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Singapore's Strong Showing in PISA 2022 Affirms Resilience of Education System Through COVID-19 Pandemic

Published Date: 05 December 2023 06:00 PM

News Press Releases

According to the 2022 results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)1, Singapore's 15-year-old students have demonstrated strong ability in applying thinking and reasoning processes to solve complex real-world problems, with Singapore emerging as the top-performing education system in Reading, Mathematics, and Science of 81 participating systems. (Please refer to Table A1 of Annex A for the mean scores of participating education systems in PISA 2022.) PISA does not test the ability of students to reproduce knowledge but their ability to apply what they have learnt to unfamiliar settings and real-world contexts.

2. Taken together with the earlier findings on our Primary 4 students' steady improvement in reading literacy from the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 20212, these results affirm the resilience of our education system. In particular, the results reflect the dedicated efforts of schools and teachers in supporting the learning and wellbeing of our students throughout the pandemic.

Singapore students continue strong performance despite COVID-19 disruptions, including those from lower-SES homes

3. The latest results continue the trend of consistent good performance of cohorts of 15-year-old students over the past PISA cycles. A representative sample of 6,606 randomly selected 15-year-old students across all 149 secondary schools and 15 private schools3 in Singapore participated in the study from April to May 2022.

4. Compared to PISA 2018, our students maintained their performance in Mathematics and improved substantially in Science. While our students' performance declined slightly in Reading, this is similar to peers in half of the 73 systems with trend data and may reflect the impact of a global change in reading habits. MOE will continue to work closely with schools, parents, and community partners to help our students cultivate reading habits from young.

5. Notably, Singapore had the highest proportions – Reading (23%); Mathematics (41%); Science (24%) – of top performers achieving proficiency level4 5 or 6, across all participating education systems. Compared to PISA 2018, Singapore's proportion of top performers in Mathematics and Science increased by almost 4 percentage-points. Singapore's proportion (15%) of academic all-rounders (top performers in all three domains) was also the highest among all participating systems.

6. At the same time, Singapore had one of the lowest proportions – lowest for Reading (11%) and Mathematics (8%); 2nd lowest for Science (8%) – of low performers achieving below proficiency level 2.

7. Singapore students from lower socio-economic status (SES) homes have also continued to perform well. In PISA 2022, our students from the bottom SES quarter not only performed better than their similar-SES peers in OECD, but also better than the OECD average for all three domains. (Please refer to Chart A2 of Annex A.) Additionally, 43% of this group of students were "core-skills resilient" (OECD average: 19%), the 2nd highest proportion among participating systems in PISA 20225. Notwithstanding the encouraging results, we will continue to provide additional support for students from lower-SES homes through efforts like UPLIFT6.

Singapore students proficient in applying thinking and reasoning processes in non-routine scenarios

8. At PISA 2022, our students have shown that they are good in mathematical reasoning, can distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, and use computational thinking (e.g., pattern recognition, defining algorithms) as they solve complex problems in a variety of modern contexts. These are critical skills that will prepare students well for global changes like digitalisation, the emergence of new technologies, and the advent of new professions. (Please refer to Annex B for sample test items used in the PISA 2022 assessment.) These results are notable as our students in Singapore do not engage in any test preparation for PISA.

Singapore students report strong teacher support regardless of SES group

9. Like their OECD peers, 77% of Singapore students reported that they make friends easily at school (OECD average: 76%) and 73% felt that they belong at school (OECD average: 75%).

10. While 2 in 10 students reported feel lonely and out of place at school, many Singapore students appreciated the support from and good relationships with their teachers. For example, 86% of Singapore students reported that their teachers give extra help when needed in most or all Mathematics lessons (OECD average: 70%), and 87% said that teachers at their school are interested in students' wellbeing (OECD average: 75%). These views are consistently reported by students across all SES groups, and are a testament to our teachers' commitment towards nurturing their students with heart and purpose.

Need for stronger ties at home and more physical activity

11. Compared to other OECD countries, Singapore students perceived their family as being less supportive. While close to 9 in 10 Singapore students reported eating their main meal with their parents (Singapore: 88%; OECD average: 84%), only about half said that their parents take an interest in what they are learning (Singapore: 49%; OECD average: 66%) or talk to them about any problems they might have at school (Singapore: 47%; OECD average: 57%) at least once a week. MOE and schools view parents as key partners in education, and will continue to work closely with them and provide them with resources to better support their children.

12. Singapore students are also less physically active after school. Only 22% of Singapore students reported that they exercise or practise a sport at least 4 days a week after school (OECD average: 39%). 29% reported not exercising at all after school (OECD average: 20%). MOE and schools will continue to partner parents and the community to help our students lead an active lifestyle, both in and out of school.

13. Reflecting on the PISA 2022 findings, Director-General of Education, Ms Liew Wei Li said, "Over the years, the Ministry of Education and schools have been shifting our efforts beyond preparing our students for life in school, to equipping them for the school of life. Our students' consistently strong performance over the past PISA cycles, as well as their demonstrated ability to think critically and solve complex problems, are a heartening affirmation that our efforts are in the right direction. It is also a testament to our schools and teachers' unwavering dedication towards quality education, as well as their strong partnerships with parents. We will continue to look into the areas for improvement and work closely with schools, parents, and community partners to help our students develop holistically and reach their full potential."

  1. PISA is an international study coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) that examines how well education systems are helping their students acquire the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in modern societies. Each cycle provides information on all three domains (English, Mathematics, and Science) but focuses on one major domain. Mathematics was the major domain for PISA 2022. For more information on PISA: https://www.oecd.org/pisa.

  2. For Singapore's performance in PIRLS 2021, please refer to: https://www.moe.gov.sg/news/press-releases/20230516-strong-performance-by-singapore-students-in-reading-literacy-despite-covid-19-pandemic-international-study.

  3. Private schools include privately-funded schools, foreign-system schools, and religious schools.

  4. In the PISA assessment, level 1 is the lowest proficiency level and level 6 is the highest.

  5. In PISA 2018, Singapore had the 3rd highest proportion of "core-skills resilient" students. OECD defines "core-skills resilient" students as those from bottom-25% SES homes who have attained at least proficiency level 3 in all three domains, and would have the necessary core competencies to participate fully in society.

  6. Established in October 2018, the Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce (UPLIFT) is an inter-agency team led by the Ministry of Education that aims to support and strengthen the partnerships between schools and community partners to enhance upstream wraparound support for disadvantaged students. In particular, UPLIFT is committed to tackling long-term absenteeism – a key barrier that impedes students' educational progress and prevents them from achieving their full potential.