A study on Tuesday reveals that the children of cleaners in the Chinese city of Shanghai are outperforming the children of US and British professionals such as doctors and lawyers at maths.
British and American children also fared badly against children from similar family backgrounds in other countries worldwide, OECD analysts said.
"In the United States and the United Kingdom, where professionals are among the highest paid in the world, students whose parents work as professionals do not perform as well in mathematics as children of professionals in other countries," they stated.
"Nor do they perform as well as the children in Shanghai, China and Singapore, whose parents work in manual occupations," they added.
The findings are contained in an analysis of the global Pisa test rankings, an international league table first released by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), a grouping of rich nations, in December 2013.
The study concluded that there was inevitably a strong relationship between parents' occupations and student performance.
But it said the results show "that it is possible to provide children of factory workers (with) the same high-quality education opportunities that children of lawyers and doctors enjoy".