Warned against copying the East

27th June 1997 at 01:00
One of the Government's leading advisers on whole-class teaching has warned against the "slavish cult worship" of what other countries do, writes Nicholas Pyke.

Professor David Reynolds, the chairman of Labour's numeracy task force, has long advocated the more formal teaching methods used in Taiwan and other Pacific Rim countries.

But in this week's TES, Professor Reynolds says that Far Eastern countries are now trying to copy British methods because their own approach could stifle creativity.

He writes: "Pacific Rim countries are seeking a new blend. It would be foolish to return to their basics just at the time that they themselves are aware of the need for change. As some in the West have decided the future lies in adoption of Eastern methods, the East has decided that its future lies in trying out Western methods."

Professor Reynolds came to prominence for his Worlds Apart report for the Office of Standards in Education. It suggested that British schools have much to learn from Taiwan where interactive whole-class teaching is the norm.

Pacific Rim countries have proved dramatically more successful in maths surveys like the Third International Maths and Science Study, published earlier this month. This is even though many Taiwanese children have semi-literate grandparents, and parents with little secondary education.

Professor Reynolds, who works at Newcastle University, says Taiwanese teaching has been very successful at eradicating failure. But there might also be disadvantages.

The Taiwanese, he says, are particularly interested in progressive British experiments like Summerhill - much more so than educationists who live here.

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