SINGAPORE: Students in Singapore re-took first place in the latest survey of global education rankings after having placed second to China in 2018, the last time the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams were administered. Previous to that, in 2015, Singapore had placed first.

Singapore emerged first in all three categories: maths (575 points), reading (543 points) and science (561 points) amid the “stress test for education systems”—the COVID-19 pandemic—showing which schools and students all over the globe had been able to adapt to the sudden changes brought about by the worldwide health crisis.

However, Chinese students were not included in the latest assessment as schools in China were closed when the survey was taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s rankings from the PISA survey of 15-year-old students in 37 OECD member countries plus 44 other partner nations were published earlier this month. The results showed an “unprecedented” decline in global literacy scores, primarily due to disruptions brought about by the pandemic.

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Globally, only science scores stayed pretty much at the same level. Math scores dropped by 15 points since the survey was last taken in 2018, equivalent to three-quarters of a year of learning, and reading scores decreased by half a year.

Singapore students improved their scores in science and maintained them in maths. Reading scores, however, took a slight dip. However, the results suggest that, on average, they are about three to five years ahead of their peers, with the OECD average being 472 in maths, 476 in reading, and 485 in science.

“Singapore scored significantly higher than all other countries” in all three subject categories, PISA’s report on The State of Learning and Equity in Education says.

The report also notes that “Singaporean students can work effectively with mathematical models for complex situations, comprehend abstract texts, and interpret and evaluate complex experiments.”

An analysis of the assessment says that Singapore is one of the very few countries showing consistent improvement as time goes by. This achievement has been deemed “even more remarkable,” given that Singapore is already one of the highest-performing countries in PISA.

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Notably, in Singapore, boys outperformed girls in mathematics by 12 score points, and girls outperformed boys in reading by 20.

Across the OECD countries, boys did better than girls in maths by nine score points on average, while girls outperformed their male peers in reading by 24 score points.

The PISA report says that the performance difference between boys and girls is not significant in science.

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