Singapore’s students are outperforming the rest of the world in STEM skills, according to the latest analysis from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tested around 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries and economies on STEM skills, including science, maths and collaborative problem-solving, among others.
In maths, the top-performing countries were Asian-based, with Singapore, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, China and South Korea leading the way followed by Switzerland, Estonia and Canada.
In science, the top 10 was: Singapore, Japan, Estonia, Taiwan, Finland, Macao, Canada, Vietnam, Hong Kong and China.
Australia placed 14th in science and 25th in maths. While both results were above the OECD average, they represented a steady decline over recent years with Australian science students now seven months behind where they were in 2006, and Australian maths students a year behind where they were in 2003.
Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the report goes further than last year’s Trends in Maths and Science report, NAPLAN results and the OECD Education at a Glance report, in terms of not just showing a plateauing of results in Australia but a clear decline from year to year in Australia’s education performance.
“Given the wealth of our nation and scale of our investment, we should expect to be a clear education leader, not risk becoming a laggard. We must leave the politicking at the door and have a genuine conversation that is based on evidence about what we do from here,” Birmingham said.
OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría said the report reveals the policies in place that successful countries share: high and universal expectations for all students; a strong focus on great teaching; resources targeted at struggling students and schools; and a commitment to coherent, long-term strategies.
“A decade of scientific breakthroughs has failed to translate into breakthroughs in science performance in schools,” Gurría said.
“Every country has room for improvement, even the top performers. With high levels of youth unemployment, rising inequality, a significant gender gap, and an urgent need to boost inclusive growth in many countries, more must be done to ensure every child has the best education possible.”