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April 2, 2014

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Shanghai students take 4th place in PISA computer test

STUDENTS from Shanghai tied for fourth place in a new computer-based test of their problem-solving abilities under the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), according to the results released yesterday.

The 40-minute examination was sat by 85,000 students from 44 countries and regions, of which 2,372 were from Shanghai.

The participants were selected from the 510,000 students from 65 countries and regions who had earlier taken the PISA paper-based test in April 2012.

Having ranked first in 2009 and 2012 in the paper-based PISA tests, organized by Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Shanghai students tied with their peers from Hong Kong and Macau for fourth place in the debut computer exam.

Students from Singapore and South Korea shared the top spot, followed by Japan in third.

Unlike the two-hour paper test that measures competency in reading, science and mathematics, the 40-minute computer exam set abstract problems that lacked obvious solutions.

“The test requires students to search for the information they need, and they are given only a few opportunities to find the solutions,” said Lu Jing, secretary-general of the Shanghai PISA Project.

“It measures how well they are prepared to meet the challenges of the digital age,” he said.

Almost 90 percent of the Shanghai students achieved grade 2 or above for problem solving, which suggests they have the skills needed to cope with their future work and social lives.

More than 18 percent were graded at the highest levels of 5 or 6, suggesting they will go on to be “elites,” he said.

In the gender battle, Shanghai boys scored an average of 549.3, compared with the girls’ 524.2, both of which were above average.

“The results suggest boys are more willing to solve problems than girls and that they are better at using computers,” said Zhang Minxuan, program manager for Shanghai PISA.

Computer weakness

Overall, however, Shanghai students performed less well in the computer test than they did in the paper test, Zhang said.

“That may be to do with how they use computers at home and school,” he said, adding that students should have more chances to work with them.

The new test also indicated that Shanghai students are better at dealing with static problem situations than counteractive ones, Zhang said.

“This shows they need more practice-oriented and research-based study to improve their ability to solve problems in uncertain conditions,” he said.

The OECD plans to replace its paper tests with a computer version in 2015, but a final decision has yet to be made, Lu said.

This year will feature both tests, so that the examiners can compare the two sets of results, he said.


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