Ex­pert: Low test scores not a worry

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XINYING in Bei­jing and AMY HE in New York

The fund is mainly spent on spon­sor­ing gov­ern­ment or­gans or semiof­fi­cial or­gans to carry out science pro­mo­tion projects such as pub­lish­ing books, hold­ing lec­tures and or­ga­niz­ing ex­hi­bi­tions.

“There has been mo­men­tum growth in the past five years, and we have rea­son to ex­pect more gov­ern­ment sup­port in the com­ing few years,” he said.

The to­tal fi­nan­cial bud­get for science pro­mo­tion in 2010 was 6.81 bil­lion yuan, which was in­creased to 10.67 bil­lion yuan last year, ac­cord­ing to the min­istry.

Re­gional dis­par­ity in science pro­mo­tion is also sig­nif­i­cant. In 2014, for ex­am­ple, per capita spend­ing was 69.72 yuan in Shang­hai and 46.01 yuan in Bei­jing, while in less­de­vel­oped provinces like Jilin it was only 0.36 yuan per per­son.

“The amount spent on science pro­mo­tion is sur­pris­ingly low, but I think new me­dia can fill the gap,” said Huang Yong­ming, a science writer and the head of the science jour­nal­ism lab un­der The In­tel­lec­tual, a new me­dia science com­mu­ni­ca­tion plat­form in China.

“It has been demon­strated by the past decades of prac­tice that pri­vate cap­i­tal has bet­ter vigor in science pro­mo­tion,” he said.

Huang sug­gested the gov­ern­ment en­cour­age pri­vate cap­i­tal to get in­volved in pro­mot­ing science, while main­tain­ing su­per­vi­sion to pre­vent the pub­lic be­ing mis­led.

Top per capita spend­ing re­gions

Peo­ple should not over­re­act to the fall in rank­ing of Chi­nese stu­dents in the 2015 Pro­gram for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent Assess­ment; they should fo­cus on what the test re­sults in­di­cate about the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem in China, ex­perts said.

Chi­nese stu­dents’ scores fell across the board in science, read­ing and math­e­mat­ics in the 2015 PISA com­pared with 2012, although they were able to re­tain their top10 rank­ing in science and math, ac­cord­ing to an assess­ment of re­sults re­leased on Tues­day by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment.

The 2015 PISA was taken by about 540,000 stu­dents aged 15 in 72 coun­tries and economies on science, math and col­lab­o­ra­tive prob­lem­solv­ing. In China, stu­dents in Bei­jing, Jiangsu, Guang­dong and Shang­hai took the two-hour test.

Shang­hai be­gan par­tic­i­pat­ing in the PISA in 2009 and was the only city on the Chi­nese main­land par­tak­ing in the test. In both the 2009 and 2012 tests, Shang­hai sur­passed all other par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries and re­gions.

How­ever, in the 2015 test, Sin­ga­pore dom­i­nated across all three sub­jects, rank­ing first and out­per­form­ing the rest of the world. Stu­dents in Bei­jing, Jiangsu, Guang­dong and Shang­hai scored a me­dian 518 and were ranked 10th in science, com­pared with the 580 that stu­dents from Shang­hai alone scored in 2012.

For math­e­mat­ics, stu­dents in China scored 531 and were ranked sixth, com- pared with 613 in 2012. Their score in read­ing was 494, a more ob­vi­ous de­cline com­pared with 2012.

Yong Zhao, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Kansas’ school of ed­u­ca­tion, said that there is no rea­son to over­re­act to China’s scores, be­cause he doesn’t be­lieve the PISA “mea­sures the to­tal­ity of the qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion of any ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem”.

He said that ad­ding more provinces to the test might have caused the dip, but that there could have been other contributing fac­tors.

“Over­all, we don’t need to read too much into PISA or other in­ter­na­tional tests,” he wrote in an email re­sponse to ques­tions.

Lu Jing, a re­searcher at the Shang­hai Acad­emy of Ed­u­ca­tional Sciences, agreed. She said the change in par­tic­i­pat­ing cities and provinces had a big im­pact on the test re­sults, ad­ding that as stu­dents from Shang­hai rep­re­sented the high­est level and best per­for­mance, it’s nor­mal that the av­er­age test scores fell af­ter more cities and provinces were in­volved in the test.

Lu, who is also sec­re­tary of the PISA Shang­hai re­search cen­ter, added that she is more in­ter­ested in what the scores and rank­ings re­flect about China’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

“Big gaps now ex­ist among stu­dents from dif­fer­ent provinces and re­gions, while the pro­por­tion of Chi­nese stu­dents who have a real pas­sion for math and science is still low,” she said. “Solv­ing these prob­lems is more im­por­tant and mean­ing­ful to Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tors than just look­ing at the scores.”

The amount spent on science pro­mo­tion is sur­pris­ingly low, but I think new me­dia can fill the gap.” Huang Yong­ming, science writer The pro­por­tion of Chi­nese stu­dents who have a real pas­sion for math and science is still low.” Lu Jing, sec­re­tary of the PISA Shang­hai re­search cen­ter

Con­tact the writ­ers at zhaoxiny­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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