This year, China participated for the first time in a global standardized test of 15-year-olds, and stunned other nations when its students scored highest in all three subjects — math, science, and reading — vastly outperforming U.S. students, who came in 23rd or 24th out of 65 countries. It's worth noting that China's high-performing Shanghai province was the only part of the country to participate in the exam, called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), but the results are a "wake-up call" to the "brutal truth that we’re being out-educated," says U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. What do these results say about China's future, and America's?
China just schooled us: These PISA results are as momentous as Russia's Sputnik satellite was 63 years ago, says Chester Finn Jr. in Flypaper. We have to face the fact that "China is bent on surpassing us" in education, and if America doesn't rise to the occasion, we're going to keep falling behind.
"Sputnik for the 21st century"
People are overreacting: The "hysterical" reaction to these test results are a little surprising, says Valerie Strauss in The Washington Post. I can see why Finland, which previously held the number-one spot, would be upset, but the U.S. has scored in the middle of the pack for years. Besides, "Shanghai is not representative of the entire Chinese population" and, unlike the U.S., China doesn't even make a "pretense of trying to educate" all its citizens.
"Hysteria over PISA misses the point"
America should worry, but focus on itself, not China: "These results reflect something real," says James Fallows in The Atlantic. "Chinese schools are full of bright and motivated students," and they'll drive China's "continued development." But "don't go nuts." These tests are fallible. Still, if we're lucky, Americans will be so "startled" by these results that we'll focus on finally reforming our education system.
"On those 'stunning' Shanghai test scores"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Why Pakistan won't hunt down the terrorists within its borders
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Sorry, GOP, tax cuts don't pay for themselves
- How academia's liberal bias is killing social science
- Pope Francis' American problem
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why torture doesn't work: A definitive guide
- Hey, bosses: Stop giving bonuses to your employees
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why the Sony hack changes everything
Subscribe to the Week