SINGAPORE: Singapore students are the best in the world when it comes to working in teams to solve problems,according to the results of a global Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 study that was published on Tuesday (Nov 21).
Among the 52 countries that took part, Singapore had the highest proportion of top performers in the Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) portion of the triennial international benchmarking study.
The accolade follows Singapore's best ever performance in PISA, when it was announced in December 2016 that the country was ranked top in all three categories - reading, mathematics and science.
The assessment for these categories, as well as CPS, was conducted in 2015 for 15-year-old students, and they were coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Director for education and skills and special advisor to the secretary-general at OECD Andreas Schleicher, was quoted as saying in an MOE press release on Tuesday that this was the first time collaborative problem solving has been assessed internationally.
CPS ranked the students' ability to solve problems despite multiple constraints, ensure that team members follow through with their responsibilities, monitor the team’s progress, as well as to take the initiative to overcome obstacles and resolve conflicts.
The students were also scored on how they can balance the collaboration and problem-solving aspects of a task, identify efficient pathways to a solution and take action to solve the problem.
Singapore students tallied an average score of 561 for the CPS, which was markedly above the OECD average of 500. Tunisia recorded the lowest score at 382.
Asian countries made up four out of the top five countries for CPS, with Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea also notching high scores. Canada was the other nation to make the top five.
A total of 5,825 mainly Secondary 4 students from 168 public secondary schools, and 290 students from nine private schools were randomly selected to represent Singapore in 2015 for the PISA study.
Besides having the highest proportion of top performers, Singapore had one of the smallest proportions of low performers. These consisted of students who tend to focus more on their individual role within the group.
SINGAPORE STUDENTS 'SUPERBLY EQUIPPED' FOR FUTURE
Commenting on Singapore's results, Mr Schleicher said: "What this assessment shows is that Singapore’s young people are superbly equipped for the challenges and opportunities of the future – students of high ability who work well both independently and together.”
Singapore's Ministry of Education was also heartened by the results, as noted by MOE's deputy director-general of education (curriculum) Sng Chern Wei in Tuesday's release.
“Singapore has long recognised the need to equip our students with a suite of life skills and values that will prepare them well for future challenges … In line with this, our teachers will continue to encourage teamwork among students and create opportunities for students to collaborate both inside and outside the classroom,” he said.
SINGAPORE STUDENTS ENJOY SEEING THEIR CLASSMATES SUCCEED
The PISA CPS 2015 results also show that Singapore students are highly motivated to work in groups, and they know how to be effective collaborators, MOE said.
"More than nine in 10 said that they are good listeners, enjoy seeing their classmates be successful, take into account what others are interested in, and enjoy considering different perspectives. More than eight in 10 believe that teams make better decisions than individuals, and teamwork raises their own efficiency," the ministry added.
MOE said these positive attitudes are nurtured through its schools’ and teachers’ efforts in offering integrated learning experiences such as subject-based fieldwork, co-curricular activities, project work, and distinctive programmes like the Applied Learning Programme and Learning for Life Programme.
"Teachers also introduce communication-intensive activities during lessons, such as class debates and opportunities for students to explain their ideas," MOE said.
The Ministry added that the results showed a close association between students’ daily communication with their parents and their CPS skills. Singapore students who converse with their parents after school scored 21 points higher in their CPS performance than those who do not, MOE highlighted.
Commenting on this point, Mr Sng said: “As parents are important partners in their children’s education journey, schools will continue to work with parents to support our children’s learning and growth holistically.”