New Delhi Cuts Ties With PISA

India backs out of global education test for 15-year-olds.

Indians were put to test for the first time in the last assessment in 2009. On the global stage, they stood second last among 73 countries, only beating Kyrgyzstan on reading, math and science abilities… This time around, sources said India shied away from the assessment as government officials felt our children were not prepared for such a test.

“India didn’t sign up for the PISA 2012 assessment because when countries were asked to sign up for that assessment, India had only signed up for the PISA 2009 assessment, which it carried out with a year later delay in 2010,” said Juliet Evans, who handles communication and administration for the PISA Secretariat. Unlike India, several other countries like Costa Rica, Malaysia, Georgia and the UAE who had carried out the PISA evaluation in 2010 did sign up for the upcoming assessment.

Which of these Soviet leaders does this remind you of?

Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are all travelling together in a railway carriage. Unexpectedly the train stops. Lenin suggests: “Perhaps, we should call a subbotnik, so that workers and peasants fix the problem.” Stalin puts his head out of the window and shouts, “If the train does not start moving, the driver will be shot!” But the train doesn’t start moving. Khrushchev then shouts, “Let’s take the rails behind the train and use them to construct the tracks in the front”. But it still doesn’t move. Brezhnev then says, “Comrades, Comrades, let’s draw the curtains, turn on the gramophone and pretend we’re moving!”

Anyhow, most countries will continue participating, including some new ones. I am especially looking forwards to seeing how Vietnam performs. It is about ten years behind China, and its genetic IQ level is probably about 5 points lower than China’s. As such, if its IQ comes out to be appreciable lower than 95 (my own estimate is 90-92) then it would be a further blow against Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception (to the Flynn Effect).

Anatoly Karlin is a transhumanist interested in psychometrics, life extension, UBI, crypto/network states, X risks, and ushering in the Biosingularity.


Inventor of Idiot’s Limbo, the Katechon Hypothesis, and Elite Human Capital.


Apart from writing booksreviewstravel writing, and sundry blogging, I Tweet at @powerfultakes and run a Substack newsletter.


  1. Ignorance is bliss?

    Sense of superiority is based on ignorance a lot of time. Knowing too much can lead to depression. Correlation between IQ and suicide rate is real.

  2. Brezhnev then says, “Comrades, Comrades, let’s draw the curtains, turn on the gramophone and pretend we’re moving!”

    Ha, ha, ha.

    As such, if its IQ comes out to be appreciable lower than 95 (my own estimate is 90-92) then it would be a further blow against Ron Unz’s theory of the East Asian Exception (to the Flynn Effect).

    Well, maybe. But do the Southeast Asians such as the Vietnamese really tend to cluster with the East Asian peoples? Perhaps, perhaps not. Genetically, they supposedly have a good deal of overlap with Southern Han, but they lack 2000 years of heavy economic pressure, which might be a factor. So I’m not sure their performance would necessarily impact the hypothesis one way or the other. I’d certainly never argue it applies to Malays or Filipinos, though for all I know it might.

  3. I thought Vietnam had an IQ of about a 100?

    A Thai IQ study found an IQ of 99 for Thailand. I can’t read Thai though. Can some who can copy and paste Thai script translate this paper with Google Translate?

    News article:

    “BANGKOK, Jul 08, 2011 (The Nation – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) — Thai children’s average intelligence quotient (IQ) is just 98.59, a little lower than the world’s median of 100, according to new research.

    He said the survey of Thai students was conducted using the Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM parallel version; updated 2003) in December and January.”

    I need to understand the paper to check what it was normed on, but aren’t the norms of SPM based on British norms?

  4. I would think that good reliable data for IQs in SE Asia are lacking. IIRC some of the Vietnamese IQ scores floating around were just estimates made by averaging Thai IQ scores with Chinese ones. And if the Thai IQ scores were inaccurately low, then so are Vietnamese.

    Anyway, Vietnam and all the SE Asian nations (and China) have multiple ethnic groups, with lots of obscure hill people communities across Vietnam. I would like to see IQ data for just the majority Kinh Vietnamese, which I would estimate to be roughly around the same as the south of China, maybe 1-2 pts. difference at most?

  5. Vietnamese average IQ test was done twice during 2000s by Ministry of Education, but not announced loudly. As far as I remember, the results are 99.5 and 101.
    In general perspective, the South Vietnamese have lower IQ than the North Vietnamese, due to genetic and cultural reasons. The South Vietnamese have absorbed Cham, Khmer element for too long time, and in fact, many Viet in the South are actually Viet-speaking Cham or Khmer.
    In every year, the university entrance score in the Southern Vietnam universities are always lower than in the Northern Vietnam ones, since when test became uniform countrywide around 10 – 15 years ago..

    • Uhm, my bet is that the elite of Vietnam is Northern based. I haven’t a clue why but i doubt that being the loosing side has anything to do with it.

  6. Contrary to the belief of many people, the ethnic Hoa (of Chinese origin) in Vietnam contribute almost none to our intellectual heritage. There is virtually no Vietnamese great scientist with Chinese origin, in the past as well as in modern times, although there are a lot of dynasties, high-ranking government officials and rich businessmen having Chinese blood (for example, the ancestor of Tran dynasty, one of the greatest ever Vietnamese dynasties, came from Fujian province in China. The next Ho dynasty, also came from strong Chinese heritage, so strong that Ho Quy Ly named country Dai Ngu, after the name of ancient state in China).
    In modern times, as far as my observation can go, the people who still claim Hoa heritage (mostly in the south of Vietnam, because North Vietnamese ethnic Hoa seems to mix well with ethnic King and abandon their Hoa heritage), are generally lower-educated than mainstream ethnic King. They may excel in business, but clearly not in science and education.

    • That’s because all such Chinese origin Vietnamese all fled to USA after Vietnam war. I personally know many of them and they are all either professionals or scientists. So you argument is totally based on ignorance.
      By the way, is there any Vietnam Scientists in Vietnam? ’cause I am a scientist who are working on a disease that is rampant in Vietnam yet I never, never encountered a single research paper in this field from Vietnam. Even Cambodia got several such research papers.

    • Marie Arouet says

      It’s hard to tell who is Hoa in Vietnam today due to the government’s forced change of Hoa names to Vietnamese names. Despite being forced to abandon their Hoa heritage, most Hoa kept their heritage by attending Hoa school rather than lower quality and less competitive Vietnamese language schools. Wealth has a strong correlation with IQ. Hoa’s business acumen correlates well with Hoa’s dominance in other fields particularly in science in Vietnam. This can be seen in Vietnamese university science faculties where about 40% are of Hoa origin (Chinese in Vietnam is only about 2.6% but controls about 40% of the economy and academics).

  7. @ Keth and Marie,

    You are totally out of fact about Vietnam, or you get informed from people who fled to the West and hostile to the current government.

    First, in the North, it is hard to tell who is of ethnic Hoa, because they have been mixed for long time and abandoned their Hoa heritage, or because the North Vietnamese is culturally very close to South Chinese. I have a friend, who claim his grandfather was from Guangzhou, but he was born in Hanoi. He have a strange family name, but his first and middle name is generally Vietnamese. He claim he is King (or Jing) now.

    But in the South of Vietnam, ethnic Hoa and the so-called Viet (who may comprise a large part of Viet-speaking ethnic Khmer and Cham) is quite separated from each other in the past and even until now.

    in 1960s in South Vietnam, ethnic Hoa had to changed their name to Vietnamese, but the character root are retained. For example, Chen into Trân, Wang into Hoang or Huynh, Lee or Li into Lý, Chang into Trương, etc.

    Vietnamese names are actually Chinese names spelled in Vietnamese language with the same Chinese character. So it is similar with Taiwanese, Singaporean, … who have different surnames with Han people in China if written in Latin alphabet, but the same if written in Chinese character. Mao Zedong is written as Mao Trạch Đông, Zhou Enlai as Chu Ân Lai, Hu Jintao as Hồ Cẩm Đào in Vietnamese.

    Third, 70 – 80% of professors and associated professors are living in Hanoi. The remaining 20% – 30% are in other provinces, in which, may be less than 15-20% are living in the South. As I said, in the North, there are no ethnic Hoa virtually, so I do not know how Marie come with “This can be seen in Vietnamese university science faculties where about 40% are of Hoa origin”.

    Vietnamese students ranks even above Germany in PISA 2012, so it is quite difficult for ethnic Hoa to be dominant at school.

    Biggest Vietnamese tech companies, including Viettel (telecom and military equipment)), FPT (software), BKAV (anti-virus), TOSY (the only robotic company) are headquartered in the North. And virtually all biggest companies in other areas, including oil & gas (Petrovietnam), bank (Vietcombank, Techcombank, Vietinbank…), real estate (Vincom, Bitexco)… are headquartered in the North or founded by Northern Vietnamese. The ethnic Hoa excel in some food companies and light industry in around Ho Chi Minh city area, but they are not controlling, especially in the Northern part of Vietnam.

    Most of science research are done in the North. Most famous Vietnamese in the world (politically aside), including Hoang Tuy (father of global optimization in mathematic), Ngo Bao Chau (Field Medal), Vu Ha Van (mathematics), Dang Thai Son (musician), Ton That Tung (medical doctor, who is the first in world in the field of liver operation) are from the North or educated in the North.

    So Marie’s claim that ethnic Hoa control 40% of economics and academic may be true under the South Vietnam era (from 1954 – 1975), but totally wrong now.

    • Telecom, banking and real estate are all businesses very close to the state so it is not surprising that groups that are close to the fire are running those sectors.

  8. I’m Vietnamese myself coming from the North. I totally agreed with Nguyen. Something I need to add is that South Korea before Korean War is even poorer than Vietnam at those times. Also base on what I have learned, dynastic Vietnam has more cutural and social achievements than those of dynastic Korea. VIetnamese military power was continually considered strongest in the region (except big boy China). Our historic sites, pagodas were mostly destroyed by wars and communist campaign.

  9. Offended that Anatoly estimated such low numbers in IQ and predicted a really poor performance in the PISAs as well. I guess you were proven wrong by the PISA results. Only figures that give such low numbers are tests which are based upon testing the verbal ability of Vietnamese 5 and 8 year olds. Most IQ tests have shown Vietnamese to have IQ scores closer to 100 than 90.

    And giving the Hoas credit for most of Vietnams intellectual success is a ridiculous and annoying myth. Two studies on Vietnamese Americans compared Hoa to ethnic Kinh (majority Vietnamese) and found scores to be the same, and even slightly higher in the Kinhs favor. In Norway where I live, the Vietnamese earn the same grades as ethnic Norwegians in school and we are overrepresented in higher education. I come from an intellectual family and none of the other intellectual Vietnamese here that I know of are ethnic Chinese. Im sure they exist, but they just dont dominate the intellectual Vietnamese landscape as some of these comments on the net would have you believe.

  10. One clear example is that during last year university entrance examination, some universities in Ho Chi Minh city (former Saigon) even considered to treat ethnic Hoa as other minorities, i.e. giving them some bonus on entrance test. And that is not to say about the consistent lower entrance requirement of Southern universities compared to Northern Universities in last 15-20 years.