids tough enough? Chinese School’ Episode 3 (19 August 2015)

This morning, I talked to Julian Clegg for a third time about the Chinese School experiment being run in a Hampshire school. In the final episode, we found that the children who are taught by the Chinese teachers are the ones that came out on top. The exposure to longer school hours and potentially more discipline has given the ‘Chinese taught’ children the edge on their ‘UK taught’ counterparts. There are things we can and probably should learn from the Chinese including the understanding that education really is a privilege, not a right. 

A transcript of my interview is below (starting at 1:11).

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JC: So, I know you haven’t caught the show, but we were just giving you a briefing off-air. When they did the marking at the end of last nights show, ‘the Chinese way’ beat ‘the British way’ in all subjects. What’s your reaction?

SC: Actually it doesn’t surprise me, to some extent, because they were spending longer teaching them and some of it was getting through, wasn’t it?

JC: Surprisingly, bearing mind where we were a week ago. And also, I noticed that the youngsters actually [applauded], some tears actually from the youngsters who’d been through it, of appreciation.

SC: Hmm, I think they were probably admiring the tenacity and the patience of these teachers because they wouldn’t give up, would they? I have to say that I was very moved by that myself. Although they were angry at times, and they were tearful, they were very tenacious and they just kept at it, which I think is admirable really.

JC: Now the headmaster, in his speech at the end of the show last night says, ‘maybe there is something, here in the UK, that we can learn from this,’ which is a different take from where he was earlier in the experiment, were he wasn’t that keen on the way they were teaching the youngsters. Do you think this programme could have some effect on discussions going on about how we teach our children?

SC: Well, there were three things for me. Firstly their expectations were higher. They just would not accept a lower standard and I think that’s important. And secondly, I think our kids are behind and we can’t deny that. There are statistics that are saying three years behind. It’s true, we are way down the tables on maths, in numeracy and literacy, across the world. And [thirdly] their attitude to education as well, their belief that this is really important. That’s something that our kids don’t really get.

JC: And Steve, on a morning when in the papers here in the UK, which you might not know [being out in Italy at the moment], British school children are unhappier than their counterparts in Ethiopia and Algeria, because they are bullied, left out by peers and under pressure to look good, according to a 10-year study. So, that seems to be all about impressions and how people are treated, and not about how they are learning.

SC: Yes, I think the value systems in our two countries, in China and here, are so different. Again, I think it comes down to education being a right that you can throw away here, whereas, in China, it’s a privilege. They view it very differently. The reasons for that I think are very deep because obviously, people in our two country have attitudes which, you know, are about wealth perhaps. Ok, Chinese people are becoming more wealthy, you don’t get handouts in China. There is no safety net.

JC: Well, as one of the Chinese teachers said I think last week, or maybe on the first week, part of the problem is the benefit system. That’s their view, I might add, but that’s what they said, didn’t they? Final thought from you Steve. Penny says, I’m looking at some emails on the show now, “What came across to me, and the pupils agree, the children were craving discipline and guidance. Even the cheekiest children did realise that with the ‘can do’ approach, confidence came and they succeeded.” Wonder what you think about that?

SC: Well, yes I think so. I think, again, that the expectations of teachers that we can do it, is something which… I mean, I did find that while teaching, many, many children sort of just gave up really. And often poor behaviour masked the fact they were failing and not really achieving their very best … The one thing I would like to say is really that we need to fix this in Primary education, not in Secondary education. I do believe that if we build good foundations further down, then children will have less problems later on. I really believe that that’s the thing that we need to change in Britain.

JC: Thanks for giving us your views. I’m very grateful. Steve Curran, on holiday, what can I say? Taking time out to talk to us, very grateful.