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Long division of labour in UK

England's maths teachers may be under fire for the country's relatively poor showing in comparative international studies, but their teaching practices are actually quite similar to those found in German and French schools. The main difference is that English staff have to work much longer hours and have inferior conditions of service.

Birgit Pepin of Reading University shadowed 12 maths teachers in England, France and Germany to establish how easy it would be to work in one another's country now that Europe's employment laws allow for freedom of movement.

Pepin, who spent a fortnight with each teacher, found that there were many common elements in the maths syllabuses of the three countries. All the teachers were required to teach algebra, geometry and number, although the French college curriculum only covers a little statistics and no probability.

German and French pupils were accustomed to being called to the board but English teachers said they would not single out pupils for questioning in front of the whole class.

German and French teachers also used the board to mark homework. Only English teachers took piles of books home for marking and reported that they felt responsible for marking every pupil's book "about once a week".

French maths specialists are expected to teach for 630 hours a year and the Germans 650, whereas the English are expected to put in 860 hours.

An ethnographic study of maths teachers in England, France and Germany, Birgit Pepin, University of Reading.

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