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Human capital (primarily education) is the single most important factor behind long-term productivity gains, and hence economic growth. The relatively high human capital of Russia and China, which is comparable to developed country levels, is the most important reason why I rate their future prospects much higher than those of the other two BRIC’s, Brazil and India.

But the internal distribution of human capital is also very important. For instance, in Italy there is an almost perfect correlation between regional PISA scores in Math and Science, and regional GDP’s. I have long wanted to find a similar data set for Russia, and I finally did so today in Jarkko Hautamäki’s slideshow comparing regional PISA performance in Finland and Russia. Based on the figures there I estimated the PISA scores (Math and Science) for Russia’s regions and compiled the map below.

russia-map-pisa-results-2009



The results by each of the 44 Russian regions which participated in PISA are reproduced below*:

Region PISA 2009
Moscow 546
Saint-Petersburg 519
Tyumen oblast 506
Novosibirsk 502
Chelyabinsk oblast 499
Omsk oblast 497
Samara oblast 496
Vladimir oblast 494
Tula oblast 492
Karelia 489
Tatarstan 489
Komi 488
Tomsk oblast 488
Primorsky krai 483
Krasnoyarsk 482
Chuvashia 482
Udmurtia 478
Sakhalin oblast 477
Saratov oblast 475
RUSSIA 475
Tambov oblast 474
Moscow oblast 472
Volgograd oblast 471
Vologda oblast 470
Kemerovo oblast 470
Altai krai 468
Astrakhan oblast 467
Ryazan oblast 466
Kursk oblast 465
Khanty-Mansiysk 463
Bashkortostan 458
Krasnodar 457
Perm krai 457
Rostov oblast 457
Nizhny Novgorod 456
Voronezh oblast 453
Orenburg oblast 453
Kaluga oblast 446
Sverdlovsk oblast 446
Ulyanovsk oblast 445
Adygea 443
Stavropol 441
Mari El 436
Dagestan 426
Chita oblast 425
Sakha (Yakutia) 419

There are any numbers of comments one can make, but I will confine myself to the most important ones:

(1) In some regions, margins of error are high, as samples were low. Nonetheless, it is still possible to identify concrete patterns.

(2) Moscow pupils performed very well, at the level of the highest scoring OECD countries like Finland, Taiwan, and Korea. This is especially impressive considering the significant numbers of immigrants in that city from the North Caucasus and Central Asia, who come from poorly-scoring countries and rarely have good Russian.

(3) St.-Petersburg and Tyumen oblast performed above the OECD average, while a few other regions performed at or only slightly below the OECD average.

(4) Among ethnic Russian republics, Siberian regions performed well, while the Urals and southern regions performed badly.

(5) Performance in ethnic minority republics differs dramatically. Many of the Turkic and Finno-Ugric regions, such as Tatarstan, Komi, Chuvashia, and Karelia did well; however, Mari El is a big exception. The Buddhist peoples of Asia, such as Chita oblast (now merged into Zabaykalsky Krai) and the Sakha Republic, performed relatively poorly, as did the Muslim North Caucasus region of Dagestan. Extrapolating from Dagestan, Chechnya would probably score around 400, i.e. like Brazil.

Bear these figures in mind when considering long-term investments into Russia alongside with their business climate, corruption levels, etc.

Finally, there is a table below comparing individual Russian regions with countries around the world. (The Ukraine didn’t participate in PISA 2009, but extrapolating from its TIMMS scores, its rating should be around 454. The OECD average is about 500.) I have bolded countries and Russian regions which are especially useful, in my opinion, for comparative purposes.

Region PISA 2009
China: Shanghai 588
Hong Kong 552
Singapore 552
Finland 548
Moscow 546
Korea 542
China 537
Japan 534
Chinese Taipei 532
Canada 528
Liechtenstein 528
New Zealand 526
Switzerland 526
Netherlands 524
Australia 521
Estonia 520
Saint-Petersburg 519
China: Macao 518
Germany 517
Belgium 511
Slovenia 507
Tyumen oblast 506
United Kingdom 503
Novosibirsk 502
Iceland 502
Poland 502
Denmark 501
Chelyabinsk oblast 499
Norway 499
France 498
Ireland 498
Omsk oblast 497
Czech Republic 497
Hungary 497
Samara oblast 496
Austria 495
Sweden 495
United States 495
Vladimir oblast 494
Slovak Republic 494
Tula oblast 492
Portugal 490
Karelia 489
Tatarstan 489
Komi 488
Latvia 488
Tomsk oblast 488
Luxembourg 487
Italy 486
Spain 486
Lithuania 484
Primorsky krai 483
Krasnoyarsk 482
Chuvashia 482
Udmurtia 478
Sakhalin oblast 477
Saratov oblast 475
Russia 475
Tambov oblast 474
Croatia 473
Moscow oblast 472
Volgograd oblast 471
Vologda oblast 470
Kemerovo oblast 470
Greece 468
Altai krai 468
Astrakhan oblast 467
Ryazan oblast 466
Kursk oblast 465
Khanty-Mansiysk 463
Malta 462
Bashkortostan 458
Krasnodar 457
Perm krai 457
Rostov oblast 457
Nizhny Novgorod 456
Voronezh oblast 453
Orenburg oblast 453
Israel 451
Turkey 450
Kaluga oblast 446
Sverdlovsk oblast 446
Ulyanovsk oblast 445
Adygea 443
Serbia 443
Stavropol 441
Mari El 436
Chile 434
Bulgaria 434
United Arab Emirates 430
Romania 428
Uruguay 427
Dagestan 426
Chita oblast 425
Thailand 422
Costa Rica 420
Sakha (Yakutia) 419
Mauritius 419
Mexico 418
Malaysia 413
Trinidad & Tobago 412
Venezuela 410
Moldova 405
Kazakhstan 403
Azerbaijan 402
Montenegro 402
Jordan 401
Brazil 396
Argentina 395
Colombia 392
Tunisia 386
Albania 384
Indonesia 377
Georgia 376
Qatar 374
Panama 368
Peru 367
India 341
Kyrgyzstan 331

* Methodological note: In reality, the figures given were for all three components of PISA (i.e., Reading, as well as Math and Science). I just assumed there is a perfect correlation in relative performance in Reading as compared to Math and Science (a valid one, I think, as the cross-national evidence indicates this relation is very close), and adjusted from Russia’s Math and Science score. The reason is for the Russian figures to have compatibility with my Human Capital Index, which is the average of PISA and/or TIMSS Math & Science scores.

(Republished from Da Russophile by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Very interesting chart and map Anatoly. Just a few points:

    1. It is trite and probably not very meaningful to point out that Moscow and St. Petersburg have a bigger combined population than do Sweden and Finland. However a big foreign investor wanting to take advantage of high PSI might bear that in mind particularly as labour costs are likely to be much lower than in Scandinavia and Moscow and St. Petersburg can also draw on the resources of the rest of the country for better economies of scale in a way that Scandinavia cannot. If there is a deterrent factor it is probably corruption with another chart you posted on your facebook page suggesting that corruption is a particular problem in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It might be an idea for the government to try to focus anti corruption efforts especially in the two capitals, which in all other respects look like very attractive investment destinations. A strong marketing campaign (something Russia is generally very poor at) pointing to the attractive investment potential in the two capitals would also be a good idea.

    2. I notice that there is no data from a surprising number of the country’s western regions. Since based on the data elsewhere PSI scores seem generally higher in the country;s western regions I wonder whether the omission of data from these regions might depress the country’s overall figure. In every other respect the distribution is pretty much as I would have expected.

    3. I am sure I am not the only person who is a little skeptical at the very high results not so much of Shanghai but of China generally, though I have to say that I suspect that even the Shanghai results may be too high. By contrast I am astonished at Israel’s very low ranking. I wonder why that should be? Presumably the growing proportion of the population who are Sephardic and Orthodox Jews has a part to play but I would have expected the immigration that took place from Russia to have provided a balance.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    (1) The higher skills levels of the two capitals is already balanced out by their higher salaries. Hence, in many cases there are still incentives to reallocate production to places like Kaluga (becoming Russia's Detroit), just like in North America a lot of manufacturing has been relocating to lower-IQ / poorer places like the South and Mexico.

    Incidentally, I think another important impact of these regional scores is that it should finally demolish the myth that Moscow is some kind of colonialist cancer on Russia, sucking in resources from the rest of the country. Muscovites live better (even after contributing generously to net transfers) because of the simple fact they are cleverer, draw the most talented people from all provinces, and enjoy higher salaries thanks to that.

    (2) As regards corruption, the map in question is here. Moscow and St.-Petersburg are indeed very corrupt, as is South Russia and the Caucasus. That said, the fact that Russians in the big cities have more contacts with police and officials than in the more rural parts of the country could also play a role.

    (3) It's hard to say. If everyone was included, there'd also be Tyva and Buryatia, and the other North Caucasus republics. Average results would still probably go up, but not drastically. Maybe by 5 points.

    According to statistics from the Unified State Exam (which are only available by federal okrug, unfortunately, not oblast). The Central region, North-West and Volga regions perform well; the Urals lags behind a bit; while the Far East, Siberian, and Southern do the worst. (In this sense, the very adequate results achieved in the Siberian regions in PISA are a bit puzzling... The Buryats, Altays, and Tuvans may drag down the average a bit, but they constitute less than 10% of the population).

    Still, if Unified State Exam results are at least moderately correlated with PISA results, then the inclusion of more regions from the Center and the North-West should bump up the scores. (However, here's another relevant question: To what extent are USE exams inflated by greater than average performance by Muscovites (25% of the Center's population) and St.-Petersburgers (33% of the North-West's population)?

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  2. I don’t know how well you know China but I do find it difficult to believe that its PSI ranking can be higher (and indeed in some cases much higher) than those of Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Sweden. There are (large) parts of China where that may be true and there are of course some metropolitan centres (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Nanjing etc) where it very probably is true but I struggle to believe it can be true of China as a whole.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    (1) Israel is indeed a very puzzling case. Jews by stereotype are clever. Ashkenazi IQ tends to be very high, and they make up a majority in Israel (although perhaps not the majority of school-children, thanks to greater fertility among Haredim, settlers, and Arabs). From my casual perusal of the data, my estimate is that secular Ashkenazi Jews in Israel (probably less intelligent than Ashkenazi Jews in the US) is about equal to that of typical European countries like the UK or Germany, which is consistent with Lynn's estimate of an Ashkenazi Israeli IQ of 104 (as compared with 113 in Europe/the US). This figure nationally is dragged down by the 400-ish results of the Arabs (these countries tend to score 350-400) and the children of Jewish fundamentalists like the Haredim and settlers.

    But why are even Israeli Jews less clever (as implied by PISA and IQ scores) than in places like the US? I don't know. Perhaps there was some kind of selection at work when Israel was established. The commentator Glossy had one possible explanation: "Presumably because the prospect of tilling land in a kibbutz or going out on patrols with an Uzi had low appeal to the smarter segments of the Ashkenazi community." Indeed, my own impression is that among Jews who were academics in the USSR, the vast bulk went to the US and Western Europe, not Israel, once emigration restrictions were loosened.

    (2) Overall, I find myself trusting the China scores, incredible as they appear at first glance.

    PISA has stringent measures to avoid cheating. And China registered no problems in that regard (unlike, say, Azerbaijan, but that didn't stop it from doing crap; kind of like United Russia in the last elections))).

    Second, IQ tests (which are closely correlated with PISA), have suggested that Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang region are the cleverest regions of China. Many other regions are only modestly above the OECD mean. This is entirely consistent with the pattern of results from China, in which Shanghai and Zhejiang did stupendously well, the poorer ethnic Chinese regions (as well as regions with substantial minority populations) scored much closer to the OECD average.

    Third, we know that Hong Kong, Singapore (with a substantial minority population!), Taiwan (with a substantial aborigine population) do brilliantly on these tests. This is not going into the fact that southern Chinese tend to be slightly less intelligent than northerners as per IQ tests. So I expect that the results are more or less reliable. They might be slightly skewed, as the two best regions (Shanghai and Zhejiang) are included, so the average may drop in the future as more provinces (this time there were 12) participate; however, not by much, as in the poorest provinces, poor school quality and malnutrition may still be having a significant downwards effect.

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  3. @Alexander Mercouris
    Very interesting chart and map Anatoly. Just a few points:

    1. It is trite and probably not very meaningful to point out that Moscow and St. Petersburg have a bigger combined population than do Sweden and Finland. However a big foreign investor wanting to take advantage of high PSI might bear that in mind particularly as labour costs are likely to be much lower than in Scandinavia and Moscow and St. Petersburg can also draw on the resources of the rest of the country for better economies of scale in a way that Scandinavia cannot. If there is a deterrent factor it is probably corruption with another chart you posted on your facebook page suggesting that corruption is a particular problem in Moscow and St. Petersburg. It might be an idea for the government to try to focus anti corruption efforts especially in the two capitals, which in all other respects look like very attractive investment destinations. A strong marketing campaign (something Russia is generally very poor at) pointing to the attractive investment potential in the two capitals would also be a good idea.

    2. I notice that there is no data from a surprising number of the country's western regions. Since based on the data elsewhere PSI scores seem generally higher in the country;s western regions I wonder whether the omission of data from these regions might depress the country's overall figure. In every other respect the distribution is pretty much as I would have expected.

    3. I am sure I am not the only person who is a little skeptical at the very high results not so much of Shanghai but of China generally, though I have to say that I suspect that even the Shanghai results may be too high. By contrast I am astonished at Israel's very low ranking. I wonder why that should be? Presumably the growing proportion of the population who are Sephardic and Orthodox Jews has a part to play but I would have expected the immigration that took place from Russia to have provided a balance.

    (1) The higher skills levels of the two capitals is already balanced out by their higher salaries. Hence, in many cases there are still incentives to reallocate production to places like Kaluga (becoming Russia’s Detroit), just like in North America a lot of manufacturing has been relocating to lower-IQ / poorer places like the South and Mexico.

    Incidentally, I think another important impact of these regional scores is that it should finally demolish the myth that Moscow is some kind of colonialist cancer on Russia, sucking in resources from the rest of the country. Muscovites live better (even after contributing generously to net transfers) because of the simple fact they are cleverer, draw the most talented people from all provinces, and enjoy higher salaries thanks to that.

    (2) As regards corruption, the map in question is here. Moscow and St.-Petersburg are indeed very corrupt, as is South Russia and the Caucasus. That said, the fact that Russians in the big cities have more contacts with police and officials than in the more rural parts of the country could also play a role.

    (3) It’s hard to say. If everyone was included, there’d also be Tyva and Buryatia, and the other North Caucasus republics. Average results would still probably go up, but not drastically. Maybe by 5 points.

    According to statistics from the Unified State Exam (which are only available by federal okrug, unfortunately, not oblast). The Central region, North-West and Volga regions perform well; the Urals lags behind a bit; while the Far East, Siberian, and Southern do the worst. (In this sense, the very adequate results achieved in the Siberian regions in PISA are a bit puzzling… The Buryats, Altays, and Tuvans may drag down the average a bit, but they constitute less than 10% of the population).

    Still, if Unified State Exam results are at least moderately correlated with PISA results, then the inclusion of more regions from the Center and the North-West should bump up the scores. (However, here’s another relevant question: To what extent are USE exams inflated by greater than average performance by Muscovites (25% of the Center’s population) and St.-Petersburgers (33% of the North-West’s population)?

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  4. @Alexander Mercouris
    I don't know how well you know China but I do find it difficult to believe that its PSI ranking can be higher (and indeed in some cases much higher) than those of Switzerland, Austria, Germany and Sweden. There are (large) parts of China where that may be true and there are of course some metropolitan centres (Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Nanjing etc) where it very probably is true but I struggle to believe it can be true of China as a whole.

    (1) Israel is indeed a very puzzling case. Jews by stereotype are clever. Ashkenazi IQ tends to be very high, and they make up a majority in Israel (although perhaps not the majority of school-children, thanks to greater fertility among Haredim, settlers, and Arabs). From my casual perusal of the data, my estimate is that secular Ashkenazi Jews in Israel (probably less intelligent than Ashkenazi Jews in the US) is about equal to that of typical European countries like the UK or Germany, which is consistent with Lynn’s estimate of an Ashkenazi Israeli IQ of 104 (as compared with 113 in Europe/the US). This figure nationally is dragged down by the 400-ish results of the Arabs (these countries tend to score 350-400) and the children of Jewish fundamentalists like the Haredim and settlers.

    But why are even Israeli Jews less clever (as implied by PISA and IQ scores) than in places like the US? I don’t know. Perhaps there was some kind of selection at work when Israel was established. The commentator Glossy had one possible explanation: “Presumably because the prospect of tilling land in a kibbutz or going out on patrols with an Uzi had low appeal to the smarter segments of the Ashkenazi community.” Indeed, my own impression is that among Jews who were academics in the USSR, the vast bulk went to the US and Western Europe, not Israel, once emigration restrictions were loosened.

    (2) Overall, I find myself trusting the China scores, incredible as they appear at first glance.

    PISA has stringent measures to avoid cheating. And China registered no problems in that regard (unlike, say, Azerbaijan, but that didn’t stop it from doing crap; kind of like United Russia in the last elections))).

    Second, IQ tests (which are closely correlated with PISA), have suggested that Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang region are the cleverest regions of China. Many other regions are only modestly above the OECD mean. This is entirely consistent with the pattern of results from China, in which Shanghai and Zhejiang did stupendously well, the poorer ethnic Chinese regions (as well as regions with substantial minority populations) scored much closer to the OECD average.

    Third, we know that Hong Kong, Singapore (with a substantial minority population!), Taiwan (with a substantial aborigine population) do brilliantly on these tests. This is not going into the fact that southern Chinese tend to be slightly less intelligent than northerners as per IQ tests. So I expect that the results are more or less reliable. They might be slightly skewed, as the two best regions (Shanghai and Zhejiang) are included, so the average may drop in the future as more provinces (this time there were 12) participate; however, not by much, as in the poorest provinces, poor school quality and malnutrition may still be having a significant downwards effect.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Glossy
    I find a high mean IQ for China plausible, certainly for southern China. It's my impression that Chinese-Americans are representative of the southern provinces. I don't think they disproportionally descend from Chinese intelligentsia or from wealthy Chinese. And we know that Chinese-Americans are smart.
    , @Jennifer Hor
    Dear Alex, AK,

    I've heard that many Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews live in poverty in Israel and other countries due to several factors that all feed into one another to form a vicious circle: the men are expected by their community and teachers to spend their time in religious study and are discouraged from acquiring practical knowledge and skills that would enable them to hold a job; they also marry very young, often as teenagers, to equally teenage brides usually selected for them by their teachers or rabbis with the result that the couples become dependent on social welfare (or the wife has to work); they usually have very large families and the children may become malnourished. The social welfare net in Israel has been progressively weakened over the years so it's likely Haredi Jews are subsisting on smaller welfare payment amounts now than in the past. Being malnourished and growing up in a home environment that discourages any learning or knowledge other than religious knowledge are sure to have an adverse effect on a child's intelligence and intellectual achievements.

    The Haredi Jews are becoming a larger proportion of Israel's Jewish population due to their high birth rates and emigration of more secular (and better educated) Jews. Demographic trends in Israel suggest that secular Jews will become a minority compared to Haredi Jews and Arabs in 20 years. You may like to read this article I found in Ha'aretz: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/secular-jews-may-be-minority-in-israeli-schools-by-2030-1.277177

    Teachers in Israel don't earn very high salaries and education in that country has been subjected to government spending cutbacks.

    Everything I've been able to find and read about Israel suggests a society that is becoming more and more unequal with most of its wealth being concentrated among a few rich families and more people becoming poorer (over 30% of Israeli children already live in poverty) as the government spends less and less on education, health and social services. In 2010, the richest 20 families in Israel controlled a quarter of the country's top companies and half the stock market through a network of companies that minimise their own monetary investments. Israel, the only Middle Eastern democracy? - that's a joke. We can expect that in years to come, Israeli school students will fall further in their PISA scores if present trends continue.

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  5. Interesting.

    I should say that when I spoke about investing in Moscow and St. Petersburg I was thinking more of what you might call “knowledge economy” investment rather than industrial investment. It seems to me that there is a big potential there. Apart from obvious fields such nanotechnology one surely promising area would be industrial design, a field where the Germans and the Scandinavians have traditionally excelled. A good way on capitalising on the resources of the country would be to focus design in Moscow whilst having the production elsewhere in the way that MiG and Sukhoi aircraft were designed in Moscow but were built elsewhere. The high score also suggests that the government’s plans to develop Moscow into a financial centre are not fanciful.

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  6. Eric says: • Website

    minor quibble re #5: not much Buddhism in Yakutia. Most people are nominally Orthodox Christian or shamanist. And it’s too bad that Kalmykia (the other major centre of Buddhism besides Buryatia) didn’t participate. I’m really curious if all the chess-playing helps.

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  7. javatitan says:

    Hello! I know over 10 provinces in China participated the PISA 2009 test, but I have never seen their scores besides Shanghai’s. Could you let me know where did you get the information about China’s score? Thanks!

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    It's on a Chinese site here.

    中国 = China. R=486, M=550, Sc.=524.
    国际水平 = international (i.e. OECD) score. R=493, M=496, Sc.=501.
    浙江 (the red bar) = Zhejiang. R=525, M=598, Sc.=567.
    上海 (the tallest blue bar) = Shanghai. R=556, M=600, Sc.=575.

    In my opinion, even the low results (relative to Math and Science) for Reading make sense. It is much harder to be truly literate in Chinese than in most other languages.

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  8. Glossy says: • Website

    This is very interesting. Why is Tyumen oblast so high on the list? Is it because oil exploration has attracted a lot of engineers and skilled workers to it? I guess the oil industry pays well and money attracts talent.

    I would bet that before 1918 St. Petersburg beat Moscow easily. In my time the gap between central Moscow, which had less than 10% of the city’s population, and the rest of the city must have been huge, perhaps larger than the gap between Moscow as a whole and the rest of the country. I remember a quiz-type TV show that pitted different Moscow schools against each other. The final matches were always between schools that had single- or double-digit numbers (school number 5 against school number 11, for example). I went to school number 636. The lower the number, the closer to The Center, or at least that’s what I assumed then. If things haven’t changed too much, all Putin has to do to beat Shanghai is redefine Moscow as the area within the Garden Ring.

    Another huge status indicator was the length of time that one’s family had spent in Moscow. The people whose ancestors came to the city before the Revolution were universally assumed to be smarter and to have better manners. At the other end of the spectrum, “limitchik” was a school-yard taunt.

    I was a sickly kid, so I spent a lot of time in Moscow’s hospitals. You could see kids from all over the country there. On two different occasions I met guys there who bragged that they had achieved perfect grades (all 5s) in a quarter. I had never seen anyone do that at MY school and I knew lots of kids at my school who seemed smarter than those two guys from the hospital. That experience introduced me to the idea that perhaps provincial schools had lower standards.

    I’m not at all surprised that Moscow oblast scores below Russia as a whole. That agrees with my experiences of it back in those days. Looking further afield, I’m surprised by how poorly Georgia did. Perhaps there is a sampling problem there. Or maybe they’ve suffered horrible brain drain. I’m not surprised by the Estonia > Latvia > Lithuania relationship since I’ve heard of that stereotype before.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Is it because oil exploration has attracted a lot of engineers and skilled workers to it?

    Maybe. But Khanty-Mansiysk, which is where the core of the oil industry is truly concentrated, has a rather uninspiring performance (463).

    In general, resource windfalls don't really tend to have a good effect on minds. Kuwaitis and Qataris perform worse than Syrians and Tunisians. Norwegians perform worse than Swedes. Etc.

    Tyumen has a more value-added industrial activities (as opposed to purely oil and gas extraction in Khanty-Mansiysk, and its inhabitants are almost as rich. So their schools can be very generously funded. I imagine that once Russia reaches Western European levels of development, its PISA M&S results will converge to those of Tyumen, i.e. about 500-510.

    That experience introduced me to the idea that perhaps provincial schools had lower standards.

    I would tend to agree. That is why something like the ЕГЭ is really important for Russia even if people hate it.

    Looking further afield, I’m surprised by how poorly Georgia did. Perhaps there is a sampling problem there. Or maybe they’ve suffered horrible brain drain.

    Me too. I'd bet on brain drain myself. A huge proportion of the Georgian, Armenian, and Moldovan populations have left for greener pastures on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. I know they're very poor and their schools have funding problems, but really, that's very unlikely to explain results that are so so low relative to stereotypes (Georgians were one of the best educated peoples under Tsarism and the early USSR, after only Jews; Armenians are renowned for their intelligence; Moldovans are basically Romanians with a bit of Ukrainian, so their PISA result should be something like 450 not 400).

    That said, not all is lost for them, as the genes behind IQ seem to be deeply recessive. Or else the Irish (in Ireland) would be all retards by now.

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  9. Glossy says: • Website
    @Anatoly Karlin
    (1) Israel is indeed a very puzzling case. Jews by stereotype are clever. Ashkenazi IQ tends to be very high, and they make up a majority in Israel (although perhaps not the majority of school-children, thanks to greater fertility among Haredim, settlers, and Arabs). From my casual perusal of the data, my estimate is that secular Ashkenazi Jews in Israel (probably less intelligent than Ashkenazi Jews in the US) is about equal to that of typical European countries like the UK or Germany, which is consistent with Lynn's estimate of an Ashkenazi Israeli IQ of 104 (as compared with 113 in Europe/the US). This figure nationally is dragged down by the 400-ish results of the Arabs (these countries tend to score 350-400) and the children of Jewish fundamentalists like the Haredim and settlers.

    But why are even Israeli Jews less clever (as implied by PISA and IQ scores) than in places like the US? I don't know. Perhaps there was some kind of selection at work when Israel was established. The commentator Glossy had one possible explanation: "Presumably because the prospect of tilling land in a kibbutz or going out on patrols with an Uzi had low appeal to the smarter segments of the Ashkenazi community." Indeed, my own impression is that among Jews who were academics in the USSR, the vast bulk went to the US and Western Europe, not Israel, once emigration restrictions were loosened.

    (2) Overall, I find myself trusting the China scores, incredible as they appear at first glance.

    PISA has stringent measures to avoid cheating. And China registered no problems in that regard (unlike, say, Azerbaijan, but that didn't stop it from doing crap; kind of like United Russia in the last elections))).

    Second, IQ tests (which are closely correlated with PISA), have suggested that Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang region are the cleverest regions of China. Many other regions are only modestly above the OECD mean. This is entirely consistent with the pattern of results from China, in which Shanghai and Zhejiang did stupendously well, the poorer ethnic Chinese regions (as well as regions with substantial minority populations) scored much closer to the OECD average.

    Third, we know that Hong Kong, Singapore (with a substantial minority population!), Taiwan (with a substantial aborigine population) do brilliantly on these tests. This is not going into the fact that southern Chinese tend to be slightly less intelligent than northerners as per IQ tests. So I expect that the results are more or less reliable. They might be slightly skewed, as the two best regions (Shanghai and Zhejiang) are included, so the average may drop in the future as more provinces (this time there were 12) participate; however, not by much, as in the poorest provinces, poor school quality and malnutrition may still be having a significant downwards effect.

    I find a high mean IQ for China plausible, certainly for southern China. It’s my impression that Chinese-Americans are representative of the southern provinces. I don’t think they disproportionally descend from Chinese intelligentsia or from wealthy Chinese. And we know that Chinese-Americans are smart.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Sailer estimates US-Asian Reading (2009) at 541.

    Two adjustments are necessary. First, this category would also include Vietnamese, Thais, etc. who have somewhat lower IQ's, so Chinese-Americans in particular would likely score higher, maybe 550 or 560. This is comparable to Shanghai (!) but on the other hand, Chinese Chinese seem to be hurt by the Hanzi system (hence probably why their M&S scores are so much higher than their R scores unlike the case for most other countries). As Chinese-Americans use English, their scores for M&S will be similar to R, also 550 let's say.

    That's basically like Hong Kong or Singapore. Which makes sense.

    You're correct that the bulk of Chinese are from the southern provinces. However, these places aren't especially clever; other IQ tests in China suggest that the best region is Shanghai, closely followed by Zhejiang and Beijing. Which is logical - both metropolises have been massive magnets for cognitive elites for centuries. The original core of the Chinese-American population were poor laborers from Guangdong, a region that has relatively low IQ by Chinese standards, however from the 50's they were swamped by new arrivals from China (wealthy, coastal from Guangdong to Shanghai, fleeing Communists) and later from other parts of Asia as the Chinese diasporas where persecuted (wealthy, mostly southern Chinese).

    So given their profile above, their performance of 550-560 is entirely consistent with those of genetically (and in terms of cultural heritage) similar Chinese in Singapore and Hong Kong. Taiwan does worse (532) but that may be ascribed to an aborigine population, as well as to the fact that East Asian curriculums tend to be less well adapted to the PISA test than Western ones.

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  10. K.F. says:

    One reason for some ethnic regions performing badly is a heavy Russification policy by local governments. This is a case especially in Mari El Republic, where Mari speakers, some 50% of population, are according to several Human Rights organisations victims of apartheid-type of discrimination. Mari language education has suffered heavily in recent years (which wasn’t good to begin with, remembering that Russification began already in the Soviet times).

    In 2007 Russia enacted a law that lets individual schools to decide themselves the language of education. This has led to dramatic consequences – most minority language schools switched to Russian overnight, denying many students their human right for education in their native language.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    That doesn't however explain why neighboring regions like Chuvashia, Udmurtia, and Tatarstan did much better.

    Regardless, the Reading component is only one third of the total grade, and there's no really strong evidence that bilingualism detracts from cognitive development (and quite a lot to the contrary).

    , @kirill
    Don't even try to project the shit your tribe does to minorities onto Russians. The extermination of aboriginal culture and language in Canada and the USA was real. Not only were the original inhabitants driven into tiny reservation ghettos where they live in 3rd world conditions today, but their children were forcefully removed into residential schools where they were severely beaten for speaking their own language and sexually abused as well. Nothing of the sort happened in Russia before 1917, during the USSR era and today. These "discriminated" against minorities have their own republics which operate in their own language. I dare you to post these "human rights" complaints here. Your cheesy, worse than North Korea style of propaganda doesn't cut it here. I read the wikipedia page and it is obvious BS with broken links. Any twat can edit wikipedia pages and any anti-Russian outfit can claim a billion things about the Russian Federation. I want to see the Mari themselves voice their discontent. Surely western TV crews can film this discontent in action since they obviously can film discontent in Moscow and Vladivostok.
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  11. @javatitan
    Hello! I know over 10 provinces in China participated the PISA 2009 test, but I have never seen their scores besides Shanghai's. Could you let me know where did you get the information about China's score? Thanks!

    It’s on a Chinese site here.

    中国 = China. R=486, M=550, Sc.=524.
    国际水平 = international (i.e. OECD) score. R=493, M=496, Sc.=501.
    浙江 (the red bar) = Zhejiang. R=525, M=598, Sc.=567.
    上海 (the tallest blue bar) = Shanghai. R=556, M=600, Sc.=575.

    In my opinion, even the low results (relative to Math and Science) for Reading make sense. It is much harder to be truly literate in Chinese than in most other languages.

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    • Replies: @javatitan
    Hi Ak! Thank you very much for the info.
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  12. K.F. says:

    Finnish Ministry of Defence has an interesting take on the Russian education system:

    http://www.defmin.fi/files/1298/Russia_of_Challenges_nettiversio.pdf

    “International comparisons have shown that while the Russian comprehensive school provides a classical education, it does not teach children how to apply their knowledge. This being the case, schoolchildren receive a good education in many subjects but doing well outside of the classroom is another matter. Russian students fare particularly well in thenatural sciences according to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). They are well-versed on theory and are imaginative, but not so practically orientated. This has been clearly demonstrated in international education comparisons.”

    So much for the hope of better future prospects than Brazil or India.

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    And yet despite this bias of the Russian education system, Russia (475) gets incomparably better results than Brazil (396) or India (341) in PISA Math and Science. As shown from the list above, even the weakest Russian province (Yakutia, 419) is significantly above Brazil.

    So I don't see how your conclusion follows.

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  13. @K.F.
    One reason for some ethnic regions performing badly is a heavy Russification policy by local governments. This is a case especially in Mari El Republic, where Mari speakers, some 50% of population, are according to several Human Rights organisations victims of apartheid-type of discrimination. Mari language education has suffered heavily in recent years (which wasn't good to begin with, remembering that Russification began already in the Soviet times).

    In 2007 Russia enacted a law that lets individual schools to decide themselves the language of education. This has led to dramatic consequences - most minority language schools switched to Russian overnight, denying many students their human right for education in their native language.

    That doesn’t however explain why neighboring regions like Chuvashia, Udmurtia, and Tatarstan did much better.

    Regardless, the Reading component is only one third of the total grade, and there’s no really strong evidence that bilingualism detracts from cognitive development (and quite a lot to the contrary).

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    • Replies: @K.F.
    It is not about reading or bilingualism, it is about learning mathematical and other important skills through your native language. Education in your native lanuage is, afterall, a precondition for effective learning, and I guess most importantly, maintaining the cultural identity. This is why f. ex. Latvia, which hosts more national minorites than most European countries, provides education in all their national minority languages (Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Hebrew and Romani). Unfortenately Russia has chosen a different path - since September 2010 the "national component" was complitely eradicated from the Russia's education standard. In the future differences between Russia's regions are continuing to grow.

    Chuvash people and Tatars are in absolute numbers and also relatively bigger groups in their respective federal subjects than Mari people. This has enabled them to resist Russification much more effectively, and childern there are not forced to learn in Russian first. But, as I said, after 2010 things have changed, and I'm expecting scores for all ethnic regions to drop.

    , @Jennifer Hor
    Hello AK,

    Were there PISA or equivalent figures for students in Mordovia?

    If I Google for current information about the ethnic Mari, there are lots of entries about how their human rights are violated but if I do the same for Mordvins, I don't see anything similar. Yet Mordvins constitute less than half the population of Mordovia (just as the Mari are less than half of their titular republic) and they have a similar form of government as Mari El does. I understand the Mordvins are more or less split evenly between Erzya and Moksha, each group numbering about half a million, so the two groups are roughly similar in size to the ethnic Mari (about 600,000) and if they work together, they would have considerable political clout in Mordovia.

    The reading (or skimming rather) I have done on what I can find about Mordovia and Mari El to me suggests that the Mordvins are comfortable with their President Nikolay Merkushkin whose wife is Erzya. His leadership style appears more conciliatory if unspectacular compared to the Mari El President Leonid Markelov. Also Merkushkin was an engineer before becoming a politician whereas Markelov was a lawyer and career politician and the difference in their backgrounds surely accounts for their leadership styles and how they have managed their republics' economies; Markelov has been criticised for allowing Mari El's economy to stagnate.

    I'm guessing that Chuvashia, Udmurtia and Mordovia have better run economies and invest much more in education and social services than Mari El does and that people in Mari El are aware of what these other republics are doing and are complaining in ways that include ethnic and nationalist protest. The Mari also have a history of resisting Russian Orthodox Christianity and maintained their native religion in secrecy throughout Soviet rule and beyond, and that must account for their more aggressive nationalism. They may have contacts in Finland and Estonia as well and this in itself is a double-edged sword: these contacts could be encouraging them to use confrontationist methods and the local authorities end up using heavy-handed ways of dealing with them.

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  14. @K.F.
    Finnish Ministry of Defence has an interesting take on the Russian education system:

    http://www.defmin.fi/files/1298/Russia_of_Challenges_nettiversio.pdf

    "International comparisons have shown that while the Russian comprehensive school provides a classical education, it does not teach children how to apply their knowledge. This being the case, schoolchildren receive a good education in many subjects but doing well outside of the classroom is another matter. Russian students fare particularly well in thenatural sciences according to the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). They are well-versed on theory and are imaginative, but not so practically orientated. This has been clearly demonstrated in international education comparisons."

    So much for the hope of better future prospects than Brazil or India.

    And yet despite this bias of the Russian education system, Russia (475) gets incomparably better results than Brazil (396) or India (341) in PISA Math and Science. As shown from the list above, even the weakest Russian province (Yakutia, 419) is significantly above Brazil.

    So I don’t see how your conclusion follows.

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    • Replies: @K.F.
    Well like international comparisons show Russian students are not able to put their skills in practice. This, together with other issues haunting Russia, like massive increase on defense spending at the expense of education, creeping corruption in the education system, a huge drop in number of pupils in the coming decade or so, does not bode well for Russia. Plus that many experts are saying that educational reform during 2000s has been an utter failure.

    What I know of the Brazilian education system is that it is a complete mess, plagued even bigger regional and institutional differences than Russia. Still, it scores only 16% lower than Russia. If Brazlian politicians would make education a priority, which they have increasingly promised in the recent years, they would quickly catch up with Russia.

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  15. @Glossy
    This is very interesting. Why is Tyumen oblast so high on the list? Is it because oil exploration has attracted a lot of engineers and skilled workers to it? I guess the oil industry pays well and money attracts talent.

    I would bet that before 1918 St. Petersburg beat Moscow easily. In my time the gap between central Moscow, which had less than 10% of the city's population, and the rest of the city must have been huge, perhaps larger than the gap between Moscow as a whole and the rest of the country. I remember a quiz-type TV show that pitted different Moscow schools against each other. The final matches were always between schools that had single- or double-digit numbers (school number 5 against school number 11, for example). I went to school number 636. The lower the number, the closer to The Center, or at least that's what I assumed then. If things haven't changed too much, all Putin has to do to beat Shanghai is redefine Moscow as the area within the Garden Ring.

    Another huge status indicator was the length of time that one's family had spent in Moscow. The people whose ancestors came to the city before the Revolution were universally assumed to be smarter and to have better manners. At the other end of the spectrum, "limitchik" was a school-yard taunt.

    I was a sickly kid, so I spent a lot of time in Moscow's hospitals. You could see kids from all over the country there. On two different occasions I met guys there who bragged that they had achieved perfect grades (all 5s) in a quarter. I had never seen anyone do that at MY school and I knew lots of kids at my school who seemed smarter than those two guys from the hospital. That experience introduced me to the idea that perhaps provincial schools had lower standards.

    I'm not at all surprised that Moscow oblast scores below Russia as a whole. That agrees with my experiences of it back in those days. Looking further afield, I'm surprised by how poorly Georgia did. Perhaps there is a sampling problem there. Or maybe they've suffered horrible brain drain. I'm not surprised by the Estonia > Latvia > Lithuania relationship since I've heard of that stereotype before.

    Is it because oil exploration has attracted a lot of engineers and skilled workers to it?

    Maybe. But Khanty-Mansiysk, which is where the core of the oil industry is truly concentrated, has a rather uninspiring performance (463).

    In general, resource windfalls don’t really tend to have a good effect on minds. Kuwaitis and Qataris perform worse than Syrians and Tunisians. Norwegians perform worse than Swedes. Etc.

    Tyumen has a more value-added industrial activities (as opposed to purely oil and gas extraction in Khanty-Mansiysk, and its inhabitants are almost as rich. So their schools can be very generously funded. I imagine that once Russia reaches Western European levels of development, its PISA M&S results will converge to those of Tyumen, i.e. about 500-510.

    That experience introduced me to the idea that perhaps provincial schools had lower standards.

    I would tend to agree. That is why something like the ЕГЭ is really important for Russia even if people hate it.

    Looking further afield, I’m surprised by how poorly Georgia did. Perhaps there is a sampling problem there. Or maybe they’ve suffered horrible brain drain.

    Me too. I’d bet on brain drain myself. A huge proportion of the Georgian, Armenian, and Moldovan populations have left for greener pastures on a permanent or semi-permanent basis. I know they’re very poor and their schools have funding problems, but really, that’s very unlikely to explain results that are so so low relative to stereotypes (Georgians were one of the best educated peoples under Tsarism and the early USSR, after only Jews; Armenians are renowned for their intelligence; Moldovans are basically Romanians with a bit of Ukrainian, so their PISA result should be something like 450 not 400).

    That said, not all is lost for them, as the genes behind IQ seem to be deeply recessive. Or else the Irish (in Ireland) would be all retards by now.

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  16. K.F. says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    That doesn't however explain why neighboring regions like Chuvashia, Udmurtia, and Tatarstan did much better.

    Regardless, the Reading component is only one third of the total grade, and there's no really strong evidence that bilingualism detracts from cognitive development (and quite a lot to the contrary).

    It is not about reading or bilingualism, it is about learning mathematical and other important skills through your native language. Education in your native lanuage is, afterall, a precondition for effective learning, and I guess most importantly, maintaining the cultural identity. This is why f. ex. Latvia, which hosts more national minorites than most European countries, provides education in all their national minority languages (Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Hebrew and Romani). Unfortenately Russia has chosen a different path – since September 2010 the “national component” was complitely eradicated from the Russia’s education standard. In the future differences between Russia’s regions are continuing to grow.

    Chuvash people and Tatars are in absolute numbers and also relatively bigger groups in their respective federal subjects than Mari people. This has enabled them to resist Russification much more effectively, and childern there are not forced to learn in Russian first. But, as I said, after 2010 things have changed, and I’m expecting scores for all ethnic regions to drop.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Education in your native lanuage is, afterall, a precondition for effective learning...

    I had my human rights abused by being forced to learn everything in English from the age of 6 with no help from tutors. I became a retard and failure at life.

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  17. K.F. says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    And yet despite this bias of the Russian education system, Russia (475) gets incomparably better results than Brazil (396) or India (341) in PISA Math and Science. As shown from the list above, even the weakest Russian province (Yakutia, 419) is significantly above Brazil.

    So I don't see how your conclusion follows.

    Well like international comparisons show Russian students are not able to put their skills in practice. This, together with other issues haunting Russia, like massive increase on defense spending at the expense of education, creeping corruption in the education system, a huge drop in number of pupils in the coming decade or so, does not bode well for Russia. Plus that many experts are saying that educational reform during 2000s has been an utter failure.

    What I know of the Brazilian education system is that it is a complete mess, plagued even bigger regional and institutional differences than Russia. Still, it scores only 16% lower than Russia. If Brazlian politicians would make education a priority, which they have increasingly promised in the recent years, they would quickly catch up with Russia.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    PISA revolves around "putting skills into practice." This factor is already implicitly accounted for in the results.

    If you want an example of a test where that is not the case, there is TIMMS (for M&S) and PIRLS (R), which are far more academically focused and largely reward students for mastering the subject matter. Or one can put it this way: PISA is much like an IQ test; TIMMS is more like a standard exam. In the last TIMMS, Russia scored 521, above the US' 514. (In fact all post-Soviet and East European, and to a lesser extent East Asian, countries do better on TIMMS than on PISA. In most Western countries however, PISA and TIMMS scores are similar.)

    As regards Brazil, first, a 16% disparity in mean scores is gargantuan. (Note that the disparity between Russia and highest-scoring Finland is 14%). Another way of putting that is to convert their PISA figures into IQ's to get 96 for Russia and 85 for Brazil. Yet another way of putting that is that only 15.2% of Brazilian school-leavers possess skills beyond those needed for purely linear problem-solving, compared with 47.6% of Russian and 51.3% of American students (2006 figures, but 2009 will be similar).

    Second, that is not going to happen unless Brazil's politicians are magicians and can defy the experience of every single country in the world. In the decade that PISA has been run, there are very few cases of a country improving its position by more than 20 points or so; most stay still.

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  18. @K.F.
    Well like international comparisons show Russian students are not able to put their skills in practice. This, together with other issues haunting Russia, like massive increase on defense spending at the expense of education, creeping corruption in the education system, a huge drop in number of pupils in the coming decade or so, does not bode well for Russia. Plus that many experts are saying that educational reform during 2000s has been an utter failure.

    What I know of the Brazilian education system is that it is a complete mess, plagued even bigger regional and institutional differences than Russia. Still, it scores only 16% lower than Russia. If Brazlian politicians would make education a priority, which they have increasingly promised in the recent years, they would quickly catch up with Russia.

    PISA revolves around “putting skills into practice.” This factor is already implicitly accounted for in the results.

    If you want an example of a test where that is not the case, there is TIMMS (for M&S) and PIRLS (R), which are far more academically focused and largely reward students for mastering the subject matter. Or one can put it this way: PISA is much like an IQ test; TIMMS is more like a standard exam. In the last TIMMS, Russia scored 521, above the US’ 514. (In fact all post-Soviet and East European, and to a lesser extent East Asian, countries do better on TIMMS than on PISA. In most Western countries however, PISA and TIMMS scores are similar.)

    As regards Brazil, first, a 16% disparity in mean scores is gargantuan. (Note that the disparity between Russia and highest-scoring Finland is 14%). Another way of putting that is to convert their PISA figures into IQ’s to get 96 for Russia and 85 for Brazil. Yet another way of putting that is that only 15.2% of Brazilian school-leavers possess skills beyond those needed for purely linear problem-solving, compared with 47.6% of Russian and 51.3% of American students (2006 figures, but 2009 will be similar).

    Second, that is not going to happen unless Brazil’s politicians are magicians and can defy the experience of every single country in the world. In the decade that PISA has been run, there are very few cases of a country improving its position by more than 20 points or so; most stay still.

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    • Replies: @K.F.
    Also the Russian national research university 'Higher school of economics' disagrees with you:

    "The study [PISA] showed that Russian school students have a fairly high level of knowledge in mathematics and natural sciences yet lag behind their peers in other countries in their ability to apply this knowledge in practice, work with different sources of information, and perform different productive activities such as expressing and supporting their points of view."

    http://www.hse.ru/data/846/546/1228/report.pdf

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  19. K.F. says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    PISA revolves around "putting skills into practice." This factor is already implicitly accounted for in the results.

    If you want an example of a test where that is not the case, there is TIMMS (for M&S) and PIRLS (R), which are far more academically focused and largely reward students for mastering the subject matter. Or one can put it this way: PISA is much like an IQ test; TIMMS is more like a standard exam. In the last TIMMS, Russia scored 521, above the US' 514. (In fact all post-Soviet and East European, and to a lesser extent East Asian, countries do better on TIMMS than on PISA. In most Western countries however, PISA and TIMMS scores are similar.)

    As regards Brazil, first, a 16% disparity in mean scores is gargantuan. (Note that the disparity between Russia and highest-scoring Finland is 14%). Another way of putting that is to convert their PISA figures into IQ's to get 96 for Russia and 85 for Brazil. Yet another way of putting that is that only 15.2% of Brazilian school-leavers possess skills beyond those needed for purely linear problem-solving, compared with 47.6% of Russian and 51.3% of American students (2006 figures, but 2009 will be similar).

    Second, that is not going to happen unless Brazil's politicians are magicians and can defy the experience of every single country in the world. In the decade that PISA has been run, there are very few cases of a country improving its position by more than 20 points or so; most stay still.

    Also the Russian national research university ‘Higher school of economics’ disagrees with you:

    “The study [PISA] showed that Russian school students have a fairly high level of knowledge in mathematics and natural sciences yet lag behind their peers in other countries in their ability to apply this knowledge in practice, work with different sources of information, and perform different productive activities such as expressing and supporting their points of view.”

    http://www.hse.ru/data/846/546/1228/report.pdf

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    And you are clearly incapable of basic reading and comprehension. The discussion is finished.
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  20. @K.F.
    Also the Russian national research university 'Higher school of economics' disagrees with you:

    "The study [PISA] showed that Russian school students have a fairly high level of knowledge in mathematics and natural sciences yet lag behind their peers in other countries in their ability to apply this knowledge in practice, work with different sources of information, and perform different productive activities such as expressing and supporting their points of view."

    http://www.hse.ru/data/846/546/1228/report.pdf

    And you are clearly incapable of basic reading and comprehension. The discussion is finished.

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    • Replies: @K.F.
    Yes, I know I am, and that is indeed just the beginning of my disabilities.

    Russia in an industrialized country, GDP per capita is much higher than that of Brazil, India or China. Nation-wide education has existed there for a long time, and her institutions and traditions have not been imposed by a foreign power. The performance of Russia in Pisa 2009 study is actually pretty grim reading. It shows that performance has stagnated over the last nine years, while countries that were performing at a similar level in 2000 have since moved on, and in the case of countries like Poland and Latvia, moved on dramatically. It is therefore perfectly logical to conclude that Russia has reached her almost maximum potential. In order to improve Russian students ability to put their skills in practice Russia needs to solve all other multiple problems that are savaging Russia.

    Brazil, India or China on the other hand are developing countries who are just began to build their institutions. It is much more easier for Brazil to close the PISA gap to Russia than for Russia to improve to the level of Finland. Especially because Brazil is not as corrupted as Russia, has healthier demographics, more varied economy, better democracy and more press freedom, nicer climate...

    , @Anatoly Karlin
    To the contrary, a decade proves very little. Raising human capital is a generational process.

    Even if Brazil raises its PISA rating by 20 points every decade, and Russia remains stagnant, it will take it until 2050 for its school-leavers to equalize with Russia's. (Meanwhile, even then the bulk of the working population would still remain clearly sub-par, as indicated by PISA scores and far lower tertiary enrollment rates for those older cohorts). Full equalization across the entire working population even under these very, very generous conditions takes an entire century.

    Meanwhile, there's no reason that Russia cannot improve, if it can get its PISA scores to converge with its significantly higher TIMMS scores (which is essentially what Poland and Latvia started doing). The main change needed is a switch from classic schooling (as in the USSR) to more of an emphasis on creative problem-solving.

    There is little question of Russia rising to 540+, due to its genetic ceiling, but somewhere in the 500-520 diapason is entirely realistic.

    Your last points are bizarre, meaningless, self-refuting twaddle. If Brazil has such a great clean democracy and nice weather, why does it lag China by almost 150 points? I'll answer that for you: Because those factors are irrelevant.

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  21. K.F. says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    And you are clearly incapable of basic reading and comprehension. The discussion is finished.

    Yes, I know I am, and that is indeed just the beginning of my disabilities.

    Russia in an industrialized country, GDP per capita is much higher than that of Brazil, India or China. Nation-wide education has existed there for a long time, and her institutions and traditions have not been imposed by a foreign power. The performance of Russia in Pisa 2009 study is actually pretty grim reading. It shows that performance has stagnated over the last nine years, while countries that were performing at a similar level in 2000 have since moved on, and in the case of countries like Poland and Latvia, moved on dramatically. It is therefore perfectly logical to conclude that Russia has reached her almost maximum potential. In order to improve Russian students ability to put their skills in practice Russia needs to solve all other multiple problems that are savaging Russia.

    Brazil, India or China on the other hand are developing countries who are just began to build their institutions. It is much more easier for Brazil to close the PISA gap to Russia than for Russia to improve to the level of Finland. Especially because Brazil is not as corrupted as Russia, has healthier demographics, more varied economy, better democracy and more press freedom, nicer climate…

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  22. @Anatoly Karlin
    And you are clearly incapable of basic reading and comprehension. The discussion is finished.

    To the contrary, a decade proves very little. Raising human capital is a generational process.

    Even if Brazil raises its PISA rating by 20 points every decade, and Russia remains stagnant, it will take it until 2050 for its school-leavers to equalize with Russia’s. (Meanwhile, even then the bulk of the working population would still remain clearly sub-par, as indicated by PISA scores and far lower tertiary enrollment rates for those older cohorts). Full equalization across the entire working population even under these very, very generous conditions takes an entire century.

    Meanwhile, there’s no reason that Russia cannot improve, if it can get its PISA scores to converge with its significantly higher TIMMS scores (which is essentially what Poland and Latvia started doing). The main change needed is a switch from classic schooling (as in the USSR) to more of an emphasis on creative problem-solving.

    There is little question of Russia rising to 540+, due to its genetic ceiling, but somewhere in the 500-520 diapason is entirely realistic.

    Your last points are bizarre, meaningless, self-refuting twaddle. If Brazil has such a great clean democracy and nice weather, why does it lag China by almost 150 points? I’ll answer that for you: Because those factors are irrelevant.

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  23. @Glossy
    I find a high mean IQ for China plausible, certainly for southern China. It's my impression that Chinese-Americans are representative of the southern provinces. I don't think they disproportionally descend from Chinese intelligentsia or from wealthy Chinese. And we know that Chinese-Americans are smart.

    Sailer estimates US-Asian Reading (2009) at 541.

    Two adjustments are necessary. First, this category would also include Vietnamese, Thais, etc. who have somewhat lower IQ’s, so Chinese-Americans in particular would likely score higher, maybe 550 or 560. This is comparable to Shanghai (!) but on the other hand, Chinese Chinese seem to be hurt by the Hanzi system (hence probably why their M&S scores are so much higher than their R scores unlike the case for most other countries). As Chinese-Americans use English, their scores for M&S will be similar to R, also 550 let’s say.

    That’s basically like Hong Kong or Singapore. Which makes sense.

    You’re correct that the bulk of Chinese are from the southern provinces. However, these places aren’t especially clever; other IQ tests in China suggest that the best region is Shanghai, closely followed by Zhejiang and Beijing. Which is logical – both metropolises have been massive magnets for cognitive elites for centuries. The original core of the Chinese-American population were poor laborers from Guangdong, a region that has relatively low IQ by Chinese standards, however from the 50′s they were swamped by new arrivals from China (wealthy, coastal from Guangdong to Shanghai, fleeing Communists) and later from other parts of Asia as the Chinese diasporas where persecuted (wealthy, mostly southern Chinese).

    So given their profile above, their performance of 550-560 is entirely consistent with those of genetically (and in terms of cultural heritage) similar Chinese in Singapore and Hong Kong. Taiwan does worse (532) but that may be ascribed to an aborigine population, as well as to the fact that East Asian curriculums tend to be less well adapted to the PISA test than Western ones.

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  24. @Anatoly Karlin
    (1) Israel is indeed a very puzzling case. Jews by stereotype are clever. Ashkenazi IQ tends to be very high, and they make up a majority in Israel (although perhaps not the majority of school-children, thanks to greater fertility among Haredim, settlers, and Arabs). From my casual perusal of the data, my estimate is that secular Ashkenazi Jews in Israel (probably less intelligent than Ashkenazi Jews in the US) is about equal to that of typical European countries like the UK or Germany, which is consistent with Lynn's estimate of an Ashkenazi Israeli IQ of 104 (as compared with 113 in Europe/the US). This figure nationally is dragged down by the 400-ish results of the Arabs (these countries tend to score 350-400) and the children of Jewish fundamentalists like the Haredim and settlers.

    But why are even Israeli Jews less clever (as implied by PISA and IQ scores) than in places like the US? I don't know. Perhaps there was some kind of selection at work when Israel was established. The commentator Glossy had one possible explanation: "Presumably because the prospect of tilling land in a kibbutz or going out on patrols with an Uzi had low appeal to the smarter segments of the Ashkenazi community." Indeed, my own impression is that among Jews who were academics in the USSR, the vast bulk went to the US and Western Europe, not Israel, once emigration restrictions were loosened.

    (2) Overall, I find myself trusting the China scores, incredible as they appear at first glance.

    PISA has stringent measures to avoid cheating. And China registered no problems in that regard (unlike, say, Azerbaijan, but that didn't stop it from doing crap; kind of like United Russia in the last elections))).

    Second, IQ tests (which are closely correlated with PISA), have suggested that Shanghai and neighboring Zhejiang region are the cleverest regions of China. Many other regions are only modestly above the OECD mean. This is entirely consistent with the pattern of results from China, in which Shanghai and Zhejiang did stupendously well, the poorer ethnic Chinese regions (as well as regions with substantial minority populations) scored much closer to the OECD average.

    Third, we know that Hong Kong, Singapore (with a substantial minority population!), Taiwan (with a substantial aborigine population) do brilliantly on these tests. This is not going into the fact that southern Chinese tend to be slightly less intelligent than northerners as per IQ tests. So I expect that the results are more or less reliable. They might be slightly skewed, as the two best regions (Shanghai and Zhejiang) are included, so the average may drop in the future as more provinces (this time there were 12) participate; however, not by much, as in the poorest provinces, poor school quality and malnutrition may still be having a significant downwards effect.

    Dear Alex, AK,

    I’ve heard that many Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews live in poverty in Israel and other countries due to several factors that all feed into one another to form a vicious circle: the men are expected by their community and teachers to spend their time in religious study and are discouraged from acquiring practical knowledge and skills that would enable them to hold a job; they also marry very young, often as teenagers, to equally teenage brides usually selected for them by their teachers or rabbis with the result that the couples become dependent on social welfare (or the wife has to work); they usually have very large families and the children may become malnourished. The social welfare net in Israel has been progressively weakened over the years so it’s likely Haredi Jews are subsisting on smaller welfare payment amounts now than in the past. Being malnourished and growing up in a home environment that discourages any learning or knowledge other than religious knowledge are sure to have an adverse effect on a child’s intelligence and intellectual achievements.

    The Haredi Jews are becoming a larger proportion of Israel’s Jewish population due to their high birth rates and emigration of more secular (and better educated) Jews. Demographic trends in Israel suggest that secular Jews will become a minority compared to Haredi Jews and Arabs in 20 years. You may like to read this article I found in Ha’aretz: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/secular-jews-may-be-minority-in-israeli-schools-by-2030-1.277177

    Teachers in Israel don’t earn very high salaries and education in that country has been subjected to government spending cutbacks.

    Everything I’ve been able to find and read about Israel suggests a society that is becoming more and more unequal with most of its wealth being concentrated among a few rich families and more people becoming poorer (over 30% of Israeli children already live in poverty) as the government spends less and less on education, health and social services. In 2010, the richest 20 families in Israel controlled a quarter of the country’s top companies and half the stock market through a network of companies that minimise their own monetary investments. Israel, the only Middle Eastern democracy? – that’s a joke. We can expect that in years to come, Israeli school students will fall further in their PISA scores if present trends continue.

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    • Replies: @Alexander Mercouris
    Dear Jennifer,

    Thanks for this very interesting information.

    I too had heard somewhere that Israel has become a deeply unequal society. However it is not a country I know well.

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  25. kirill says:
    @K.F.
    One reason for some ethnic regions performing badly is a heavy Russification policy by local governments. This is a case especially in Mari El Republic, where Mari speakers, some 50% of population, are according to several Human Rights organisations victims of apartheid-type of discrimination. Mari language education has suffered heavily in recent years (which wasn't good to begin with, remembering that Russification began already in the Soviet times).

    In 2007 Russia enacted a law that lets individual schools to decide themselves the language of education. This has led to dramatic consequences - most minority language schools switched to Russian overnight, denying many students their human right for education in their native language.

    Don’t even try to project the shit your tribe does to minorities onto Russians. The extermination of aboriginal culture and language in Canada and the USA was real. Not only were the original inhabitants driven into tiny reservation ghettos where they live in 3rd world conditions today, but their children were forcefully removed into residential schools where they were severely beaten for speaking their own language and sexually abused as well. Nothing of the sort happened in Russia before 1917, during the USSR era and today. These “discriminated” against minorities have their own republics which operate in their own language. I dare you to post these “human rights” complaints here. Your cheesy, worse than North Korea style of propaganda doesn’t cut it here. I read the wikipedia page and it is obvious BS with broken links. Any twat can edit wikipedia pages and any anti-Russian outfit can claim a billion things about the Russian Federation. I want to see the Mari themselves voice their discontent. Surely western TV crews can film this discontent in action since they obviously can film discontent in Moscow and Vladivostok.

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  26. @K.F.
    It is not about reading or bilingualism, it is about learning mathematical and other important skills through your native language. Education in your native lanuage is, afterall, a precondition for effective learning, and I guess most importantly, maintaining the cultural identity. This is why f. ex. Latvia, which hosts more national minorites than most European countries, provides education in all their national minority languages (Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, Estonian, Hebrew and Romani). Unfortenately Russia has chosen a different path - since September 2010 the "national component" was complitely eradicated from the Russia's education standard. In the future differences between Russia's regions are continuing to grow.

    Chuvash people and Tatars are in absolute numbers and also relatively bigger groups in their respective federal subjects than Mari people. This has enabled them to resist Russification much more effectively, and childern there are not forced to learn in Russian first. But, as I said, after 2010 things have changed, and I'm expecting scores for all ethnic regions to drop.

    Education in your native lanuage is, afterall, a precondition for effective learning…

    I had my human rights abused by being forced to learn everything in English from the age of 6 with no help from tutors. I became a retard and failure at life.

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    • Replies: @charly
    So you finally see the truth ;-)

    If you are a smart kids, which i think you were, than it doesn't matter so much because the teacher will need to explain it not ones but a few times for the less stellar kids in the class. The smart foreign kids may not get it the first time but they will after the second or third time. If on the other hand you are not one of the smart kids you would have needed the second or third time in your native tongue so you will miss that when teached in a non native langue

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  27. Anonymous says: • Disclaimer

    Long time lurker, first time commenter. Love the site!

    This is a somewhat minor point, but as I just took a course on data visualization, I thought I might throw a tip your way. When using color like you did on your map, it is almost always preferable to use multiple shades of the same hue rather than a palate of colors such as you used here. This would make comparison much easier. Although the red and green are prominent, everything in the middle gets muddled and difficult to distinguish because of the changing hues. The reader is forced to go back and forth from the key to the map, and the impact of the graphic is compromised. I think the map would look quite nice if it were all different shades of the same hue, except for the gray areas without data, of course.

    Cheers, and keep up the good work! Thanks for provided an ‘alternative voice’ on Russian affairs.

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  28. @Jennifer Hor
    Dear Alex, AK,

    I've heard that many Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews live in poverty in Israel and other countries due to several factors that all feed into one another to form a vicious circle: the men are expected by their community and teachers to spend their time in religious study and are discouraged from acquiring practical knowledge and skills that would enable them to hold a job; they also marry very young, often as teenagers, to equally teenage brides usually selected for them by their teachers or rabbis with the result that the couples become dependent on social welfare (or the wife has to work); they usually have very large families and the children may become malnourished. The social welfare net in Israel has been progressively weakened over the years so it's likely Haredi Jews are subsisting on smaller welfare payment amounts now than in the past. Being malnourished and growing up in a home environment that discourages any learning or knowledge other than religious knowledge are sure to have an adverse effect on a child's intelligence and intellectual achievements.

    The Haredi Jews are becoming a larger proportion of Israel's Jewish population due to their high birth rates and emigration of more secular (and better educated) Jews. Demographic trends in Israel suggest that secular Jews will become a minority compared to Haredi Jews and Arabs in 20 years. You may like to read this article I found in Ha'aretz: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/secular-jews-may-be-minority-in-israeli-schools-by-2030-1.277177

    Teachers in Israel don't earn very high salaries and education in that country has been subjected to government spending cutbacks.

    Everything I've been able to find and read about Israel suggests a society that is becoming more and more unequal with most of its wealth being concentrated among a few rich families and more people becoming poorer (over 30% of Israeli children already live in poverty) as the government spends less and less on education, health and social services. In 2010, the richest 20 families in Israel controlled a quarter of the country's top companies and half the stock market through a network of companies that minimise their own monetary investments. Israel, the only Middle Eastern democracy? - that's a joke. We can expect that in years to come, Israeli school students will fall further in their PISA scores if present trends continue.

    Dear Jennifer,

    Thanks for this very interesting information.

    I too had heard somewhere that Israel has become a deeply unequal society. However it is not a country I know well.

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  29. Dear Anatoly,

    Going back to the subject of China, here is an article by the US economist Dean Baker which also suggests as you did recently that the Chinese economy may already in some senses have surpassed that of the US. The article also echoes your view that China is much richer than many realise.

    http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/04/05/the-united-states-as-number-2/

    This would of course in part explain the high PISA ranking though surely the high PISA ranking is (as you say) a reason for it.

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  30. javatitan says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    It's on a Chinese site here.

    中国 = China. R=486, M=550, Sc.=524.
    国际水平 = international (i.e. OECD) score. R=493, M=496, Sc.=501.
    浙江 (the red bar) = Zhejiang. R=525, M=598, Sc.=567.
    上海 (the tallest blue bar) = Shanghai. R=556, M=600, Sc.=575.

    In my opinion, even the low results (relative to Math and Science) for Reading make sense. It is much harder to be truly literate in Chinese than in most other languages.

    Hi Ak! Thank you very much for the info.

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  31. Albo says:

    Interesting. Can we assume the difference with Ukraine’s score is an indication of how Russia has improved since the 90′ (if we consider Ukraine is still stuck in there) ?
    Or maybe the gaps already existed within the USSR…

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    Ukraine's estimated PISA score (=454, based on adjusting TIMMS) would not be out of place compared against the Russian southern steppe and Black Earth regions, which typically score 440-470. I think that's the perspective it would be best to look at it from.
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  32. @Albo
    Interesting. Can we assume the difference with Ukraine's score is an indication of how Russia has improved since the 90' (if we consider Ukraine is still stuck in there) ?
    Or maybe the gaps already existed within the USSR...

    Ukraine’s estimated PISA score (=454, based on adjusting TIMMS) would not be out of place compared against the Russian southern steppe and Black Earth regions, which typically score 440-470. I think that’s the perspective it would be best to look at it from.

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  33. prosa123 [AKA "ironrailsironweights"] says: • Website

    Many of the country-by-country Pisa score rankings do not appear significantly different from the I.Q. score rankings developed by Lynn and Vanhanen some years ago.

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    • Replies: @charly
    Not surprising because IQ shows education not intelligence
    , @Anatoly Karlin
    That makes sense because PISA is built on much the same principles as an IQ test.

    @charly,

    I disagree. Education can make intelligence shine but it cannot be a substitute for it. Of course, you can "teach" yourself IQ, but only up to a point.

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  34. charly says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    Education in your native lanuage is, afterall, a precondition for effective learning...

    I had my human rights abused by being forced to learn everything in English from the age of 6 with no help from tutors. I became a retard and failure at life.

    So you finally see the truth ;-)

    If you are a smart kids, which i think you were, than it doesn’t matter so much because the teacher will need to explain it not ones but a few times for the less stellar kids in the class. The smart foreign kids may not get it the first time but they will after the second or third time. If on the other hand you are not one of the smart kids you would have needed the second or third time in your native tongue so you will miss that when teached in a non native langue

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  35. charly says:
    @prosa123
    Many of the country-by-country Pisa score rankings do not appear significantly different from the I.Q. score rankings developed by Lynn and Vanhanen some years ago.

    Not surprising because IQ shows education not intelligence

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  36. @prosa123
    Many of the country-by-country Pisa score rankings do not appear significantly different from the I.Q. score rankings developed by Lynn and Vanhanen some years ago.

    That makes sense because PISA is built on much the same principles as an IQ test.

    ,

    I disagree. Education can make intelligence shine but it cannot be a substitute for it. Of course, you can “teach” yourself IQ, but only up to a point.

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    • Replies: @charly
    IQ scores are like 100 meter times. They have an inborn element but the reason why i don't run it in 10 second is mostly training. Education is that training with IQ
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  37. @Anatoly Karlin
    That doesn't however explain why neighboring regions like Chuvashia, Udmurtia, and Tatarstan did much better.

    Regardless, the Reading component is only one third of the total grade, and there's no really strong evidence that bilingualism detracts from cognitive development (and quite a lot to the contrary).

    Hello AK,

    Were there PISA or equivalent figures for students in Mordovia?

    If I Google for current information about the ethnic Mari, there are lots of entries about how their human rights are violated but if I do the same for Mordvins, I don’t see anything similar. Yet Mordvins constitute less than half the population of Mordovia (just as the Mari are less than half of their titular republic) and they have a similar form of government as Mari El does. I understand the Mordvins are more or less split evenly between Erzya and Moksha, each group numbering about half a million, so the two groups are roughly similar in size to the ethnic Mari (about 600,000) and if they work together, they would have considerable political clout in Mordovia.

    The reading (or skimming rather) I have done on what I can find about Mordovia and Mari El to me suggests that the Mordvins are comfortable with their President Nikolay Merkushkin whose wife is Erzya. His leadership style appears more conciliatory if unspectacular compared to the Mari El President Leonid Markelov. Also Merkushkin was an engineer before becoming a politician whereas Markelov was a lawyer and career politician and the difference in their backgrounds surely accounts for their leadership styles and how they have managed their republics’ economies; Markelov has been criticised for allowing Mari El’s economy to stagnate.

    I’m guessing that Chuvashia, Udmurtia and Mordovia have better run economies and invest much more in education and social services than Mari El does and that people in Mari El are aware of what these other republics are doing and are complaining in ways that include ethnic and nationalist protest. The Mari also have a history of resisting Russian Orthodox Christianity and maintained their native religion in secrecy throughout Soviet rule and beyond, and that must account for their more aggressive nationalism. They may have contacts in Finland and Estonia as well and this in itself is a double-edged sword: these contacts could be encouraging them to use confrontationist methods and the local authorities end up using heavy-handed ways of dealing with them.

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  38. Where most of the smart Georgians emigrated, to Russia or west?

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    • Replies: @Anatoly Karlin
    I really have no idea.

    There are Georgians of prominence both in Russia (e.g. Zurab Tsereteli) as in the West (e.g. John Shalikashvili).

    I would imagine that a greater portion of the smartest Georgians, e.g. researchers, relative to ordinary laborers, would have emigrated West after initially settling in Russia.

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  39. @Branko Stojanovic
    Where most of the smart Georgians emigrated, to Russia or west?

    I really have no idea.

    There are Georgians of prominence both in Russia (e.g. Zurab Tsereteli) as in the West (e.g. John Shalikashvili).

    I would imagine that a greater portion of the smartest Georgians, e.g. researchers, relative to ordinary laborers, would have emigrated West after initially settling in Russia.

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  40. charly says:
    @Anatoly Karlin
    That makes sense because PISA is built on much the same principles as an IQ test.

    @charly,

    I disagree. Education can make intelligence shine but it cannot be a substitute for it. Of course, you can "teach" yourself IQ, but only up to a point.

    IQ scores are like 100 meter times. They have an inborn element but the reason why i don’t run it in 10 second is mostly training. Education is that training with IQ

    Read More
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  41. I am a Professor of Mathematics in one of the American Universities, but part of my education was in Russia, I graduated from the mathematics department in MGU Moscow. I also got a Ph.D. and MS in Engineering from US Universitries. My general impression is that US Bachelor’s degree in math and science corresponds to a Russian High School Diploma and American Ph.D. in Mathematics corresponds to about 2.5 years of Russian undergraduate studies in math. As a result of a shortage of the US born Engineering and Math Ph.D cadre, US is experiencing defense industry R&D problems, e.g. US is incapable of producing good defense (pardon American spelling everywhere) products and is running behind Russia in such important aspects as missiles, tanks and aircraft. US’ 5th generation fighter plane F22A has been taken off production by the US Senate in Dec. 2011 due to the fundamental design problems and F35, another 5th generation plane is inferior to the Russian 4th generation SU-35 in every regard, according to Australian experts who recommended their country not to buy F-35. Also, I have been studying much maligned Russian ЕГЭ mathematics exams (standard graduation exams in Russian High Schools). In my opinion, more than 90% of US University students wouldn’t be able to get a passing grade in math in that exam and overwhelming majority of US University Mathematics faculty would not be able to get a perfect score in it, some probably would flunk. Since Russians, apparently, are doing much better in math, I don’t agree with the math scores of US High School graduates given in this article. They would be nowhere near the ones in Russia. Your listing, in fact, indicates that US scores would be higher which is highly unlikely, given a tremendous advantage of Russian students over American ones.

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  42. Education in the Soviet Union emphasized problems solving requiring intelligence and creativity. US education emphasizes learning by rote and repetition without appealing to intelligence. There is little in America that challenges the mind. The reason is a long policy of US government to produce a nation of obedient brainwashed slaves.

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  43. […] leadership has created over the past six decades (more on that in a later post). Most likely, the residents of the big cities-Moscow, St. Petersburg, Tel Aviv- tend to be more overrepresented in at least some TIMSS-taking […]

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