What matters in education: Pisa gives clues

Primary 5 students attend a high ability math class on Nov 15, 2016.
Primary 5 students attend a high ability math class on Nov 15, 2016. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Think tuition works? Maybe not.

A study of students' results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) test shows that kids with tuition perform worse than kids without. Education economist Kelvin Seah pored through Pisa test results for 2011 to arrive at this conclusion.

In the latest Pisa test results released on Tuesday, Singapore students topped test scores for maths, science and reading, out of 540,000 students in 72 economies. But Pisa has drawn flak overseas, with detractors saying it is focused on short-term traits driven by economic cycles.

Senior education correspondent Sandra Davie says Pisa's value goes beyond test rankings - the detailed surveys students fill out give researchers a rich source of data. These show that class size does not matter for performance; neither does tuition or the use of computers in the classroom.

So, what does matter?

Education researcher Mark Boylan explains why East Asian cities top the tables. That is due to: High teacher quality, the mindset that education is important and a coordinated push to change the education system in line with what evidence says about what works.

SEE OPINION:

Useful Pisa takeaways for Singapore education

Kids with tuition fare worse

Why East Asia continues to top Pisa leaderboard

FORUM:

S'pore needs more than academic excellence for a brighter future

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 08, 2016, with the headline 'What matters in education: Pisa gives clues'. Print Edition | Subscribe