PETALING JAYA - When it comes to problem-solving, Malaysian 15-year-olds are among of the world's poorest, a survey by Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has determined.
The 2012 survey conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that more than one in five Malaysian students could not even reach basic levels of problem solving.
Malaysia came in at 39th with a mean score of 422 points among the 44 countries surveyed. In comparison, Singapore topped the list of countries with 562 points.
Malaysia's score also put it below the OECD average of 500 points.
The survey divided problem solving proficiency into six levels, with Level 6 being the highest and Level 1 being the lowest, though it was added that there was a level below Level 1.
"... and in Uruguay, the United Arab Emirates, Montenegro, Malaysia, Brazil and Israel, more than one in five students do not reach this level (Level 1)," the report said.
The PISA 2012 report said students proficient at Level 1 can only explore problems given to them in a limited manner.
"In general, students at Level 1 can solve straightforward problems provided there is only a simple condition to be satisfied and there are only one or two steps to be performed to reach that goal."
According to the survey, students were given problems to explore and come up with solutions. These included trying to figure out how to use an MP3 player's screen, and using the controls on an air-conditioner.
The students were then required to interact with the test's problems to find out how they worked, and do it in the least possible number of clicks.
The survey also found that very few Malaysian students were likely to achieve the top levels of problem solving proficiency.
"... in Montenegro, Malaysia, Colombia, Uruguay, Bulgaria and Brazil, fewer than 2 per cent of students perform at Level 5 or 6," the report read.
In comparison, more than one in five students in Singapore, Korea and Japan attained this level of proficiency.
The report added that there were "strong positive correlations" with regard mathematics, reading and science skills, adding that students who performed in these areas could also perform well in problem solving.
In December last year, results of a PISA survey showed that Malaysian students scored below the OECD average in terms of mathematics, science and reading skills.
However, the survey also showed that that in terms of individual performances, Malaysian students scored better in mathematics, but fared worse in science and reading than in 2009.