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PISA expands in China

From 2015, more Chinese provinces will take part to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the survey administered every three years in more than sixty states. Although China not being an OECD member, the country has started participating in the PISA Programme already since 2009, with results of the Shanghai province published every edition since then. Starting from 2015, also the results of the provinces of Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong will be included in the survey publication. 

PISA consists in a test administered to 15-year-olds students measuring their skills in math, reading, and science. In all of the three subjects, the results of the 2009 and 2012 editions reported that Chinese students were the top scoring participants. Since then, the PISA-Shanghai controversy originated, challenging whether Shanghai might be a unrepresentative showcase of the Chinese reality. In fact, due to the hukou system that regulates migrations in China, 15-years-old students are not entitled to attend high schools in urban provinces if their parents or grandparents originate from a rural province. Statistical data support the demographic mismatch: while in a province of 23 million people like Shanghai one would expect about 300 000 youngsters of 15-year-olds, only about one-third of that amount is reported by PISA. 

Since Shanghai first participated in PISA in 2009, OECD has made references to data collected in other rural provinces but so far the Chinese government has not allowed to release these data. The expansion of PISA in China constitutes an opportunity to dispel the secrecy of these findings, even though Beijing, Jiangsu and Guangdong cannot be considered rural provinces.