PISA Scores: 2 Indian States Flop


The conventional wisdom expressed in Obama Administration speeches and the like is that American students get crushed by kids in China and India on international tests of school achievement. But the evidence for this is not as abundant as you might assume … especially not for India. While the city of Shanghai shot the lights out on the 2009 PISA, test scores haven`t been released for other parts of China. 

But, Westerners going back to Marco Polo have generally assumed the Chinese have a lot on the ball, so they are likely to do pretty well. 

What about India, the other giga-country? I first noticed in early 1981 that there were a lot of smart Indians in the U.S., and over the decades this has become a cliche.

But, what about India itself? India has never participated as a country in broad-based international tests.

The future of India is A) an intrinsically interesting subject; B) one that could make or lose you a lot of money; C) could make or lose the whole world a lot of money (just as the widespread assumption that the population of the Sand States could pay back those big mortgages proved costly for everyone, so could an unrealistic assumption down the road that the Indian masses are ready for big loans could spark a future global bubble and bust).  

Last year, I pointed out in VDARE that TIMSS had been given unofficially in two Indian states, Orissa and Rajasthan, and both had done badly.

Now the OECD has released 2009 PISA test scores for 15-year-olds for ten more places, two of them Indian states. The new news is that the Indian states, Tamil Nadu in the southeast (east of Bangalore, the technology center) and Himachal Pradesh, a Hindu state in the Deep North, did miserably, fighting it out with Kyrgyzstan for last place out of 74 countries or regions on all three tests: reading, math, and science. (Not surprisingly, the southern state beat the northern state on all three tests.) 

And there isn`t much inequality in the Indian scores: it`s not like some geniuses in these states score high but the places are dragged down by illiterates. There are a lot of illiterates, of course, but almost nobody scores at the top level, at least not in the schools where these tests were given. (Allow me to insert here my usual caveat about testing, which is that an 80/20 rule applies to methodology: it`s pretty easy to get a crudely accurate picture, but really hard to get a highly accurate one. For example, how representative were the tested students in India? Beats me.)

Here`s the 13 meg PDF.

India ought to be able to do better than score at sub-Saharan levels. Indians in other countries do better. For example, this same report has Mauritius, a mixed race country in the middle of the Indian Ocean where 52% of the population is Hindu, scoring like a Latin American country rather than a sub-Saharan African country. 

But, India itself has a long way to go. It`s likely to take 1-2 generations to get India up to speed, and we don`t really know what up to speed for India means yet.

In other news from this report by Australians on the additional ten marginal places to take the test, Costa Rica does pretty good for a Latin American country (as stereotypes of Costa Rica as a nice place would suggest), Malta does okay, the rich United Arab Emirates do pretty good for an Arab place, and Moldova and Georgia do very bad for white countries.