When it comes to education, Singapore is a world-beater

Singaporeans come out tops in maths, problem-solving, and even the amount of time spent on homework. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 
Singaporeans come out tops in maths, problem-solving, and even the amount of time spent on homework. -- PHOTO: ST FILE 

SINGAPORE - Singapore has been named No. 1 in the world's most comprehensive education rankings. It beat 75 other regions and countries, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which released its findings on Wednesday. The study looked at how academic scores were linked to economic growth.

Singaporeans come out tops in maths, problem-solving, and even the amount of time spent on homework. Here are other education rankings which Singapore has excelled in.

1. Who says we are rote learners? We are No. 1 in problem solving too.

Fifteen-year-old teens here chalked up the highest score of 562, beating students from 43 other economies in a problem-solving test under the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa). Some 85,000 students took the computer-based test, which measures the skills people use when faced with everyday problems, such as setting a thermostat or finding the quickest route to a destination.

The rankings were released last April. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong wrote on Facebook then: "Who says Singaporean students are rote learners?"

2. Scoring in maths, science and reading

In a Pisa assessment in 2012, Singapore teens were near the top of the class. The ranking measures how well students use maths, science and reading to solve real-world problems. Singapore came in second in maths, and third in science and reading .

Around 510,000 students in 65 economies took part in the test, held once every three years. When Singapore took part for the first time in 2009, students here were second in maths, fourth in science and fifth in reading.

3. Working hard - at home

High test scores come at a price.

Students here clock the third-longest time spent on homework, according to an OECD report released last year. The country's 15-year-olds said they devoted 9.4 hours to homework a week. They came in behind students in Shanghai (13.8 hours) and Russia (9.7 hours). The global average was about five hours.

A spokesman for the Education Ministry here said then that Singapore's weekly average of 9.4 hours on homework is "fairly reasonable for upper-secondary students, who would be preparing for the national examinations".

Around 510,000 students globally took part in the test. They were asked questions about their school environment, families and attitudes towards subjects and school.

4. At the university level, Singapore does well in rankings too

The civil and structural engineering course at the National University of Singapore (NUS) was ranked the third best in the world, in the university ranking by education consultancy Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) in April this year. NUS also ranked as Asia's best across 21 subjects.

The ranking evaluates universities on 36 subjects including history and law. Results are based on research citations and responses from more than 126,000 academics and employers globally.

In another league table, of universities under 50 years old, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) came in fifth. The ranking was published by the London-based Times Higher Education magazine this year. NTU was founded in 1991. NUS, founded in 1905, does not qualify. Singapore Management University was not included as it is considered a specialised university.

NTU was also named the world's fastest rising young university by the magazine, which shortlisted 15 universities under the age of 50 and measured their rise since 2011. NTU topped this list with its meteoric rise of 108 places to 61st position in last October's Times Higher Education World University Rankings, in just a few years.

5. Maths whizs here beat others in solving puzzles like the famous "Cheryl's birthday" question

Singapore has improved at the International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO), held annually by different countries. It first took part in the event in 1988 and was placed 15th to 40th in the early years. Its best showing was third in 2011, and it has been in the top 10 every year since. Last year, it was eighth. Over 100 countries took part.

The Singapore Mathematical Olympiad is run by the Singapore Mathematical Society for secondary and junior college students, and the top six represent the country at the IMO. This year's IMO will be held in Thailand in July, with over 100 countries expected to take part.

goyshiyi@sph.com.sg