Business Insider has a piece called Why Shanghai`s Amazing Test Scores Are `Almost Meaningless`. By Max Nisen, December 3, 2013. By meaningless, he means unrepresentative of China as a whole.
There are a few reasons that comparing other countries with Shanghai simply doesn`t work, and that any headline discussing "China`s" PISA scores should be ignored.
- Shanghai is already the home of China`s elite, and there are restrictions that keep migrant students out of municipal schools.
- It makes up less than 2% of the country`s population.
- The teachers there are paid more than double what those in outlying provinces make, and schools are significantly better funded.
- Shanghai`s per capita GDP is more than double the national average, and parents spend large sums on outside tutoring.
- About 84% of Shanghai high school graduates go to college, according to Brookings, compared to 24% nationally. That means they pass China`s extremely tough college entrance exam.
- Test scores are emphasized as important and a source of national pride, significantly motivating students and teachers to perform
What this really means is that Shanghai, as the home of China`s meritocratic elite, has gifted their schoolchildren with really smart parents. I`m also impressed by the fact that China has "restrictions that keep migrant students out of municipal schools"—a similar restriction would raise the average of American test scores. America can`t even keep illegal immigrants out of municipal schools.
No, there are two reasons to be a little suspicious of Shanghai`s soaring PISA scores