Schleicher: China’s students are ‘remarkable’

China: The world’s cleverest country? asks the BBC. Shanghai students ace PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment). Now Andreas Schleicher, who runs PISA for the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) says Chinese students all over the country excel in reading, math and science.

“Even in rural areas and in disadvantaged environments, you see a remarkable performance.”

In particular, he said the test results showed the “resilience” of pupils to succeed despite tough backgrounds – and the “high levels of equity” between rich and poor pupils.

. . . “In China, the idea is so deeply rooted that education is the key to mobility and success.”

The results for disadvantaged pupils would be the envy of any Western country, he says.

Asian culture encourages students to work hard, Schleicher tells the BBC.

“North Americans tell you typically it’s all luck. ‘I’m born talented in mathematics, or I’m born less talented so I’ll study something else.’

“In Europe, it’s all about social heritage: ‘My father was a plumber so I’m going to be a plumber’.

“In China, more than nine out of 10 children tell you: ‘It depends on the effort I invest and I can succeed if I study hard.’

“They take on responsibility. They can overcome obstacles and say ‘I’m the owner of my own success’, rather than blaming it on the system.”

The high-scoring Asian countries expect all students to succeed, Schleicher believes. School is not a “sorting mechanism” to find the brightest students.

I’m surprised to hear China described as an egalitarian education system. China’s best (and most politically connected) students attend well-funded  “key” or “super” schools, which lead to top universities, complains this story. Rural students are disadvantaged.

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  1. I think that the PISA scores speak for themselves. Obviously, if their PISA test results show little or no difference among disadvantaged and advantaged children, the Chinese are doing something right. I did find it interesting to read Schleicher’s assessment of North American, European and Asian attitudes towards learning and success.

  2. I’m sure the “anyone who doesn’t get a high school diploma with at least an 80+% average in all classes will end up making railroad tracks in western China” has something to do with it…

  3. 1. Do not trust government statistics from totalitarian countries. There’s enough fraud in US standardized test scores to justify suspicion.
    2. What happens in rural China is out of sight.
    3. The Chinese method of generating elite gymnastics performance (early identification of talent and targeted instruction) applies to any topic. A command economy could create prodigies of Math, languages, cooking, or auto mechanics, but why? Government schooling is the prime example of (generally discredited) industrial policy, the idea that government planners know best where to direct investment.

  4. It’s so easy to understand.
    The most disadvantaged schools in China are as good as average schools in USA.
    The key schools in China are belong to a different world, there is no match can be found in USA.