China is Cheating the World Student Rankings System

Enough is enough: Beijing must supply national data to assessors and not simply the results of a small minority of elite students

  • Share
  • Read Later
Carlos Barria / Reuters

A Young Pioneer attends the weekly flag-raising ceremony at the East Experimental School in Shanghai November 5, 2012.

The results from a global exam that evaluates students’ reading, science and math skills are in and, once again, Chinese students appear to be reigning supreme while American students continued to underperform.

But before you shake your head ruefully and scoff at the decline of Western-style education, take a look at how the data is organized.

The OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams are held every three years. Coming first and third respectively in the 2012 exams are the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Hong Kong.

However, China is uniquely not listed as a country in the rankings — unlike the U.S., Russia, Germany, Australia and other nations judged on the basis of their country-wide performances. Instead, China only shares Shanghai’s score with PISA. (Hong Kong, a Special Autonomous Region of China, sends its own data.)

Shanghainese and Hong Kong students are much better educated than those elsewhere in China. Slate quoted the Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless as saying that  “About 84 percent of Shanghai high school graduates go to college, compared to 24 percent nationally.” In addition, Loveless points out that affluent Shanghainese parents will spend large sums on extra tuition for the children — paying fees that far exceed what an average worker makes in a year.

By not providing full national data, China is in effect cheating.

As Loveless noted earlier this year, Shanghai’s test scores “will be depicted, in much of the public discussion that follows, as the results for China.” He added: “that is wrong.”

All of a sudden, rote-learning doesn’t look like China’s secret weapon.

[NPRBrookings]

410 comments
roflMao
roflMao

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10132391/Riot-after-Chinese-teachers-try-to-stop-pupils-cheating.html


Nobody is remotely shady in China! They just want to be able to cheat like everyone else!


Prinzessin
Prinzessin

What a stupid opinion, has this person any knowledgr about statistic, do not the other countries also send their best students to do this test?All of them have to pass the exam for attending pisa test. Why the people has no idea or knowledge always allowed to express thier opnion because of envy?

Mrok
Mrok

Please don't judge anything without real research, editor!  

“About 84 percent of Shanghai high school graduates go to college, compared to 24 percent nationally.” It definitely cannot support the conclusion "students in Shanghai are elites in China"! 
The editor knows nothing about Chinese educational system. In China, all the provinces as well as 4 big cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Chongqing) need to share the university admissions within its own entity (local universities are allowed to get more local students than other places), so students in more populous provinces or cities have less opportunities to enter a university. 
If you want to judge the "elite" by testing score, the truth is opposite! 
Due to more opportunities to go go universities in Shanghai, the competition is not so fierce in the city. Thus, the average score in Shanghai is usually lower than many other provinces. 
However, is it reasonable to judge "elite" by exams? It is a typical east Asian way!




TonyLo
TonyLo

do some research before you write this article. The percentages that high school graduate going to college is lower in other cities compare to Shanghai or Beijing do not mean other cities' high school students are dumber; because, it is harder for other cities students to get into to college in China

brettochampion
brettochampion

I think it's a bit much to say that China is cheating. It would be cheating if the government were trying to hide the fact that it's only submitting test results from Shanghai, and not from the rest of the country. Trying to make itself look better than reality? Yes. But not cheating.

maliciousMedia
maliciousMedia

David Stout and Jill Abramson should be fired for this bad piece of journalism. The intention was to malign the good name of the HARD WORKING (No Slouch Here) students and government officials in China.

LiHanwei
LiHanwei

I was a little furious when I first read this article. But then i found it funny. You can keep denying others' accomplishment to make yourselves feel comfortable and satisfied, but you won't change the fact that you are already left behind. As far as I am concerned the U.S. elite education is certainly no less demanding, but I study endlessly for days and nights since I was 10 years' old. In a globalized world, maybe you still have an advantage for 5 or 10 years, but what if one day you wake up and you find the world different? How do your kids compete when there is a much better work force in another country? This the rule Darwin said long ago: survival of the fittest.  

loadcode
loadcode

I have been following PISA for many years, and I have always known that it was Shanghai and not China. Of course the larger question is whether asian type of education is superior to Western, because of the in general higher score in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore etc.


I don't believe any one is better per say. It is all about trade offs. Western and Eastern education give different strengths and weaknesses. I have talked to many asians who have studied in both the west and in asia. In general my impression is that you learn more in Asia while Western education teach less material but put more emphasis on critical and independent thinking. Very simplified one can say that this produce better engineers in asia and better scientists in the west. Engineering is about skill and craftmanship which is something one can clearly see in countries such as Japan. Great Science on the other hand requires imagination and willingness to challenge conventions and the established order.


One can see this clearly in the electronics industry. Japan and Taiwan quickly seemed to take over everything in the 80s and 90s, making memory, chips, laptops etc. But they never managed to challenge the west on Microprocessors. The US, Britain and Israel have some of the best known microchip design work.


Western countries are not hopeless in PISA. Finnland, the Netherlands and Switzerland all do very well without the intense training and work being pursued in asian countries. There are many ways to excelence. Given the amount of stress asian type of education induces in their children I am not sure this approach is worth it.

Lathdrinor
Lathdrinor

Correction, Mr. Stout: it is not China who is cheating PISA, but the popular media who is cheating US. I read the PISA report. It specifically says that the results are for Shanghai. Shanghai. Not China. Not a province of China. Shanghai.


Why, then, did the popular media report it as 'America lags way behind China in education, PISA results show'? Surely they understand the difference between a city and a country. Why, then, did they use a city's results to stand for that country and - when criticized for it by other popular media - how exactly was the argument transformed into 'China is cheating?'


China isn't cheating. They're simply choosing not to release results for regions outside of Shanghai, and none of this fact is hidden, because it clearly says in the PISA results that the results are for Shanghai. We could criticize China for not releasing results from its rural interior - though at the end of the day it is none of our business - but saying that it is cheating when China/PISA never tried to present the results as anything but Shanghai's? That's cheating ourselves.


I have seen on other sites a leaked average of the 12 provinces PISA tested, which includes poor provinces in China's interior. Turns out their results in the sciences and maths are still WAY ahead of the US's, with only their reading being neck and neck.


Suffice to say, when China's provinces finally do get tested and their results released in a few years, we are in for another round of collective teeth gnashing, and this time, there won't be the 'cheating' excuse, though I imagine by then journalists would have come up with another excuse for why the Chinese are still 'cheating.'

apollogg
apollogg

It is very ineresting artile. Does the author really live in China and understand China educaton system?

Shanghai is one of the WOREST academic performance areas in China. If each province/city in China is considered as individual participating party in PISA, I would say, Shanghai will be ranked between 20-30. And no any western contries will be in top 30.

Prion
Prion

On a second thought, since you, Mr. Stout, claimed Shanghai is cheating, therefore does not represent "decline of Western-style education", are you suggesting Singapore (2nd place) is also cheating? 


How about Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Macau and Japan? They beat us by a big margin as well, so they must be cheating too? 


And you are going to pry open their data sampling method and find fault in it? Then you are supposed to feel real good about it?


Just how DELUSIONAL are you, Mr. Stout? Are you really convinced by what you just wrote, word by word? Or did your boss simply dictate the tone of your article and you followed order? You considered this as journalism as its finest?

Prion
Prion

Dear Mr. Stout,


"But before you shake your head ruefully and scoff at the decline of Western-style education, take a look at how the data is organized."


But before you point your chin to the sky and call any evidence showing us being out-matched is fake and biased, take a look at how our OWN data showing our public school system is indeed on the decline at an alarming rate. 


Maybe some humility will make us better instead of continuing on indulging in our sour grape mentality. 


Get real, please.


Sincerely,

Someone Who Gives a Damn about Education

ConorLin
ConorLin

Is this the real Time website? 

Where did you get this author? University  of Writing sth by imagination ?


OMG~

Leachpc
Leachpc

I'm afraid the author never been to China before or never dig deep to understand the education system of the country. If translate to Chinese, the article will be a laugh stock.

When the country is with an exam similar with SAT taken by all students, Beijing and Shanghai are among the worst areas.

The reason 84% students in Shanghai can enter the college is that Gov. gives more quotes to metropolis of the country and that have been criticized for more than 20 years by Chinese people.

Really afraid giving result of other provinces of China will hurt sensitive arthor. LOL.

HuiminXu
HuiminXu

Get a math or science Chinese college entry test and check how many people in the U.S. actually can excel only through say several months' rote memorization or drills. My guess is: few, because those tests test solid knowledge application and integration way more than it gauges simple memorization and reflexes. My goodness some people embrace illusions so readily in order to feel good.

Onepatriot
Onepatriot

Doesn't China cheat on everything?  They work around the clock  trying to steal our commercial secrets and military ones too.  It's the way of the world now.  You don't know how t do what we do?  Steal the info any way you can.

So how can you believe the numbers?  Percentages can be misleading.  Who knows the actual population of China?  I doubt even they do. They may have a valid edge on us in test scores, but how come so many are trying to come here?  Apparently they aren't too happy with their homeland.

Granted we need to do better in education and the common core standards will help.  I think back to when we studied the simple basics in school. (Without computers)  Reading, writing and math without a calculator at our desk.  Didn't we come out of high school smarter then?  Maybe there's such a thing as too much technology, or just too soon for little kids whose brains aren't as ready for it as we're told.  I do, however, think learning several languages at a young age is a good thing.

strongline
strongline

I can't believe such article comes from Time. Since when a Time author doesn't even bother to check his facts and logic? First, the reports says "Shanghai", not China, performs better, though it's very likely that China does perform very well as a whole. Second, Shanghai is by no means the region has the best students (in terms of academic scores), just above average I'd say. There are a lot other regions, many of them much poorer, perform a lot better than Shanghai in this regard.

testintimes
testintimes

My 3 comments:

1. Shanghai high school education level is not the best in China, in the middle at best.

2. The national college enrollment rate is not 24%, it is 75% nationally in 2013.

3. Shanghai and Beijing have higher college enrollment rate because they host more colleges in their cities, and they enjoy a 25% discount in college enrollment score line.

mitalibi
mitalibi

There are some latest results leaking from Chinese media. Zhejiang, a rich province neighboring shanghai,  participated PISA 2012 and achieved quite good results (570 in reading, 623 in math and 582 in science). However, the sample of students are somewhat biased, 80% of students tested were from rural area and all elite schools were excluded in the test. Zhejiang has a population of 54 million and urbanization rate of 62% and GDP is around 100000 USD per capita.


http://zjnews.zjol.com.cn/system/2013/12/07/019746149.shtml



andrewcklam
andrewcklam

"Wow, the author apparently has no any idea about Chinese education."

Yes.  The writer really knows nothing about education system in the eastern world.

The goal of western education is to train you as a CPU as in a computer; but for the Chinese, they just want you to become a hard disk, 
consider to pour all contents from textbooks to the exam papers, the Chinese students certainly win over any exams and tests. 


posthuman1
posthuman1

The sample math questions are basically elementary level ones. Go ahead and check. 

kongdlnju
kongdlnju

Wow, the author apparently has no any idea about Chinese education. Including other provinces will definitely increase Chinese score. Only putting Shanghai into competition is a friendly gesture shown by China. Haha. I am from Anhui Prov. and I 1000% believe students in Anhui will beat those in Shanghai.

iamwhite
iamwhite

David, I understand you frustration.  I have kids in US school too.  But how come those cities like Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao Korea and Japan with major East Asia people also doing so good in the test.  When you open you eye look around, why those Asian people also are doing so good in score at our US school.  There must be something in common to those East Asian people then. It will be ridiculers to blame them all cheating.  Let be honest to find out what is this common thing.

1. They all write in Chinese. Even they speak different, but they originate from same kind of writing.

2. Their average IQ=110, 10% higher than our IQ 100, Equatorial area people IQ = 90.

3. 2500 yrs ago they all have 1 man called Confucius who put his life on education common people.

May be you should look into these topics and write an article about it.  If  IQ = score = economic, we should consider seal our south border but open the Pacific to embrace the Asian people like we did 100 yrs ago to the European. Immigrant 100 millions Ease Asia people would make this country big different.

archer
archer

that is to say,students of shanghai are not the elites of chinese students,they are not the best!

archer
archer

this article is really a joke,dude,you need to do a investigation about chinese students,why students of shanghai have such a high apportion to go to university is not because they have a better education,compared to other areas of chinese students,despite beijing,their entrance scores of university is lower than others

Ninemeow
Ninemeow

I think next time  Jiang Su ,  Shang Dong and Hu Bei should all  participate in the PISA exam ,and they will have nothing to complain, any one I mentioned above  can instant kill them 

KevinLong88
KevinLong88

Shanghai just better is English,the ohter's not good in China.Henan,Shandong can more kill World Student Rankings System. For students in other provinces,Shanghai's education is very easy.

Trap12
Trap12

Big surprise. Big whoop. They keep sending their kids here to study, both high school and college... Why? To get pregnant and have babies here (citizenship) and for the corrupt government officials, the parents, to get proceeds of corruption out of China$$

Media - stop the Sunday PARADE Magazine reporting and cover the corruption, the rape and murder of young girls by officials and teachers without punishment, the eminent dain scandal to take property away, pay false prices and sell to foreign companies at high profits there to exploit the labor markets, shoddy exports, transferring corruption profits to US relatives to get out China, and spying.

Has China already won WWIII?

Tiger-Pi
Tiger-Pi

This article is a dishonest attempt  of twisting statistics and spreading half truths. It appears there is a myth that Asian students resort to learning by rote and hence they manage to obtain better academic results than  others. But  second generation or third generation students of Asian parents, born and bred in USA  have displayed better academic performance in mathematics or science. Tests like PISA, at present, do not provide equal opportunities to students from all over the world to show their skills. Hence accusing countries like China of 'cheating'  to show 'prestige' smacks of  spreading  deliberate canard. Time should avoid  publishing such  erroneous articles.   

tokyodave66
tokyodave66

To: David Stout/TIME Inc.


China is "cheating"?  Really? Before making such accusations you might simply go to the Program For International Student Assessment (PISA) website and read the FAQ. There you can find an explanation why China as a whole is not rated, but rather only Shanghai and Hong Kong. There you will find that China's ministry declined to participate this time in the PISA evaluation, but that they are on board for 2015. 


Again, if you would consult the PISA website you would find an extremely interesting fact: that the tests are designed to evaluate REAL WORLD applications of curriculum subjects and to assess students' ability to participate in society. So much for rote learning. (Myth: Asians only learn by rote). 


So what does the data show? That the top seven countries/economies in the PISA ranking are Asian countries. These being (In order) Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Macau and Japan.


And we find Canada a respectable 13th, the UK 26th, and the USA 36th. 


So before you metaphorically shout : "Get some glasses Ref!" you might check your facts. It didn't take me long to find the PISA website and it should not take you much time either.


In 1958 the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite. That event was a wake-up call for the USA.

Maybe the 2012 PISA results should be another wake up call for old #36 today.

Instead of calling China a "cheater" you might point the finger right there-at #36. 


tokyodave66/tokyo 

godindelicious
godindelicious

when u find the rank of Shanghai student's achievement levels in China, u would found its such a rediculous to say they'r cheating......

u fool realy think rich means best education? its just nonsense in CHINA!

u should let the students from JiangSu or even ShanDong province to get this exam, and yeah m pretty sure it'll scared ur teeth out...

students from Beijing and Shanghai are easy to get into university because they are asked for a very low scores line than other province. in other words, they are worse than some other province~

Prinzessin
Prinzessin

I remember a word which was said by a Psychoanalist: " Devaluation is the defense of envy."Why not learn to adore, through adoration, people can make progress rather than envy and hatred.

Furthermore, the scholatism is tradition of chinese sociaty ,since Kungzi established the pedagogic system 2000 years ago,the heritage of Chinese language makes them to abtain a special strong memery capacity in thier brain, and dialectical materialism to observe the world and developing logic thinking system.The asketic life attitude enforcing their spirit and mind.Oh, Oh, they deserve it to be on the top.

maliciousMedia
maliciousMedia

Or, perhaps... is it possible that David Stout is actually a Math Flunky who has never taken up a course in statistics or mathematics, and has no idea how statistical sampling sizes are drawn. I wouldnt be surprised! My ex roommate told me that in her 4 years at Columbia School of Journalism, she never once took a class in álgebra, statistics, or other math courses. That figures. The author, Mr Math Flunky, knows diddly about the sampling and testing process to write  up an intelligent analysis. So instead he hallucinates and comes up with an outrageous red herring.


The designers of the PISA at OECD dictates which students from which class, from which city, from which country, gets to participate, and not China. Therefore, the reporting of the scores is also done exclusively by the PISA administrators, not China. So far the PISA exams have been run as an honest, tight ship, ensuring the integrity of the whole endeavour and earning the PISA staff at the OECD lots of complements for years. Its not fair to cast despersion on either the test takers& officials in China, or the administrators of PISA who has done well in giving us the True Picture of performance levels of 15 year olds across several nations. Take it or leave it, Mr David Stout, and Ms. Jill Abrahmson. If you~re simply jealous, vent your anger somewhere else !! This is really low-balling....

maliciousMedia
maliciousMedia

@LiHanwei    Chinese high school students take tough math courses, some of them several semesters through out their entire high school life, such as: matrix algebra, trigonometry, calculus, statistics, analytic geometry, etc. in addition to the basic geometry and algebra classes (both intro and advance).  Most American college students would never have heard of such courses (and possibly try to avoid them like the plague !!) I've taken a class in matrix algebra at grad level, and let me tell you frankly, it was no more difficult than the one I took in high school where I barely passed. And, when I told the professor that in my high school, our teacher introduced Laplace transformation at the end of the semester, it really blew his brains out -- high school kids learning Laplace -- unbelievable. 


In China, even the lowliest farmer in the rural areas implicitly understand the importance of 'compounded interest', especially in its impact on business negotiations. That's why when they leave the farm to find their fortune elsewhere, such comprehension usually aids them to truly cherish the 'present value of money' which naturally helps them succeed in business.    

Mrok
Mrok

@apollogg 
Yes, you've got support from another Chinese, haha! 
It is well known in China, Shanghai is wealthier as a city, but in the academic field, students in Shanghai are averagely far away from the top in China.  :D


shuami
shuami

@petvet60: Thanks for the pointer. That's a well-versed rebuttal. I also found many reader comments here pretty sharp and to the point. It's a pity that Time has deteriorated into such a miserable state--one of the reasons I have stopped subscribing it. 

Mrok
Mrok

@Leachpc 

It is really a pity that the author (Mr. David Stout) didn't do any "homework" before he wrote this article. 
He knows nothing about Chinese educational system, but dare to write a lot!


Cowgrass
Cowgrass

Indeed, this article (include many previous comments) had been translated and post in some popular Chinese forums, and got much more discussions than PISA.


It is already laugh stock there.

jflycn
jflycn

@Onepatriot You shoud just call NSA (the U.S NSA). They will answer ALL your questions.

PeaceOnEarth
PeaceOnEarth

Now I know why western people have short memory, CPU without permanent storage, LoL!

HuiminXu
HuiminXu

Get a math or science Chinese college entry test and check how many people in the U.S. actually can excel only through rote memorization or drills. My guess is: few, because those tests test knowledge application and integration way more than simple memorization. Some people embrace illusions so readily in order to feel good.

HuiminXu
HuiminXu

Or students in Hubei province---they will beat those in Shanghai too.

killingusapigs
killingusapigs

@iamwhite 我觉得你说的智商高低理论站不住脚,当今还不能拿出可靠证据证明人种智力的、间的差距,另外,只有中国、中国台湾以及香港还在用汉字作为书写工具,日语保留部分汉字,而韩国语完全不用汉字,新加坡用英语,最后,你提到了孔子思想,孔子的理论早就被废除了,至少今天整个东亚很少有人会想起孔子,知道这位圣贤思想主张的就更少了!所以我觉得你找出来的共同点不够严谨完善。

luoj
luoj

@KevinLong88 : Are you a troll?

maliciousMedia
maliciousMedia

American media can go ahead and make light of such low world rankings, especially in math; but, beware the manifestation of these skill deficits on our 'unprepared' workforce.


Already, many economists and financial analysts have expressed worries about the shortage of qualified American workers. Currently, there are many highly technical jobs being created everyday, such as 3D, analysts, CAD CAM, mineral science etc. But then, too many workers don't have sufficient math backgrounds like calculus (differentials), matrix algebra (transpose matrices), etc. to fill those positions. That's why we're experiencing high unemployment in face of so many positions generated, and it'll remain high if the math/engineering gap doesn't get filled soon.


Amongst manufacturers, there's complaint that those jobs that we're dying to bring back from China, will never ever materialize, due to poor math competence in the workforce. Given the excellent performance of Chinese students, therefore workers, it looks like most of the jobs done in China today, Will Remain in China for a long, long time to come.  Cheers !!!

shuami
shuami

@Mrok: It's not that Mr. Stout didn't, or forgot to, do any homework. He just has an ax to grind. 

bobsm
bobsm

"孔子的理论早就被废除了"

Nonsense. Being ethnically Han Chinese, Taiwan and Hongkong still follow Confucius teachings. Singapore is bilingual, with mandarin as the most spoken. As with all people of non communist Chinese ethnic nations, Singaporeans also follow the Confucius teachings.

"而韩国语完全不用汉字"

LOL only ultra-nationalist Koreans think this way. Try reading their names and official documents without hanzi. Its going to be a very long time before they replace hanzi in Korea. LOL As the world becomes more China centric, the world will have to learn mandarin and hanzi, just like when the world is english centric. Even now, some European nations have set up Chinese language and Confucius centers for such eventuality. The list of those nations will surely grow and become the norm in the future, as China rises.

We do live in interesting times. LOL