Shanghai, taking part for the first time, came top in all three subjects. Meanwhile, Hong Kong which was performing well in the last decade of British rule, has gone from good to great. In this global ranking, it came fourth in reading, second in maths and third in science.
More than 80% of Shanghai’s older secondary students attend after-school tutoring. They may spend another three to four hours each day on homework under close parental supervision.
“Not all Chinese parents are ‘tiger mothers’,” insists Prof Cheng. “But certainly they are devoted to their children’s education.”
The city’s schools are now a showcase for the country. About 80% of Shanghai school leavers go to university compared to an overall average of 24% in China.
Hong Kong, like Singapore, now recruits teachers from the top 30% of the graduate cohort. By contrast, according to the OECD, the US recruits from the bottom third.
School competition leads to family discipline focusing on end results. The only good things coming out of it are first of all, high expectation of achievement; second, disciplined efforts; third, copying what is proven right or valuable.