Thursday, December 09, 2010

How good is China's education?

Shanghai at nightImage via Wikipedia
Yesterday I got a surprise phone call from a Dutch journalist who wanted my comment on a report stating that a survey said China's education belonged to the best in the world. I had not seen such a report yet and the journalist had only 60 seconds time for a thorough interview on this rather complicated subject, I summarized it as "a load of bullshit".
Even after she explained the survey was done by the OECD, I could not change my verdict. Together with health care, education is one of the most problematic areas in China - as also Shaun Rein explained earlier in the week. Any survey saying differently must be a load of bullshit.
But my interest was triggered on how such a misunderstanding could emerged and during the day the OECD report popped up on my radar screen, as reported here by the New York Times.
For the defense of the OECD: the journalist made a classic mistake by assuming that the report - which was actually about Shanghai students - would easily apply on the whole of China. That is an unfortunate lack of logic.
But then, how come Shanghai students score better than countries in Europe and the US where they love to received their education. Are Chinese students wrong by leaving their own country for a better education and should they move to Shanghai in stead?
The tested subjects in the survey were reading, math and science. I'm still not sure what that really means, some of the assessments of the OECD test were rather critical. Shanghai will be ahead of the curve, at least in their own country.

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