Shanghai students aren’t so smart

Shanghai aces the PISA exam because it excludes rural migrants and their children from high schools, writes Tom Loveless on Chalkboard.

Shanghai, “the wealthiest, most educated province in China,” is not a “model of equity,” as PISA claims, argues Loveless.

The Chinese aren’t cheating, responded Andreas Schleicher of OECD-PISA. Shanghai Normal University President Zhang Minxuan also responded. Marc Tucker of the National Center on Education and the Economy wrote a third response with Schleicher.

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  1. The same is done in Beijing; I’ve read that the city actually has gates which are locked after the workday, to make sure that unauthorized workers are forced to return to their non-city housing.

    I’m also willing to bet that the severely handicapped never enter any school and less-handicapped never enter academic schools – which is likely the case in most countries in the world.

  2. While the quality of data from China is poor we do have a substantial amount of psychometric data from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. The Japanese and South Korean populations have an average IQ of about 107-108. The overall psychometric data on East Asians indicates that they have about a one third tp one half standard deviation advantage over Western Europeans. Average brain size of East Asians appears to be about 2% greater than western Europeans.

  3. PhillipMarlowe says:

    No surprise here.
    For one to argue that the student body of Shanghai is identical, statically speaking, to the United States, one would have to argue that UFOs landed in Roswell.

    • Mark Roulo says:

      “…one would have to argue that UFOs landed in Roswell.”


      Oh, please!


      The UFO *crashed* in Roswell. Everyone knows that (or should). 🙂

  4. Richard Aubrey says:

    So if, in the military world, the worst half-dozen performers in the rifle company are sent-it being strongly suggested to them–on sick call the day of an evaluation by higher, is it cheating? Sure as hell is. I was at an eval once where our performance was particulaly good and the general’s first question was where’d we put our sad sacks. Actually, we hadn’t. We’d improved our training routine. But the point was there’s always a question about an outlier.
    Worked with exchange students for years and most describe some kind of tracking–in Europe as elsewhere–which has college-track kids separated from the rest by what we would consider late HS. Clearly, comparing those to our HS is either ignorant or partisan.

  5. Richard – I agree that the quality of much of the PISA data is very poor. In general official statistics on just about everything are subject to a considerable degree of manipulation and fraud. But don’t think that is just a problem in China. The Atlanta cheating scandal is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

  6. Foobarista says:

    To go to school in Shanghai, you have to have a Shanghainese Hu Kou (or internal passport). Many countryside people in Shanghai are “illegal” and either send their kids to bootleg private schools or don’t send them at all. Getting a “main city” Hu Kou is a process somewhat similar to getting a H1B in the US: you have to get it from an employer and stay in good terms with your employer for a time.