Singapore teens top in problem-solving

Singapore teens top in problem-solving

SINGAPORE - Singapore students have shown themselves to be world beaters in solving complex and unfamiliar problems.

The 15-year-olds here scored almost the same as their counterparts in South Korea, beating students from 42 other places in the problem solving test of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The 1,394 students here who took the test were from across the streams in 166 government secondary schools and six private schools.

They had to tackle four to eight problems with each problem containing several sub-questions, The Straits Times reported.

The other countries or cities in the top 10 are Japan, Macau, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei, Canada, Australia and Finland.

In all, 85,000 students from 44 countries and economies took the computer-based test, the OECD said.

It involved real-life scenarios to measure the skills young people will need when faced with everyday problems, such as finding the quickest route to a destination. It required students to explore and uncover relevant information, devise possible solutions, test them and eventually arrive at a final solution.

The test results showed that Singapore students were quick learners, highly inquisitive, and able to experiment with alternatives and process abstract information, the Ministry of Education (MOE) said. They were also able to use their knowledge to solve the problems, and were goal-driven and persistent in completing their tasks.

“Even our proportion of weaker or low performers in problem solving is among the lowest of all participating education systems,” said MOE, referring to the 8 per cent of students here who were classified as low performers.

PISA defines top performers as those whose proficiency level is at least level 5, out of a scale of 6, and low performers as those whose proficiency level is below level 2.

Dr Andreas Schleicher, special adviser on education to the OECD which conducts the tests, noted that Singapore’s education system has at times been criticised for rote learning at the expense of developing creative skills.

He said: “The PISA assessment of problem-solving skills proves those critics wrong.”


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