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Business - Explainers - Profiles - December 3, 2019

Why World’s Smartest Schoolchildren are from China

There is a new survey that measured 15 year-olds’ aptitude in reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills in relation to meeting real-life challenges.

In the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a survey by OECD, China schoolchildren were the smartest by coming tops, out-stripping their peers in every country.

The study also covered areas such as underscoring a reserve of future economic strength and the struggle of advanced economies to keep up.

According to economic and financial media company Bloomberg, OECD’s triennial study of 15-year-old schoolchildren the world over found that four Chinese provinces tested — Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang — outperformed in science and mathematics, even if household income is well below members’ average.

In the assessment, 10% of the most disadvantaged Chinese students tested had better skills in reading than the OECD average.

Reacting to the survey results, OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria said: “The quality of their schools today will feed into the strength of their economies tomorrow.”

Why China Stands on a League of its own

Although China and Singapore scored considerably higher in reading than all others, the PISA study of 600,000 students in 79 countries, sheds light on the difficulty of managing education to optimum levels regardless of the resources that were channelled to it.

These education findings seem problematic for OECD countries in reality as they spent more on students in primary and secondary levels by more than 15% in the past decade.

“It is disappointing that most OECD countries saw virtually no improvement in the performance of their students since PISA was first conducted in 2000,” Gurria noted.

The report also highlights disparities in educational achievements with regards to socio-economic backgrounds. In some countries, where government spending on education was high, the educational outcomes of the students the background of a student still plays a significant role in.

While 12% of the variation in student reading performance within each country was associated with socioeconomic status on the average, in several European countries, that percentage rose above 17% and this includes France and Germany.

Import for Africa?

If Africa must measure up to the likes of China, USA and the UK in education, it must do more than paying lip service to its learning institutions, infrastructure, governance, economic systems, etc, and begin to build a formidable future for generations to benefit.

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