The Department for Education in the United Kingdom have announced plans to spend as much as £41 million, or HK$423m, in the implementation of the “South Asian mastery approach to teaching maths,” which will be put in place in more than half of all elementary schools in England.

Britain hopes to make the approach, which is used by some of the top math performers in the world, the standard for teaching math in more than 8,000 primary schools in the country.

The UK will divide the funding throughout the next four years, putting the money toward training 700 teachers to begin with, as well as for the purchase of textbooks, writes Karen Cheung for The Hong Kong Free Press.  In all, 140 teachers have been trained so far.

“The significant expansion of the south Asian maths mastery approach can only add to the positive momentum, with thousands more young people having access to specialist teachers and quality textbooks,” said Schools Minister Nick Gibb.

“I am confident that the steps we are taking now will ensure young people are properly prepared for further study and the 21st century workplace, and that the too-often heard phrase ‘can’t do maths’ is consigned to the past,” he added.

The “maths mastery approach” makes use of careful planning in an effort to ensure that every student fully understands the material.  Children will be taught together as an entire class using high-quality textbooks to be sure they each gain an in-depth understanding of the mathematical structure.

Recent international tests show the percentage of 15-year-olds who could not perform basic calculations in places that had used the “maths mastery approach” was 10% lower than England.  The approach was first implemented in England in 2014 after a “pioneering” teacher exchange program between England and Shanghai.

However, unions and teachers have shared concerns over the program, as they feel there may not be enough time available to ensure the success of the Shanghai school system, writes Billy Camden for Schools Week.

A recent evaluation of a pilot of the model performed by Sheffield Hallam University found that teachers in south Asia have just two 40-minute lessons each day.  The rest of their day centers on professional development such as lesson observations and teaching review group meetings.

Gibb said that the low lesson load and extra time for planning could not happen, calling it one of many cultural differences between the UK and south Asia.

“In Shanghai, teachers only teach two lessons a day. They use the afternoon to help pupils on a one-to-one basis and that is a luxury that Shanghai has.”

He added that despite this difference, schools can learn from the Shanghai method, adding that available resources will allow UK teachers to adapt to the situation at hand.  He did say that the UK would not be able to adopt the entire package, writes Eleanor Harding for The Daily Mail.

Meanwhile, James Bowen, director of the National Association of Head Teachers Edge, said that teachers in the UK do not have enough time for curriculum development due to the “chaotic reform to the testing regime.”  He went on to say that one of the reasons teachers in south Asia are so successful is due to the respect that they are given and the time offered for planning.