Singapore students again emerge world beaters in international assessment

Singapore students again emerge world beaters in international assessment

Singapore's 15-year-olds once again emerged among the top performers in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) test conducted last year.


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Here is the full statement from the Ministry of Education:

Singapore's 15-year-olds possess a range of knowledge and skills that are valued in the 21st Century, according to the 2012 results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial international benchmarking study organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The strong performance of our students reflects the efforts put in by our students with the support of our schools and parents.

Our students demonstrated the ability to inquire, reason, and communicate clearly in solving unfamiliar real-life problems. These problem-solving competencies are highly valued and would place our students on a strong footing to participate effectively in, and embrace the challenges of the 21st Century.

Our education system has become more broad and inclusive in providing opportunities for every child even as we maintain high standards and rigour. PISA 2012 shows that Singapore has made significant progress in levelling up the academically-weaker students, whilst sustaining the strong performance of the academically-stronger students. PISA 2012 also shows that our students possess high levels of motivation, engagement and confidence in learning.

The strong performance and positive attitudes toward learning of our students reflects the efforts put in by our students, the professionalism and dedication of our teachers, and the strong support of parents and the community.

Of the 65 participating education systems, Singapore students have again ranked among the top performers in paper-based Mathematics, Reading and Science literacies. Singapore was also among the top performers among the 32 education systems which opted to participate in the computer-based assessments of Mathematics and Reading.

Our strong performance across the different areas of assessments shows that most of our students were adept at applying their knowledge and skills in novel ways. They were able to navigate in a computer-based environment and deal with ambiguous information, explore indirect relationships and work with less structured real-world data and representations. They demonstrated skills in evaluating different text sources for quality and credibility and in integrating information. They displayed higher-order cognitive thinking skills in resolving problem situations where a solution was not obvious.

This is in part due to the efforts of our teachers who encourage students to learn more actively and independently, and help them to develop an inquiring mind and a love for learning.

PISA 2012 shows that Singapore students are highly motivated to learn Mathematics and are confident about performing a range of Mathematics tasks. They also enjoy and look forward to their Mathematics lessons. This could be attributed to the more learner-centred approaches to learning Mathematics which we have introduced to better cater to a wider range of learning styles.

Compared to 2009, our academically-weaker students performed better, with less than 10 per cent of low performers2 in each of the domains.

These results affirm our ongoing efforts to support academically-weaker students, including customised lessons to suit different learning needs, the use of learner-centred teaching strategies and customised remediation programmes. With the gradual roll-out of the comprehensive suite of levelling-up programmes announced by MOE in 2013, we aim to further improve the performance of our academically-weaker students.

Singapore's high proportion of top performers indicates that our education system enables our academically-stronger students to maximise their potential. The proportion of top performers in Singapore has increased compared to 2009 - from 36 to 40 per cent in Mathematics, 16 to 21 per cent in Reading and 20 to 23 per cent in Science.

High-performing students were able to evaluate problem-solving strategies for dealing with complex problems, and worked strategically using broad, welldeveloped thinking and reasoning skills. They could organise multiple pieces of deeply embedded information and evaluate unfamiliar content. In Science, they demonstrated well-developed inquiry abilities, and were able to bring critical insights to situations and construct arguments based on evidence and analysis.

On our students' strong and broad-ranging performance in PISA 2012, Ms Ho Peng, Director-General of Education said, "The findings show that MOE is on the right track in developing in our students competencies needed for the future workplace, while maintaining our strong fundamentals in literacy, numeracy and science. The findings are heartening in showing how we have levelled up our academically-weaker students and given them a strong foundation. At the same time, we continue to stretch high-performing students. We will continue to build on our strengths. We thank all teachers and school leaders for their dedication towards nurturing our students, and parents for working closely with schools to prepare our young for a fast-changing world."

PISA is a triennial OECD study that examines and compares how well education systems are helping their students acquire the knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies. It assesses the capacity of 15-year-old students to apply knowledge and skills in Mathematics, Reading and Science, and to analyse, reason and communicate effectively as they solve problems in a variety of real-life situations. Each cycle provides information on all three domains but focuses on one major domain. Mathematics was the major domain in PISA 2012, with 65 education systems participating.

This was the second time that Singapore had participated in PISA. A total of 5,369 students, mainly from Secondary 3 and 4, from all 166 public secondary schools and 177 students from six private schools participated in PISA 2012. They were representative of the 15-year-old population in Singapore.

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