Orientation course for trainees

23rd October 2009 at 01:00
UK university opts for change of direction in teacher education via Chinese collaboration

Schools in China might have more in common with their UK counterparts than one imagines.

Education experts hope a new venture will dispel myths and stereotypes of both nations and bring about improvements.

Teacher trainers from Exeter and East China Normal universities have twinned their departments to give future school staff an international outlook. The collaboration will start with projects on SEN and early years.

Britain is still considered one of the leading nations in the world by Chinese educationists, who hope to learn how to set up a play-based curriculum and promote inclusion of pupils with disabilities and SEN.

The Exeter dons - who travel to Asia next year - plan to learn from successes in China, such as expertise in maths and science teaching, the growth in technical education and a curriculum focused on science, technology, languages and traditional arts. The Chinese academics have already visited Exeter.

Both groups are used to assisting with government policy, so their work could affect thousands of children.

"This is all part of internationalising our department and to give future teachers a wider experience," said Professor Debra Myhill, the head of Exeter's graduate school of education. "We want to open up their understanding of what's going on around the world and challenge assumptions about education in China. It's a huge country, so there are vast regional differences."

SEN training has been available in China since the education reforms of 1995, which were designed to address a serious skills shortage. Hundreds of teachers take masters-level courses every year.

But there is a vast difference in rural areas, where disabled children are still stigmatised, and the Chinese academics want to learn how to challenge this.

The Chinese government made improving access for disabled children a priority in its recent five-year plan. As in the UK, ministers want to increase uptake in vocational courses, and to improve funding and support to schools in poor areas.

They are also trying to increase the number of teachers with good qualifications - a degree in China, a masters in the UK.

At primary level, Chinese teachers focus on verbal and reading skills. Pupils become fluent in writing at around 12.

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