Collaborating & Solving Problems In Teams: Singapore Students Show They Have What It Takes

Published Date: 21 November 2017 12:00 AM

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1. Singapore’s 15-year-old students have demonstrated strong competencies and positive attitudes towards collaborative problem solving that would help them navigate the challenges of the future. This is according to the 2015 results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a triennial international benchmarking study coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

2. The results of the PISA 2015 study on Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) show that our students not only have good collaborative skills, but they also enjoy and value the act of collaborating with others. This is a testament to the unwavering efforts of our schools, teachers, and parents to nurture 21st Century Competencies (21CC) in our students, such as critical thinking, problem solving, as well as communication and collaboration skills.

3. Mr Sng Chern Wei, Deputy Director-General of Education (Curriculum), Ministry of Education (MOE), said: “Singapore has long recognised the need to equip our students with a suite of life skills and values that will prepare them well for future challenges. A collaborative spirit and the ability to work in teams to solve real-world issues are key qualities critical to the success of not just individual students, but also the nation. In line with this, our teachers will continue to encourage teamwork among students and create opportunities for students to collaborate both inside and outside the classroom.”

Key Findings of PISA 2015 CPS

“We Collaborate Well With Others”

4. Overall, the PISA 2015 results in the core domains of Reading, Mathematics, and Science, as well as the innovative domain of CPS, suggest that Singapore students not only possess strong fundamentals in literacy and numeracy, but they can also integrate both cognitive and collaboration skills effectively to solve problems.

5. Of the 52 education systems that participated in the assessment, Singapore has the highest proportion of top performers1 in CPS – students who can solve problems despite multiple constraints, ensure that team members follow through with their responsibilities, monitor the team’s progress, and take the initiative to overcome obstacles and resolve conflicts. They can balance the collaboration and problem-solving aspects of a task, identify efficient pathways to a solution, and take actions to solve the problem. In addition, Singapore has one of the smallest proportions of low performers2 who tend to focus more on their individual role within the group. MOE and schools will continue in our efforts to support our low performers.

6. In response to Singapore’s results in PISA 2015 CPS, Mr Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills and Special Advisor to the Secretary-General at OECD, said: “In today’s world, everyone needs to be a problem solver, but whether it’s work challenges or problems in everyday life, we increasingly need to collaborate with others, often with people from different backgrounds and countries. This is the first time collaborative problem solving has been assessed internationally, as PISA extends its focus to critical skills for the 21st century. What this assessment shows is that Singapore’s young people are superbly equipped for the challenges and opportunities of the future – students of high ability who work well both independently and together.”

“We Enjoy and Value Collaboration”

7. The PISA CPS 2015 results also show that our students are highly motivated to work in groups, and they know how to be effective collaborators. More than 9 in 10 said that they are good listeners, enjoy seeing their classmates be successful, take into account what others are interested in, and enjoy considering different perspectives. More than 8 in 10 believe that teams make better decisions than individuals, and teamwork raises their own efficiency.

8. These positive attitudes are nurtured through our schools’ and teachers’ efforts in offering integrated learning experiences – both within and beyond the curricula – that incorporate elements of communication and collaboration, while stimulating curiosity and promoting the joy of learning. Examples of integrated learning experiences in our schools include subject-based fieldwork, co-curricular activities, project work, and distinctive programmes like the Applied Learning Programme and Learning for Life Programme. Teachers also introduce communication-intensive activities during lessons, such as class debates and opportunities for students to explain their ideas.

“We Maintain Positive Relationships with Parents”

9. Results also showed a close association between students’ daily communication with their parents and their CPS skills – Singapore students who converse with their parents after school scored 21 points higher in their CPS performance than those who do not.

10. Mr Sng said: “As parents are important partners in their children’s education journey, schools will continue to work with parents to support our children’s learning and growth holistically.”

11. For more information on PISA, please refer to Annex A. You may also access the results at

  1. The proportion of top performers in Singapore is 21%, while the OECD average is 8%.
  2. The proportion of low performers in Singapore is 11%, while the OECD average is 28%.
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