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Singapore takes mathematics and science supremacy in teaching

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) provides education rankings based on international tests taken by 15-year-olds in mathematics, reading and science. The tests, run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and taken every three years, have become increasingly influential on government stakeholders who see their countries and their policies being measured.

So in the last test conducted in 2015, Singapore has been ranked as having the highest-achieving schools and it has recorded the highest achieving students in international education rankings. The students top in tests in mathematics and science. Singapore, named as the top rated country for mathematics and science. In another ranking it was in first place in all the Pisa test subjects, ahead of school systems across Asia, Europe, Australasia and North and South America.

Asian countries continue to dominate, with Singapore rated as best, replacing Shanghai, which is now part of a combined entry for China. Singapore has replaced Shanghai as the previous top-ranked education system – with Shanghai no longer appearing as a separate entry in these school rankings.

There had been debate over whether Shanghai was representative of school standards across China and this year, for the first time, Shanghai is included in a wider figure for China, based on schools in four provinces. This combined Chinese ranking is in the top 10 for mathematics and science, but does not make the top 20 for reading. Hong Kong and Macao also appear among the high-achieving education systems.

Asian education systems dominate. It account for the top seven places for mathematics, with Singapore followed by Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, China and South Korea.

The UK’s test results remain behind the top-performing Asian education systems. Finland, Estonia, Canada and Ireland are the only non-Asian nations to get into any of the top five rankings across all three subjects.

Asian countries such as Singapore managed to achieve best without wide differences between children from wealthy and disadvantaged families. Vietnam’s progress is ‘quite remarkable’, coming ahead of Germany and Switzerland in science — and ahead of the US in science and mathematics.

Singapore has high results without a big gap between rich and poor. Among South American countries, Mr Schleicher highlighted the improvements in Peru and Colombia.

The UK has failed to make any substantial improvement despite the fact that it is making the Pisa rankings an important measurement of progress.

In mathematics the UK is ranked 27th, slipping down a place from three years ago, the lowest since it began participating in the PISA tests in 2000. In reading, the UK is ranked 22nd, up from 23rd, having fallen out of the top 20 in 2006.

The UK’s most successful subject is science, up from 21st to 15th place — the highest placing since 2006, although the test score has declined. Within the UK, Wales had the lowest results at every subject.

Solid work is started to make improvements in Wales. Scotland trails behind England and Northern Ireland recording its worst results in these PISA rankings.

The OECD education chief expressed concerns about the impact of teacher shortages. He said that an education system could never exceed the quality of its teachers.

Singapore made a top priority of recruiting top graduates into teaching line. The small Asian country focused mainly on education as a way of developing its economy and rising living standards. Being among the world’s poorest, with a mix of ethnicities, religions and languages, Singapore has surpassed the wealthiest countries in Europe, North America and Asia to become the number one in education.

Prof Sing Kong Lee, vice-president of Nanyang Technological University, which houses Singapore’s National Institute of Education said a key factor had been the standard of teaching.

Singapore invested heavily in a quality teaching force to rise up the prestige and status of teaching and to attract the best graduates.

The country recruits its teachers from the top 5 percent of graduates in a system that is highly centralized.

All teachers are trained at the National Institute of Education, and Prof Lee said this single route ensured quality control and that all new teachers could “confidently go through to the classroom”.

Singapore put significant stress on young children.


Top performing countries in Mathematics and science are Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Finland, Australia, United Kingdom, United States and Italy.

In a short period of 50 years Singapore, a former British colony which started out as a low-cost, low-skill labour market, now boasts a highly skilled workforce where more than half are university graduates.

In recent years, the Singapore government has moved to put in place measures to manage the level of stress faced by students.

In 2012, it stopped listing the top-scoring students in all national examinations and more changes, focused on moving away from the emphasis on examinations, are expected to be firmed up.

At the Singapore’s academic successes, Mr Schleicher said the country could do better in terms of balancing this achievement with other important factors such as physical and emotional health.

The pressure of an education system is not necessary. There is no need to compromise on both education and emotional wellbeing.

Finland is cited as a good example of a balanced educational system.

Mr Schleicher said the Singapore education system is moving in the right direction with its changes, but he added that ‘curiosity, creativity and leadership’ were some of the attributes that deserved more attention.

Test and grades worries in Singapore latest education system

Singapore students may be doing best in mathematics, science and reading, but it is demanding a heavy emotional price on them. Singapore students, known worldwide for academic distinction also experience high levels of worries and have been too vulnerable to browbeating. The findings emerged in a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which conducts the triennial tests called the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). The study polled 540,000 students from 72 countries and economies to look at the connection between well-being and achievement. The 5,825 Singapore students who were polled did not have to answer was on how satisfied they were with life. Their replies to the other questions indicated that most were concerned about tests and grades. Students often worry that it will be difficult for us to take a test or get poor grades at school. They always feel whether they are prepared for a test. It appeared that their worries levels were substantially higher than the OECD average for all five questions. 66 percent of students across all OECD countries said they were anxious about poor grades at school, but among Singapore students, it was 86 percent. In Singapore, 76 percent reported feeling very anxious for a test even if they were well prepared, compared with the OECD average of 55 per cent. One question asked if they wanted to be top of their class. Some 82 percent said they did. The OECD average was 60 percent. The study found that students who reported they wanted to do well in school performed better. The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the 15-year-olds in Singapore who were surveyed comprised largely of Secondary 4 students preparing for their N- and O-level examinations. Fifteen-year-olds here experience more bullying than their associates in 50 other countries and economies. The children of Latvia and New Zealand have it worse, according to a study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Singapore has third largest rate of bullying globally. Students in Singapore are anxious about doing well in examinations; their enjoyment in learning science has not been diminished. The educationists in Singapore are highly encouraged that their students are highly motivated to learn and achieve. Stress and anxiety is an individual response arising from one’s anticipation and the ability to command problems. Singapore schools concentrates on helping students gain a wider outlook, looking beyond achievement, by helping them manages their anticipation and understands their strengths and weaknesses. This will also help students develop more strength and positive frame of mind. The Primary School Leaving Examination scoring system and aptitude-based admission into post-secondary institutions are among the measures that will decrease anxiety and increase the enjoyment of learning among our students.

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