The facts (and the truth) behind China’s #1 International PISA Test Scores

On December 4, 2013, a New York Times headline shouted: “Shanghai Students Again Top Global Test”, and once again, America’s vocal critics of the U.S. Public Schools called for more reform.

Not so fast. In fact, maybe not at all.

In China, the first nine years of education is compulsory starting before age 7. Primary school takes the first six of those nine years; then there’s middle school for grades 7, 8, and 9.

Fifteen is the age of students who take the international PISA test—and in China [so-called] compulsory education ends at the age of fifteen and students who decide to stay in school have a choice between a vocational or academic senior high school track. That’s where the choice ends because in China the senior high schools pick students based on merit.

To explain how this works, the CCP has acknowledged a “9-6-3 rule”. This means that nine of ten children began primary school between the ages of 6 and 7; six complete the first five years and three graduate from sixth grade with good performance.

By the time a student reaches senior high school—grades 10, 11, and 12—most enrollment is in the cities and not in rural China. Most rural Chinese don’t value education as much as urban Chinese do. And many of the migrant urban workers from rural China still have some family back in the village where they often leave their younger children. And many migrant workers, when they retire from factory work, return to the village and the family home.

The United States, by comparison, keeps most kids in school until the end of high school at age 17/18. About 75% graduate on time and another 15% earn their high school diploma or equivalent GED by age 24—all on an academic track because there is no vocational public schools k to 12 in the U.S.

In addition, in China there is the Zhongkao, the Senior High School Entrance Examination, held annually to distinguish the top students who then are admitted to the highest performing senior high schools. This means that if the highest rated high school in Shanghai has 1,000 openings for 10th graders, the students who earn the top 1,000 scores on the Zhongkao get in and then the second highest rated high school takes the next batch of kids until the lowest rated senior high school in Shanghai gets the kids with the bottom scores on the Zhongkao.

Maybe actual numbers will help clarify what this means:

In 2010, 121 million children attended China’s primary schools with 78.4 million in junior and senior secondary schools. The total is 199.4 million kids.

According to World Education News & Reviews: “In 2010, senior high schools [in China] accommodated 46.8 million students (23.4% of the  199.5 million). But about 52 percent or only 40.8 million were enrolled in general senior high school, and 48 percent of those students were attending vocational senior high schools.”

That leaves 21.2 million enrolled in the senior high school academic track designed to prep kids for college—that’s 10.6% of the total. Then consider that Shanghai’s public schools are considered the best in China. This means that the fifteen-year-old students who take the international PISA in China are the elite of the elite attending China’s best public schools.

For a fair comparison—not what we’ll hear from the critics of public education in the United States—the Economic Policy Institute reports: “The U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample. This error further depressed the reported average U.S. test score. … But U.S. students from advantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the top-scoring countries [Canada, Finland, South Korea, France, Germany and the U.K.]” and “U.S. students from disadvantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the three similar post-industrial countries.”

In fact, “U.S. students from advantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the top-scoring countries of Finland and Canada. … and—on average—for almost every social class group, U.S. students do relatively better in reading than in math, compared to students in both the top-scoring and the similar post-industrial countries.”

_______________

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

Subscribe to “iLook China”!
Sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top of this page, or click on the “Following” tab in the WordPress toolbar at the top of the screen.

About iLook China

China’s Holistic Historical Timeline

Advertisements

15 Responses to The facts (and the truth) behind China’s #1 International PISA Test Scores

  1. Reblogged this on Lloyd Lofthouse and commented:

    For a fair comparison—not what we’ll hear from the critics of public education in the United States—the Economic Policy Institute reports: “The U.S. administration of the most recent international (PISA) test resulted in students from the most disadvantaged schools being over-represented in the overall U.S. test-taker sample. This error further depressed the reported average U.S. test score. … But U.S. students from advantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the top-scoring countries [Canada, Finland, South Korea, France, Germany and the U.K.]” and “U.S. students from disadvantaged social class backgrounds perform better relative to their social class peers in the three similar post-industrial countries.”

  2. SP says:

    Wait untill rural China’s average scores come out. The kids there are dirty-poor by American standard or ANY standard, studies, rote learning or not, under some teachers who are in fact amatuers in eyes of ANY American public school teacher by income level and teaching facilities, if you can tell those basic blackboards and some chalks are some sort of ” teaching facilities” at all.

    These kids beat the socks and pants off of their super-rich American and European counterparts by a country mile in Maths and Science, under their own game, rules and supervisions of OECD.

    Librals can not stand that naked unconvinient fact of of IQ that stares right into their eyes , hence can not find ANY other reason why such but to resort to the old dirty trick of the book – yay, they are cheating.!

    Yes, you didn’t use “cheat” like more ignorant political activists such as Tom Loveless does, but isn’t “filtering out the bad students for the test” a sort of cheat ? Anyone knows that. You ought to know better.

    You better have enough “facts” to show that HK, Taiwan, Macao, Singpore ( the top 5 ranking in PISA maths after Shanghai, technically the ALL 5 ethnic Chinese entities under the Sun) were also cheating. Else you’ll have a lot of explaining to do in your “theory”.

    Are they cheating or are you cheating your ego? – to paraphrase what Andreas Schleicher responded.

    • I never mentioned cheating. You seem stuck on that. As for claiming dirt-poor Chinese who drop out of school by grade 5/6 (about age 10) can beat anyone in the world who tests at age 15, where are your peer review studies to prove this. If you read my post carefully, you would see that what I’m saying is that we can’t compare countries when there are so many differences between them.

      You miss one point. The PISA test includes critical thinking and problem solving as part of the test.

      The public schools in the US are doing the best job they can with the lack of parental support that exists. Studies show that the average American parent talks meaningfully to their children 3.5 minutes a week. An American teacher can teach and kids don’t learn unless they pay attention, do the work and study.

      Another for instance, on a parent conference night, a teacher with 200 students and a third to half are failing usually sees less than 20% of the parents and most of those parents have kids earning passing grades.

      The point of my post was that public schools in the US are not failing. The US culture and average or below average parents are failing for whatever reason. And without any studies to back me up, I think that’s about 70 to 80% of all American parents.

      • SP says:

        Lloyd,

        1. “I never mentioned cheating. You seem stuck on that. As for claiming dirt-poor Chinese who drop out of school by grade 5/6 (about age 10) can beat anyone in the world who tests at age 15, where are your peer review studies to prove this.”
        Again, you didn’t say “cheat”, but insinuate it all along. Admit it.
        Since you don’t have any peer-reviewed materials to support your claim, pls kindly allow me to do the same to be fair. 😀 But if you’re intellectually honest and curious, ples read thru my related posts here:
        http://staffanspersonalityblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/the-sour-grapes-of-pisa/

        2. “ If you read my post carefully, you would see that what I’m saying is that we can’t compare countries when there are so many differences between them.”
        Strichtly, you can’t compare – you’re right. Actutally you can compare anything under the Sun strichtly speaking since there’ll be some differences in all cases. But loosely speaking, you can compare. You know it.

        3. “You miss one point. The PISA test includes critical thinking and problem solving as part of the test.”
        I didn’t miss it. I deliberatedly avoided that point for the fear that it might unneceesarily add more to your confusion. This point actually further proves that rote learning is of minor importance to PISA Maths scores.

        4. “The public schools in the US are doing the best job they can with the lack of parental support that exists. Studies show that the average American parent talks meaningfully to their children 3.5 minutes a week. An American teacher can teach and kids don’t learn unless they pay attention, do the work and study.”
        Whole heartedly agreed. US public school teachers did a good job given what they have to deal with. But hey even that job is with huge price tag- world’s 2nd most expensive spending per cap.
        5/ “ The point of my post was that public schools in the US are not failing. The US culture and average or below average parents are failing for whatever reason. And without any studies to back me up, I think that’s about 70 to 80% of all American parents.”
        Agreed, again. Everything else being equal, the US average would be a shade bit lower than the East Asia ( China included) average. But everything else are not equal: US per cap spending in relatively HUGH, US perantal care sucks, US’s education culture lacks, US works a lot less than their East Asian counterpart, and most important of all (what librals in general are afraid to admit) that US avg IQ is not in the same league of East Asia. Id you don’t have the raw talent , forget about about Medal Table of International maths awards. They’re less smart, the parents don’t care and they work a lot less, while expecting to get a top score as Shanghai or Taiwan? May God be with yer!

        Shanghai maths was at 613, #2 Singapore was 573 ( for that matter the US was at 481. Even with ALL the “filtered out” counted in and sun dry, Shanghai would likely still get #1, albeit probably at 590 instead. I hope you see the point. As for why? I though you would have known it given your knowledge on China. If no, just wait and see rural China’s average scores and TIMSS.
        Shanghai’s scores are no surprise at all for ANY insiders – its immediate neighbours such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, HK, Singapore, Vietnam…who have every incentives to speak out if they think it is strange, but only in the West, particularly the US, particularly some political acitivists such as Tom Loveless, who somehow suddenly becomes a China expert overnight.
        WHY???
        In all honesty, China’s only allowing to disclose Shanghai’s scores was in fact giving the West face – anyone who is familiar with China’s internal Gaokao scores knows this ( by which I mean every Chinese student, inland or overseas, knows it. And you can verifyt it yourself. It is ever more exciting and authoritivce than any “peer-reviewed” white irvory tower papers) . The West think that it’s hard to swollow the fact that “Shanghai being #1” and starts whining like there wre no tomorrow. Please stop it. It is not graceful. It is even too early for whining because the truth, the real truth, is likely to be10X harder for the West to swollow that the half of China’s inland poorer provinces (than Shanghai)even beat Shanghai in Maths and Science! Think about that. NYT and Tom Loveless would go completely bananas even since if they face this one day, and soon. 😀
        BTW, I enjoyed very much many of your other entries on China. Keep em coming!
        Peace out.

      • Steffan’s “The Sour Grapes of Pisa was interesting but he refers to the allegations of cheating based on an unpublished report by two critics. What sources did they use to prove their allegations.

        As for the IQ idea, a spread of 10 points or less on the average isn’t that significant.

        And if you look at IQ by latitude, instead of by country, you will discover that regions farther from the equator tend to have higher average IQs indicating that IQ has nothing to do with race but with environment. In addition, IQ may be inherited but survival also plays a part in segements of the global population having a higher IQ average than the global average.

        For instance, European Jews who survived the Holocaust have an average IQ close to China. The Jews have had to struggle to survive for centuries against Christian and Muslim discrimnatoin and programs to erase them from existence.

        The same holds true for China. In the early 19th century starting with the first Opium War, China suffered horribly until Mao’s death in 1976. The Taiping and Boxer Rebellions; the collapse of the Qing Dynasty leading to warlords dividing up China until the long Civl War between the Communists and Nationals ended in 1949. And let’s not forget the horrors of Japan’s invasion of China and World War II.

        Evidence suggests that when an ethnic/racial group faces challenges of survival, IQ increases.

        IQ is nothing but mental ability and every race, every ethnic group has individuals at the high end. Average doesn’t apply to everyone. IT’s a center point but the lower the average, the fewer people will be found at the high end.

        In addition, poverty plays a major role in suppressing even children/adults with high IQ or the possibility of high IQ that may be lowered from where it could be due to poor nutrition.

        As for the PISA test, I don’t think it should be used to compare countries. Even without the possibility of cheating taking place to boost ranking for some countries, the US when compared to 35 developed countries ranks 34th. Only Romania is worse while Finland, the number one country on the list, has the lowest rates of poverty. Considering the fact that the US has the 3rd largest population in the world behind China and India, that means there are more children living in poverty. Romania with 21.33 million people may have a larger percentage of children living in poverty but the US has a larger number resulting in bigger challenges. The US has more children than Romania has people. In fact, the US has about as many children living in poverty as the entire population of Romania.

        This is also interesting: “He is critical of how a lot of questions are omitted for some countries but included for others. He claims the methods of scoring are so arbitrary Denmark could be ranked second or 42th depending on arbitrary tweaks in the evaluation.”

        How can any test be considered a fair measurement when one country takes a test with “a lot of questions omitted” while those questions are “included for others.” This by itself, negates the results of the test.

  3. SP says:

    Lloyd,

    1. “Instead of challenging me to find the facts to prove or disprove your claims, provide the facts from primary sources that are peer reviewed. I don’t have to prove your unsupported claims are accurate or not. That is the responsibility of the person making the claims.”
    The reverse is also true, You titled the piece “The facts (and the truth) behind China’s #1 International PISA Test Scores”. You claim these are the facts. But in fact they are based on your ANALYSIS which are , again, based on some partial facts, hence opinion actually. You claim they are the facts. The burden of proof in fact falls on you.

    2. “I’m not talking about cheating on the PISA. You’re changing the subject, a logical fallacy.”
    You’re not talking about cheating. But the “facts”, that you claim that they are, are inevitablely lead to the conclusion that Shanghai is somewhat cheating or call it another name all you want. It is NOT a logical fallacy, but a natural and logical deduction from what you are claiming and making people believe, is it not?

    3. “As for asking any Chinese student outside of Shanghai what their opinion is, that’s just another opinion. It is a logical fallacy to claim that all Shanghai students are lazy because there is no way to prove this.”
    I claimed that all birds in the world are black- coloured. And out of friendness, I was inviting you to do an easy counter to my claim that the only thing you have to do is to show me one, or ANY, brown bird. Is that simple enough?
    Unfortunately you even avoid such a simple task. Show me a brown bird or any coloured bird other than Black then I ‘ll surrender to the sheer power of your “truth”. Why are you afraid to show me a brown bird? Is that because this seemingly supwer easy and simple task is in fact VERY difficult, or almost impossible, in the real world, the average math scores of ethnic Chinese communities in USA, Cadana, Brasil, Australia, Tailand, South Africa, England, Germany, Spain, Peru, Ireland, Porto Rico, New Zealand… whereever you fancy to look?? What does it tell about the likely degree of authencity of your claim versus mine, from this angle? 😀

    4. “ Shanghai is where China focused early reforms in education to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills over rote learning. Beijing was the second city to promote these reforms in the public schools. This reforms will continue to spread to other cities and into rural China, but China also has a shortage of teachers for most rural schools so that will slow up education reforms in rural areas.”
    True and false! The math scores, in the real world, has barely anything to do with rote learning or not. Surely you are not suggesting that America and the vast majority of the EU including superstae Finland are not rote learning, aren’t you? Of course they are not!
    If the less rote learning one has, the higher chance he scores Maths higher, then how the heck in God’s name they’ve lost to piss-poor textbook rote learning commie Vietnam in Maths by a country mile, let alone other root learning hard core grand masters of the Entire East Asia, China included? You will have to help me out of this mother of all logical fallacies here, I’m afraid. 😀

    4. “The reason that so many Asian nations do well on the PISA is because they were all influenced by Confucian thought for more than two thousand years and rote learning is still used there but not used in most Western schools.”
    WoW, but really? By saying this, you are claiming:
    A. rote learning for 2,000 years help thei PISA scores – but Lloyd, which side are you on actually? Didn’t you just claim that Shanghai’s high scores were somehow helped by the fact it was the first in China to distance itself from rote learning?

    B. You are admitting that East Asian doing well on PISA math ( supoorsedly without cheating or other abnormal methods such as filtering out low score students long before the test). Unless you believe China/Shanghai doesn’t believe in Confucian thought at all, don’t do rote learning and hasn’t been influenced by Confucius for 2,000 years, you are suggesting that Shanghai/China does well in PISA WITHOUT cheating, right?

    I am profoundly confused that are you for or against the notion in the first place that Shanghai “Cheated” PISA (by filtering out low score students long before the test) or not? Are you just arguing for my favour now? Then thank you. 😀
    5 “… It has nothing to do with kids being smarter or having higher IQs (racial superiority). It has to do with how they were raised in cultures that value education more than most parents in the West value it.”
    Try to explain that fantasy to top-math scoring adpoted communistied of Belgian Chinese/Koreans, German Chinese and countless ethnic X-generation Chinese/Korean/Janpanese oeverseas who mostly speak 2 figs of their native Chinese/Korean/Japanes languages let alone culture, and on average know Confucius probably even less than Mike Tyson or Paris Hilton does. How the heck they score that high in Math?
    I am afraid your theory has tons of loophones still to cover.
    6. “ Math is mostly a rote skill. I’m not talking about math. PISA also tests for critical thinking and problem solving skills and those skills are strongest in Shanghai at this time.”
    ? So Shanghai socred high on Math without “cheating” after all? is that what you start to argue?

    • Sorry, I won’t fall for the bait.

      I made my point that the US schools are not failing, because the kids in Shanghai who took the test were among the 10.6% of Chinese students still attending the academic track by age 15 while the PISA test in the US is given to all cohorts because at that age almost 100% of students are still in school and 21 million live in poverty.

      And I’m not going to argue with anyone about Chinese students in Shanghai cheating in the PISA because that is n allegation without evidence—a baseless opinion.

      The PISA country rankings do not match the top 10% in China with the top 10% in the US. That ranking matches the top 10% in China with 100% of US students.

      In addition, when we look closely at how many were tested in each socioeconomic cohort, the US tested more students from the lowest cohort than other countries skewing the results down.

      And when we look at US citizens who graduate from universities in America, the United States isn’t graduating enough in the sciences and engineering. This shortage has been around for decades and is the reason starting with President Reagan that the United States recruited scientists and engineers and even doctors and nurses from other countries such as China and India or the US wouldn’t have enough in those fields to meet demand.

      If you look closely at graduate students attending US universities majoring in the sciences, you will discover that most of them came from outside the US to study here and many end up staying. In fact, the shortage of US citizens in these vital fields is so small that the US government will pay all tuition and a salary for any American born student who majors in specific sciences considered vital for national defense.

      Too many American parents are spoiling their kids rotten and letting the TV and social media raise them to grow up and become narcissist sociopaths. Do you think the urban Chinese children who were the only child (under the one-child policy) are as spoiled as most US middle class kids?

  4. SP says:

    Lloyd,

    It seems that it’s the truth, but it is indeed far from it.

    1. There is a thing called “average IQ”. Even for those who don’t believe in ÏQ” for one reason or another, they can’t deny there seems to be a mystical thing called ‘Factor X” which determines who have better chances to win the next year’s world’s Field Medal or Nobel Prize on Physics or Gold Medal of 2015 International Math Olympiad. This “Factor X”has not much to do with how many hours you put into work or how rich your parents and your school are, or how excellent is your teacher, relatively to how much raw talent you have in the very first place. When someone has both this raw talent AND many hours of hard works, he/she excels and will have a good chance to win all the top prizes. This is the same “Factor X” which determines primarily the PISA math ranking, calling it (avg) IQ or not.

    2. Bearing 1 in mind, East Asian countries monopolised, ( and will keep monopoly in the future as long as PISA exists), the top 7 in PISA Math Ranking in 2012. Even Vietnam , a half-East Asian country, beat Germany and almost entire West on Math. If Shanghai had been “cheating” PISA, in one way or another (as you stated), one much tougher question for you to answer would be:

    “Why the heck Shanghai (or China) students on average are such lousy, lazy and stupid students, since ALL the rest of their genetic kins in East Asia (from HK, Singapore, Taiwan, Macao, Korea, Japan, even Vietnam) were all top 6 on PISA Math EXCEPT Shanghai or China?”.

    If you can not find a logical answer to this question, you’ll have to admit something went COMPLETELY wrong somewhere in your above analysis, agree?

    3. It seems perfectly true and logical, as you states, that Shanghai public schools are “the elite of the elite of China’s best public schools”, nbecause all the “stupiders”have already been filtered out of such system in Zhongkao. But where you went wrong? The rest, already filtered out, students of Zhongkao who are mostly in vacational schools, CAN, on average, STILL top Germany and the rest of the West for example, even though they are “disadvantaged” compared to other Shanghai pub schools students. The fact is that the internal competiotin in Shanghai is so hard (rest of the China even much harder) that even those “filtered out”students can still make the Global top 5 on average- this is the fact that 10X harder for the West to swollow than “Shanghai being #1”. The proof is in the pudding. Many if not majority of Chinese students who go studing aboard particularly in Australia, Germany, England and Canada are actually those who can not enroll into a decent university in mainland China. These students, on average, are consistently top the charts of national scores in Australia, New Zealand, Germany, England and Canada, YEAR AFTER YEAR without an exception. Isn’t it enough a proof ?

    4. Shanghai would have been still be #1 on Math even if ALL those students of “filtered out” vocational schools had been included in PISA, albeit with less distance from the #2, Hong Kong, score-wise. The proof of this is that you can ask an average HK student to take a Math exam in an average “filtered out” Shanghai Vocational (not public) School, he/she would likely ranked average there. Or ask one of well-above average student ( non-east Asian in origin) from a well-respected private school in Boston to take a maths exam in an average Shanghai Public School, he/she would rank well below average if not close to the bottom of the class. Go try it. I did.

    5. PISA Math questions are “Super Easy” – this is the typical response of Shanghai students who participated when asked by the local reporters. This means the distance between Shanghai scores and #2 HK could have been larger than it already is, had PISA questions been harder enough.

    6. Anyone who believes that Shanghai has the highest average math scores of China will be in for a shocking awakening. Anyone who believes that Shanghai must have the highest scores in China simply because it is the wealthiest is as delusional as those who believe “New York City or LA Metro” must have the highest scores in America because NYC is the wealthiest and the most developed”. Sorry, but Shanghai’s average Math scores ( of its public schools) are on average in China at best, if you look at statistics of all-important Chinese gaokao math. More than a dozen inland much poorer provinces of China beat Shanghai on Math & Science in Gaokao year after year, every year! The bazaar Western propaganda (a self-inflicted one) that “Richest Shanghai scores the highest in China” has been a laughing stock for ANY Chinese student, in mainland China or abroad. If that were true then Richest NYC students must top the chart with the scores of son of BillGates so high that will be off the all charts simply because they are the richest. 😀

    7. If Shanghai cheats, long before some ignorant half-bottles of the West such as Tom Loveless whine about Shanghai, the rest of top 6, namely HK, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Macao and Japan, would have already complained about the fairness of the test given they are the ones who really could benefiting by immediately improving their ranking. Is that right? But where are loud complains from these above countries except dear sour clueless Tom Loveless with his half-baked home-made “statistics”? No one knows Shanghai better than its immediate neighbours, namely HK, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, Macao and Japan , just like no one knows USA better than its immediate neighbours such as Canada, Mexico and Greenlands. If Shanghai’s behaviour or results are obnormal, there will be eyebrow raised from these countries right away. But there are no complains . Zero! It is because they all are afraid of “big bad China”? Or it is because they think that the results are logically sound according to their past experiences . It would have been an ultimate shocker to them had Shanghai ranked #10, or #15 instead.

    Truth can only be proven by facts. To conclude, I predict the following “facts”:

    A. at least the half of the team of US for International Math Olympiad will be either ethnic Chinese or ethnic East Asian for 2014 and the foreseeable future

    B, China and the rest of East Asian teams will dominate International Math Olympiad for the foreseeable future, as they did in the past.

    C. China (not Shanghai), when participated in PISA for the first time as a whole country in 2015, will score at least top 5 in Math and Science, mostly likely still top 1 in Math.

    D. If China participates 2015 PISA by its 30 provinces on their own, then the top 15 of PISA Math there would be occupied by a dozen or so provinces of China, monopolising top 5 spots with Shanghai not even close to top 5, and it would be quite hard in the foreseeable decades for any Western nation (i.e. North America, Australia and Europe) to see any spot within top 20 in PISA Math, since the rest places will be occupied by the likes such as Singapore, HK, Taiwan, Korea or Japan.

    • Your opinion is interesting but flawed, because there is no proof that what you think is a fact—what you claim appears to be only biased conjecture on your part.

      As for IQ, I’ve written about IQ on one of my other Blogs, and it is true that when we compare racial groups on a bell curve China has the highest average IQ—but that average by itself doesn’t predict success in life. There are many other factors involved. I’ve provided a link to that post on IQ.

      http://crazynormaltheclassroomexpose.com/2010/01/24/looking-at-iq-and-learning-if-the-level-of-intelligence-has-anything-to-do-with-success-in-life-viewed-as-single-page/

      If we tested 15 year old students in China in grade 10 who are attending the academic high school track in all of China’s provinces, we’d still be testing kids who are in the top 10.6% of China’s student population. We’d still be comparing China’s top 10.6% to 100% of America’s 15 year olds because in America children are not allowed to drop out of school until after turning 16 and then they must have permission to leave or risk having the police show up at the door. The fear of being taken away from your family and placed in the juvenile system (a prison for teenagers—America has the biggest prison population in the world and even China is a distant second place) or a foster home forces many kids to keep going to school even if they have no interest in education.

      In addition, to claim that the 60% of Chinese children who drop out of school before completing sixth grade without going on to intermediate school would still outperform the rest of the world at age 15 is unsupportable. It’s just your opinion.

      In fact, the PISA test is not an equitable comparison between countries when all educational systems and cultural attitudes toward education are not the same. In the US, the average and below average parent has little or no respect for education or teachers and looks down on teachers as second class citizens often treating teachers like crap (I know what I’m taking about, because I was a teacher in America’s public schools for thirty years) while in China (and the rest of Asia) the opposite is true.

      In addition, the U.S. has no vocational high school graduation track. Instead, for decades, America’s leaders have forced the public schools to teach every child as if they are eager to go to college and must be prepared when in fact at no time in the world’s history has any country ever had an entire population eager to go to college. I think China’s 9-6-3 rule applies to the world.

      As for Chinese students who attend universities in the United States, this number is statistically insignificant compared to the whole. As this PBS report says, All told, 819,644 students came to the United States to study abroad in the 2012-13 school year. The highest numbers were from China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Canada. About 235,000 of the international students were from China.

      http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/chinese-students-boost-us-universities-to-all-time-high-foreign-enrollment/

      Let’s see what percentage of the total that 235 thousand represents. If 21.2 million students attend the senior high school academic track in China, grades 10 to 12, starting at age 15, that means only 1.1% of that number leave China after high school to attend college in the United States and it is arguable the come from some of the wealthiest families who see this as an advantage over Chinese who stay to attend college in China. This means Chinese from mostly upper middle class or wealthy families with parents that value education highly.

      I don’t disagree that a significant number of Asian parents from any Asian country who migrates to the United States tends to be much better parents when it comes to instilling a sense of respect for teachers and a value for education in their children. I taught in the US public schools for thirty year and my best students were always Asians. They were always a pleasure to work with even when they were jerks (which was rare).

      But, taking all factors into consideration, America’s public schools are not broken. If anything is broken it’s the average attitude of parents in the US and a dysfunctional culture. When we take that into consideration, the public schools are not broken and are doing the best they can with the population of children the schools have to teach.

      America’s schools are not based on a merit system as they are in China and most of the world. America’s schools are based on a flawed concept that all children are eager to learn; want to go to college and are equal in all things-—but this is far from the truth and may be America’s undoing in the long run, a serious cultural flaw that probably isn’t going to improve.

      I contend that America’s advantage as a super power comes from distance (two oceans that separate the US from its enemies) and resources. After America’s Civil War 150 years ago, all major wars have been fought in Europe, the Middle East and Asia causing great destruction to infrastructure and a massive loss of life. This gave America a decided advantage that has diminished significantly since the end of World War II as those countries recover, and even more so since Mao’s death after Deng Xiaoping opened China to the world and allowed a private sector to flourish in China.

      Evidence of this may be seen in America’s automobile sector. in 1958, Toyotas and Datsuns—Japanese-made automobiles—were imported into the U.S. for the first time, and American auto makers began losing market shares to the well-engineered, gas-saving and affordable foreign vehicles. Before 1958, the US auto industry controlled most of the global auto sector. But this is another topic so I’ll end here.

      • SP says:

        Thanks for the reply, Lloyd.

        1. “ to claim that the 60% of Chinese children who drop out of school before completing sixth grade without going on to intermediate school would still outperform the rest of the world at age 15 is unsupportable. It’s just your opinion.”
        Do you have proof to say that it is unsupportable? If no, it is your opinion.
        I’ve seen countless examples on this one in real life. Not my opinion, but facts.

        2. “In fact, the PISA test is not an equitable comparison between countries when all educational systems and cultural attitudes toward education are not the same. In the US, the average and below average parent has little or no respect for education or teachers and looks down on teachers as second class citizens often treating teachers like crap (I know what I’m taking about, because I was a teacher in America’s public schools for thirty years) while in China (and the rest of Asia) the opposite is true.”

        It doesn’t matter what excuses the US students have, and will have, the facts are that compared to the Western kids (and most East Asian ones as well) Chinese sutudents, from public schools or not, on average, are
        A. smarter, particularly on spatial IQ which is proven highly correlated to standard tests scores in Math and Sciences such as PISA, TIMSS, GaoKao, SAT, etc etc around the world, across time ( if you believed in average IQ)! and
        B. work much hard (spend much more hours). In fact possiblely the hardest working school in the world by working hours ( the 3nd place is from South Korea, HK and Taiwan)., and
        C. pay much more on basic education (particularly Math & Science)
        D. grown up in an evironment where education and edcafors are much more respected

        Therefore, there is NO WAY, for Western kids to have higher scores than Chinese kids on average. Just NO WAY, if you’re a logical person.
        Facts around the world prove my point. OK, one step back, let’;s assume that Shanghai Chated on PISA, and China cheated and will cheat on PISA by deliberately sroping out 90% of it worse students.
        Did Taiwan cheat on PISA in this way? How you can possbilely explain Taiwan’s PISA Math scores?
        Did HK cheat on PISA in this way? How you can possbilely explain HK’s PISA Math scores?
        Did Singapore cheat on PISA in this way? How you can possbilely explain Singapore’s PISA Math scores?
        Did Macao cheat on PISA in this way? How you can possbilely explain Macao’s PISA Math scores?
        Did South Korea cheat on PISA in this way? How you can possbilely explain South Korea’s PISA Math scores?
        If Shanghai cheats, then Taiwan, HK, Macao, South Korea and Japan must also cheat. It is because being the same/similar people, they generally scored about the smame level since ancient times before anypne ever heard about “PISA”.
        See, you still AVOID answering my previous KEY QUESTION, namely,:
        “Why the heck Shanghai (or China) students on average are such lousy, lazy and stupid students, since ALL the rest of their genetic kins in East Asia (from HK, Singapore, Taiwan, Macao, Korea, Japan, even Vietnam) were all top 6 on PISA Math EXCEPT Shanghai or China?”.
        you can not explain the phenomina, none of them. If you can’t , you will have to accept the fact that it is entirely possbile that they didn’t cheat PISA, and it is entirely possbile that despite of Shangahi’s Zhoukao ridding off some lower scores students – these very same students STILL are very competitive to the rest of the world, so much so that even count them all in, Shanghai would still be #1 on PISA, albeit beating #2 HK by less margin.
        It is NOT my opinion. It is a fact based on real-world. To count this fact, you only have have tell me 1 counter-example where a large amount of ethnic Chinese students who, on avrage, CAN NOT score #1 on Math everywhere in th world, being UK, US, Australia, New Zeland, Brasil, South African, Carribeans, Maylasia, or Germany, Spain, Austria… tell me 1 example, and I will concede my point. If you can’t, you’ll have a very serious thinking to do I am afraid.
        3. whatever you reason you could name, if it is a correct reason, then it must explain the rest of East Asia “abnormality”. If you can’t , your “theory/rason”is wrong. It’s not a fact, but your opinion based on your analyais which is incompatible with the fact. Agree? Don’t tell me that it has sth to do with average wealth. Yes, wealth affect a bit, but that much. I am also eager to hear your analysis on how the heck piss-poor commie Vietnam beat rich democratic Germany, USA, Swizterland, Canada in PISA math by a country mile. Hmmm, the commie Viets are cheating, right? The next thingyou check, Vietnam has been one of the top performaing countries on International math Olympiads for many years…
        You have a problem with PISA scores right? Try TIMSS, which happends before Zhoukao. There is no reason China filter out lower score students even at about elementary schools right? The results would be the same!

        4. “But, taking all factors into consideration, America’s public schools are not broken. If anything is broken it’s the average attitude of parents in the US and a dysfunctional culture. When we take that into consideration, the public schools are not broken and are doing the best they can with the population of children the schools have to teach..”
        Agreed on this one.
        If not, American average scores would have been better, even though still being far behind China’s. Guaranteed! Re-visit my point 2.
        5. If you don’t believe, or can’t see, my points, whereever you’re located, go ask ANY Chinese student who studied in mainland China, I mean ANY, that you can find around you, and ask him/her seriously “Do Shanghai (public schools) have the highest scores on Math and Sciences in China? ”, I bet the answer, without exception, would be in the line of :
        “ROFL! :D, Shanghai? You mean Shanghai Lloyd? Are you kidding me? Shanghai scores have been average at best within China.”

      • Instead of challenging me to find the facts to prove or disprove your claims, provide the facts from primary sources that are peer reviewed. I don’t have to prove your unsupported claims are accurate or not. That is the responsibility of the person making the claims.

        I’m not talking about cheating on the PISA. You’re changing the subject, a logical fallacy.

        As for asking any Chinese student outside of Shanghai what their opinion is, that’s just another opinion. It is a logical fallacy to claim that all Shanghai students are lazy because there is no way to prove this.

        Shanghai is where China focused early reforms in education to promote critical thinking and problem solving skills over rote learning. Beijing was the second city to promote these reforms in the public schools. This reforms will continue to spread to other cities and into rural China, but China also has a shortage of teachers for most rural schools so that will slow up education reforms in rural areas.

        A few decades ago, after the death of Mao, teams of Chinese educators spread out across Europe and North America to study the teaching methods in the schools there; then partnered with some Western schools to help bring those reforms to China.

        The reason that so many Asian nations do well on the PISA is because they were all influenced by Confucian thought for more than two thousand years and rote learning is still used there but not used in most Western schools

        In Asia, values for education are due to the fact that Chinese traders traded with all of these nations since well before the birth of Christ spreading cultural influences from the regional super power, China. Therefore, cultural differences regarding education applies to all Asian nations. It has nothing to do with kids being smarter or having higher IQs (racial superiority). It has to do with how they were raised in cultures that value education more than most parents in the West value it.
        And those Asian nations offer both vocational and academic tracks that lead to high school graduation. In Japan, for instance, the academic track only graduates 70% of the students. Most of the rest graduate from the vocational track. Once again, the PISA test is testing students who are competitive, disciplined and respect teachers and education.

        I’ve known a few Western teachers who taught high school in Japan and the students are disciplined, respectful of teachers and parents support the teachers and schools instead of attacking and criticizing them as if often the case in the United States. In America, many parents encourage their kids to be rebellious and challenge authority while allowed children to spend an average of 10 hours a day not studying or reading but watching TV or playing endless vedio games, etc.

        It’s not a case of racial superiority but cultural values when it comes to education.

        Math is mostly a rote skill. I’m not talking about math. PISA also tests for critical thinking and problem solving skills and those skills are strongest in Shanghai at this time.

        You may be interested in reading Amy Chua’s latest book that was released this month in the United States. She and her husband are already under attack by the average American parent who takes no responsibility for being a lousy parent but blames almost everything on teachers and public schools.

        http://www.amazon.com/Triple-Package-Unlikely-Explain-Cultural/dp/1594205469/ref=la_B001IGHLBG_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1392061650&sr=1-1

        “That certain groups do much better in America than others—as measured by income, occupational status, test scores, and so on—is difficult to talk about. In large part this is because the topic feels racially charged. The irony is that the facts actually debunk racial stereotypes. There are black and Hispanic subgroups in the United States far outperforming many white and Asian subgroups. Moreover, there’s a demonstrable arc to group success—in immigrant groups, it typically dissipates by the third generation—puncturing the notion of innate group differences and undermining the whole concept of ‘model minorities.'”

  5. ChasL says:

    Lloyd, the last paragraph seems to be questionable. According to Figure C2 of the Economic Policy Institute report cited, US students scored lower than top-scoring countries.

    • I’ve taken the liberty of copying and pasting some crucial information from the Economic Policy Institute’s report:

      In our comparisons of U.S. student performance on the PISA test with student performance in six other countries—three similar post-industrial economies (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) and three countries whose students are “top scoring” (Canada, Finland, and Korea)—we conclude that, in reading:

       Higher social class (Group 5) U.S. students now perform as well as comparable social class students in all six comparison countries.

       Disadvantaged students perform better (in some cases, substantially better) than disadvantaged students in the three similar post-industrial countries, but substantially less well than disadvantaged students in the three top-scoring countries.

       The reading achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in the United States is smaller than the gap in the three similar post-industrial countries, but larger than the gap in the top-scoring countries.

      We conclude that, in mathematics:

       U.S. students in all social classes perform relatively less well than in reading.

       Even so, disadvantaged students in the United States now do about the same or better than disadvantaged students in similar post-industrial countries, while advantaged students do much less well.

       U.S. students in all social classes perform less well than comparable social class students in the top-scoring countries.

       The mathematics achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in the United States is smaller than the gap in the three similar post-industrial countries, but mostly larger than the gap in the top-scoring countries.

      First: “Considering trends, the performance of disadvantaged U.S. students has improved between 2000 and 2009 in both reading and mathematics relative to the performance of disadvantaged students in five of our six comparison countries. This results both from the fact that disadvantaged students’ average PISA scores in both tests declined or were unchanged in all comparison countries except Germany, while in the United States disadvantaged students’ PISA scores have improved. …

      “We are most certain of this: To make judgments only on the basis of national average scores, on only one test, at only one point in time, without comparing trends on different tests that purport to measure the same thing, and without disaggregation by social class groups, is the worst possible choice. But, unfortunately, this is how most policymakers and analysts approach the field.”

      Here’s the link if you are willing to take the time to read the rather long report:

      http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/

  6. ChasL says:

    Lloyd, would you say our 5-state participation is representative? Sure, Boston is ranked 6th in the world, but let’s throw some bible thumping, creationist teaching red states in the mix shall we?

    • I take it that you have swallowed the propaganda (lies, cherry picking and misinformation) from the critics of public education who want to take over teaching our kids by firing all those horrible, lazy, overpaid, incompleteness teachers who often work 60 to 100 hour weeks—-on average.

Comments are welcome — pro or con. However, comments must focus on the topic of the post, be civil and avoid ad hominem attacks.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: