Thursday, December 5, 2013

World’s Academic Ordering – Asians on Top

Graphic shows scores for PISA test for U.S. and other nations; 3c x 4 inches; 146 mm x 101 mm;
Let’s first dispense with two distortions in the above graphic. First, Shanghai’s score at the top, while interesting, is an oddity to the result. Though some local Shanghai residents might think otherwise, the place is a city, not a country. It is not administratively autonomous, and it happens to be China’s wealthiest and most elite urban entity. Thus, comparing test results from Shanghai to the US is like comparing a nugget of gold to a rock quarry. It just ain’t the same thing.  Second, and in a related manner, whinging about the overall scores of a country such as the US is a waste of breath. No country is more heterogeneous than the US (“bring us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to watch network television”) and with a population of 300 million diverse and economically unequal citizens, the country is not going to do well when taken as a whole. Specific areas such as Massachusetts and Connecticut (and probably the San Francisco bay area, if it were segregated out) score meaningfully better than the national average.
The 2012 test was conducted with approximately half a million students in 65 nations and educational systems through the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which is coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or OECD. The Shanghai distortion notwithstanding, Asia’s leadership is still remarkable across the board. Special mention goes to Vietnam for poking itself up into the Top 10 in Science.

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