Parliamentary Replies

January 10, 2018

OECD report

Name and Constituency of Member of Parliament

Ms Sylvia Lim, Aljunied GRC

Question

To ask the Minister for Education (Schools) whether the Government is concerned that the report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released in November 2017 titled "Excellence and Equity in Education" found that economically disadvantaged students in Singapore were significantly more likely to under-perform in science in school, compared to their OECD counterparts.

Response

1. It is not true that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds in Singapore are more likely to under-perform than their OECD counterparts. Ms Lim’s question needs to be clarified and as stated is factually incorrect. In fact, as evident from the OECD report, students from lower-SES homes in Singapore have higher average PISA 2015 scores than their OECD peers from comparable SES backgrounds in all the three domains measured—Reading, Math and Science.

2. What the OECD study found was that our lower-SES students outperform the lower-SES students in OECD countries, while our higher-SES students outperform the higher-SES students in OECD countries by a wider margin.

3. What is important is whether students from lower-SES homes are able to overcome their circumstances and do well. The same OECD report has found that about half of our students from the bottom 25% SES in Singapore performed much better internationally than what their home circumstances would predict. OECD calls such students “resilient students”. Our proportion of resilient students is substantially higher than OECD’s average of about 30% in PISA 2015.

4. Our efforts to support the learning of students who need more help are working. MOE has put in place various programmes to provide additional support targeted at specific learning needs of students. We have a special reading programme for K2 children with difficulties learning English; and the Learning Support Programme in English and Math for P1 and P2 students. At the higher grade levels, there are corresponding programmes such as those that provide reading remediation or help students improve their confidence and numeracy skills. Other efforts include targeted needs-based financial assistance schemes across all schooling years.

5. But we do not rest on our laurels. It takes constant hard work to enable every student to achieve their potential during the educational journey, especially those from more challenging home circumstances. MOE will therefore continue to work closely with other agencies and community partners to provide the necessary support for students who need it most.