China is emerging as a world powerhouse, and that extends into the classroom. Shanghai teenagers outscored their peers around the world on the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, and Hong Kong also ranked high in all three areas: second in math and science, fourth in reading. This was China's first year participating in the tests, a generation after the Cultural Revolution badly damaged the country's school system, Time notes.
US results were mediocre: 31st in math, 17th in reading, and 23rd in science. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tells the New York Times that this should be a "wake-up call." Officials administering the test acknowledge that scores for two Chinese cities aren't representative of the entire country, but they are attracting attention nonetheless. Speaking to a college audience, President Obama called this "our generation's Sputnik moment," recalling how the Soviets' launch spurred the US to improve math and science education, and ultimately win the space race.