Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Pisa Prodigy Shanghai May Pull out of Tests

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Pisa Prodigy Shanghai May Pull out of Tests

Article excerpt

World-beating city fears narrow focus of rankings is stifling change

Shanghai has won acclaim for repeatedly topping global education league tables. But the Chinese city is now considering pulling out of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) because of fears that the tests are stifling wider reforms.

The Shanghai Education Commission has yet to decide whether it will take part in Pisa in 2015, despite the city being ranked as the best-performing region in the world in the last two rounds of tests.

Shanghai's withdrawal would be hugely damaging to Pisa, which has become increasingly influential in recent years. Many nations have used the league tables to drive changes to their own education systems.

Andreas Schleicher, deputy education director at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which runs Pisa, has argued vehemently that Shanghai's achievements are not down to "drilling" students and cannot be explained by rote-learning stereotypes.

But according to Xinmin Wanbao, a state-run daily newspaper in Shanghai, the city is "considering withdrawing" from Pisa because it believes that its position at the top of the league tables masks shortcomings in its schools.

Yi Houqin, an official within the Shanghai Education Commission, told the paper: "Shanghai does not need so-called 'number one schools'. What it needs are schools that follow sound educational principles, respect principles of students' physical and psychological development and lay a solid foundation for students' lifelong development."

One of the factors under consideration is the amount of time students are spending preparing for tests and doing homework, he added. Teachers, too, are devoting between two and five hours every day to "designing, reviewing, analysing and discussing homework assignments".

The OECD told TES that it was "still in discussion" with the Shanghai authorities about participation in the next round of Pisa. However, the organisation has already published a list of regions that have signed up for the 2015 tests, which includes other top performers such as South Korea, Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Macao.

An OECD spokesman said: "To date the [Shanghai] officials with whom we have had contact have found it useful to take part in Pisa to learn from other education systems."

The British government has talked about the need to emulate Shanghai's success, especially in maths. Education minister Elizabeth Truss led a delegation to the city in February to strike a deal that will bring teachers from Shanghai to England. …

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