My Anthem

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Belated sighting of Education article from BBC worth reading -- Malaysian leaders, please take note!

TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING,as Bob Dylan chanted as his 60s anthem. Our Malaysian leaders and IGPs should also stop yelling the cliched threat: You Communist, don't disturb our democrazee system! It's worthw'ile2 you surf to:

China: The world's cleverest country?

Pupils in Yuexi county, Anhui province This is the most extensive insight into how China's school standards compare with other countries
China's results in international education tests - which have never been published - are "remarkable", says Andreas Schleicher, responsible for the highly-influential Pisa tests.
These tests, held every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, measure pupils' skills in reading, numeracy and science.
Pisa tests - the Programme for International Student Assessment - have become the leading international benchmark.
The findings indicate that China has an education system that is overtaking many Western countries.
While there has been intense interest in China's economic and political development, this provides the most significant insight into how it is teaching the next generation.
'Incredible resilience'
The Pisa 2009 tests showed that Shanghai was top of the international education rankings.
But it was unclear whether Shanghai and another chart-topper, Hong Kong, were unrepresentative regional showcases.
Andreas Schleicher, OECDThe OECD's Andreas Schleicher: "Fairness and relevance are not the same thing"
Mr Schleicher says the unpublished results reveal that pupils in other parts of China are also performing strongly.
"Even in rural areas and in disadvantaged environments, you see a remarkable performance."
In particular, he said the test results showed the "resilience" of pupils to succeed despite tough backgrounds - and the "high levels of equity" between rich and poor pupils.
"Shanghai is an exceptional case - and the results there are close to what I expected. But what surprised me more were the results from poor provinces that came out really well. The levels of resilience are just incredible.
"In China, the idea is so deeply rooted that education is the key to mobility and success."
Investing in the future
The results for disadvantaged pupils would be the envy of any Western country, he says.
Mr Schleicher is confident of the robustness of this outline view of China's education standards.
In an attempt to get a representative picture, tests were taken in nine provinces, including poor, middle-income and wealthier regions.
Nanjing high schoolHigh school students shout slogans such as "I must go to college" in a pre-exam event in Nanjing
The Chinese government has so far not allowed the OECD to publish the actual data.
But Mr Schleicher says the results reveal a picture of a society investing individually and collectively in education.
On a recent trip to a poor province in China, he says he saw that schools were often the most impressive buildings.
He says in the West, it is more likely to be a shopping centre.
"You get an image of a society that is investing in its future, rather than in current consumption."
There were also major cultural differences when teenagers were asked about why people succeeded at school.
"North Americans tell you typically it's all luck. 'I'm born talented in mathematics, or I'm born less talented so I'll study something else.'
"In Europe, it's all about social heritage: 'My father was a plumber so I'm going to be a plumber'.
"In China, more than nine out of 10 children tell you: 'It depends on the effort I invest and I can succeed if I study hard.'
"They take on responsibility. They can overcome obstacles and say 'I'm the owner of my own success', rather than blaming it on the system."
Education's World Cup
This year will see another round of Pisa tests - it's like World Cup year for international education. And Mr Schleicher's tips for the next fast-improving countries are Brazil, Turkey and Poland.


Pisa tests are taken by 15-year-olds in reading, maths and science. Previous leaders in these subjects:
  • 2000: Finland, Japan, South Korea
  • 2003: Finland, Hong Kong, Finland
  • 2006: South Korea, Taipei, Finland
  • 2009: Shanghai, Shanghai, Shanghai
Mr Schleicher, a German based in the OECD's Paris headquarters, has become the godfather of such global education comparisons.
Armed with a spreadsheet and an impeccably polite manner, his opinions receive close attention in the world's education departments.
The White House responded to the last Pisa results with President Barack Obama's observation that the nation which "out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow".
The next round of global league tables will test 500,000 pupils in more than 70 countries - with the results to be published late next year.
Education ministers will be looking nervously at the outcome.
"In the past, politicians could always say we're doing better than last year - everyone could be a success," he says, describing the tendency for national results to rise each year.
The arrival of Pisa tests sent an icy draught through these insulated corridors.
No excuses
Perhaps the biggest discomfort of all was for Germany - where "Pisa shock" described the discovery that their much vaunted education system was distinctly average.
HelsinkiFinland was the education world leader in rankings a decade ago
And the biggest change in attitude, he says, has been the United States - once with no interest in looking abroad, now enthusiastically borrowing ideas from other countries.
"Education is a field dominated by beliefs and traditions, it's inward looking. As a system you can find all kinds of excuses and explanations for not succeeding.
"The idea of Pisa was to take away all the excuses.
"People say you can only improve an education system over 25 years - but look at Poland and Singapore, which have improved in a very short time, we've seen dramatic changes."
The biggest lesson of the Pisa tests, he says, is showing there is nothing inevitable about how schools perform.
"Poverty is no longer destiny. You can see this at the level of economies, such as South Korea, Singapore."
Fair comparison?
A criticism of such rankings has been that it is unfair. How can an impoverished developing country be compared with the stockpiled multiple advantages of a wealthy Scandinavian nation?
Here Mr Schleicher makes a significant distinction. It might not be fair, but such comparisons are extremely relevant. "Relevance and fairness are not the same thing," he says.
South Korea Samsung launchSouth Korea is identified by the OECD as an example how education can drive economic growth
Youngsters in the poorest countries are still competing in a global economy. "It's a terrible thing to take away the global perspective."
He also attacks the idea of accepting lower expectations for poorer children - saying this was the "big trap in the 1970s".
"It was giving the disadvantaged child an excuse - you come from a poor background, so we'll lower the horizon for you, we'll make it easier.
"But that child has still got to compete in a national labour market.
"This concept of 'fairness' is deeply unfair - because by making life easier for children from difficult circumstances, we lower their life chances."
'Sorting mechanism'
So why are the rising stars in Asia proving so successful?
Mr Schleicher says it's a philosophical difference - expecting all pupils to make the grade, rather than a "sorting mechanism" to find a chosen few.
He says anyone can create an education system where a few at the top succeed, the real challenge is to push through the entire cohort.
In China, he says this means using the best teachers in the toughest schools.
The shifting in the balance of power will be measured again with Pisa 2012, with pupils sitting tests from Stockholm to Seoul, London to Los Angeles, Ankara to Adelaide.
"I don't think of Pisa as being about ranking, it tells you what's possible. How well could we be doing?"

More on This Story


YES, belatedly3 ketchUP can? Do I need thy AP to do so? Get the hear/here of of Hell if your answer is YES! ~~ YL, DEsi, knottyaSsusual

How China is winning the school race

Henry Chau, Lily Yue and Amelia Bian, now studying in London, talk about the culture of learning in China
China's education performance - at least in cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong - seems to be as spectacular as the country's breakneck economic expansion, outperforming many more advanced countries.
But what is behind this success?
Eyebrows were raised when the results of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's international maths, science and reading tests - the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests - were published.
Shanghai, taking part for the first time, came top in all three subjects.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong which was performing well in the last decade of British rule, has gone from good to great. In this global ranking, it came fourth in reading, second in maths and third in science.
These two Chinese cities - there was no national ranking for China - had outstripped leading education systems around the world.
The results for Beijing, not yet released, are not quite as spectacular. "But they are still high," says Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's head of education statistics and indicators.
Cheng Kai-Ming, Professor of Education at Hong Kong University, and closely involved in the Hong Kong and Shanghai tests, puts the results down to "a devotion to education not shared by some other cultures".
Competitive exams
More than 80% of Shanghai's older secondary students attend after-school tutoring. They may spend another three to four hours each day on homework under close parental supervision.


Hong Kong school
The World Bank has looked at the distinguishing features of successful school systems.
According to the World Bank's education specialist, Harry Patrinos, this includes: improving the quality of teachers and making sure that teachers are highly regarded; providing information to make schools accountable and giving autonomy to schools and head teachers.
Putting money into the system does not necessarily lead to better results.
This matters not only for individual pupils but for the well-being of countries, he says, because improving educational performance has a direct impact on improving economic performance.
Successful school systems include Finland and South Korea.
Such diligence also reflects the ferociously competitive university entrance examinations.
"Not all Chinese parents are 'tiger mothers'," insists Prof Cheng. "But certainly they are devoted to their children's education."
Certainly both these open and outward-looking cities set great store by education, willing to adopt the best educational practices from around the world to ensure success. In Hong Kong, education accounts for more than one-fifth of entire government spending every year.
"Shanghai and Hong Kong are small education systems, virtually city states, with a concentration of ideas, manpower and resources for education," says Prof Cheng.
The innovation in these cities is not shared by other parts of China - not even Beijing, he says.
Under the banner "First class city, first class education", Shanghai set about systematically re-equipping classrooms, upgrading schools and revamping the curriculum in the last decade.
It got rid of the "key schools" system which concentrated resources only on top students and elite schools. Instead staff were trained in more interactive teaching methods and computers were brought in.
Showcase schools
The city's schools are now a showcase for the country. About 80% of Shanghai school leavers go to university compared to an overall average of 24% in China.
Terracotta tennis playersChanging China: Terracotta warriors appear as tennis players in Shanghai
Meanwhile, dynamic Hong Kong was forced into educational improvements as its industries moved to cheaper mainland Chinese areas in the 1990s. Its survival as a service and management hub for China depended on upgrading knowledge and skills.
In the last decade Hong Kong has concentrated on raising the bar and closing the gap or "lifting the floor" for all students, says a report by McKinsey management consultants.
The report, How the World's Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better, rated Hong Kong's education system among the best in the world.
But Hong Kong schools are undergoing another huge reform, lopping off the final year of secondary school and instead moving towards four-year university degrees from 2012 to align it with China.
Abandoning the old British model is a gamble and no-one knows how it will play out in terms of quality.
Top teachers
However, Hong Kong believes it has laid solid, unshakeable foundations.


Shanghai, Yuyuan Gardens
  • Shanghai took first place in the OECD's global school rankings for reading, maths and science
  • The city of 21 million has 1% of China's population and generates 12.5% of the country's income
  • 84% of teenagers go on to higher education
  • 80% of pupils have after-school tutors
  • There are now more than 200,000 overseas people in Shanghai, particularly from Japan, US and South Korea
"In the late 1990s we moved to all-graduate [teachers]. If we want to have high achievement, subject expertise is very important for secondary schools," said Catherine KK Chan, deputy secretary for education in the Hong Kong government.
Hong Kong, like Singapore, now recruits teachers from the top 30% of the graduate cohort. By contrast, according to the OECD, the US recruits from the bottom third.
Shanghai recruits teachers more broadly. But it is already a select group.
Shanghai controls who lives and works in the city through China's notorious "houkou" or permanent residency system, allowing only the best and the brightest to become residents with access to jobs and schools.
"For over 50 years Shanghai has been accumulating talent, the cream of the cream in China. That gives it an incredible advantage," says Ruth Heyhoe, former head of the Hong Kong Institute of Education, now at the University of Toronto.
Migrant children
The OECD's Mr Schleicher believes teacher training has played a part in Shanghai's success, with higher-performing teachers mentoring teachers from lower-performing schools, to raise standards across the board.
Apple store ShanghaiRising schools mirror a booming economy: Shanghai's new Apple store opened last month
"What is striking about Shanghai is that there is quite a large socio-economic variability in the student population, but it does not play out in terms of its Pisa results," said Mr Schleicher.
"Some people have even suggested we did not include Shanghai's fairly large immigration population. Around 5.1% of the population are migrants from rural areas. Their children are definitely included," he said.
Last year Shanghai claimed to be the first Chinese city to provide free schooling for all migrant children. This year migrants outnumbered Shanghai-born children for the first time in state primary schools, making up 54% of the intake.
Prof Cheng agrees the Pisa results reflect a broad cross section. However the majority of migrant children are below 15 - the age at which the tests for international comparisons are taken. It is also the age of transfer to senior secondaries.
"If they were allowed to attend senior secondary schools in the city, the results would be very different," said Prof Cheng.
Even now "to some extent, where people are born largely determines their chances of educational success", said Gu Jun, a professor of sociology at Shanghai university.
Their societies are changing rapidly and for both Shanghai and Hong Kong, being top might prove to be easier than staying there.

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