A new documentary to be aired by the BBC later in 2015 will feature a class of Youngsters from Britain being taught by teachers from China, as the belief that the Asian country is tops when it comes to education is put firmly to the test. The PISA international education league tables have placed China as the highest performing nation when measuring their young people’s academic performance in the core subjects of reading (English), mathematics and science, so the three-part show on BBC2 will illustrate how fifty thirteen-year-old British kids fair when they are taught for half a term using Chinese methods of imparting education in those subjects. The relative success or otherwise will be measured by comparison to another (similar) group of children who are taught by other teachers at the school as they would all be during a normal term.

PISA, the Programme for International Student Assessment has a main purpose to compare the levels of education attained across the world and was formed in 1997. The first PISA study was carried out in 2000 and has been repeated every three years subsequently, with the aim of improving education policies and outcomes. It is based at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Headquarters in Paris, France.

It remains to be seen how using the British children effectively as ‘guinea-pigs’ in this latest study works out and how it is received both by the kids themselves and also their parents. Will there be any squabbles over which children are taught by which teachers for instance, and will the parents have ultimate say in which teachers their children get? There may be some issues over the accents of the teachers that could potentially cause imitation and ‘mickey-taking’ unless the group is hand-picked from specific demographic groups, but then that would surely limit the effectiveness of the study’s outcomes. Different cultural backgrounds and basic values between the Chinese teachers and their British pupils may also be highlighted through the study, as they become known to each other and among the many issues that may come to light, the means of gaining respect from the kids and how the teachers engage with the classes may be intriguing.

From the experiences of existing schools that have taken international students into their classrooms, some have said that the Chinese children are less prone to question teachers than their British counterparts. That could be due to their insecurity within a group they are unfamiliar with and do not feel entirely comfortable in of course (being a minority ethnical sub-grouping), but it does also suggest that British teenagers may not so easily blindly accept what they are told, without querying it first. The documentary promises to be an interesting watch.
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