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Chinese Cool on Report Calling Shanghai Students Smartest

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Chinese parents and education experts have shrugged off a report from an international organization saying Shanghai students are the smartest in the world.

This follows students from east China's metropolis Shanghai topping a report released Tuesday by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with results that reportedly "stunned" western educators.

"As it stands right now, America is in danger of falling behind," US President Barack Obama was quoted as saying by the New York Times as he commented on the rise of China's education in a speech to a college audience in North Carolina.

But Chinese parents and educators say the performance of Shanghai students was no proof of a successful education system in China where students are burdened with an excessive workload and there exists a large gap in education resources between different regions..

"Admittedly, Chinese students are comparatively knowledgeable and have very strong learning skills. But they were results of pressure from school, family and society," said Xiong Bingqi, a renowned professor with Jiaotong University who specializes in education in China.

Chinese students work extra long hours on school days and continue to have classes on weekends and holiday. It is hard for them not to perform well on tests, he added.

Xiong said the OECD result did not surprise him. A similar test of 28,000 Shanghai ninth graders in 2008 showed that their learning skills were at least as good as Finnish and Swedish students.

"It would be dangerous to take it as a great feat of China's efforts as having improved its education. We must not let the good test results hide away the problems of education in China," Xiong said. Many Chinese parents agreed with him.

"Chinese children are victims of a test-oriented education system. We have no reason to celebrate the result of another test," said Shanghai mother Guan Jiaojiao.

Guan said Chinese children lack the ability to solve real questions and are not independent enough because they spend too much time learning. But she sees to it that her 16-year-old son attends a three-hour training on math every Saturday. "I don't like it, but my son's future is at stake."

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