Weekly Homework (hours)
A recent survey in 44 OECD countries reveals for 15-year-old students an average of 5 hours / week of homework.
PISA is like the Army IPPT Test on physical fitness. A fit soldier and a weak soldier go to war, whether he can fight with courage under duress to win the battle, has nothing to do with his IPPT scores.
That explains why Americans are poor in PISA but produce many entrepreneurs, Nobel prize / Fields scientists, whereas China, Singapore, Korea, HK have only few.
China, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan are 4 predominantly Chinese population being ranked 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively, in the PISA 2012 Math Test for 15-year-old students.
While this is something to be proud of our Secondary School Math Education, it does not hide the fact that beyond this age (15) these countries do not produce any high-level mathematicians like Fields Medalists or Nobel Prize Scientists.
What goes wrong ?
Reason: Asian education emphasizes on computation-driven Math drills, a long tradition of ‘abacus’ mindset, or ‘algorithmic‘ approach.
By doing plenty of Math assessments : in China “Sea of Math Questions” (题海), or in Singapore popular Math Tuition Class doing Past Years Math Papers, students are drilled in solving standard ‘sure-have-answer’ test questions with memorized or déjà-vu (of similar patterns) problem solving techniques.
Once they enter university where the Math is more of Proofing and “no-solution” type, most students are not trained in thinking and solving such questions, they will get stuck.
What Asian Math Education should improve is in the “Solving Unknown” Math skills – something worth to learn from the French Lycée (Secondary /High School) Math Education since they incubate 1/3 of Fields Medalists, yet France’s PISA is average. (Why ? – another blog to discuss the French’s weakness in Applied Math.)
Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) for 15-year-old students in 60 countries.
The top 5 countries are Shanghai, Korea, Finland, HK, Singapore.
Shanghai scored 1st in all categories: Reading, Math, and Science. Singapore scored 5th, 2nd and 4th, respectively, in these categories.
Zooming in the elite students % in the test population (5000 students in each country representatives), Singapore elites are not far off (within 1%) than the Shanghai elites in Reading and Science, but lose out in Math with a big gap of 11% (26.6% -15.6%).
That means Singapore top Math students in Maths are far off than Chinese top Math students.
Dr. James Li from Fudan University – its form teacher of the 1st batch gifted class – compares the Math education syllabi in Primary schools (P1 to P6), which build the Math foundation of the Shanghai and Singapore students.
The good points of the Chinese Math syllabus (and the lack of in Singapore’s):
1. Chinese P3 uses calculator (P5 in Singapore);
2. P4 learn rules of operation like commutative, associative, distributive laws (lack of in Singapore).
3. Geometry: emphasis on drawing and mapping (inadequate in Singapore Geometry class)
4. P5 learn Algebra & equation (P6 only algebra but no equation).
5. Basic (non-competition) Math Olympiad skill selectively included in Chinese textbooks (lack of in Singapore)
6. Incorporate Mathematician stories like 祖冲之 in being the first person in the world to calculate pi up to 7 decimals. ( lack of in Singapore).
7. Incorporate computing tools and games in Math teaching materials. (Lack of in Singapore).