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

Ukraine: Mysterious 'Roaming Tank' Reportedly Takes Aim at Smugglers

Ukraine's TV, print media, Facebook abuzz with reports a 'roaming tank' is on the loose, destroying vehicles of those involved in smuggling More

US Wildlife Service Begins Probe of Killing of Cecil the Lion

Minnesota man accused of killing beast is in hiding, has been asked to contact US officials; White House to review extradition petition More

Video Kerry Tour Will Cover Security, Iran Nuclear Deal

US secretary of state to visit 5 countries in the Middle East, South Asia in bid to strengthen economic and security ties, ease concerns over deal with Tehran 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.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs