Top 10 Countries in the OECD Global Achievement Tests for 2009 - 2012

About PISA Global Testing

Global Academic Testing 1980 - 2010

In examining the results of academic achievement tests administered worldwide to high school students at age 15, I first noticed South Korea's advancement and overtaking the Number One slot on the Top 10 List in 1986. South Korea remained high in the Top 10 for many years.

Since that time, the tests have been reconstructed. They are currently called, since 2000, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development tests and are administered to the youth of 65 (currently) counties only once every three years. In early December 2010, the results for the 2009 testing round were reported to the media.

These international tests of the Earth's 15-year-olds showed something interesting in 2009 results. Shanghai - China is the a city and, with its surrounds taken as a region or a separate economy from the rest of China, home to the youth that scored highest in all three subjects of the academic areas of the assessment, beating every other country.

Shanghai scored highest in Overall Reading, Mathematics, and Science. Hong Kong - China (another city-region) scored either 3rd or 4th in each of these subjects, gaining further recognition for Chinese education. These two regions are in the Top 5 highest-scring countries in all three areas of assessment.

Japan is no longer at the top of these achievement lists, scoring 8th in Reading, 9th in Mathematics, and 5th in Science among 65 countries. South Korea is also no longer at the top of academic achievement in 2010, but its youth scored 2nd in Reading, 4th in Mathematics, and 6th in Science. Maths and Science scores for S. Korea are not as high on the international lists of top achieving countries as they were in the mid- to late 1980s.

China, at least specific regions, is advancing beyond all other countries. However, high achievers among all youth tested are predemoninantly located around the Pacific Rim, with a few in Europe and a a cohort in Canada. Canada is the only country in the Western Hemisphere to reach the Top 10 List. (see maps below).

The reference link just below this paragraph provides a full report of the statistics among the 65 countries that took part in these achievement tests. The United States youth scored average or below average in most of the categories of achievement.

Shanghai at night.
Shanghai at night. | Source

Top 10 Countries in Reading

Overall Reading scores place as follows:

  1. Shanghai-China
  2. S. Korea
  3. Finland
  4. Hong Kong-China
  5. Singapore
  6. Canada
  7. New Zealand
  8. Japan
  9. Australia
  10. Netherlands

.

The United States was #17 for 2009 (reported in 2010) and dropped to #20 in 2012.

Notice that most of these Top 10 Nations in Reading are located around the Pacific Rim. It would be an interesting study to find out why that is so.

show route and directions
A markerSanghai -
Shanghai, China
[get directions]

B markerS. Korea -
South Korea
[get directions]

C markerFinland -
Finland
[get directions]

D markerHong Kong -
Hong Kong
[get directions]

E markerSingapore -
Singapore
[get directions]

F markerCanada -
Canada
[get directions]

G markerNew Zealand -
New Zealand
[get directions]

H markerJapan -
Japan
[get directions]

I markerAustralia -
Australia
[get directions]

J markerNetherlands -
The Netherlands
[get directions]

Top 10 Countries in Mathematics

  1. Shanghai-China
  2. Singapore
  3. Hong Kong-China
  4. S. Korea
  5. Chinese Taipei
  6. Finland
  7. Lichenstein
  8. Switzerland
  9. Japan
  10. Canada

.

The United States was in the lower 50% of countries in 2009. By 2012, 29 out of 65 nations scored higher than the USA, so we improved a little.

show route and directions
A markerShanghai -
Shanghai, China
[get directions]

B markerSingapore -
Singapore
[get directions]

C markerS Korea -
South Korea
[get directions]

D markerHong Kong -
Hong Kong
[get directions]

E markerChinese Taipei -
Taipei City, Taiwan
[get directions]

F markerFinland -
Finland
[get directions]

G markerLichtenstein -
Lichtenstein, 4192 Lichtenstein, Austria
[get directions]

H markerSwitzerland -
Switzerland
[get directions]

I markerJapan -
Japan
[get directions]

J markerCanada -
Canada
[get directions]

Top 10 Countries in Science

  1. Shanghai-China
  2. Finland
  3. Hong Kong-China
  4. Singapore
  5. Japan
  6. S. Korea
  7. New Zealand
  8. Canada
  9. Norway, Estonia - Tied
  10. Australia

.

The United States is #22 for 2009 and #23 in 2012.

The map below allows only 10 markers, but Australia is in the #10 slot; Norway and Estonia being tied for #9.

show route and directions
A markerJapan -
Japan
[get directions]

B markerNew Zealand -
New Zealand
[get directions]

C markerShanghai -
Shanghai, China
[get directions]

D markerFinland -
Finland
[get directions]

E markerHong Kong -
Hong Kong
[get directions]

F markerSingapore -
Singapore
[get directions]

G markerS Korea -
South Korea
[get directions]

H markerCanada -
Canada
[get directions]

I markerNorway -
Norway
[get directions]

J markerEstonia -
Estonia
[get directions]

Source

America Moving Forward

In the late 1980s, through research at The Ohio State University, the Industrial Commission of Ohio, and using documentaries of research visits to China, it was possible to learn about the educational system of China.

Many Chinese schools do or did not employ cleaning staff, the children and youth attending school from 8AM - 5PM and half a day on Saturdays, 12 months a year, except for holidays. This included the cleaning of the facilities and grounds as well as exercise, sports, the arts, and play time. Before school years, new mothers took their infants with them to their work places, where certified nurses cared for the babies, administered passive exercises to them, and taught dance and other movement arts as the children took their first steps. Reading, writing, and speaking occurred early on in these centers as well. These work place centers took the place of day care centers and pre-schools.

Once in high school, or before, students returned home at 5PM, ate dinner, then attended either an evening school 5 nights per week or structured tutoring with their parents for several hours. At some point during night school, I think this likely reaches the point of overtraining, where additional hours do not benefit the student.

In America, we have learned that such early learning experiences as those mentioned above, when instituted at ages 3 and 4 (PreK3 and PreK4, sometimes called K3 and K4), increase reading skills at ages 5 and 6. Repeatedly since the early 1980s, Harvard University and The Kennedy Center for the Arts (as well as other insitutions) have shown conclusively that arts, music, dance, and sports increase the brain's capacity for learning, understanding and applying the skills of reading, writing, speaking, maths, and sciences. The body of research is commonly accepted, being ongoing and 30 years old in 2010. Consistent instruction and exposure to these subjects in American pre-schoolers, along with parental involvement K-12 and hands-on project based learning can be key to raising the skills of American youth. These skills can create jobs and new products and services as well as to create a population with greater problem-solving and analytical skills.

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Comments 22 comments

nicomp profile image

nicomp 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

I live in Ohio and I'm plugged into the school system... I've never heard of this test being given at any level. Is it called something else?

We have a test that the kids have to pass in order to graduate, the top performing schools around here give this test in 9th or 10th grade, the lesser performing schools teach to the test well into 12th grade.

We also take the PSAT and of course the ACT and SAT test for college entrance applications.

We also take a yearly exam at the end of the school year that is reported back to the State of Ohio for the purpose of identifying the higher-functioning kids and also to rank each school.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

OESC/PISA has been given only 4 times, only to 15-yr-olds, from 2000 - 2009.

I adminstered achievement tests in Ohio for ~12 years until 2006 and never heard of it given in Ohio. My opinion is that the test is only given in the Top 10 or fewer highest-achieving states and Ohio is likely not one of them --

For example, OHIO SAT Avgs. as of Spring 2010:

Critical Reading - Rank 24 of all US States

Math - Rank 21

Writing - Rank 22

Total SAT Score - Rank 22


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

If you read the documents at the PISA link in the text, you find the organization giving S. Korea and Finland credit for being the highest scoring "countries", although its continuing emphasis is on the city-regions of Shanghai and other high-scoring Pacific Rim mega-cities.


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

The PRC/Asian involvement with education is felt in Australia also, where many of the brightest children in our schools are from China, India or some other part of Asia.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Thanks for that information, earnesthub; since Australia is also on the three Top 10s above. I'm wondering what % youth in Aus schools are from any part of Asia.


schoolmarm profile image

schoolmarm 5 years ago from Florida

Sad news for us in the United States, but not so surprising to me. I believe we just don't value education the way that most other countries do. Proof of this can be found in the small paychecks of our educators.


sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 5 years ago from Indiana

The incredibly sad thing, to me, about all of this is the school's push to get better and better scores out of the children. What ends up happening, in my experience, is the children who are average or below in learning skills are given the most time, so they can do better on the test. The children who are have above average learning skills, the ones who could become our future scientists and mathematicians, are ignored since they already score well. For the majority of schools there are no classes for "exceptional children" when referring to children with IQs that can take in as much as you will let them. These children often become bored and disillusioned with education.

We have become a nation of tests instead of a nation of learning.


nicomp profile image

nicomp 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

For example, OHIO SAT Avgs. as of Spring 2010:

Critical Reading - Rank 24 of all US States

Math - Rank 21

Writing - Rank 22

Total SAT Score - Rank 22"

Well, perhaps, but these numbers mean absolutely nothing when measuring how capable our high-performing students are. An average score over an entire state says nothing about the students who excel in science and math. We do have plenty of those, as I know from first-hand experience.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

I agree with this statement of nicomp - "Well, perhaps, but these numbers mean absolutely nothing when measuring how capable our high-performing students are. An average score over an entire state says nothing about the students who excel in science and math. We do have plenty of those, as I know from first-hand experience."

Politics of testing, no doubt, is involved.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Insightful comment - "And please don't tell me they are unfairly burdened because they have to bring work home. Everyone brings work home. A school day is, what, about 6.5 hours?"

My dozen teacher friends and colleagues in Ohio work M-F 7:30 AM - 5:00 PM at school (8.5 hours with 1 hr lunch) and take work home, then several times a year, help teach project-based learning experiences half-days on 6 consecutive Saturdays. Overtime? - I don't know. Some teach summer school as well, but many work a different job June - August.


Granny's House profile image

Granny's House 5 years ago from Older and Hopefully Wiser Time

I think that learning starts at home. Parents that read to their children from the time they are born seem to do a lot better. Children are never too young to learn. They are like sponges. Parents need to get more involved in their child's education.Help then to develop good study habits. The teachers can only do so much.

Teaching is a thankless job and so many children now a days are very disrespectful.

I think they should go to school all year long.

Maybe like 6 weeks on and 1-2 weeks off.

Great hub!


earnestshub profile image

earnestshub 5 years ago from Melbourne Australia

Patty, I am not sure what percentage are from all of Asian, but I can tell you they make up to as much as about 80% of students in some of our best schools, and yet I would guess the Asian/Australian population would be well under 10% with PRC Chinese/Australians probably as low as 3 or 4% of our population.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Granny's House - Some school systems I know about do an extra summer session - one is an elementary school and they grow a flower and vegetable garden for 6 or 8 weeks and take home the produce. That's fun for them. Thanks for posting!

earnesthub - Those are some amazing figures that I was unaware of at all.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

This is shocking account. What about England and Germany who were the top for engineering and technology? Thank for doing all this hard work of research


Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick

It is good to see Canada is still in the top ten, however, where I live far too many adults have difficulty reading, writing and doing basic math.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Hello, hello - It is surprising, is it not? I was very surprised.

Bob Ewing - It's good to see you-- I must say, many times I found best materials for reading and writing from Canadian organizations, for my high school and workforce classes. Literacy seems a high priority in Canada overall and it's a sad thing for adults not be be able to use the basic skills. A Test among adults would yield surprising results, no doubt. Thanks for posting!


cristina327 profile image

cristina327 5 years ago from Manila

It is pretty interesting that East Asia excells in Reading, Mathematics and Science. Thank you for sharing this great wealth of information. You have really done a great job for this hub. Best regards.


American_Choices profile image

American_Choices 5 years ago from USA

Patty Inglish, MS,

The foundation for any society is education. I am so glad you highlighted the importance of the arts. Computers and science are so big right now and the frugal feeling is to let the arts go but that is another foundation block for a great society.

Excellent. Voted it up!


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 5 years ago from Michigan

True that the arts, exercise and music and power-up the brain for learning. Since 'they' know this, why are they taking it away from so many of our schools? Money, is not the exclusive reason, as there are many teachers of art, music and exercise who are willing to fund their own and/or apply for grants and such to continue to teach and inspire our children and have them involved in physical activites (other than basketball and football, which I think gets too much attention). Our teachers need to be valued again as well as the valuing of our childrens education. The ladder of importance has changed and there are many teachers who would like to take time with children who, for whatever reason, are falling behind and/or can't seem to 'get it,' but many teachers are not allowed to give that extra time anymore. I agree, too, that too 'overtraining' does not benefit the education of our children. Many students are not even learning at their grade level and cannot enter into the better schools (although there are some who make it). They cannot pass the test to get into the better schools because they have not learned the level at which the tests are given in the first place. Our priorities need to change, again. Voted/rated.


bohemiotx profile image

bohemiotx 5 years ago from Tyler, TX

The Confucian tradition and its high regard for learning and good manners provides the background for East Asian success. Check out the website of Tu Wei-ming for views from today's top New Confucian scholar.


Inters2know 4 years ago

Well the US educational system had always made me think twice for the longest of time...now the underperformance evidence is so overwhelming that it is hard to deny it or to play over..as an outsider living here now is becoming a bit clearer why. The biggest issue possibly being lack of values at its core. There is no love for learning and knowing in a true sense. It's usually the love of what type of money you can do with your achievements rather than what good you would do. It is the individual over the community rather than the individual in the community...very hard to verbalize. Having lived elsewhere and in many of the countries that held the higher scores this is very real. Not that there are not such issues elsewhere but the prevalence here is notorious. What could you do in this case?


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 4 years ago from North America Author

That's hard to know - what to do.

Many college students care about leaning here, but many more seem not to care. My local university just upgraded landscaping and completed new buildings, but downgraded materials taught in the classroom in many subjects. This is discouraging.

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