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New Education Performance Data Published: Asia Dominates 263

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-too-busy-eating-cheeseburgers-to-do-math dept.
jones_supa writes "The latest PISA (Programme for International Assessment) results are out today. Since 2000, the OECD has attempted to evaluate the knowledge and skills of 15-year olds across the world through its PISA test. More than 510,000 students in 65 economies took part in the latest test, which covered math, reading and science, with the main focus on math — which the OECD state is a 'strong predictor of participation in post-secondary education and future success.' Asian countries outperform the rest of the world, according to the OECD, with Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Macau and Japan amongst the top performing countries and economies. Students in Shanghai performed so well in math that the OECD report compares their scoring to the equivalent of nearly three years of schooling above most OECD countries. The study shows also a slight gender cap: in all countries, boys generally perform a bit better than girls, but this applies only to math." Here's a spreadsheet listing each country's results. The U.S. ranked 26th in math (below average), 17th in reading (slightly above average), and 21st in science (slightly below average).
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New Education Performance Data Published: Asia Dominates

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  • USA (Score:5, Funny)

    by coinreturn (617535) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:22PM (#45587059)
    USA is 36-24-28. Sounds about right - top-heavy.
    • Re:USA (Score:5, Funny)

      by AioKits (1235070) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:41PM (#45587263)
      Only if she's 5'3".
    • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:35PM (#45589585) Journal

      I was from China, and I am a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.

      Regarding education - back when I escaped from China (that was some 40 odd years ago) the schools in East Asia (countries which were/are heavily influenced by the Confucianism school of thought such as China, Korea, Japan, Singapore ) were pretty much based on the top-down rote-learning mode - whereby the students have no say, and they must do EVERYTHING their teachers told them to do.

      It operated that way because the basic tenet of the Confucianism teaching is that the young uns are SLAVES to their elders (it's pretty much based on the blind obedience mode).

      When I reached the West I was totally astounded when my classmate actually questioned the teachers !

      That was a super NO-NO in Asia.

      Back then, even if the student asked a totally legitimate question to the teacher in class that student will be summoned to the headmaster and/or discipline master's office for punishment.

      That was how the Asian school had operated back then.

      Now ... except for Korea, which is still practicing strict Confucianism as what it has been doing for the past 2,000 years ... many schools in the East Asian countries (those populated by yellow-skin folks) have drastically improved their teaching method.

      Nowadays students are encouraged to solve problems, rather than to remember the facts laid out by their teachers.

      From Singapore to Tokyo to Hong Kong to Taiwan, everywhere I go I see great improvements.

      As for the other East Asian countries, those which are being populated by the brown skin folks such as Indonesia or the Philippines or Thailand, their schools are still as sucks as 50 years ago.

      I see that there are people here trying to justify their own country's failing by saying that the "comparison is not fair", that the comparison is comparing "cities to countries".

      For those folks, what I see is nothing much but sour grapes.

      Yes, comparing schools in Hong Kong or Singapore to schools in the United States of America is comparing schools in CITIES to a LARGE COUNTRY --- but so what ?

      If the schools in the United States of America sux, it's STILL SUX, no matter if it's in the city of Detroit or if it's in the city of Little Rock.

      How many of my fellow Americans have been to the public schools ? How many of you have seen the effect of gangsterism in the public schools in America ?

      I have.

      I have 2 friends who were teachers in public schools in America who were MURDERED by their students.

      On the other hand, I have a lot of friends who teach in schools in Asia, and so far, none of them have been killed by their students yet.

      When I asked my teacher friends in Asia about a recent news of a math teacher in Boston who got her throat slit by her student. all of them were horrified by that news.

      But when I post that same news to my friends who used to teach (and some are STILL teaching) in American public schools, they just shrug.

      This reflects how bad the American school system has become.

      You guys may want to deny it as much as you can, but for one who was from afar (I am not a product of the American high school system), the American school system has failed.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:22PM (#45587063)

    As Slate pointed out this morning (), the way that this study mixes data from individual urban areas with data from whole countries makes it impossible to perform fair comparisons. Note that 4 out of the 7 asian "countries" that the Slashdot summary refers to (Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau) are either city-states or aren't even countries at all!

    Comparing non-countries (or city-states) with countries biases the results by comparing poorer, less educated rural areas with better educated cities.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Forgot the URL: http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_world_/2013/12/03/we_need_to_stop_letting_china_cheat_on_international_education_rankings.html

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe the conclusion is flawed (if not all regions are included in the comparison, such as mainland china, maybe asia isn't doing so well) but of course you can compare a city with a rural area, why shouldn't you? If the average american child are worse at math than the average singaporian, of course Singapore deserves a higher ranking, why shouldn't it?

    • by rahvin112 (446269) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:06PM (#45587543)

      I personally reject the assertion that math scores predict future success (there might be a small relationship in certain nations, but not worldwide), I also reject that cultural bias is being neglected.

      I've met plenty of engineers from cultures where questioning and innovation are highly discouraged and they couldn't innovate their way out of a paper bag. Great at the book learning and can duplicate the solution to any problem they've seen but handling real world problems where the constraints don't match the book? They don't even reach the level of western high school students even when compared against PHD's. There is a real cultural bias, and ultimately that bias is going to handicap the advancement of every culture it infects.

      • I've met plenty of engineers from cultures where questioning and innovation are highly discouraged and they couldn't innovate their way out of a paper bag.

        True and I believe that is why this discrepancy in knowledge has not had any real, noticeable impact yet because at university you have to question if you are going to learn anything. However this is not a static picture - standards in the west are dropping and at some point all the innovation in the world is not going to help us because our kids won't have enough background to be able to ask interesting questions or, to use your analogy, they will find the inside of the paper bag so new and exciting becau

    • by Sique (173459) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:06PM (#45587547) Homepage

      Comparing non-countries (or city-states) with countries biases the results by comparing poorer, less educated rural areas with better educated cities.

      And this is bad exactly why?

      If it's true that in the U.S., the rural areas lack education and are less wealthy, when compared with urban areas, then it's a fact studies like this are pointing out. It's not that the results are biased. They just reflect reality. Obviously the U.S. misses a strategy to bring enough education to rural areas and less wealthy people.

      • Comparing non-countries (or city-states) with countries biases the results by comparing poorer, less educated rural areas with better educated cities.

        And this is bad exactly why?

        Because rankings can easily get messed up if there's some sort of confounding variable or factor. If education is generally poorer in rural areas worldwide (which is roughly true), then this ranking system may partially be measuring percentage of urban areas within a given country, rather than a meaningful comparison of educational performance.

        Of course, it's probably more than that, but rigorous statistical comparisons need to take demographics into account to assert causality.

        It's not that the results are biased. They just reflect reality. Obviously the U.S. misses a strategy to bring enough education to rural areas and less wealthy people.

        No one's saying that the U

      • by stenvar (2789879)

        Obviously the U.S. misses a strategy to bring enough education to rural areas and less wealthy people.

        You got the causation backwards. It's not that Singapore causes its families to become educated, it's that families that value education and are looking for a place to succeed move to those places. And if you look at those nations, they actually spend far less per pupil than the US. They also have greater economic freedoms, less regulation, and far lower taxes than the US. Top income tax rates in Singapore

    • Singapore is a country even though it is a small island. Hong Kong & Macau could be counted as one country; however, I don't know how people in Hong Kong think whether they are in the same country. Only Shanghai is a CITY in China and cannot represent the whole country.

  • If countries want to score better they should teach to the test like the top countries usually do.
    • Re:Teach to the test (Score:4, Interesting)

      by TWiTfan (2887093) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:46PM (#45587309)

      No, you just find clever ways to eliminate all the poor people from your numbers--like defining Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Macau as separate countries so you don't have to count all the illiterate poor people out in the Chinese countryside.

    • Re:Teach to the test (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Korveck (1145695) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:55PM (#45587421)
      Based on my personal experience, students in those top ranking Asia Pacific area are taught at a faster pace and exposed to far more challenging questions in school. When I moved to Canada from Hong Kong, I didn't have to study Math for a year and a half because I learned almost everything already. The Asian students have far more homework. The more anxious parents send their kids to tutors, not necessarily because they are falling behind, but also to get ahead of the class. They don't need to "teach to the test" at all to get far better score. They simply know more and face difficult questions on a regular basis.
  • And not real real skill if they are not on the test.

  • by bazmail (764941) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:28PM (#45587135)
    Students nowadays cannot be punished for any misbehavior or disruption, its all illegal. Its common sense that standards are in the toilet. Students who succeed in the US now are succeeding despite our system, not because of it.
    • by mlts (1038732) *

      I'm not surprised. At first, I saw people home-schooling, and it was just the RW types. However, I'm seeing the same thing on the left as well, where parents are just getting tired of a broken education system.

      How to fix? I have thought of vouchers as an idea, but my fear that it would trade failed public schools for failed schools owned by a private corporation. A national school system would not fly because of the history of state/local autonomy. Bashing unions are not going to help much, as non-unio

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        The what types?

      • by ebno-10db (1459097) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:26PM (#45587863)

        I have thought of vouchers as an idea, but my fear that it would trade failed public schools for failed schools owned by a private corporation.

        Why? First, they needn't be owned by for-profit corporations. Traditionally private schools are not. I'd be happy with banning the use of the school vouchers for for-profit schools (if nothing else, the fireworks would be entertaining!). With vouchers you'd have a choice, and schools would have to compete with each other. I'm not a market fundamentalist, or even RW, but I am an empiricist. School vouchers are very popular and successful in an extreme right-wing bastion called Sweden.

        Probably the best way is from the ground up... get homeschooling parents to trade off, and form the old "one room schoolhouse" of yore.

        What makes you think they aren't? My neighbors are home schooling their daughter. Admittedly she's only in the first grade, but amongst other things kids go to some classes that are taught by various parents. BTW, politically they lean to the left a bit (mom's even a vegetarian!).

      • by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:49PM (#45588229)

        I agree - unions have nothing to do with it.

        Finland, for example has an excellent education system. Their teachers are fully unionized. Likewise Massachusetts.

        The US states that don't have unionized teachers are also the states that do the worst on measures of education.

    • You cannot flunk the dolts because, "it might damage their self-esteem."

      Deal with it [despair.com].

      Cheers,
      Dave

  • Students in Shanghai performed so well in math that the OECD report compares their scoring to the equivalent of nearly three years of schooling above most OECD countries.

    Not sure about math, reading and science, but clearly my geography is bad. I had no idea Shanghai was a country.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      I'm not sure about your reading either. It never said Shanghai is a country.
    • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:46PM (#45587317) Journal

      Students in Shanghai performed so well in math that the OECD report compares their scoring to the equivalent of nearly three years of schooling above most OECD countries.

      Not sure about math, reading and science, but clearly my geography is bad. I had no idea Shanghai was a country.

      Your reading doesn't seem to be up to much either. Nowhere in that sentence does it even imply that Shanghai is a country.

      • by X0563511 (793323)

        You are aware that contextual clues [slashdot.org] form a rather large part of reading comprehension?

        • by oodaloop (1229816)
          Read it again for yourself. It says 'countries and economies' but the post you quoted left off 'and economies'. We know how to read just fine. You need some work.
          • by X0563511 (793323)

            So you believe comparing two different things on the same level is even approaching accuracy or responsible reporting?

            • by oodaloop (1229816)
              Wow, reading fail again. I never said, nor implied that. I merely stated that the fantastic summary never said that Shanghai was a country.

              I would agree that comparing a city to a country is unfair, but that's not what this conversation started off as.
  • At What Cost (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EMG at MU (1194965) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:33PM (#45587181)
    South Korea has the highest suicide rate of any developed nation.

    Japan is on track to experience negative population growth.

    What do all these wonderfully educated youth have to look forward to besides leaving their native country to go find somewhere they can actually live
  • Massachusetts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy (20178) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:41PM (#45587265)

    Results among the states varies a lot. For example Massachusetts is fully competitive with the Asian countries. On the TIMSS exam (generally thought to be more difficult than the PISA test) Massachusetts finished sixth in the world in mathematics, and second in the sciences for it's 8th grade students.

    High levels of achievement ARE attainable in the US. It isn't a matter of cultural problems, or the society we live in. It's a matter of politicians and parents adopting the attitude that it can be done, and sticking to that idea. Effective reform though is not something that can be done overnight. Massachusetts has been at it for 20 years.

    http://boston.com/community/blogs/rock_the_schoolhouse/2012/12/massachusetts_aces_internation.html [boston.com]

    Massachusetts has shown how to do it. Now all it takes is realization of what can be done and applying it elsewhere.

    • by jandrese (485)
      It helps when a lot of the parents are MIT grads and engineers as well. There is a cycle of ignorance where parents who are uneducated tend to have children who are uninterested in education. These kids end up squandering their school years and then have their own kids, who perpetuate the cycle.

      I grew up in West Virginia, in a not particularly wealthy or prestigious part of the state. However, we did have a lot of local chemical plants, and thus lots of chemical engineers. When these sorts of tests
    • by stenvar (2789879)

      Massachusetts has shown how to do it. Now all it takes is realization of what can be done and applying it elsewhere.

      That's no mystery: just attract a highly educated workforce, and education, health, income, life expectancy, etc. will all follow. Unfortunately, getting the top 5% of the population to move to your state is not something every state can do.

  • by Andover Chick (1859494) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:48PM (#45587341)
    You cannot pick-and-choose cities like Shanghai, Hong Kong or Singapore the put them against an entire country like USA. That is categorically absurd and looks the the results are being rigged to make a point instead of statistical validity. Instead compare Shanghai to say Boston.
    • That accounts for 4 of the 25 entries ahead of the US on this list. It really isn't that significant.

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      Or perhaps, at best, an entire Chinese province to a US State. The results of this study only show that students in the best Chinese schools are only slightly above US with all of its good schools and bad averaged together.
      • by kamapuaa (555446) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:46PM (#45588181) Homepage

        More than that, Shanghai's hukou system [wikipedia.org] ensures that the children of poor residents from other parts of China aren't even a part of the Shanghai school system. It's more than half the population, and probably more than that by children (poor people and ethnic minorities either aren't subject to, or ignore, the single-child rule). So this is comparing the wealthiest portion of a single city, the city with the best school system in China, to the population of the US as a whole.

  • by Guillermito (187510) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:55PM (#45587419) Homepage

    Here

    http://www.oecd.org/pisa/test/ [oecd.org]

    You can take a sample test yourself. See how basic the questions are and feel appalled to see the % of students in your country that managed to pass each level.

    For example, only 11% of students in my country (Argentina) were able to reach level 3 (identify the smallest value in a table). Highest rank for that question was Shanghai-China (89%). USA was 48%.

    • by lagomorpha2 (1376475) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:07PM (#45587561)

      (identify the smallest value in a table). Highest rank for that question was Shanghai-China (89%). USA was 48%.

      Thanks, before I was just disappointed with America, now I'm disappointed in the world!

    • Which gets us to the question: did the teenagers fail on purpose?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        As someone who took this test (I believe, if not this exact one it was very similar) when I was in school, I can guarantee you people did. Once we were told it didn't have any impact on our grade, people just started marking down answers and either spent zero time thinking about it or specifically chose the wrong ones just to be defiant.

        Believe it or not, teenagers by and large don't care how statistically valid someone's survey is when they feel like it has no impact on them.

      • That's a really good point, most of them probably didn't care. They should have offered the kids some kind of incentive for doing well just to make sure they were paying attention.

        Granted the same incentive doesn't really translate to the same motivation across cultures so that would skew the results a little but that's better than the current situation where the test merely measures the number of students who immediately pay attention to any arbitrary commands issued by an authority figure. And on that n

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:05PM (#45587533) Journal
    I did what every Indian (or Indian American) does. First see where India is ranked. Then where Pakistan is. Laugh at Pakistan when it is beaten. If either or both are missing bemoan the loss of another opportunity to laugh at Pakistan. (What if Pakistan wins, you ask? bah! that never happens )

    Well, whole of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan ... Looks like the entire subcontinent is missing. China has a few urban centers represented. Africa is gone. So it falls into the bemoan the ... category.

  • In gaming out standardized tests...

    that's all this is measuring...whose standardized test-prep is better...

    this does not measure education level or mental ability

  • Gender gaps (Score:5, Informative)

    by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @04:27PM (#45587879) Homepage Journal

    TFS: "The study shows also a slight gender cap: in all countries, boys generally perform a bit better than girls, but this applies only to math."

    PISA 2012 Overview: "Boys perform better than girls in mathematics in only 37 out of the 65 countries and economies that participated in PISA 2012, and girls outperform boys in five countries." (For the curious, they're Jordan, Qatar, Thailand, Malaysia and Iceland.)

    The Guardian article didn't get this wrong. What the hell, submitter?

  • I hope they can keep more and more of this intellectual wealth in Asia, instead of having it usurped by the U.S. Asian governments and large corporations need to treat highly educated people to better job offerings.
  • My girl friend is Asian and she agrees that North America has an education system that is about as "good" as toilet paper. By the time my girl friend was in grade 3 she was doing grade 8 level north american math. She was only allowed to eat dinner when all her homework was done and she had HOURS of homework a night. She didn't get a lot of time off school and if her marks weren't in the high 80's and 90's she got punished. When she came to Canada in grade 4 she was shocked. She told me that until grad
  • Asian countries are known for lying about their test scores and faking them to make themselves look better. There are a couple others in there like Turkey that are infamous for doing the same. I don't believe one single word of this entire report.
  • You have to take into consideration that US demographics are extremely diverse where as china's stats are pretty much uniform.

    Point being... we have a lot of stupid people in the US. Just stupid. Not a lot to be done about it.

    That said, we also have some of the smartest people in the world. And what is more, we draw smart people to the US from all around the world. And they come here and have children.

    Are they massively outnumbered by the exceptionally stupid? Yes. But we have them all the same.

  • Does it do any good? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dorpus (636554)

    While Asian countries are often accused of taking jobs from the West, the President of South Korea's Hyundai Motors visited factories in Russia and the Czech Republic. He said he was impressed by the quality of workers who were far superior to South Korean workers -- they never staged strikes and had far lower wages. While a South Korean factory takes 30 hours to make a car, the Czech factory takes 16. The visiting Korean managers could not keep up with the pace of production, so they received help from loc

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