The Chinese education system is renowned for its long days, strict regime and enviable results. So what would happen if a Chinese teacher were faced with a classroom of British teenagers, and vice versa?
That’s the question a new three-part BBC2 series attempts to answer. The experiment sees five Chinese teachers spend a month in Bohunt Academy in Hampshire, following a group of 50 mixed ability 13 to 14-year-olds as they experience a drastically different education – and it’s a TV first according to executive producer Gian Quaglieni.
“I think everyone went into this with a degree of trepidation,” Quaglieni told RadioTimes.com. “They didn’t really know what to expect and I think some of them might have been worried that the long days might have taken their toll on the children.”
The standard school day was turned on its head with the arrival of the new teachers, he explains. Pupils were suddenly expected to be in the classroom “12 hours a day from 7 in the morning to 7 at night with an entirely different timetable and structure, and some entirely different features in the day.
“For example, every morning the children had to go onto the field to do morning exercise and every afternoon they had to do eye exercises which are designed to keep the eye healthy. And I think obviously amongst British teachers there were eyebrows raised.”
Quaglieni was keen to see whether troublesome children responded better to the Chinese system and says that we can definitely expect some “surprising outcomes”. In order to keep make the four-week experiment as realistic as possible, his production crew often watched lessons unfold from a nearby portacabin.
So, does Quaglieni think that the Government should be tuning in and taking notes?
“I very much hope that they would be watching intently and seeing what they too could take from the experience that we had with the Bohunt Academy.”
Are Our Kids Tough Enough? Chinese School begins on BBC2 at 9pm on Tuesday