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Chinese teachers flown in to boost Brits' math skills

Jessica Morris, special to

Chinese teachers will be flown over to the U.K to boost British pupils' performance in maths and overhaul the way the subject is taught.

Up to 60 English-speaking math teachers from China will be flown to the U.K. to take part in the new exchange program, Britain's Department for Education said in a statement of Wednesday.

(Read more: China charm offensive may not bring back UK investment)

Jeff J Mitchell | Getty Images News | Getty Images

The program will kick off in Autumn and features 30 new "hubs" or schools specializing in maths teaching. And the Chinese teachers will be giving lessons to both sides in U.K. education: as well as providing pupils with math lessons, homework and feedback, they'll also be giving master-classes and teacher-training.

As part of the scheme, 60 British math teachers will work in schools in Shanghai to learn more about China's teaching techniques.

U.K Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said: "As part of our long-term economic plan, we are determined to drive up standards in our schools and give our young people the skills they need to succeed in the global race."

(Read more: UK's Osborne woos China with shared investment)

"Good math qualifications have the greatest earning potential and provide the strongest protection against unemployment."

"We have some brilliant math 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."

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Findings published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in its Program for International Student Assessment survey 2012 in December showed the UK came 26th in a survey of 65 countries when it comes to math,lagging behind their peers in Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan.

Andreas Schleicher, head of the education arm of the OECD said: "Math content is taught very differently in England and in Shanghai, with the use of 'word problems' dominant in England while teachers in Shanghai emphasise deep conceptual understanding.

"The 'math hubs' provide a unique environment for teachers to work together to frame good practice."

However, the U.K's largest teachers'union hit back at the claims.

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Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers said in a statement: "One of the key findings from PISA 2012 was that the United Kingdom performs around the average in mathematics and reading, and above average in science."

"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."

The announcement coincides with the launch of a campaign by the charity National Numeracy to drive up maths levels across the UK.

Research by Pro Bono Economics for National Numeracy revealed the estimated costs of low numeracy levels amounted to 1.3 percent of the U.K's gross domestic product or £20 billion a year. This is through its costs to individuals, employers and the government in lost productivity because of a gap in skills.

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