SINGAPORE - Singapore's 15-year-olds don't just excel in mathematics, science and reading, they are also world beaters when it comes to solving complex and unfamiliar problems, a global study shows.
They and South Korean teens emerged No. 1, beating students from 42 other countries and economies - including Shanghai, Finland and Hong Kong - who took part in a problem-solving test, a subset of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) study conducted two years ago which tested students' skills in mathematics, science and reading.
For the problem-solving online test, the 1,394 students here from across the streams in the 166 government secondary schools and six private schoolstackled up to eight problems. One question asked students to observe the simulated behaviour of a robot cleaner and figure out the rules by which it operates.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said in a statement yesterday that the results showed that Singapore students were quick learners, highly inquisitive, and able to experiment with alternatives and process abstract information.
It also said this shows that schools here are on the right track in developing problem-solving skills in their students.
Singapore students came in second in mathematics, and third in science and reading in the Pisa 2012 study released in December last year.
"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 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development 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."
This article by The Straits Times was published in MyPaper, a free, bilingual newspaper published by Singapore Press Holdings.
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