China export markets in everything

by on July 24, 2017 at 1:50 pm in Books, Education | Permalink

Now it is textbooks:

When primary school administrators in the U.K. choose study materials for the fall semester this year, they will have a new option: math textbooks imported from Shanghai, a city celebrated as a global math power.

In the books, the British pound will replace references to the Chinese yuan. But in just about every other way, the versions of Real Shanghai Maths available in London will be exactly like those used in China, the ideas, sequencing and methods kept intact.

It is a remarkable admission by British education authorities that their own methods have stumbled, and that Chinese educators – after years of racking up world firsts in math scores – have developed something admirable enough to import in whole cloth.

Here is the full article, via A.T., our A.T.

1 Devin vasquez July 24, 2017 at 1:56 pm

How sure are we that the Asian countries arent simply rigging the results? Either by preventing the lower grade students from taking the exam or some other means.


2 Vasky T July 24, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Yep. That’s it.


3 Ryan Turner July 24, 2017 at 5:17 pm

I was under the impression that Asians have a higher mean IQ than other races, so perhaps we are simply observing that their students are smarter to begin with.


4 Deek July 25, 2017 at 5:26 am

I really don’t think you can classify Asians as one race for such purposes (or any, really). A Persian and a Dane are as diverse genetically as a Dane and an Algerian or a Persian and a Cambodian.


5 July 24, 2017 at 11:49 pm

More hand waving? The PISA survey was conducted and supervised by OECD. If it is so easy to fudge the data why India dropped out from the survey? Data from the PISA15 report TableA2.1

SchExcl% WithinExcl% OverallExcl% CovDesired CovEnrolled Cov15yo Country

0.8 1.99 2.78 0.972 0.972 0.973 Finland

3.14 5.25 8.22 0.918 0.918 0.84 UnitedKingdom

0.3 3.02 3.31 0.967 0.967 0.835 UnitedStates

3.89 0.27 4.15 0.959 0.959 0.639 BSJG_China

From the demographics of the schools in the country, representative sample of the schools were selected. The exclusions are at 3 levels.

1. Because of economy not all 15 yo are enrolled.

2. Because of various reasons, some schools are excluded.

3. Because of various reasons, some students within schools are excluded.

In UK 3.14% of schools were excluded, in China 3.89%, comparable to that for UK. Within schools in UK 5.25%, US 3.02% (why so high?) of students were excluded, in China 0.27%. Overall targeted exclusion rate for Finland, UK, US and China are 0.972, 0.918, 0.967 and 0.959 respectively. The coverage of targetted students were about the same for the respective country. The coverage for all 15 yo in the country for Finland, US and China are 0.973, 0.835 and 0.639. China being a developing country, not all 15 yo are enrolled.

Why the exclusion rate for the already targetted student population by OECD for some countries were so high? Draw your own conclusion.


6 July 25, 2017 at 2:02 am

Why there are less students enrolled in Chinese schools.

“””Deadly Climb to School? Here, It Happens | National Geographic”””


7 Steve Sailer July 25, 2017 at 2:45 am

Here’s my graph of the latest PISA scores:

Oddly enough, white Americans beat Asian Americans in 2015 and came close to the Northeast Asian countries. This was quite different from prior PISAs. Was it just a one-year fluke or is something going on?


8 Joan July 25, 2017 at 3:35 am

I do not see much coorilation between GDP per capital and these scores, especially if you look at 1980 GDP data. That is, if these scores matter for GDP and IQ is heritable, why was Asia so poor before 1980.


9 July 25, 2017 at 6:24 am

Look at the rate of demographic changes which constitute that for the Asian Americans,

US Whites were counted separately from Latinos and Blacks.

Those high performing AA ethnic groups also tend to have low fertility rates, lesser fraction of children in school.


10 TR5749 July 24, 2017 at 1:59 pm

“It is a remarkable admission by British education authorities that their own methods have stumbled”
an admission, yes. but remarkable? Japan’s Kumon maths have been in the UK for years. Many UK schools have previously adopted the Singapore maths as well.


11 Jeff R July 24, 2017 at 2:03 pm

Did they vault the UK students’ math proficiency up to the levels of Singapore and Japan?


12 Thiago Ribeiro July 24, 2017 at 4:48 pm

I was to ask if it is the end of Singapore AMaths.


13 david July 24, 2017 at 11:34 pm

Singapore Math is a poor fit for UK’s school politics because the UK had a bitter and entrenched battle over the abolition of the tripartite system, whereas Singapore went in the opposite direction after independence: it loudly and proudly embraces aggressive educational streaming and GCEs

Shanghai Math has the same focus on modelling and in-depth study, but it is ideologically committed to single-stream education


14 Borjigid July 24, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Textbooks are overrated as an educational input.


15 Jeff R July 24, 2017 at 6:36 pm

Tyler and Alex beg to differ!


16 John Dougan July 24, 2017 at 6:49 pm

Relying on textbooks is complacent


17 dan1111 July 25, 2017 at 7:15 am

In my experience of primary school math, teachers simply went through the lessons and exercises in the textbook in order. Where this is the case, the textbook is a very important input.


18 prior_test3 July 24, 2017 at 2:09 pm

I doubt very much the ‘UK’ has made such a decision – education in the UK is not unitary. as the Scots run their own system. Including their own math (or ‘maths’) textbooks.


19 dearieme July 24, 2017 at 3:59 pm

I doubt very much that they have a “fall semester” either. By the way, who are these “primary school administrators”? I’ve never heard of them.

Come to that, why the fake astonishment at the idea that the kiddy-winkies might learn arithmetic from a foreign book? Isn’t arithmetic the same everywhere? Christ, people learnt geometry from a Greek book for a couple of millennia, didn’t they?


20 Thiago Ribeiro July 24, 2017 at 4:49 pm

“By the way, who are these “primary school administrators”? I’ve never heard of them.”
Of course not, this is what makes them so powerful!


21 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ July 24, 2017 at 3:35 pm

This is fine.

What we don’t want are static systems that do not incorporate directed (or random) change periodically, and do not test for improvement.


22 Mike W July 24, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Chinese algebra…that’s hard.


23 Bill July 24, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I am going to go into the business,

Emulating one in China, of

Teaching you

How to pass the Chinese math test.

On the internet,

Payable in yuan.


24 Bill July 24, 2017 at 3:43 pm

The calc graduate student TA’s in college were Chinese.

This will end badly.


25 Thiago Ribeiro July 24, 2017 at 4:50 pm

I said the English-speaking world was at a low point.


26 msgkings July 24, 2017 at 6:40 pm

Nah just you. You speak English and you are at a low point.


27 Thiago Ribeiro July 24, 2017 at 6:43 pm

I do not actually speak it, I just read and write.

28 Thor July 24, 2017 at 7:18 pm


29 Tanturn July 24, 2017 at 6:38 pm

Don’t think so.

Often they become TAs rather than go into the higher paid private sector because they can’t speak English and the colleges think it’s racist to notice.(or, they don’t want to pay wages competitive with the private sector)

In any case, engineers don’t run the country, CEOs do, and they are mostly White or Jewish. Who should you fear? Not the underpaid, powerless Chinese engineer in America, but the Chinese CEO overseeing Chinese engineers in China.


30 Thor July 24, 2017 at 7:18 pm

Why don’t you go into the business of writing haiku verse? Or koans?

Here you are, dispensing literary gems FOR FREE!


31 Thor July 24, 2017 at 7:19 pm

That was for Bill. The latest haiku are solid, man.


32 will July 24, 2017 at 4:00 pm

I think this is missing the treatment effect of the Chinese education system. The average Chinese high school student studies as if they are going to be an engineer at a top technical school – 7am to 11pm of schooling and homework. Who knew that consistency and effort were the primary drivers of education results?

It’s possible that their textbooks are designed specifically for clarity to the average student – which is great for driving up the average test score. But without importing the study culture*, you’re not likely to see similar results. Whether or not this type of training is optimal is another question – but the treatment effect is most definitely positive.

* and coincident stress


33 rayward July 24, 2017 at 4:03 pm

“The method, dubbed the “mastery” approach, entails a collective approach to learning where the entire classroom learns a single mathematical concept in depth, relying on standardized textbooks. The class does not move on until every student has understood the concept. This is in marked contrast to the usual Western approach, where teachers explain a concept and then students work individually to practice a lesson. Instead of teaching the entire class at the same pace, students are recognized for their individual pace of learning and taught depending on how strong their grasp of the subject is.”


34 JWatts July 24, 2017 at 4:47 pm

” The class does not move on until every student has understood the concept. ”

I would speculate that a) there is immense peer and teacher pressure on the slowest student to learn quickly and that b) the students that aren’t intellectually capable of keeping up are quickly side lined.


35 Tanturn July 24, 2017 at 6:41 pm

Or maybe the slow kids just pretend to get it? They don’t take their exams as a class.


36 godfree Roberts July 24, 2017 at 7:48 pm

No, the PISA tests show that Shanghai’s disadvantage children are the most resilient on earth, with 40% of them outscoring their global peers.

Here’s the OECD report: Whenever an American or European wins an Olympic gold medal, we cheer them as heroes. When a Chinese does, the first reflex seems to be that they must have been doping; or if that’s taking it too far, that it must have been the result of inhumane training.

There seem to be parallels to this in education. Only hours after results from the latest PISA assessment showed Shanghai’s school system leading the field, Time magazine concluded the Chinese must have been cheating. They didn’t bother to read the PISA 2012 Technical Background Annex, which shows there was no cheating, whatsoever, involved. Nor did they speak with the experts who had drawn the samples or with the international auditors who had carefully reviewed and validated the sample for Shanghai and those of other countries.

Others were quick to suggest that resident internal migrants might not be covered by Shanghai’s PISA sample, because years ago those migrants wouldn’t have had access to Shanghai’s schools. But, like many things in China, that has long changed and, as described by PISA, resident migrants were covered by the PISA samples in exactly the way they are covered in other countries and education systems. Still, it seems to be easier to cling to old stereotypes than keep up with changes on the ground (or to read the PISA report).

True, like other emerging economies, Shanghai is still building its education system and not every 15-year-old makes it yet to high school. As a result of this and other factors, the PISA 2012 sample covers only 79% of the 15-year-olds in Shanghai. But that is far from unique. Even the United States, the country with the longest track record of universal high-school education, covered less than 90% of its 15-year-olds in PISA – and it didn’t include Puerto Rico in its PISA sample, a territory that is unlikely to have pulled up U.S. average performance.

International comparisons are never easy and they are never perfect. But anyone who takes a serious look at the facts and figures will concede that the samples used for PISA result in robust and internationally comparable data. They have been carefully designed and validated to be fit for purpose in collaboration with the world’s leading experts, and the tests are administered under strict and internationally comparable conditions. Anyone who really wants to find out can review the underlying data.

Short of arguments about methodology, some people turn to dismissing Shanghai’s strong performance by saying that Shanghai’s students are only good on the kind of tasks that are easy to teach and easy to test, and that those things are losing in relevance because they are also the kind of things that are easy to digitise, automate and outsource. But while the latter is true, the former is not. Consider this: Only 2% of American 15-year-olds and 3% of European ones reach the highest level of math performance in PISA, demonstrating that they can conceptualise, generalise and use math based on their investigations and apply their knowledge in novel contexts. In Shanghai it is over 30%. Educators in Shanghai have simply understood that the world economy will pay an ever-rising premium on excellence and no longer value people for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.

PISA didn’t just test what 15-year-olds know in mathematics, it also asked them what they believe makes them succeed. In many countries, students were quick to blame everyone but themselves: More than three-quarters of the students in France, an average performer on the PISA test, said the course material was simply too hard, two-thirds said the teacher did not get students interested in the material, and half said their teacher did not explain the concepts well or they were just unlucky. The results are very different for Shanghai. Students there believe they will succeed if they try hard and they trust their teachers to help them succeed. That tells us a lot about school education. And guess which of these two countries keeps improving and which is not? The fact that students in some countries consistently believe that achievement is mainly a product of hard work, rather than inherited intelligence, suggests that education and its social context can make a difference in instilling the values that foster success in education.

And even those who claim that the relative standing of countries in PISA mainly reflects social and cultural factors must concede that educational improvement is possible: In mathematics, countries like Brazil, Turkey, Mexico or Tunisia rose from the bottom; Italy, Portugal and the Russian Federation have advanced to the average of the industrialised world or close to it; Germany and Poland rose from average to good, and Shanghai and Singapore have moved from good to great. Indeed, of the 65 participating countries, 45 saw improvement in at least one subject area. These countries didn’t change their culture, or the composition of their population, nor did they fire their teachers. They changed their education policies and practices. Learning from these countries should be our focus. We will be cheating ourselves and the children in our schools if we miss that chance.

International comparisons are never easy and they aren’t perfect. But PISA shows what is possible in education, it takes away excuses from those who are complacent, and it helps countries see themselves in the mirror of the educational results and educational opportunities delivered by the world’s leaders in education. The world has become indifferent to tradition and past reputations, unforgiving of frailty and ignorant of custom or practice. Success will go to those individuals, institutions and countries which are swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change. And the task for governments is to help citizens rise to this challenge. PISA can help to make that happen.

PISA 2012 Results
OECD Programme for International Student Assessment
Related blog post by Andreas Schleicher: What we learn from the PISA 2012 results
Slideshare PowerPoint presentation: PISA 2012 Evaluating school systems to improve education
Press release: Asian countries top OECD’s latest PISA survey on state of global education


37 ʕ•ᴥ•ʔ July 24, 2017 at 7:55 pm

Thank you for that interesting and detailed reply.


38 Al July 25, 2017 at 12:27 am

Solid reply.

nit: none of the average performers in your reply said anything about “inherited intelligence” so why mention it? Rather it looks like they did not take responsibility.


39 JWatts July 25, 2017 at 12:45 pm

“JWatts – I would speculate that a) there is immense peer and teacher pressure on the slowest student to learn quickly and that b) the students that aren’t intellectually capable of keeping up are quickly side lined.”

“godfree Roberts – As a result of this and other factors, the PISA 2012 sample covers only 79% of the 15-year-olds in Shanghai. ”

That seems to agree with what I said. It’s a reasonable supposition that the 21% not covered are disproportionately the ones incapable of keeping up.

“Here’s the OECD report: Whenever an American or European wins an Olympic gold medal, we cheer them as heroes. When a Chinese does, the first reflex seems to be that they must have been doping; or if that’s taking it too far, that it must have been the result of inhumane training.”

This is just a bizarre response. I wasn’t in anyway criticizing the Shanghai results. I was pointing out that with normal human variability, you will not have a class of exactly equal abilities among any large group of humans. Regardless of the cohort, if you ensure that everyone is taught to a certain benchmark, the speed of reaching that benchmark will be determined by the slowest learner to reach that benchmark.


40 Paul July 24, 2017 at 4:27 pm

“The city’s success has prompted the U.K. to stage a major turn toward China on math, sending British teachers overseas and then inviting a few dozen Shanghai teachers to take over British classrooms.’

There was a TV reality programme in the UK (BBC?) I remember seeing where a group of Chinese teachers were allowed to take charge of a class of UK students in a troubled school to see if they could improve outcomes. They did. But the different schooling philosophies were a big challenge.

Interesting because it’s not just a trial but a way to win public support for looking to overseas.

I guess you could also replace the texts with the Russian equivalents which only have math. No tortured word problems to demonstrate “relevance.” No colored boxes with inspirational stories of the first transgender/female/minority mathematician in ancient Greece… Etc. Just the math. What a concept.


41 Just Another MR Commentor July 24, 2017 at 5:20 pm

Obligatory reminder that learning math isn’t actually that important. Engineers don’t make all that much money and only a tiny fraction of professionals will ever use anything past standard American middle school math in their entire careers.


42 will July 24, 2017 at 5:33 pm

It depends – things like basic algebra are difficult for the average american student. And that does have plenty of application.

I think of it more like logical training. Find hard problems that have distinctive answers to force the student to work his brain. Chess, logic/word problems. Soft problems work too, except it is hard to compel a student to think hard there as there is often not a well-defined right answer.

And you’re wrong about Engineering. Good engineers make tons of money. Bad engineers also make good money (on average) when compared to other professionals.


43 Al July 25, 2017 at 12:28 am

I suppose it depends on the definition of “all that much money”.


44 Michael Tinkler July 24, 2017 at 6:46 pm

My grammar school had decided by the late 1960s that American grammar books were useless. We used a series in 4th-6th grades imported from Australia — and repaired many, many times. I myself lost a city-wide spelling bee for using Anglo-Australian spelling for “plow.” I also came out knowing more about marsupials, based on example sentence, than any American child needs to know. But our grammar was good.


45 Itsallrigged July 25, 2017 at 2:50 am

Ironic, given the current state of Australian grammar.


46 anonymous July 24, 2017 at 7:18 pm

I don’t know if China is really superior in Math education. may be it is.
Being educated in another Asian country and having done well in Math ( an 810 in GRE Quant Aptitude , where 800 that year was a 99 percentile, not sure how the scaling works) , I am a little skeptical about the superiority of Asian systems of education. You do put greater effort and its way more competitive at earlier stages , but it still feels more like rote than creativity. Most of my classmates have done well with Tenure in elite universities but in almost all cases I felt it was not because of the education , but in spite of it………..
This was some decades back , so may be things have changed.


47 godfree Roberts July 24, 2017 at 7:50 pm

According to the Japan Science and Technology Agency, China now ranks as the most influential country in four of eight core scientific fields, tying with the U.S. The agency took the top 10% of the most referenced studies in each field, and determined the number of authors who were affiliated with the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France, China or Japan. China ranked first in computer science, mathematics, materials science and engineering. The U.S., on the other hand, led the way in physics, environmental and earth sciences, basic life science and clinical medicine. China is also rapidly catching up in physics, where the U.S. has long dominated. It is spending more than $6 billion to build the world’s largest particle accelerator, which could put it at the forefront of particle physics.


48 July 25, 2017 at 1:27 am

What are you saying? Look at the result of the PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solving: Students’ skills in tackling real-life problems (Volume V) and look at those countries at the top rank,


49 Thiago Ribeiro July 25, 2017 at 6:51 am

I remember reading, decades ago when Japan was always in the news, that Japanese students overperformed, but Japanese adults were not more numerate rhean their Western counterparts. Maybe those who keep working with numbers are really good, though.


50 Massimo Heitor July 24, 2017 at 10:00 pm

I buy self-study math textbooks from Amazon. I don’t discriminate between country of origin, although they have to be in English. I will buy the book that looks best from reviews. If China can make better higher ed math books, great!


51 TuringTest July 25, 2017 at 12:00 am

Tyler must be the world’s biggest troll. After all, whatever happened to “common core”?


52 Francix X. R. L. S. July 25, 2017 at 12:41 am

Math is easy. I would rather read one of the latest Princeton books on mildly non-trivial math (gamma, radical negative one, pi, e; triangles, spheres, circles, vacuums; letters on math, fairly vacant but nevertheless not completely trivial bios of ‘mathematicians”, as if there ever has been such a thing or such a person, diaries of mathematicians, reminiscences of Ramanujan) or, even better, one of the latest Dover books on recreational math (calculating without paper, extraordinarily unusual and compassionate numbers, friendly equations, pure math on pure chessboards), than read, under compulsion, the 20 “top 10” NYTimes bestsellers in the fiction and not-fiction categories. YMMV: but Shanghai, as fortunate as they are with their spectacularly convenient natural harbor, has no secrets that allow it to be an unrivaled Parnassus of number aficionados: that being said, there are a lot of friendly people in Shanghai, I particularly recommend Second Street on Second Day when the cycle of songs has gone around to the celebration of honesty and friendship and piety. Even easier: there are only 8,000 Hebrew words in the Hebrew Bible. 8,000! Life is not long but 8,000 is even so a small number … and -whatever people who might think I don’t know what I am talking about might think (I do, although I am not proud or pleased about that) – while all math that has been discovered and explained is now ‘trivial’, in the strict sense, we are, when we are what we were created to be (theology alert), in charge of numbers, numbers are not in charge of us. By the way, next time you are in Shanghai, try and watch the mini-Stonehenge sunrise over the pond in the park not far from Second Street – last time I did that, I saw clouds , maybe, the color of gray a wolf pup seems to have while playing in the rain, and beneath those clouds a sunrise the color of the roses in the garden of someone’s very lucky grandmother – too healthy for pink, not common enough for red, too luxurious for orange. So remember pink, remember red, remember orange: then forget, and remember again, but remember better.


53 efim polenov July 25, 2017 at 12:45 am

Remember your favorite colors, then forget them, then remember them better.


54 efim polenov July 25, 2017 at 12:48 am

That was not a “New Age” comment that was Phillippians 1:3, slightly adapted.


55 efim polenov July 25, 2017 at 12:51 am

also I don’t have a favorite color, that would be as bad as having many children and having a favorite among them.


56 July 25, 2017 at 1:48 am

The main question is the maturity of the students using the materials designed for China. In primary or high schools 11 months or less differences in age in the same grade are already have significant differences in academic performance,

“””The difference in maturity – which can be extreme at young ages: a six-year old born in January is almost 17% older than a six-year old born in December in the same year[4] – causes a performance gap that persists over time.”””

In UK ‘hot housing’ of students is practiced at the national level, 97.4% of the 15 yo are in grade11 while in countries like Finland, China they are in grade9, as shown by the OECD PISA data,

G9% G10% G11% Country

85.7 0.0 0.2 Finland

94.9 1.8 0.1 Sweden

52.7 34.6 2.2 BSJG_China

47.3 43.1 1.5 Germany

0.0 6.2 88.8 NewZealand

0.0 1.6 97.4 UnitedKingdom

12.5 35.9 39.2 Brazil

Materials designed for say, 15 yo in China in grade9 are presented to the 13 yo in UK in grade9, there might be some differences in appropriateness.

In PISA 2012 for UK on average the 15 yo in grade10 were performed better than those in grade11. I was speculating that there might be some ‘burnt out’ effects. However these effects for UK were not in PISA 2015 but still apparent in some other similar countries.

Also because of streaming in China, the quality of students in the same grade are more even, i.e. for the 15 yo 52.7% were in grade9 and 34.6% in grade10. In UK 97.4% of the 15 yo were in grade11, no child left behind. That was reflected in the OECD TALIS survey that most UK teachers had to prepared two different set of materials for the same class to handle the range of student ability and thus double the workload of the teachers.


57 Shaun Marsh July 25, 2017 at 9:39 pm

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