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Pisa: Chinese dominance set to grow as Beijing enters tests for first time

Thousands more school students from China will participate in the next round of the world’s most influential international education tests it was announced today.

The news that the provinces of Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong are to join Shanghai in representing the People’s Republic in the 2015 edition of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) could be particularly daunting for competing countries like the UK.

In Pisa 2012, published last year, Shanghai finished top and three other cities and a country with majority Chinese populations – Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau – took four of the next five places.

If the new participating provinces do anything like as well, they could further cement East Asia’s dominance of Pisa, pushing countries from other parts of the world further down the league table.

But that will depend on whether Shanghai, Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong, have their results published separately or as a joint entry. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which runs Pisa, says that decision will not be confirmed until October 2016.  

China’s new entrants also may not do as well as Shanghai, a wealthy metropolitan powerhouse, which commentators say has education standards that are higher than the rest of the country.

Students in a total of at least 12 Chinese provinces have already taken Pisa tests, but apart from Shanghai, their results have never been released.

Andreas Schleicher, education director at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which runs Pisa, has revealed that the trial tests in China showed that: “Even in some of the very poor areas you get performance close to the OECD average.”

The OECD told TES in December that it expected that enough Chinese regions would take part in the next Pisa to allow a single score for the whole country would be released.

But this week a spokesman instead there could be individual results for each of the four participating mainland provinces – a decision that would prevent the table-topping success of Shanghai from being diluted.

OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said: “This is excellent news that China is increasing its involvement in the OECD’s Pisa programme. It also marks another step in China’s growing collaboration with the OECD.”  

Related stories:

Shanghai-style maths hubs revealed  July 1 2014

Compare London's schools with Shanghai and Singapore, urges Pisa boss March 7 2014

More than a quarter of Shanghai pupils missed by international Pisa rankings March 6 2014

China's Pisa prowess to come under pressure December 6 2013


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