Did the Shift from Paper to Computer Bring Down East Asia’s (China’s) PISA Performance?
I was surprised by China’s 2015 PISA performance, particularly in reading. I was confident that even the expansion beyond Shanghai would not cause a significant decline based on my understanding of the Chinese education system. And Beijing, Jiangsu, and Guangdong are traditionally strong performers in China, and among the most developed provinces, although behind Shanghai.
While I don’t believe PISA scores mean anything beyond the ability to perform on PISA tests, I wanted to see if I needed to change my thinking. Perhaps Chinese students are not as good at taking tests as I had thought? Perhaps students in Shanghai are drastically different from the rest of China? Perhaps China’s education system is changing very fast that they have truly moved away from test preparation? I am willing to consider any possibilities in the face of evidence.
I found a news article from Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), whose reading performance has declined significantly as well, although not as much as China (Shanghai to BSJG). Chinese Taipei’s reading ranking dropped from #8 in 2012 to #23 in 2015. According to the report from Chinese Taipei’s Central News Agency, a high-level official of its Ministry of Education attributed the decline to students’ unfamiliarity with reading on a computer. Because PISA changed from paper-based to computer-based tests. Although students in Taiwan may use smart devices for other purposes, they are not used to reading large amount of text, diagrams, and graphics on a computer screen. The official said in addition to improve reading in general, Taiwan would increase computers to support reading and adding computer-based tests to important exams in the future.
Seems a reasonable hypothesis. PISA shifted from paper-based tests to computer-based tests from 2012 to 2015 for most participants.
So I dug a little bit deeper. First I verified that indeed all students in China (BSJG) took the PISA on computers (looks like Windows-based laptops), which are very different from what most young students are using today (hand held devices), if they had access to digital devices. Second, I confirmed that the percentages of students categorized as rural are much higher in Beijing, Jiangsu, and Guangdong than Shanghai. That rural students have less access to technology is a safe assumption. So these students would be less familiar with computers. Finally, it is also common in China that many parents and teachers do not Education in the Age of Globalization » Blog Archive » Did the Shift from Paper to Computer Bring Down East Asia’s (China’s) PISA Performance?: