England brings in Chinese teachers to boost maths grades

England, the home of some of the world's elite schools and universities, is calling in maths teachers from China to help boost standards after scoring poorly in international rankings, officials announced Wednesday.

Up to 60 English-speaking teachers from cities such as Shanghai will work in a number of specialist schools from September to demonstrate their teaching methods to local staff, the Department for Education said.

Shanghai topped the PISA international league table published in December by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), while Britain languished in 26th place.

As part of an exchange programme, a similar number of English staff will spend at least a month in Chinese schools to see how teachers there cope with struggling pupils and other problems.

Based on an assessment of the abilities of 15-year-olds, Britain's score was the same as the OECD average and ahead of the United States and many EU nations, but they were all outshone by Asian nations.

Education minister Elizabeth Truss visited China last month, and said the new exchange programme should help drive up maths standards.

"Good maths qualifications have the greatest earnings potential and provide the strongest protection against unemployment," Truss said.

"High-quality maths teaching is an essential part of that and this collaborative, teacher-led programme is a fantastic opportunity for us.

"There is so much evidence that teacher-to-teacher, school-to-school programmes are hugely effective.

"We have some brilliant maths teachers in this country but what I saw in Shanghai -- and other Chinese cities -- has only strengthened my belief that we can learn from them."

However, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said there was no need to seek Chinese help.

"It is ridiculous to suggest that teachers brought in from China will have any more knowledge or expertise than teachers from other countries or indeed our own," she said.