A teaching experience in China – A Stephenson College Bursary Funded Venture

On Sunday the 18th of March myself and 13 3rd year Primary Education students were fortunate to travel to Shenzhen in China to observe Maths teaching and to teach English in Chinese schools for two weeks. Throughout this post I will discuss what I discovered about Chinese teaching and how it differs from teaching in the UK, along with other experiences.

What did I discover about Chinese teaching?

I arrived in China and was unsure what to expect, before-hand I had been told that class sizes were around 50 children per class and I was unsure as to how it was even possible to teach 50 children at once. I thought that the schools would have a lack of facilities and that the children would learn only from text book rote learning, having very little opportunities to engage in active learning.

To my surprise it was actually pretty simple to teach 50 children at once. The children were all motivated to learn and were well-disciplined which meant that behaviour management was not an issue – the children quietly finished their work without causing any issues or arguments. All children also completed the same work meaning that differentiation was unnecessary making planning and preparing for lessons much easier.

Throughout the school day children engaged in: Chinese, English and Maths every morning and lessons such as Music, P.E, Geography, History and Art in the afternoon. The students completed homework every night for around 3hours teaching themselves the work that they would cover in class the next day meaning that before they arrived to each lesson they already had some understanding. The Chinese schools also had state of the art facilities with large sports fields/athletics tracks, dance halls, art studios, a children’s and a teachers library and each child had their own Ipad. However, I couldn’t say the same about the toilets… a hole in the ground.

How does Chinese teaching differ to teaching in the UK?

In the UK a typical school day begins around 9am and ends at 3:30pm, in China a school day begins at 7am and ends at around 6pm; however, from 12-2pm all children and teachers go home for an afternoon nap. In the UK children in primary schools are taught all subjects by one teacher resulting in a lot of cross-curricular links enabling children to learn about Math, English and Science altogether using recourses like The Very Hungry Caterpillar. In China teachers only teach one year group and one subject for example, a grade one English teacher will only teach grade one English. Teachers in China only teach around 2 lessons per day providing them with more time to study their subject and to plan their lessons, although such cross curricular links are not possible. Whereas in the UK teachers teach all day teaching 5-6 lessons and are required to prepare for lessons and developing their understanding in their own time.

What was China like?

Before, I went to China I had a perception that it wouldn’t be as developed as the UK in relation to technology, facilities and resources… I was wrong. China is much more advanced than the UK, they use an App called WeChat for everything! WeChat is used to pay for items in shops and restaurants, to order food and to look at the menus in restaurants, to order taxis, to pay for public transport and to communicate with others. Therefore, using cash in China is more less no more.

As an English person I often take being English for granted when I’m aboard because “everyone can speak English.” But not in China. In China finding a person who could speak English was extremely rare. This resulted in us struggling to order a taxi or to say where we wanted to go and to order food in restaurants, but thanks to our amazing teachers in school we managed to travel easily around China. I can’t say the same for the food though, we often pointed to dishes on the menu but weren’t sure what we had actually ordered or what we were eating. The best was when I asked in the school canteen what was for lunch, they told me it was chicken … it was all of the chicken including its feet.

China was like being famous for two weeks. Almost everywhere we went we got our photograph taken, we even got given two babies to get our photograph taken with and got bought drinks and ice-cream.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who helped to organise the trip and who made it possible.


Article written by: Amber Smyth

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