Vietnam teens surpass EU, US peers in science in global education ranking

By VnExpress   December 6, 2016 | 07:06 pm PT
Vietnam teens surpass EU, US peers in science in global education ranking
High school students in Hanoi. Photo by AFP/Hoang Dinh Nam
Their math skills are also strong, but somehow in sharp decline compared to three years ago, the global survey has found.

A new global education survey has found that Vietnamese students perform really well in science and to some extent in math, but they are behind in reading.

Vietnam ranked eighth out of 72 economies in science performance in the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was released by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Tuesday.

Although its science ranking placed Vietnam above the U.S. and many European nations, the country came 22nd in mathematics and 32nd in reading. Its score in reading was below the OECD mean score.

The survey, the sixth since the program’s inception, assessed 540,000 students in science, mathematics, reading, collaborative problem solving and financial literacy, with science the major domain. The students represent about 29 million 15-year-olds from the participating countries.

They were put through two hours of tests which assess their ability to extrapolate from what they know and creatively apply their knowledge in novel situations.


Vietnamese students did not perform as well as they used to, but still managed to stay above the OECD average. Graphic from OECD

Vietnamese students scored worse than they did in 2012, when they joined the tests for the first time and achieved “a star performance” with the eighth position overall.

Yet OECD education director Andreas Schleicher still described Vietnam’s progress as “quite remarkable,” coming ahead of Germany and Switzerland in science, and ahead of the U.S. in science and maths, the BBC reported.

The survey found that Vietnam is among a few economies, together with Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong, Japan, Macao and Singapore where at least nine out of ten 15-year-old students master the basics that every student should know before leaving school.

Asian countries continue to dominate this year.

Singapore has the highest achieving students this time, with its teenagers coming on top in all three major fields – mathematics, reading and science. China, Japan and South Korea are also in the top 10.

Finland, Estonia, Canada and Ireland are the only non-Asian nations to get into any of the top five rankings across all three subjects.

Schleicher said, as cited by the BBC, that Asian countries such as Singapore managed to achieve excellence without wide differences between children from wealthy and disadvantaged families.

PISA tests, launched in 2000 and taken every three years, have become increasingly influential on politicians and educators who want to see how their countries may stack up globally. Still, there are always over whether the results are really relevant.

In the survey, students also respond to questions on their personal background, their schools, their well-being and their motivation, while their parents, teachers and principals provide data on school policies, practices, resources and institutional factors that help explain performance differences.

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