|Courtesy of AJC's Get Schooled|
Based on the 2009 PISA test scores released today, the students in China's most populous city outperformed their international peers in reading, math, and science tests. What's so stunning is this is China's debut in international standardized testing! See graphic below for international ranking results:
So how did they do it? What was their secret to success? There are plausible explanations from two sources:
According to The Two Million Minutes blog,
One might argue that the Chinese have distorted the results in a variety of ways:
- Testing kids in China's most developed city
- Pressuring kids to take the test more seriously than their international peers
- Even stacking the deck by holding top students in Shanghai schools an extra year to get better results.
- If there is a way to "game" the system, the Chinese will find it
- National pride is a huge motivator of the Chinese people
- Winning at all costs is a Chinese attribute
According to The New York Times,
Mr. Schneider, however, noted some factors that may have influenced the outcome.
For one thing, Shanghai is a huge migration hub within China. Students are supposed to return to their home provinces to attend high school, but the Shanghai authorities could increase scores by allowing stellar students to stay in the city, he said. And Shanghai students apparently were told the test was important for China’s image and thus were more motivated to do well, he said.
Chinese students spend less time than American students on athletics, music and other activities not geared toward success on exams in core subjects. Also, in recent years, teaching has rapidly climbed up the ladder of preferred occupations in China, and salaries have risen. In Shanghai, the authorities have undertaken important curricular reforms, and educators have been given more freedom to experiment.
Regardless of how it was done, like with Finland, there are some lessons to be learned by all of us in America, especially the cost-cutting, quickies-endorsed ed deformers.
UPDATE: Here is Sec. Duncan, a fellow ed deformer, on his take on this news:
Today’s PISA results show that America needs to urgently accelerate student learning to remain competitive in the global economy of the 21st century. More parents, teachers, and leaders need to recognize the reality that other high-achieving nations are both out-educating us and out-competing us. Our educational system has a long way to go to fulfill the American promise of education as the great equalizer.
Being average in reading and science -- and below average in math -- is not nearly good enough in a knowledge economy where scientific and technological literacy is so central to sustaining innovation and international competitiveness. The results are especially troubling because PISA assesses applied knowledge and the higher-order thinking skills critical to success in the information age.
In addition, School Matters reported an interesting perspective on how poverty greatly influenced the American student performance on the 2009 PISA tests.