Students’ high scores at PISA tests remain mystery to experts
VietNamNet Bridge - While US and Israeli professors are surprised that Vietnamese students scored high on PISA tests, many Vietnamese people wonder why the country remains poor with such good marks on the test. 

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Professor Paul Glewwe from University of Minnesota said at a workshop on Vietnam studies that he could not easily explain why Vietnamese students could obtain such high achievements at PISA (Program for International Student Assessment).

As announced by OECD on December 6, Vietnam ranks the eighth among 72 countries in sciences, the 22nd in math and 32nd in reading.

The noteworthy thing is that Vietnamese students are above the US and the UK students in sciences and math.

In 2012, when Vietnam attended PISA for the first time, it ranked the eighth in sciences, the 17th in math and 19th in reading.

While US and Israeli professors are surprised that Vietnamese students scored high on PISA tests, many Vietnamese people wonder why the country remains poor with such good marks on the test. 
The US professor said the PISA ranking is in proportion to GDP. However, Vietnam is an exception.

At a workshop on starting a business, a businessman from Israel, also expressed his surprise about the high PISA achievements gained by Vietnamese students.

Business Insider called it ‘the Vietnam effect’. Though it is a country with low income, its students have good learning achievements equal to those of students in developed countries.

Vietnamese Minister of Education and Training Phung Xuan Nha said though Vietnamese income is not high, families still spend big money on education. 

“Vietnamese parents will sell all the assets they have, from land to gardens, to get money to fund their children’s studies. This characteristic can also be found in Chinese and Japanese parents, but not in European parents,” he said.

Suhas D. Parandekar and Elisabeth K. Sedmik from the World Bank also conducted research on PISA results and found that of the eight developing countries participating in PISA, Vietnam has the lowest GDP per capita - $4,098 (PPP, 2010). 

However, the achievements of Vietnamese students are equal to students from Finland and Switzerland.

Vietnamese students not only score high at the PISA, but at all international competitions. 

Vietnam has been among the most excellent teams at international Olympiads in mathematics and other sciences. A Vietnamese mathematician won the Fields Medal, the most prestigious prize in mathematics.

The high results that the Vietnamese 15-year old students gained from the PISA tests is the Vietnamese pride and joy. However, this has also made Vietnamese embarrassed: why is Vietnam still poor, though its people are very intelligent?

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Thanh Mai

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