uk students

Chinese React to a Disastrous Experiment of Putting Chinese Teachers in a UK School

As seen in a BBC documentary

As China keeps rising in influence around the world, other countries are getting interested in understanding its winning formula. This is the case for the Bohunt School in the UK, which asked five Chinese teachers to use Chinese-style education techniques on 50 middle-school students in a pilot project.

As captured in the documentary Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School by the BBC, the experiment tried to determine if doing things the Chinese way can turn around a British education system with lagging students. However, what mostly happened was a clash of cultures in which teachers and students complained about each other.

Many of the Chinese teachers complained about the undisciplined and unfocused nature of the British students. Science teacher Yang Jun was completely flummoxed when a teenage girl left the classroom in tears upon reading tabloid news about a boy band. “In China we don’t need classroom management skills because everyone is disciplined by nature, by families, by society. I found it difficult to understand such emotional behavior over a pop band,” said Yang.

Meanwhile, 15 year-old Rosie Lunskey also expressed frustration with her new Chinese teachers. “I’m used to speaking my mind in class, being bold, giving ideas, often working in groups to advance my skills and improve my knowledge. But a lot of the time in the experiment, the only thing I felt I was learning was how to copy notes really fast and listen to the teacher lecture us.”

But the controversy didn’t end there. The Chinese teachers also pointed their criticism at the UK social welfare system for causing apathy among its students.

Mandarin teacher Wei Zhao said cuts to the welfare system will motivate students to learn. “Even if they don’t work, they can get money, they don’t worry about it,” said Wei. “But in China, they can’t get these things so they know ‘I need to study hard, I need to work hard to get money to support my family’. If they (the British government) really cut benefits down to force people to go to work, students might see things in a different way.”

Widely available on the internet in China, the BBC documentary caused a lot of discussion among Chinese netizens who looked upon their own experiences with the Chinese education system. Here is some of what they said:

Looking at it from another aspect, Chinese students are better able to suffer in silence than students in the UK. 

It’s like as though by using English-style teaching, the results are supposed to be more innovative. This is just a bunch of crappy students trying to find excuses, and it’s hilarious.

Actually, I really like the Chinese education system. If it were to become as open and free as the UK system then I think it would turn to rubbish, exploiting the nation’s welfare system.

After the documentary aired, a person from the UK made a post on Twitter saying the vast majority of the students in the film have self-discipline problems, have trouble with comprehension, don’t respect the authority of teachers, and are a disgrace to the UK by losing face. This comment said the UK education system has spoiled these children rotten. If the future of their country is within the hands of these people, then a catastrophe is awaiting. The Chinese and UK systems of education are completely different from each other, and yet they both give rise to a similar concern that they both don’t work.

Chinese and Western education systems each have their own pros and cons, and it’s hard to distinguish who is better or worse at whatever. But there is one thing that is for sure, and that is no matter which system they’re in, lazy people will always be losers!

It really is just as the teacher said, we don’t have any way to learn the same way as UK students due to the way the things are right now in China. The pressure upon Chinese students to compete with each other is fierce. The population is high. If you don’t work hard, you will get eliminated.

Comparing the two to each other, it’s not a bad idea to use the strengths of others in order to make up for your own shortcomings. So if I were to have incorporated farming techniques as part of my education, I would have become the worst of all students.

One way is to perform rote memorization, the other is individualized teaching. One way is to cultivate students to become obedient slaves, the other is cultivate their hobbies and interests.

Many people say that there’s no use to learning mathematics. They say, ‘Do you need to use algebra when buying vegetables?’ I just want to tell these people that upon learning mathematics, you won’t even need to look at the price of vegetables anymore.

To all the people who say that the Chinese education system has failed, I have to tell you that all the people that have passed through this system will go on to become the cornerstones of society. It may even be that they will become the leaders of China will come from these so-called failed education system. At that time, what are you going to do? Are we all going to die, then?

I don’t understand why there are so many Chinese criticizing their own education system as being completely worthless. Other countries find merit and redeeming quality in our education system. Why can’t we be more tolerant and friendly towards our own country?

Many of the scientists in laboratories across the USA are from China. Does this not dispel the awful notion that Chinese people are not innovative? The Chinese education system is one where short-term gains can not be met. Even if you were to put US teachers into Chinese high school classes, one week would not be enough time to make an impact upon these students. As well, through the examination you can establish a sturdy base of knowledge as well as providing a way to achieve good results.

I don’t know if Chinese-style education in the UK would be at all effective, but I do know that UK-style education practiced in China would be completely useless.

All of a sudden, I feel as though the Chinese-style education isn’t all that bad anymore.

I feel relieved upon reading through the comments. A lot of people seem to understand, while those that don’t aren’t ever likely to understand, no matter which education system they come from. Lots of other countries are starting to study our education system. There will be those people who will invariably belittle and reject our way of learning. I completely believe that the future will belong to China.

This kind of comparative test is significant. These two education models can increase their strengths through mutual advancement, and is worth exploring.

Whatever suits the situation of their own country is best. The Chinese education system is not suitable for the UK, while the UK education system is not suitable for China.

When I was younger I preferred the foreign education system, but now I find myself increasingly in favor of the Chinese system. Some people say that the Chinese education system doesn’t encourage innovation. A person who recently took the gaokao said the questions have all been reformed and don’t ask for the rote answers that were common a few years before. Now, the teacher tells us we should ask if we don’t understand something, and is more prone to discussing things with us. Students who are cultivated to be modest, understanding, and respectful of the authority of teachers will most likely become people who respect the older generation and follow order.


Charles Liu

The Nanfang's Senior Editor