England will keep copying Shanghai, says minister.  Does that mean lower class contact time?

Janet Downs's picture
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An exchange scheme that gives teachers in England the opportunity to share experiences with counterparts from Shanghai has positively influenced the teaching of maths in our school…’, the Department for Education said in a press release coinciding with the China-England Maths Teacher Exchange evaluation.   

This affirmation is somewhat at odds with the report’s ‘inconclusive’ verdict.    A simultaneous response from the DfE media department had been rather lukewarm.  

Nevertheless, the DfE still commits to ensuring 11,000 English schools will use East-Asian style maths Teaching for Mastery (TfM) programmes by 2023.

The inconclusive finding doesn’t mean schools shouldn’t use TfM if they wish to do so.   There’s much to commend it: mixed ability teaching, the use of ‘mathematically meaningful and coherent activity’, for example. 

One comment in the report is likely to be ignored by schools minister Nick Gibb.  In Singapore, ‘concrete-pictorial-abstract’ (CPA) representations in maths teaching were emphasised.   I’m not sure Gibb understand CPA – he appears to prefer the cerebral to the concrete. 

CPA has been used in English schools for years, well before the Shanghai-England exchange, the report says.  The concept would be familiar to many teachers from their initial teacher training.  I knew about it and I trained decades ago.  Why the need to send teachers halfway across the world when their methods are already being used?

Gibb says, ‘…we will continue to work with our peers in Shanghai to share the practices that our high performing education systems are based upon.

If Gibb is serious about sharing practices, he should argue for teachers in English schools to have the same, much lower, class contact time enjoyed by Shanghai teachers.  Such a move would reduce workload by moving assessment and planning into the school day.

Little chance of that, of course.

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