Dec 07, 2016 (LBO) – Singapore has outperformed the rest of the world in the OECD’s latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey, which evaluates the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems. The top OECD countries were Japan, Estonia, Finland and Canada.
The OECD’s PISA 2015 tested around 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries and economies on science, reading, maths and collaborative problem-solving. The main focus was on science, an increasingly important part of today’s economy and society.
While spending per student in primary and secondary education increased by almost 20% since 2006 in OECD countries alone, only 12 of the 72 countries and economies assessed in PISA have seen their science performance improve over this period.
These include high-performing education systems, such as Singapore and Macao (China), and low-performers, such as Peru and Colombia.
“A decade of scientific breakthroughs has failed to translate into breakthroughs in science performance in schools,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría, launching the report in London.
“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.” Read the full speech.
Around 1 in 10 students across OECD countries, and 1 in 4 in Singapore, perform at the highest level in science. Across the OECD, more than one in five students falls short of baseline proficiency: only in Canada, Estonia, Finland, Hong Kong (China), Japan, Macao (China), Singapore and Viet Nam do at least nine out of ten 15-year-old students master the basics that every student should know before leaving school.
This underlines the challenge that all countries, including some of the wealthiest ones, face in meeting Sustainable Development Goal 4 by 2030 to achieve “inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.
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.
Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Hong Kong (China) and Macao (China) achieve both high standards of excellence overall and equity in education outcomes. A number of countries have improved equity, especially the United States. But in Australia, Czech Republic, Finland, Greece, Hungary, New Zealand and the Slovak Republic, the share of students performing at the highest levels fell at the same time as the share of low performers rose.
“Achieving greater equity in education is not only a social justice imperative, it also fuels economic growth and promotes social cohesion,” added Mr Gurría.
The OECD PISA 2015 Survey underlines that, in the context of massive information flows and rapid change, everyone now needs to be able to “think like a scientist”: to be able to weigh evidence and come to a conclusion; to understand that scientific “truth” may change over time, as new discoveries are made, and as humans develop a greater understanding of natural forces and of technology’s capacities and limitations.
Gender differences in science tend to be smaller than in reading and mathematics but, on average, in 33 countries and economies, the share of top performers in science is larger among boys than among girls. Finland is the only country in which girls are more likely to be top performers than boys.
One in four boys and girls reported that they expect to work in a science-related occupation but opt for very different ones: girls mostly seek positions in the health sector and boys in becoming ICT professionals, scientists or engineers.
Poorer students are 3 times more likely to be low performers than wealthier students, and immigrant students are more than twice as likely as non-immigrants to be low achievers.
OECD is an intergovernmental economic organisation with 35 member countries, founded in 1960 to stimulate economic progress and world trade.
Most OECD members are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index (HDI) and are regarded as developed countries.