SINGAPORE - Singapore's performance in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) shows that its education policy is "moving in the right direction", Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a Facebook posting on Wednesday.
Singapore's students came in second in mathematics and third in science and reading in the 2012 Pisa test conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
A total of 65 education systems around the world were tested. Held once every three years, Pisa assesses 15-year-old students near the end of their secondary education.
Mr Heng said Pisa tests a student's critical thinking and, to do well, "a student can't get by with just memorisation; he must have real knowledge and the wits to apply that knowledge to unpredictable real-life problems".
"This is exactly what we want our students to learn in school - the real skills to think critically and creatively so they can succeed in the 21st century," he added.
Mr Heng said what was more important was that Singapore's students have shown improvement in their Pisa scores. "Regardless of how they rank relative to students from elsewhere, our students' own scores are better this time than when we first took part in Pisa in 2009," he said.
In the 2009 test, Singapore was ranked second in maths, fourth in science and fifth in reading.
The improvement showed that the Education Ministry's teaching strategies to expose students to real-life problems, and to apply what they have learnt to the world outside the classroom, have worked, Mr Heng said.
"A point of pride for me", he added, was Singapore's better performance in the low performers category.
The proportion of Singapore students who were considered low performers in the Pisa test had decreased in maths, science and reading. For example, 12.5 per cent of the participating students were deemed low performers in the 2009 reading test. For the 2012 test, only 9.9 per cent of students were placed in that category.
Mr Tan Soon Meng, 50, a father of two teenage girls who are both studying in the Singapore Chinese Girls' School, said he has noticed that teachers are exposing students to more applied learning. This has equipped his children with knowledge that is applicable in the real world, he said.
The corporate trainer cited an example of a science project that his younger 13-year-old daughter took part in.
"My daughter was able to make a bridge that could sustain a certain weight load using ice- cream sticks," he said.
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