China gains face through 2009 PISA

April 1, 2013

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international assessment that measures 15-year-old students’ reading, mathematics, and science literacy. PISA also includes measures of general or cross-curricular competencies, such as problem solving. PISA emphasizes functional skills that students have acquired as they near the end of compulsory schooling. Source: National Center for Education Statistics

When I first visited China in 1999, my wife warned me that the Chinese men I might witness peeing or defecating in public parks (there weren’t many public toilets then—China started building public toilets to get ready for the 2008 Olympics) in Shanghai were peasants from rural China.

In fact, where my wife grew up in Shanghai (in the picturesque French sector), there was one toilet in a three-story house where several families lived and the stove was next to the toilet.

Since then, I learned that China is one country with many cultures and languages. Even rural and urban China is different as the US is to rural Mexico.

However, after the 1980s, hundreds of millions of rural Chinese migrated to the cities to find jobs that paid better than being a peasant still stuck in the Middle Ages.

Unfortunately, these people sometimes called Stick People brought their (uncivilized by Western standards) rural habits with them.

In 1999, I witnessed rural Chinese near Xian living in huts made of straw with dirt floors, no plumbing and no toilets.

This is what the CCP inherited when it came to power in 1949. The Party did not create this situation. After Mao died, the Communist Party had to rebuild an educational system that had been devastated by a Civil War, World War II and then the Cultural Revolution and before then there was little or no educational system in rural China.

Most of the schools in China up until 1950s were in the cities and focused on educating the elite.

It wasn’t until the 1980s, that the CCP started to rebuild and revise China’s public education system. Over time, the education system spread from urban to rural China where it is still being developed.

Imagine what the effort must have been for the CCP to educate a population that was about 80 percent illiterate in 1976 to 2009 when randomly selected 15-year old Chinese students in Shanghai earned the highest scores in the world on the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) test beating 65 other nations including the United States.

Shanghai’s fifteen-year-old students scored 556 in Reading (PISA average 493), 600 in Math (PISA avr. 496) and 575 in Science (PISA avr. 501).

Second place went to South Korea with 539 in Reading; Singapore with 562 Math, and Finland with 554 in Science. Source: Our

The results of the 2012 PISA will be released December 3, 2013. Will the United States improve its scores? Will China be number one again?


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.

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Facts about Education — China and the world versus America – Part 2/3

July 29, 2011

Myth: “The United States Used to Have the World’s Smartest Schoolchildren.”

ANSWER: Ben Wildavsky says, “No, it didn’t. Even at the height of U.S. geopolitical dominance and economic strength, American students were never anywhere near the head of the class … the results from the first major international math test came out in 1967 … Japan took first place out of 12 countries, while the United States finished near the bottom …

If American’s ahistorical [unconcerned with or unrelated to history or to historical development or to tradition] sense of their global decline prompts educators to come up with innovative new ideas, that’s all to the good.  But don’t expect any of them to bring the country back to its educational golden age—there wasn’t one.”

Myth: “Chinese Students Are Eating America’s Lunch.”

ANSWER: “Only Partly True … China’s educational prowess is real. Tiger moms (such as Amy Chua, who wrote Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother) are no myth—Chinese students focus intensely on their schoolwork, with strong family support, but these results don’t necessarily provide compelling evidence of U.S. inferiority.”

Wildavsky then says that many of the students in rural China outside Shanghai (the only Chinese city where the PISA international test was conducted) are poorer and less educated than ‘China’s’ coastal cities …

(American) alarmist comparisons with other countries, Waldavksy says, whose challenges are quite different from those of the United States, don’t help.

He says, “Americans should be less worried about how their own kids compare with kids in Helsinki (Finland) than how students in the Bronx measure up to their peers in Westchester Country.”

Myth: “The U.S. No Longer Attracts the Best and the Brightest.


While Wildavsky mentions that the U.S. should be concerned about the future, the U.S. college education system was (and still is) second to none since the United States has long been the world’s largest magnet for international students.

In fact, he says there are more foreign students in the United States now than there were a decade ago—149,999 more in 2008 than in 2000.

For international graduate study, Wildavsky says, American universities are a particularly powerful draw in fields that may directly affect the future competitiveness of a country’s economy: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Continued on July 29, 2011 in Facts about Education – Part 3 or return to Part 1


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too.

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