Lessons to improve schools and results

In The Australian newspaper on Friday 17th February which my sister kindly posted over to the UK for me to see our article on Labels4Kids the main article was on lessons from Asia on how to teach in schools. The editorial comment focused also on this major point in Australian schools and it was interesting to read as it compares the results in the US, UK and Australia in schools to the results being achieved over the past 5 years from Shanghai, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore.

The gist of the article is that the western countries tend to be focusing on Curriculum for Excellence, how many computers and white boards are in the classroom, is it private or public systems and trying to get down the class sizes. By stark contract the Asian countries concentrated instead on “teaching the teacher”.  The results have jumped in OECD PISA assessment figures from being at 15th and 16th  in the world to being in 4th and 5th place for China and Korea.    There are no whiteboards, no laptops, just chalk and dusters and the average classroom size is 40.  It is producing possibly the beest results in the world however!  The students are achjeving the best results in all of English, Maths and Science way above, in fact on average at least 2 years above, their UK, US and Australian counterparts.  AMAZING!


They teach the teachers. Teachers are not thrown in to teach after qualifying. They go in to classes on probation and effectively for the rest of their careers, a bit like doctors, they are watched, mentored, trained, and give demonstration classes themselves. There are 40 kids to a class but always 2 teachers in the classroom. One mentors the other. The more senior teacher mentors. However the senior teacher is also vetted and corrected and mentored by other teachers. In this way they continue to learn “how to teach” and “how to improve”.  Master teachers must continue to learn by publishing research and so are still continuing to learn also.

School starts at 7am in Shanghai with exercises then classes start 7.45am and go on until 3pm.  Every student has a TEAM of teachers working for them and guiding and helping them to get good results. This not, as you may think, about the Chinese Tiger Mums teaching their kids either. No, these results are being achieved by kids of varied backgrounds and upbringings from the poorest to the wealthiest, with and without academic parents.  Across the board average results are very high.  It is all down to ongoing monitoring of every individual student, ongoing guidance and feedback to parents and ongoing teacher guidance and training also. There are also in Shanghai High over 60 after school classes and 100% of pupils take part in these – a mix of art, cultural and sport depending on preference.

Shanghai has suprised analysts by topping the world in the 15 year old test results, beating the normal leader which is Finland. A massive improvement in only 5 years.  Teachers all have a mentor, teaching at uni focuses on HOW to teach not what to teach or curriculum.  Hong Kong and Singapore have lifted their performance from 17th and 15th to 2nd and 4th in the world following this method also!

So, is the US, UK and Australia getting it wrong with Curriculum for Excellence?

Should we also be teaching teachers HOW to teach and focusing on the individual child with ongoing mentoring and teacher training for our teachers?

Does this also raise questions about how to remove non-performing teachers from the system or how to turn them around?

Views appreciated on this interesting topic 🙂

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