He’s the Education minister apparently (his arrival completely passed me by). And he’s returned to tell teachers to copy China – and ditch trendy teaching for ‘chalk and talk’. (Telegraph link, daily mail headline.)
It’s all about the rote learning you see, that’s the only difference. He somehow didn’t notice the smaller class size or later starting age that Summer Born Children found out about. That kind of independent learning and research seems to have passed him by.
Other strands of the response to his ramblings include people debating whether what is being tested in China is worthwhile, and that seems to me to come nearer to the point. (We could also query whether like is being compared with like, given it’s not the test results across all of China that put them on top of the league tables.)
We keep being told that what we need are creative thinkers. Coders. Doers. I could be wrong (after all I’m only a montessori trained teacher and home educator, not a politician who therefore knows all) but my experience is that it’s doing that teaches those skills. Not a person with a piece of chalk at the front of the room.
I was taught some things by rote at primary school and senior school. I still don’t actually remember all my times tables, though I can get to the answer faster than many people regardless. I can recite amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant and so on 30 years later. Can’t actually construct you a sentence in latin, so that bit of rote learning doesn’t appear to have done me much good either.
The things that are of use to me day to day are the things that I’ve learned by doing, or by learning in a very different environment. I was taught the basics of a programming language in a week at the start of a job, and then went on to learn as I went. After a year I got sent on an advanced programming language that was fantastic fun. There was no rote learning involved.
I wonder precisely how you could teach that standing at the front of the class with a piece of chalk. The essence of programming is problem solving. I guess you could say there is one right answer per problem, but you wouldn’t get very inventive programmers, and they’d be fairly poor at debugging when it went wrong.
The other thing to look at though, is the type of society that grows up from the children schooled in Chinese schools. As I understand it (and I’ve never been to China) it’s a pretty conformist place. There’s a lot of doing as you’re told. I can quite see why a politician would think that attractive. It’s all a bit chaotic when you’ve got people doing what they think is right, thinking independently for themselves.
So, which part of the chinese education is really attractive then, Nick Gibb? Will you be moving back the starting age and reducing class sizes, or just blaming teachers for using the wrong style of teaching in a completely different environment, and failing to beat the test results from a rigged set of tests?