Pupils eager to learn in Taiwan

Click to follow
When the teacher enters a Taiwanese classroom some of the pupils are already working, finishing off earlier lessons. Within 45 seconds they are all paying attention, facing the front and ready to begin work.

The teacher explains an element of arithmetic, using a cake to demonstrate division, for example. The lesson is fast-moving and even slightly anarchic, with several children shouting at once in answer to a questions.

All the children are fully involved, coming up to the front to give their answers and writing them on the board. Sometimes six or seven of the 40- plus pupils in the class are on their feet.

Once or twice during the 40-minute lesson, the teacher asks the pupils to do a sum in their text books, but within a few minutes the whole class has completed the task and is facing the teacher again. But for at least- nine tenths of the time, the teacher talks.

While the pupils have their heads down she walks up and down the neat rows of desks, picking out the slower pupils for a little extra help. In some classes, every child waits until the last one has finished a piece of work before moving on.

A class of seven-year-olds might be found doing number work just as they might in London or Manchester, but they would concentrate on basic sums rather than on the ways in which they might be applied. And the Taiwanese pupils are ahead of their British counterparts. Large quantities of subject matter are covered in a single lesson.

Parents of middle and low-achieving children in Taiwan are usually very happy with the system, which aims to bring everyone up to a minimum standard. Those with very bright children tend to feel less happy because pupils with problems can expect to get more of the teacher's attention.