Test shows Singapore students move from regurgitating to critical thinking
Expert: Students' top scores in Pisa test show we have moved from rote learning to critical thinking
The report card is out.
Singapore teens, once known to be good at only regurgitating, have aced last year's Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa).
The results of the prestigious triennial study, run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, were released yesterday.
A total of 6,115 students, aged 15, were randomly selected from all 168 secondary schools and nine private schools, including a madrasah, to take part. Rankings were derived from the country's mean scores in mathematics, science and reading.
Among the 72 countries and economies, Singapore's proportion of low performers is among the lowest. Our proportion of top performers is the highest.
In 2012, Singapore came in second in mathematics and third in science and reading.
Shifting away from rote learning and emphasising critical thinking skills has certainly helped to prepare students for the current economy.Former National Institute of Education curriculum researcher Tony Chee
The latest Pisa 2015 comes after we were ranked the world's best in mathematics and science by a key global study, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timss).
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said the students' performance affirms Singapore's international standing as a high-performing education system.
Madam Low Khah Gek, deputy director-general of education (schools), said: "It is encouraging that the results show our students have the necessary skills to deal with real-world situations and contexts."
These skills will put them in good stead to tackle challenges ahead, she added.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng thanked the teachers for their dedication in planning engaging lessons, which has built a strong foundation for the students.
Singapore's achievement in Pisa 2015 is also a sign that our curricular shift has borne fruit.
Over the years, MOE has placed more emphasis on higher-order, critical thinking skills. There was also conscious effort to move learning beyond content to problem solving.
Former National Institute of Education (NIE) curriculum researcher Tony Chee told The New Paper: "Performing well in (Pisa and Timss) is definitely an indication of our students' mastery of tested subjects as well as their skilful application of the concepts learnt in school, beyond simply rote learning."
Mr Chee, who runs Best Physics Tuition Centre, added: "Shifting away from rote learning and emphasising critical thinking skills has certainly helped to prepare students for the current economy.
"But changes are perpetual, and we will need to continually improve and create innovative teaching and learning strategies."
Another former NIE lecturer, Dr Yeap Ban Har, said: "Singapore's emphasis on inquiry, problem solving and the ability to handle novel, challenging tasks contributes to it doing well, especially in Pisa where the items are not similar to typical textbook materials.
"The inclusion of novel items in our national examinations has forced schools to rethink their curriculum. We know rote learning will no longer help you get good scores...
"The results are encouraging, but there is still work to be done, and we can identify these by delving deeper into the rich data that Timss and Pisa provide us."