By learning mathematics under the same approach used in Singapore, pupils in England fared better in the subject, a study has found.
Assessing the performance of more than 10,000 pupils in England who, for a year, were taught the subject using methods similar to those adopted by Singapore schools, researchers found that the students had made progress equivalent to that of after undergoing an additional month of classes.
These students were from 90 English primary schools and 50 secondary schools, aged between five and six, or 11 and 12. They were part of two field experiments designed to estimate the causal effect of being exposed to the Singapore-inspired Mathematics Mastery approach of teaching for one year.
According to the study’s authors, University of London’s John Jerrim and Cambridge’s Anna Vignoles, the essence of the approach lies in the coverage of fewer topics but in greater depth. Every child is also expected to attain a certain proficiency before the class progresses to the next part of the syllabus.
“The vast majority of pupils progress through the curriculum at the same pace, with subject matter and learning content broken into units with clearly defined goals. Academically weaker pupils are expected to reach a basic standard in each unit before the whole class moves on to the next topic together,” wrote the authors in their study that was published this month.
“In the meantime, more able pupils are encouraged to explore the current learning unit in more depth.”
In contrast, English schools let more able pupils move on to learning a new topic. “It is thought that this approach reduces the need to repeatedly revisit material and promotes depth of understanding over memorised procedures,” they added.
Dr Jerrim and Professor Vignoles also noted that while three in five teachers in England differentiate their lessons for pupils with different abilities, only one in five Singaporean teachers do so.
Singapore’s education system has been lauded as a role model for education systems worldwide, as students here have consistently done well compared with their peers worldwide.
For instance, in the most recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2012, Singapore’s students came in second among 65 countries, while also doing well in science and reading literacy, while the United Kingdom ranked 26th.
The PISA test, run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, is dubbed the most influential international scorecard for education systems around the world.
The Financial Times (FT) reported that England’s Department of Education introduced Singapore-style mathematics textbooks to 72 schools in England in January this year.
“Ensuring every young person leaves school with good maths and numeracy skills is a key part of our commitment to delivering real social justice,” it quoted a department spokesman as saying.
“We are pleased that this research confirms that adopting a Singaporean ‘mastery’ approach to teaching will help us achieve this.”
Commenting on their study’s findings, lead author Dr Jerrim said although the effect of the programme in England was still relatively small after one year, it had been designed to have a cumulative effect over five years, FT reported.
“The programme should now be tested over a longer time period with a greater number of schools,” he added.
“More evidence is needed on its impact after teachers have become familiar with its novel approach and after children have been exposed to the programme for a prolonged period of time.”
Fuente: Channel Newsasia