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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs