A group of Chinese teachers has blamed the generosity of Britain's benefits system for lack of ambition, ill-discipline and idleness among school pupils. They believe the option of living on welfare handouts has produced 'feather-bedded' teenagers prone to rudeness and disrupting the classroom rather than concentrating on working and getting ahead.
This verdict on the failings of British pupils and the influence of the welfare state was delivered by five Chinese teachers who spent four weeks in a Hampshire comprehensive school to see whether the strict methods used in China would work here.
Teachers who stand in front of a class giving instruction for up to 12 hours a day have been credited with putting Chinese schools at the top of international ratings in maths, sciences and literacy, in which the record of UK schools is mediocre.
One of the teachers, Wei Zhao, believed British pupils lacked motivation. She said: 'Even if they don't work, they can get money, they don't worry about it. But in China they can't get these things so they know, "I need to study hard, I need to work hard to get money to support my family". If the British Government really cut benefits down to force people to go to work they might see things in a different way.’
Others among the Chinese teachers who took classes at Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire, found their group of 50 children, aged 13 and 14, were disruptive and unable to concentrate. Li Aiyun, from Nanjing Foreign Language School, said: 'When I handed out the homework sheets, I expected everybody to be concentrated on the homework. But when I walked in the classroom some students were chatting, some students were eating, somebody was even putting make-up on her face. I had to control myself, or I would be crazy. About half of them tried their best to follow me. And the other half? Who knows what they were doing?'
Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School视频1
Science teacher Yang Jun, who taught in Xi'an, central China, before moving to Britain, said: 'In China we don't need classroom management skills because everyone is disciplined by nature, by families, by society. Whereas here it is the most challenging part of teaching.’ She also questioned the use of different teaching programmes for different pupils. ‘You have different syllabuses to suit different students' ability,' she said. ‘We don't. We have one syllabus, one standard; you survive or you die. It's up to you.’'
The Chinese methods are to be screened in the BBC Two documentary, Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School. A trailer for the programme shows a teacher shouting 'listen to me', 'just use your brain' and 'no talking, no questions' at bewildered looking British children.
But the Chinese methods did not appear to impress the Bohunt head teacher, Neil Strowger. He described the teaching techniques as ‘mind-numbingly boring’ and said usual standards of discipline at his school were not as loose as the Chinese teachers described. Mr Strowger added: 'I don't believe we are somehow causing our children to fail by having a welfare state.'