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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus 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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid