The OECD’s triennial education results were issued yesterday and for Brazil it was like getting a B for effort and a D for results.

The scores recorded by Brazilian students in maths, reading and science were better than those in years gone by but they were still poor, in most cases well behind not only the OECD average and their BRIC colleagues, but also their Latin American neighbors.

Brazilian kids came 57th out of 64 economies in math and science but fared marginally better in reading, where they ranked 53rd.

Brazilian leaders have long know that education is a major worry but they have done very little to improve standards in primary and secondary schools. (Here’s a piece I wrote for the New York Times on the relationship between education and growth in 2007.)

Kids in state-funded schools have big classes, poor teachers and not enough books, computers and other equipment to do the job.

Lula has been spectacularly successful in making life better for the country’s less well off.  But that change has focused on income, rather bolstering institutions. The poor have more money to spend but schools, hospitals and the justice system do not serve them much better than before.

That has to change.

The report can be found at the OECD page here:

The survey was carried out in 70 economies and for the first time included participants from China. Students in Shanghai took the test and shamed their rivals by scoring highest in all three disciplines.

“More than one-quarter of Shanghai’s 15-year-olds demonstrated advanced mathematical thinking skills to solve complex problems, compared to an OECD average of just 3%,” the report said.

Hong Kong-China, Singapore, Canada, New Zealand and Japan were the next best performers.