News / Asia

Asian Students Ace Global Education Test

Students attend class at Pengying School on the outskirts of Beijing, Nov. 11, 2013.
Students attend class at Pengying School on the outskirts of Beijing, Nov. 11, 2013.
Students from Asian countries have outranked others worldwide in a test of high school students conducted every three years.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says 15-year-olds in Shanghai, China and Singapore scored the highest in math.  

The Program for International Student Assessment tested more than half a million students in 65 countries - on math, reading and science.

Asian countries outperformed the rest of the world in math, with the United States scoring below average, with no change from previous testing.  

In fact, the 15-year-olds in Shanghai scored the equivalent of two-and-a-half years of schooling above the top U.S. students.

Top Performers in Math

China
Singapore
Hong Kong
Taiwan
South Korea

Top Performers in Reading

China
Hong Kong
Singapore
Japan
South Korea

Top Performers in Science

China
Hong Kong
Singapore
Japan
Finland

Source PISA 2012
The highest math scores were in Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and South Korea, followed by Macao, Japan, Liechtenstein, Belgium and Switzerland.  Organizers attribute higher scores to parental involvement, better teachers and higher expectations.
 
Jenny Jung has attended schools in South Korea and the United States.  She says her classes in South Korea lasted from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. and were often followed by tutoring.

"It’s very competitive there because it’s a relative grading system, so instead of here, where it’s an absolute grading system, where if you get over a 90, you get an A.  If you get over an 80, you get a B.  But in Korea, only like the top percentages can get an A," said Jung.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan would like to increase early childhood education and attract quality teachers.

"Virtually every one of the high performing nations attracts their teachers from the top 30 percent of the college graduating class and many from the top 10 percent," said Duncan.

Duncan called on policy makers to make the right choices.

Cover of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment.Cover of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment.
x
Cover of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment.
Cover of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment.
"We know intellectually what the right thing is to do.  What we have lacked is the political will and the sense of urgency to take education to the next level," he said.

But the study shows money might not be the only answer.  The U.S. already spends $115,000 per student, which is more than most countries.  Yet students in the Slovak Republic, which spends less than half that amount, scored near the same level.

Angel Gurria, the secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, warns the United States of consequences if the scores do not rise.

"It shows that we have a lot of homework.  It shows that somebody else is doing much better than us and if this continues, over the years, they are going to take away our cheese.  Because this translates into productivity, it translates into competitiveness, it translates into exports, it translates into jobs, it translates into well-being.  So this is not about just comparing the grades of students," said Gurria.

Critics fault the study for comparing small regions of the world to large countries.  They also say the test lacks an assessment of creative and critical thinking, something Brazilian Amanda Peixoto noticed after starting her junior year in the United States.

"They here don’t teach you how to think.  They teach you how to respect the rules, they tell you something, and you answer, they tell you and you copy; they don’t teach you how to think," said Peixoto.

The one area in which U.S. students bested their peers was confidence in their math abilities.  The challenge for educators is to reflect that confidence in their test scores.

Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Angela from: Illinois
December 04, 2013 9:44 AM
More than a reflection of the state of our education system, this article is a reflection on the state of our world. Competition at any level is good when it helps you improve yourself. It is unhealthy when no matter what you do you are not happy with yourself. Basing a whole national education policy on test scores in a few areas does not take the whole person into consideration. Teachers are educating children not clones making up a nation's economic army!

Raising the bar on expectations is a good thing as long as you understand the whole person within the whole picture. Are we raising healthy happy children in mind,body, and spirit who have integrity and will help shape the future of their countries and our planet into a place of true prosperity, not just produce fuel for the growing fire of the global economy? These and other critical questions are what we need to address not just how do we raise our math test scores.

by: D from: usa
December 03, 2013 11:33 PM
I'm a teacher, and in public school, a "D" is a pass. We have no say in this. They can progress to the next grade without even knowing how to read. The U.S. deserves a low score. Sad.

by: Annette Gordon from: United States
December 03, 2013 11:15 PM
Very insightful. We havd much ground t cover people, if U.S. Is t keep "world leader" post. So does the U.S. Learn t cease from "swallowing a camel and straining out a gnat" mind set? How do we prioritize..

by: T Hanana from: Michigan
December 03, 2013 10:04 PM
I think the reason American education is going down is because young children nowadays think you don't need school to make as they see from most celebraties.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs