A delegation of experts has set off for Shanghai this week to see first-hand how students there have topped international leagues tables for mathematics.
Led by education minister Elizabeth Truss, the visit is being seen by the Department for Education (DfE) as key to improving the UK’s “competitiveness and productivity”.
Ms Truss will visit three schools at primary and secondary levels as well as teacher training institutes to see maths lessons and teaching methods.
The group includes Dame Rachel de Souza, who leads the Inspiration Trust of academies and Charlie Stripp, who runs Mathematics in Education and Industry and is the director of the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics.
Shanghai-China’s 15-year-olds topped the 2012 international PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) tables for mathematics, while England was ranked 26th.
The top five countries in the list were all south-east Asian jurisdictions.
Furthermore, the UK was last year placed 50th out of 148 countries in the World Economic Forum’s competitiveness ranking in quality of maths and science education.
Ms Truss said: “Shanghai is the top-performing part of the world for maths – their children are streets ahead. Our new curriculum has borrowed from theirs because we know it works – early learning of key arithmetic, and a focus on times tables and long division, for instance.
“This visit represents a real opportunity for us to see at first hand the teaching methods that have enabled their young people to achieve so well in maths. The reality is that unless we change our philosophy, and get better at maths, we will suffer economic decline.” CAPTION: Eastern promise: Education minister Elizabeth Truss is in Shanghai this week to try and find out why it is number one in the world for its maths education