The success of the Shanghai students



Mainland China has recently participated in the annual International Student Assessment (PISA), a survey of almost half-a-million schoolchildren in more than 70 countries by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). More than 5,000 15-year-old students in Shanghai sat the two-hour PISA exam and surprised experts with their stellar academic performance, in another sign of China’s rapid modernisation. The OECD said the result was a “wake-up call” for the rest of the world, with the UK falling to 16th place for science, 25th place for reading and 28th place for maths. The OECD said the performance of British pupils was “stagnant at best”. By contrast, the Shanghai students were in a class of their own in maths, hugely outperforming second-placed Singapore. The Chinese students also beat Finland by a wide margin to top spot in science and Korea to claim first place for reading. More than one-quarter of Shanghai’s students demonstrated advanced mathematical thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just three per cent. While the results in Shanghai, arguably China’s most advanced city, do not reflect the situation in the country as a whole, the OECD said China was “consistently scrutinising and constantly seeking to improve” its education system. In particular, it praised China’s decision to close down its version of grammar schools and develop “a more inclusive system in which all students are expected to perform at high levels”. It also said China had “greatly” raised teacher’s salaries and reduced “the emphasis on rote learning” in favour of boosting “the ability to apply knowledge to solving new problems and the ability to think creatively”. China has a long tradition of respect for education. In fact, there is much societal and family pressure to do well academically. This has fostered education reform throughout history at many levels. While the entire country has made strides in education, Shanghai is at the forefront as it has been given special authority to experiment with reform before the rest of the country. With its recent rankings at the top of the PISA exam, all eyes will be on how these reforms were made.  Not giving up on you : the brotherhood crusade


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