Singapore near top of the class

Singapore near top of the class

SINGAPORE - Secondary 3 student Erica Lee, 15, spent the first week of her year-end school holidays back in school - for extra lessons, including in mathematics.

This was on top of the mathematics lessons she attended during regular school hours - at least 50 minutes - almost every day.

She also allocates two hours for a one-on-one session with her private tutor for mathematics and science twice a week.

Erica's study routine is considered normal among 15-year-olds in Singapore, where doing well academically is now part and parcel of the system.

And Singapore's education system has the chops to show for it: 15-year-olds here have again emerged among the top performers in a global study when it comes to mathematics, reading and science.

The results of the triennial Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), which were released yesterday, ranked students here second out of 65 participating education systems for their mathematics scores. The country had also been placed second for mathematics in the previous round in 2009.

For reading, Singapore moved up two notches to third place, behind Hong Kong. It also moved up one rank to second for science.

This is the second time Singapore has participated in Pisa, an international education-system benchmarking study organised by the France-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

More than 5,500 students here took a two-hour paper-based test that was a mixture of open-ended and multiple-choice questions on the three domains based on real-life situations. The major domain that this cycle focused on was mathematics.

One possible reason for Singapore's good standing could be the students' intrinsic sense of motivation towards learning.

According to the study, the majority of students in Singapore - 72 per cent - said they study mathematics because they enjoy it. This is twice the OECD average of 38 per cent.

At the same time, Singapore also emerged among the top 12 education systems that offer extra-curricular mathematics activities at school, including mathematics clubs, and enrichment and remedial after-school mathematics lessons.

Micaela Leong, 16, who is in Secondary 4, told MyPaper she felt she was "better off" forking out time and effort for tuition in additional mathematics in June this year.

"Once I got the hang of tackling the questions, mathematics became much less of a chore," she said.

A secondary-school mathematics teacher, who wanted to be known only as Andrew, said that Singaporean students are driven in their learning because they are "well aware of the importance of learning mathematics and science".

"This imparts knowledge and skills which students can apply and use, no matter which field they go into in the future," he said.

Mother-of-two Karen Chua, 48, whose children are in secondary school, added that competitiveness among students in school also plays a big part in pressuring them to do well.

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