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Dec 03, 2013 08:34 AM EST

Shanghai Outplays US, UK in Global Tests

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The U.S. and the U.K., two of the world's leading countries in higher education, have been thwarted by global rivals in Programme in International Student Assessment (PISA) tests conducted by Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

While the U.S. and the U.K. were ranked 36 and 26 respectively, Asian countries such as Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong dominated the rankings by securing the top three positions in the list.

The OECD determined the rankings after testing math, science and reading skills of about 510,000 15-year-olds in 65 countries in 2012. Tunisia was the only African country that participated in the test.

While American students lagged behind in math and achieved average figures in reading and science, their Chinese counterparts scored top marks in all the three departments.

Revealing the secret behind the East Asia's success in the PISA test, OECD's head of education Andreas Schleicher told Reuters, "They basically succeed in attracting the most talented teachers to the most challenging classrooms, they get really great principals in the tough schools. They mobilise resources where they can make the most differences," Economic Times reports.

Other Asian countries that made it to the list are Taipei, Korea, Macao and Japan.

Another reason for Asian students' success in tests is their ability to apply classroom knowledge to difficult situations and problems.

"Many Asian systems have been able to overcome the stereotypes of rote-learning," Schleicher said.

Within the U.K., Scotland fared better at math and reading than England. Wales averaged on all subjects.

England's Education Secretary Michael Gove said that the rankings necessititate the "urgent need for our reforms". Reacting to the poor results in Wales, Education Minister Huw Lewis said: "Everybody working in and around the Welsh education sector needs to take a long hard look in the mirror," BBC reports.

For OECD's PISA 2012, Math was the main focus because it is a strong predictor of success for young adults.

"With high levels of youth unemployment, rising inequality and a pressing need to boost growth in many countries, it's more urgent than ever that young people learn the skills they need to succeed," OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said in a statement. "In a global economy, competitiveness and future job prospects will depend on what people can do with what they know. Young people are the future, so every country must do everything it can to improve its education system and the prospects of future generations."

Here is the list of top 10 countries that scored well on PISA Test:

Reading

Math

Science

Shanghai

570

Shanghai

613

Shanghai

580

Hong Kong

545

Hong Kong

573

Hong Kong

555

Singapore

542

Singapore

561

Singapore

551

Japan

538

Taiwan

560

Japan

547

South Korea

536

South Korea

554

Finland

545

Finland

524

Macau-China

538

Estonia

541

Ireland

523

Japan

536

South Korea

538

Taiwan

523

Lichtenstein

535

Vietnam

528

Canada

523

Switzerland

531

Poland

526

Poland

518

Netherlands

523

Canada

525

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