Interview: Star teacher calls for more educational exchanges between China, Britain

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Schools in China and Britain may have different teaching styles, but they can learn from each other's merits and enrich their own performance, a star British Chinese teacher said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

"When I am in Britain, I help English schools learn something from China to improve their performance; if I were in China, I would help Chinese schools learn something from Britain to improve Chinese education," said Jun Yang-Williams, a veteran science teacher.

Yang-Williams is best known for her role as a tough science teacher in BBC2 documentary "Are our kids tough enough? Chinese School" which invited five Chinese teachers to make an educational experiment by teaching a group of British students with traditional Chinese pedagogy.

The three-episode documentary series showed the striking differences between Chinese and British teachers in terms of classroom management, student discipline, teaching rhythms, teacher-student interactions, and students' daily learning routines.

The documentary, aired on BBC2 last August, quickly became an international hit and sparked heated discussions among policymakers, educators, parents and students in both countries.

The traditional Chinese way of teaching is often perceived to be one that lays emphasis on teacher authority, student obedience, and lots of notetaking and rote memorization of knowledge, while the British teaching style is commonly seen as more "student-centered."

But Yang-Williams, who grew up in China and had taught in both Chinese and British schools, said many commentators failed to detect the similarities and common ground of the two educational culture and were prone to stereotypes.

"When it comes to teaching pedagogy, I can not say 'student-centered' is British, or 'teacher-led' is Chinese. You can not say that. We all have both of them. It's just different percentages," explained Yang-Williams.

Invited by the Oxford Chinese Students and Scholars Association, the veteran teacher shared her decades of research and teaching experience at a recent workshop at Oxford University which was attended by hundreds of British and Chinese students and academics.

She said the documentary series not only gave her much publicity in China and Britain, but also enabled her to discover and address many misunderstandings in education between the two nations.

"The documentary series have prompted a lot of fresh critical thinking about education in China and Britain, which is a good thing," she added.

The star teacher, who now works as a chief education adviser for a British company providing training courses to Chinese teachers, expressed the hope that the two nations have more exchanges and cooperation in the education sector. Endit

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