This website does readability filtering of other pages. All styles, scripts, forms and ads are stripped. If you want your website excluded or have other feedback, use this form.

China “Cheats” the PISA Exams | The Diplomat

Menu The Diplomat Account Home My AccountSign In About Us Advertise Syndication Write for Us Contact Us

The Diplomat

Central Asia East Asia Oceania South Asia Southeast Asia Economy Diplomacy Environment Politics Security Society BlogsChina PowerFlashpointsAsia DefenseASEAN BeatThe PulseThe KoreasTokyo ReportThe DebateCrossroads AsiaTrans-Pacific ViewPacific MoneyAsia LifeOceania Interviews Photo Essays VideosThrough the Lens: Life and Politics in Asia PodcastsJapan AffairsAsia GeopoliticsKorea Talk Magazine Subscribe Asia Life
Image Credit: Flickr (Claire mono)

China “Cheats” the PISA Exams

Shanghai may have the smartest students, but the statistics don’t reflect the rest of China.

By Angela Erika Kubo for The Diplomat December 06, 2013          

According to the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), students in Shanghai are the best in the world at mathematics, reading and science. The standardized test is administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) every three years.

In all three subjects, Shanghai students had the knowledge of at least one extra year of schooling compared to their counterparts in countries such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The city was followed by other East Asian economies such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and Macau.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

Shanghai’s outstanding performance defies preconceptions about China’s education system being based on rote learning, according to the OECD’s deputy director of education, Andreas Schleicher.

In Asia students spend long hours focused on schoolwork, and the education system puts emphasis on test-taking skills rather than critical thinking and real-world applications. Test results can determine one’s entrance into university and even one’s future career.

Before America bemoans its drop in the global education rankings, however, the results need to be given a second look. Some argue that the numbers for Shanghai are misleading and don’t represent the country as a whole.

“The Shanghai scores frankly to me are difficult to interpret. They are almost meaningless,” Tom Loveless, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the AP.

Most of the PISA results come from a sampling of scores from countries as a whole. China has a special arrangement with the OECD that allows the country to administer the test in select regions, but only allow the results from Shanghai, a financial hub which spends four times the national average on student funding, to be published. Most Chinese students live in rural areas and do not have the thousands of dollars that those in Shanghai have to pay for extra tutoring.

Tom Loveless pointed out in an article published by the Brookings Institution that if the exam was administered in rural areas, the scores would be closer to the OECD average rather than at the top. Even then, the results would only reflect those who are actually in school. In the poor, rural areas of China, high school attendance rates are as low as 40 percent and the middle school dropout rate is as high as 25 percent.

“The OECD should be far more transparent than it has been about the agreements it has with the Chinese government concerning who is tested and which scores are released,” Loveless wrote. “If China is treated differently than other PISA participants, the reasons for such special treatment need to be disclosed.”

Topics Asia Life Tags Chinese test scores Education in China Education in Shanghai Global test scores OECD Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development PISA Program for International Student Assessment
Related Stories December 13, 2010 What Shanghai’s PISAs Really Say

Were Shanghai’s PISA scores really a Sputnik moment? Or did they just take the tests more seriously?

Read Story
What Shanghai’s PISAs Really SayVietnam’s PISA SurpriseChina Education Reforms to Emulate Advanced Placement SystemAustralia, World’s Happiest Country for Third Consecutive YearCommercializing Tradition in Yunnan, China Latest Blogs October 19, 2018 Ahead of Nationwide Polls, Attack in Kandahar Kills Gen. Abdul Raziq In a bitter irony, Kandahar's top police official was killed just after a meeting about election security. Read Post Can Kazakhstan Resolve Its Heart Disease Crisis?Feeling Blue: South Korea's Passport DebateAasia Bibi Is a Test Case for PakistanA First: China, EU Launch New Combined Military ExerciseUK-Singapore Defense Ties in Focus With Air Force Chief Introductory Visit Latest Features October 18, 2018 Is the Golden Age of Chinese Studying Abroad at an End? Political headwinds could deter Chinese students from universities in the U.S., Australia, and the U.K. Read Feature India Unleashes Its Own #MeTooChinese Anti-Submarine Warfare: Aviation Platforms, Strategy, and DoctrineNepal and the China-EU Lending RaceThe Weaponization of AirspaceTurn in the Two-Faced: The Plight of Uyghur Intellectuals Follow Us  Facebook  Twitter  Google  RSS Newsletter Sign up for our weekly newsletter The Diplomat Brief Popular Stories October 13, 2018 China's Diplomacy Has a Monster in its Closet Ultra-nationalism is damaging China’s credibility as its ambassadors indulge in curious, chauvinistic and all-too-official tirades. Read Story October 12, 2018 Beware the Thailand King’s New Power Play The recent changes to a key advisory body for the monarchy points to the further consolidation of the new Thai king’s power. Read Story October 12, 2018 China’s Navy Deploys New H-6J Anti-Ship Cruise Missile-Carrying Bombers Based on satellite imagery analysis, Chinese naval aviation has acquired its first four Xian H-6J bombers. Read Story Interview September 26, 2018 Interview With Indian ‘Instant Divorce’ Victim Nida Khan How one woman is fighting against injustice, ignorance, and violence toward women in the name of religious practices. Read Interview More Interviews © 2018 The Diplomat. All Rights Reserved.