China’s education performance—at least in cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong—is as spectacular as the country’s rapid economic expansion, surpassing many more advanced countries. But what is behind this success?
Surprise came when the results of the OECD’s international maths, science and reading tests —the 2009 PISA tests—were published. Shanghai, taking part for the first time, came top in all three subjects. Meanwhile, Hong Kong, which did well in the last decade, 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 outstripped leading education systems around the world. The results for Beijing are not quite as spectacular. “But they are still high,” says Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s head of education statistics.
Cheng Kai-Ming, Professor of Education at Hong Kong University, attributes the results to “a devotion to education not shared by other cultures.” 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. Such dedication also reflects the ferociously competitive university entrance examinations. Prof. Cheng says Chinese parents are definitely devoted to their children’s education.
Certainly these two open and dynamic cities regard as valuable to adopt the best educational practices from around the world to ensure success. Under the slogan “First class city, first class education”, Shanghai re-equipped classrooms, upgraded schools and revised the curriculum in the last decade. Teachers were trained in more interactive methodology and computers were brought in. The city’s schools are now a model for the country. About 80 % of Shanghai school leavers go to university compared to an average of 24 % in China.
Last year Shanghai claimed to be the first Chinese city to provide free schooling for all migrant children. Shanghai controls who lives and works in the city, allowing only the best and the brightest students 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 Chinese Institute of Education.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong was forced into educational improvements when its industries moved to cheaper Chinese areas in the 1990s. To continue being a service centre for China, the city had to upgrade knowledge and skills. In the last decade Hong Kong has concentrated on raising the level for all students, and today Hong Kong’s education system is rated among the best in the world. “If we want to have high achievement, we need experts in secondary schools,” said Catherine Chan, secretary for education in the Hong Kong government. Teachers are selected from the top 30 % of the university graduates. By contrast, according to the OECD, the US selects from the bottom third. In Hong Kong, over one-fifth of government money is spent on education every year.
Both Hong Kong and Shanghai are changing their educational models and no-one knows how this will result in terms of quality. However, they believe they are moving in the right direction. Their societies are changing rapidly and for both cities, reaching the top might be easier than staying there.
Text adapted from BBC News
- OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development): OCDE
- PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment)
- outstrip: deixar enrere / dejar atrás
- ensure: assegurar / asegurar
- upgrade: modernitzar, millorar / modernizar, mejorar
- achievement: assoliment, èxit / consecución, éxito
Choose the best answer according to the text. Only ONE answer is correct.
1. The results of the 2009 PISA tests in Hong Kong and Shanghai were
■ as spectacular as those in other countries.■ not as good as was expected.■ good, but not great.
2. According to the text, which of the following statements is FALSE?
■ Chinese parents supervise their children’s schoolwork very closely.■ Education is a very important issue for Chinese parents.■ Chinese students spend most of their afternoons doing homework.
3. In order to get better results in education, both Shanghai and Hong Kong
■ will become open and dynamic.■ will continue with their own successful education practices.■ want the best educators in the world.
4. The slogan “First class city, first class education” suggests that
■ only people from the higher classes can get an education.■ to get an education, first you must go to class.■ in this city, everybody must get an education.
5. In the last ten years, Shanghai has
■ not done much to modernise its school system.■ started a teacher training program.■ had 80 % of people who leave school.
■ has allowed immigrants to go to school for over fifty years.■ is the Chinese city with most migrant students.■ has no control over who lives and works there.
7. Hong Kong had to make improvements in education
■ because its industries were a service centre for China.■ because China was just as expensive and the industry moved there.■ when China upgraded its industry in the 1990s.
8. According to the OECD, in
■ Hong Kong, 30 % of university students become teachers.■ the USA, one third of the best university students become teachers.■ the USA, the bottom university students will never be teachers.