S’pore schools top world 

Nan Hua High School, Singapore. Source: Wikimedia

Singaporean schools have come top of the prestigious international benchmarking test, known as the “world cup for education”.

Singapore’s 15-year-olds came top for mathematics, science and reading in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), a study done every three years by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). It measures how well pupils use their knowledge and skills to solve real-world challenges.

Singapore’s teenagers beat their counterparts in Japan, Estonia, Finland and Canada to the top spot in the survey completed by around 540,000 children across 72 countries or cities.

In the last Pisa test in 2012, Singapore came second in maths and third in science and reading.

Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei also performed well, the Paris-based OECD said. In Singapore, 5,825 randomly selected children from all 166 public schools and 290 pupils from nine private schools, including international schools and a madrasah, took Pisa’s computer test. Children also answered a survey on their background, including learning habits and motivation.

Among the 35 mostly wealthy countries belonging to the OECD, 20 per cent of children did not achieve the baseline level of proficiency in science.

“Sciences education isn’t keeping up. Why? Because science itself is moving at lightening speed,” explained OECD secretary general Angel Gurria.

He said Singapore’s young were effectively a year and a half ahead of other children on average.

The Ministry of Education said that the results showed that pupils were not just competent in applying knowledge and skills, but also at analysing, reasoning and communicating as they solved problems.

Science was the major domain tested in Pisa 2015, assessing how children evaluated and designed scientific enquiry. Low Khah Gek, deputy director-general of education, said: “The results show our students have the necessary skills to deal with real-world situations and contexts. They are motivated learners who enjoy learning, which definitely puts them in good stead to tackle challenges ahead.

“For this, we have to thank supportive parents and dedicated teachers, who have brought out the best in our students – and this is something the students themselves have acknowledged.”

Andreas Schleicher, director for education and skills at OECD, said: “The modern world no longer rewards people for what they know… but for what they can do with what they know.

“It is therefore encouraging that Singapore students are not just leading the world in scientific knowledge, but they excel particularly in their capacity to think like scientists in the way they creatively use and apply their knowledge.”