Shang­hai’s stu­dents at head of class

City’s teens are still the world’s best at read­ing, math, sci­ence in PISA sur­vey

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By WANG HONGYI in Shang­hai wanghongyi@chi­

As Shang­hai cel­e­brates ce­ment­ing its top po­si­tion in a global ed­u­ca­tion re­port, ed­u­ca­tion ex­perts stressed there is still a long way for the coun­try to go in ed­u­ca­tion re­form.

Shang­hai again ranked first in math­e­mat­ics, sci­ence and read­ing in the tri­en­nial Pro­gram for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent As­sess­ment re­port re­leased by the Paris-based Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment on Tues­day. Shang­hai also took top marks in the pre­vi­ous re­port.

The largest study of global school­ing was based on sur­veys of more than 500,000 15-year-olds in 65 coun­tries and re­gions. It is highly in­flu­en­tial, with par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries rep­re­sent­ing more than 80 per­cent of the global econ­omy and has been dubbed the “World Cup of Ed­u­ca­tion”. Shang­hai was the only city on the Chi­nese main­land to take part in the study.

Zhang Minx­uan, pres­i­dent of Shang­hai Nor­mal Univer­sity, be­lieved the per­for­mance of Shang­hai’s stu­dents in the re­port re­flected the achieve­ment of ed­u­ca­tion re­form in Shang­hai, which has long been at the fore­front of the coun­try.

“PISA as­sesses stu­dents near the end of their com­pul­sory ed­u­ca­tion in knowl­edge and skills that are es­sen­tial for ev­ery stu­dent in mod­ern so­ci­ety,” said Zhang, who is also the leader of the Shang­hai PISA pro­gram.

“It is not for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know. In this re­gard, it has more pos­i­tive mean­ing and in­flu­ence in ed­u­ca­tion. We are glad to see Shang­hai has re­ceived such good re­sults.”

But Zhang quickly added that the re­sults can­not cover all ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion.

“Read­ing, math and sci­ence are im­por­tant, but more work is needed, such as how to tap each in­di­vid­ual’s po­ten­tial. There is still a long way for Shang­hai and the whole coun­try to go to pro­mote ed­u­ca­tion de­vel­op­ment,” he said.

Chu Zhao­hui, a re­searcher at the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion Sciences, said the re­sult can­not be re­garded as rep­re­sent­ing the en­tire coun­try due to the lack of a na­tional sam­ple in China.

In Chu’s view, part of the rea­son stu­dents in China do well is that they have a strong mo­tive to ex­cel.

“In China, there has been a gen­eral con­sen­sus among teach­ers, par­ents and stu­dents that the stu­dents have to work hard to com­pete in the col­lege en­trance exam. They have to spend more time do­ing home­work,” Chu said. “With such a back­ground, it’s nat­u­ral that Chi­nese stu­dents per­formed bet­ter than their peers around the world.”

The stu­dents took a pa­per-based two- hour test that mixed ope­nended and mul­ti­ple-choice ques­tions or­ga­nized in groups based on a pos­si­ble real- life sit­u­a­tion. Stu­dents and school prin­ci­pals also an­swered ques­tion­naires to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about the stu­dents’ back­grounds, schools and learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences and about the broader school sys­tem and learn­ing en­vi­ron­ment.

Around 6,400 stu­dents from 155 schools in Shang­hai took part in the as­sess­ment in April 2012.

The tests are based on a 1,000-point scale. In math­e­mat­ics, Shang­hai had the high­est scores with a mean score of 613 points, the equiv­a­lent of three years of school­ing ahead of stu­dents in most OECD coun­tries.

Shang­hai also topped the lists in sci­ence, with 580 points, and read­ing, with 570. Over the past years, the coun­try has re­peat­edly em­pha­sized its re­forms in ed­u­ca­tion, try­ing to im­prove stu­dents’ cre­ative and in­no­va­tive abil­i­ties. In­no­va­tion and prac­ti­cal skills were also stressed dur­ing last month’s Third Ple­nary Ses­sion of the 18th Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China.

Ac­cord­ing to the PISA re­port, Shang­hai stu­dents spent an av­er­age of 13.8 hours a week do­ing school as­sign­ments, al­most three times the re­port av­er­age of 4.9 hours.

“Au­thor­i­ties should work out an ef­fec­tive way to bet­ter de­velop stu­dents’ in­di­vid­u­al­ity and po­ten­tial. In­de­pen­dent think­ing, good hand­son skills and cre­ativ­ity have long been miss­ing in China’s ed­u­ca­tion,” Chu said.

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