Despite Shanghai scoring the highest on the PISA exams, one of the tests that allow an international comparison of academic performance, Shanghai will cease to take these tests (boldface mine):
“Not interested in #1 on International Tests, Focusing on Reducing Academic Burden: Shanghai May Drop Out of PISA” is the headline of a story in Xinmin Wanbao[original story in Chinese], a popular newspaper in Shanghai….
One of the shortfalls of Shanghai education masked by its top PISA ranking, Mr. Yi, pointed out, is excessive amount of homework, according to the story. For example, teachers in Shanghai spend 2 to 5 hours designing, reviewing, analyzing, and discussing homework assignment every day. “Over half of the students spend more than one hour on school work after school [every day]; Teachers’ estimate of homework load is much lower than actual experiences of students and parents; Although the homework is not particularly difficult, much of it is mechanical and repetitive tasks that take lots of time; Furthermore, our teachers are more used to mark the answers as ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ while students are hoping their teachers can help them open their minds and point out their problems.”
“Homework is only one of the elements that supports student development,” an unnamed PISA official told Xinmin Wanbao. “Their skills and qualities should also be acquired from a variety of activities such as play, online activities, and games instead of merely completing academic assignments or extending homework time.”
….Whether or when Shanghai decides to drop PISA is unknown and dependent on many factors, political consideration being one. But it is clear that Shanghai officials have acknowledged that PISA does not give them what they want. Its narrow definition of education quality as test scores obscures other aspects of education that are much more important.
This should probably put all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the U.S. performance on PISA in perspective. The generations which brought us the laser, the transistor, the personal computer and that thingee known as the Internet did much worse on international comparisons than U.S. students do today. There are real, long-standing problems in the U.S., revolving around race and income, but, on the whole, the U.S. is doing alright.