Are You Smarter Than a Kid from Shanghai? (Part 1)

Watch Out Mr. President – They Are Super Students

No, probably not.

So says the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and its recently released  survey of 15 year old students from 70 countries/economies from across the world. The two hour test, and subsequent evaluation of each country’s education systems, measured students in reading, mathematics, and science and produced results that made Education Secretary Arne Duncan declare “a wake-up call” for change in the way America teaches its students.

Where America Stands

Shanghai-China came out on top in the OECD survey with Korea and Finland following behind closely. Mexico rounded out the bottom of the list a full 114 points behind the leader, or a staggering 2 years of educational growth behind.

Importantly, the results showed the America is merely mediocre in comparison to the achievement of students across the globe. Our high score, in reading, was 17th globally and right behind Estonia. Our lowest, in math, was 31st globally and 7 points beneath the OECD average – tying Ireland and below Poland.

Doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor

OECD identified critical areas that differentiate qualities of high-performing and low-performing education systems across the globe. Significantly the study showed that the low-performing students do come from countries with a low-per capita GDP, but that this is not a restricting factor on education ability. Shanghai-China has a per-capita GDP well below the OECD average and still out performs some all of the world’s richest economy, thus disproving that national wealth equals success in education

The various qualities the OECD identified that represent high-performing or low-performing countries are not necessarily direct causes of success or failure, but they are qualities that have been seen to produce results across the spectrum. Results that America would be smart to emulate and adopt.

Tomorrow – One Day All Children, or how educational equality actually improves a countries success.


The OECD Executive Summary

NPR Report


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