Indian Engineering Students Perform Poorly on International Assessment Tests

The results of a test called "Supertest", developed by researchers from the US, China, Russia and India,, show that Indian engineering students perform very poorly relative to their  peers in other countries. Supertest is the first study to track the progress of students in computer science and electrical engineering over the course of their studies with regard to their abilities in physics, mathematics and critical thinking and compare the results among four countries.  

Supertest was initiated by Stanford University, HSE University Moscow, the Educational Testing Service (ETS), and partner universities in China and India, according to Phys.org.  Here's an excerpt of the article in journal that explains the test:

"More than 30,000 undergraduate students participated in the study. The researchers collected a sample of students from elite and large universities, roughly equal in number for each country. In Russia, the sample included students from six Project 5-100 universities and 28 other universities. Their skill development was measured three times: upon entering university, at the end of their second year, and at the end of their studies........Russian engineering students outperform Indian students while performing lower than Chinese students. In terms of developing these skills over the course of their studies, students of all three countries perform lower than students in the United States. "We found that, as the students progress in their studies, their critical thinking skills remain approximately the same in Russia and India, but significantly decrease in China. On the contrary, American students show improvement," said Igor Chirikov. This is a serious problem, the researchers note, because technologies change rapidly, and in order to be able to master new ones, you need not only a firm grasp of the subject area, but, above all, skills of the 21st century".

Earlier testing of Indian students on international assessment tests has also shown that they rank near the bottom on PISA, a global test of learning standards conducted in 74 nations in 2011.  TIMSS, another standardized international test, produced similar results earlier in 2003.


The year 2011 was the first time that Indian students participated in PISA. Students from Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu took the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) test, coordinated by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Prior to this participation, students from Indian states of Orissa and Rajasthan took a similar test called Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) in 2003.

Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh rank high on human development indicators among Indian states. The India Human Development Report 2011, prepared by the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR), categorized them as “median” states, putting them significantly ahead of the national average. IAMR is an autonomous arm of India's Planning Commission.



Himachal Pradesh ranked 4 and Tamil Nadu 11 in literacy rates on India's National Family Health Survey released in 2007. However, in the PISA study, Tamil Nadu ranked 72 and Himachal Pradesh 73, just ahead of the bottom-ranked Kyrgyzstan in mathematics and overall reading skills. Shanghai, China's biggest city, topped the PISA rankings in all three categories—overall reading skills, mathematical and scientific literacy. The new entrants included Costa Rica, Georgia, India (Himachal Pradesh & Tamil Nadu), Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Venezuela (Miranda), Moldova, United Arab Emirates. PISA 2009+ involved testing just over 46 000 students across these ten economies, representing a total of about 1,377,000 15-year-olds.


In Tamil Nadu, only 17% of students were estimated to possess proficiency in reading that is at or above the baseline needed to be effective and productive in life. In Himachal Pradesh, this level is 11%. “This compares to 81% of students performing at or above the baseline level in reading in the OECD countries, on an average,” said the study.

The average Indian child taking part in PISA2009+ is 40 to 50 points behind the worst students in the economic superstars. Even the best performers in Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh - the top 5 percent who India will need in science and technology to complete globally - were almost 100 points behind the average child in Singapore and 83 points behind the average Korean - and a staggering 250 points behind the best in the best.

The average child in HP & TN is right at the level of the worst OECD or American students (only 1.5 or 7.5 points ahead). Contrary to President Obama's oft-expressed concerns about American students ability to compete with their Indian counterparts, the average 15-year-old Indian placed in an American school would be among the weakest students in the classroom, says Lant Pritchett of Harvard University. Even the best TN/HP students are 24 points behind the average American 15 year old.

The 2003 TIMSS study ranked India at 46 among 51 countries. Indian students' score was 392 versus average of 467 for the group. These results were contained in a Harvard University report titled "India Shining and Bharat Drowning".

These results are not only a wake-up call for the Hindutva brigade, but also raise serious questions about the credibility of India's western cheerleaders like Indian-American journalist Fareed Zakaria and New York Times' columnist Tom Friedman.
A World Bank report on student learning in South Asia is also depressing. Sri Lanka is the sole exception to the overall low levels of achievement for primary and secondary school kids in the region.  The report documents with ample data from various assessments to conclude that "learning outcomes and the average level of skill acquisition in the region are low in both absolute and relative terms". The report covers education from primary through upper secondary schools.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014

Buried inside the bad news is a glimmer of what could be considered hope for Pakistan's grade 5 and 8 students outperforming their counterparts in India. While 72% of Pakistan's 8th graders can do simple division, the comparable figure for Indian 8th graders is just 57%. Among 5th graders, 63% of Pakistanis and 73% of Indians CAN NOT divide a 3 digit number by a single digit number, according to the World Bank report titled "Student Learning in South Asia: Challenges, Opportunities, and Policy Priorities".  The performance edge of Pakistani kids  over their Indian counterparts is particularly noticeable in rural areas. The report also shows that Pakistani children do better than Indian children in reading ability.

Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014


Here are some excepts from the World Bank report:

Unfortunately, although more children are in school, the region still has a major learning challenge in that the children are not acquiring basic skills. For example, only 50 percent of grade 3 students in Punjab, Pakistan, have a complete grasp of grade 1 mathematics (Andrabi et al. 2007). In India, on a test of reading comprehension administered to grade 5 students across the country, only 46 percent were able to correctly identify the cause of an event, and only a third of the students could compute the difference between two decimal numbers (NCERT 2011). Another recent study found that about 43 percent of grade 8 students could not solve a simple division problem. Even recognition of two-digit numbers, supposed to be taught in grade 2, is often not achieved until grade 4 or 5 (Pratham 2011). In Bangladesh, only 25 percent of fifth-grade students have mastered Bangla and 33 percent have mastered the mathematics competencies specified in the national curriculum (World Bank 2013). In the current environment, there is little evidence that learning outcomes will improve by simply increasing school inputs in a business-as-usual manner (Muralidharan and Zieleniak 2012).


Source: The Hindu

In rural Pakistan, the Annual State of Education Report (ASER) 2011 assessment suggests, arithmetic competency is very low in absolute terms. For instance, only 37 percent of grade 5 students can divide three-digit numbers by a single-digit number (and only 27 percent in India); and 28 percent of grade 8 students cannot perform simple division. Unlike in rural India, however, in rural Pakistan recognition of two-digit numbers is widespread by grade 3 (SAFED 2012). The Learning and Educational Achievement in Punjab Schools (LEAPS) survey—a 2003 assessment of 12,000 children in grade 3 in the province—also found that children were performing significantly below curricular standards (Andrabi et al. 2007). Most could not answer simple math questions, and many children finished grade 3 unable to perform mathematical operations covered in the grade 1 curriculum. A 2009 assessment of 40,000 grade 4 students in the province of Sindh similarly found that while 74 percent of students could add two numbers, only 49 percent could subtract two numbers (PEACE 2010).


Source: World Bank Report on Education in South Asia 2014




The report relies upon numerous sources of data, among them key government data (such as Bangladesh’s Directorate of Primary Education; India’s National Sample Survey, District Information System of Education, and National Council of Education Research and Training Assessment; and Pakistan’s National Education Assessment System); data from nongovernmental entities (such as Pakistan’s Annual Status of Education Report, India’s Student Learning Study, and its Annual Status of Education Report); international agencies (such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] Programme for International Student Assessment [PISA] 2009+ for India; the World Bank Secondary Education Quality and Access Enhancement Project in Bangladesh); and qualitative studies undertaken for the report (such as examining decentralization reforms in Sri Lanka and Pakistan). The study also uses the World Bank Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) framework to examine issues related to ECD, education finance, assessment systems, and teacher policies.

I hope that these reports serve as a wake-up call for political leaders and policymakers in South Asia to redouble their efforts with significant additional resource allocations of nutrition, education and healthcare.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings
South Asia Investor Review

Who's Better for Pakistan Human Development?

History of Literacy in Pakistan

Myths and Facts About Out-of-School Children in Pakistan

PISA, TIMSS Results Confirm Low Quality of Indian Education

India Shining, Bharat Drowning

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

Learning Levels and Gaps in Pakistan by Jishnu Das and Priyanka Pandey

Pasi Sahlberg on why Finland leads the world in education

CNN's Fixing Education in America-Fareed Zakaria

PISA's Scores 2011

Poor Quality of Education in South Asia

Infections Cause Low IQs in South Asia, Africa?

Peepli Live Destroys Western Myths About India

PISA 2009Plus Results Report

Views: 67

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 5, 2021 at 6:42am

#Indian-descent #Americans are taking over #US, jokes Biden. #Biden's remarks are being described as "head-turning" and "tone-deaf". He told #NASA's Mars Project Manager Swati Mohan: "We (in US) give people an opportunity to let their dreams run forward" http://toi.in/7kwWGZ/a24gk


Swati Mohan came to the United States when she was just one year old and grew up and studied in America.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 6, 2021 at 7:16am

India's re-entry to PISA triggers mixed response

https://www.devex.com/news/india-s-re-entry-to-pisa-triggers-mixed-...


Anit Mukherjee, a policy fellow focusing on education at the Center for Global Development, told Devex that by having Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas schools take part in the test, the government is trying to have more control over the sample in the hopes of getting a better score. However, he said this is not unusual and that other countries have done the same.

“Learning outcome measurement across the world against a global benchmark is good … I would rather have India going to PISA in some way which is acceptable to both the government in India and OECD than to sit outside, otherwise we don’t have any comparator,” he said.

But even with its best government schools being tested, India is still likely to come near the bottom of the PISA table, according to Jishnu Das, education economist at the World Bank's Development Research Group. This won’t come as a surprise to the government, which is already aware of declining education scores over the past decade thanks to school assessments conducted by education research nonprofit ACER India, he said.

As a result, PISA may have limited value as the test has been most effective when its results have surprised a government — with “PISA shock” forcing them to institute education reforms, he said. This happened in Germany in 2001 and in Peru in 2012.

“PISA made a big difference in Germany, it really woke them up, but ... India is not going to be shocked when it comes near the bottom,” Das said. He added that “these international things cause some embarrassment in international circles but they [don’t] impact the discussion in India at all.”

A better method would be to apply PISA in each Indian state and rank them against each other, which would create more “debate and discussion,” he suggested.

India’s decision to rejoin a prestigious global education ranking has been welcomed by education experts as a positive signal, but some questioned whether the move will bring about meaningful reform.

In January, the Indian government announced its plan to rejoin the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, after a 10-year absence. The country dropped out of the ranking, run by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, in 2009 after being placed 72nd out of 74 nations.

India was competing against high-income OECD member countries but also non-OECD countries including Brazil, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam. The government claimed the test was unfair because it had not been sufficiently adapted to the Indian context.

OECD and India have now agreed to try again and a group of 15-year-olds from schools across Chandigarh, the capital of the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, will be evaluated by PISA examiners in 2021. India wants pupils from its system of central government schools, known as Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya Vidyalayas, to take the test.

The government has said that participating in PISA will help to assess the health of its education system, motivate schools and states to do better, and improve learning levels across the country. The test will also move India away from rote learning toward more “competency-based examination reforms,” according to a press release issued for the official signing ceremony last month.

Comment by Riaz Haq on March 17, 2021 at 5:05pm

Cambridge International students excel in top Pakistan university entrance tests

https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/news/news-details/view/cambr...


Results from entrance tests at three top Pakistan universities have revealed that Cambridge International students perform exceptionally well and secure places on the courses they want to study at university.

Recent newspaper reports in Pakistan revealed the results of the competitive entrance tests for NED, Dawood and Karachi Universities, which students took between October and December 2020. They found almost 80% of Cambridge students passed the entrance tests for NED and Karachi Universities, and that rose to 100% pass rate, for Cambridge students sitting the Dawood University tests.

The results published by the universities themselves showed, of the 9,290 students taking the NED University entrance test exam, 54% could pass the test. Out of these, 552 were Cambridge students, and of those 78% passed the test.

The results were similar for Cambridge students sitting the Karachi University test. A total of 8,983 students took the test, of which almost 30% passed it. This pass rate rose to 80% when looking at the results of just the Cambridge students who took the test.

And in the Dawood University entrance test results, all 22 Cambridge students passed. The overall pass rate of the 2,809 students taking the test was just over 60%.

The results confirm that Cambridge qualifications, particularly Cambridge International AS and A Level, are good preparation for higher education, equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed at university and in their future careers.

It is also very encouraging to see that Cambridge students are doing so well in the highly competitive local universities entrance tests, as about 90% of Cambridge students in Pakistan go to local universities for higher studies.

To ensure the impacts of Covid-19, do not prevent Cambridge students from pursuing their further education plans, we have been working closely with the Federal Ministry of Education and Training in Pakistan. Together we have provided students with the help and support they need to enable them to progress with their education as planned. Subsequently, the Inter Board Committee of Chairmen (IBCC) confirmed that grades from the Cambridge International’s June 2020 series would be accepted by Pakistan universities in the same way as those from other exam series.

Cambridge International programmes help students to broaden their outlook, build life-long skills and instil principles and values deemed vital to help them succeed in further education and their future careers. Our programmes encourage learners to become confident, responsible, reflective, innovative, and engaged. Our curriculum and assessments are designed with these learner attributes in mind.

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