UK to adopt Chinese maths textbooks to improve test scores

Students across the British school system will be using textbooks almost identical to students in the Chinese megacity of Shanghai from January 2018, in a bid to improve ailing mathematics test results.

The British government will implement an initiative worth US$54 million whereby half of all primary school teachers to use the Real Shanghai Mathematics textbook series, with all having the option to implement the course’s 36 books into their curriculum.

The materials will be roughly the same, simply replacing Chinese renminbi symbols with the British pound. According to a New York Times report, Shanghai students topped international standardised testing of mathematics in 2010 based upon a “mastery” approach to maths education.

“Maths mastery involves children being taught as a whole class, building depth of understanding of the structure of maths, supported by the use of high-quality textbooks,” said the British government in July last year.

“With the help of up to £41 million of funding, more than 8,000 primary schools – half of the total number in England – will receive support to adopt the approach, which is used by some of the leading performers in maths in the world, including Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.”

Unlike many western countries, Chinese students’ performance in mathematics is above average in the OECD.

Data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) released in 2015 by the OECD showed that than one in four students in Shanghai are top-performing students in mathematics.

This means that students can handle tasks that require the ability to formulate complex situations mathematically, using symbolic representations.

The UK, meanwhile, had slightly lower numbers of top performers in mathematics than the OECD average. Performance in mathematics by United States students was even poorer.

“All this time, Asians have been learning from the Western education system,” said Yong Zhao, a professor of education at University of Kansas said as quoted by the New York Times.

“Suddenly, it’s the reverse.”