SINGAPORE: Two international reports have reaffirmed that Singapore’s students remain among the best performers internationally in reading, mathematics and science.
The studies —— Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) —— saw Singapore students remain in the band of best performers.
The studies involved a sampling of 12,500 primary four and secondary two students between 2010 and 2011.
In primary four reading, for example, Singapore was among the top performers, along with Finland and Hong Kong, and in secondary two mathematics, Singapore students were again at the top, on par with students from South Korea.
According to the report, Singapore’s education system has also made significant progress in improving the performance of academically weaker students.
The percentage of students who performed at a ’low’ level or below that almost halved last year, at 13 per cent, compared to 24 per cent in 2001.
Ministry of Education (MOE)’S director of Curriculum Planning and Development division, Chua—Lim Yen Ching, said: "Our academically weaker students have progressed significantly, and our stronger support for them did not compromise the performance of our academically stronger students —— as our weaker students move up, our stronger students also moved up."
"Our philosophy is that we want to protect the base, but at the same time, we do not want to cap the top so that they allow our academically stronger students to flourish.
"We saw an improvement in the reasoning skills and to us that is a good sign. That means the students are able to move from knowledge to application and reasoning. Learning is not just a matter of factual knowledge but it’s also the students’ ability to be able to apply."
MOE, which released the report on Tuesday, said the findings are testament to the strengths of an education system that has intensified efforts in recent years to help weaker students.
The reports also measured the ability of students in three areas: knowing, applying and reasoning.
In Singapore’s context, students in both primary four and secondary two improved in reasoning scores in mathematics and science last year, compared to results in 2007.
MOE said this also reflects the shift of schools towards higher—order skills.
Despite stellar performances, the reports found that Singapore students expressed a lack of confidence in the areas they fared well in.
Government Parliamentary Committee Education’s chairman, Lim Biow Chuan, said: "If we (Singapore students) have done so well, the other thing MOE may want to study further, is how can we inculcate this sense of confidence in our students so that they may be able to compete internationally with anyone.
"Otherwise no matter how good you are, you don’t express confidence in your abilities, when it comes to actual performance in your work, that will not do well for yourself."
The reports also found that students in Singapore liked subjects like mathematics and science more than their international peers.
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