Singapore's 15-year-olds are second best in the world at reading, science, and mathematics

Singapore's 15-year-olds are second best in the world at reading, science, and mathematics

PISA 2018 showed our small but mighty nation's education is one of the best in the world, ranking just behind China for reading, mathematics, and science.

SINGAPORE: Singapore’s 15-year-olds have ranked second-highest in the world for competencies in reading, mathematics, and science according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) run by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). 

Out of 79 participating education systems from different countries, Singapore came in just behind China, who were represented by four provinces—Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang.

Held once every three years, 6,300 students from 153 public secondary schools, and 376 students randomly selected from private schools participated in the benchmarking study.

Key findings from the Ministry of Education (MOE) in their press release revealed students have shown significant literary improvement since the last PISA in 2015. The MOE attribute this improvement to the increased percentage of students from English-speaking homes.

pisa 2018

Image source: PISA

Singaporean students also performed very highly, ranking second for mathematics and science, respectively. 

Deputy Director-General of Education at the MOE, Mr Sng Chern Wei, told Channel News Asia that while the results are pleasing, what’s more important is to learn how to continue improving the education system.

“We didn’t take part in Pisa to try and beat every country. We try to take part in Pisa to learn important areas for improvement for ourselves and when other countries do well, we will continue to learn from them and try to make the educational experience and learning journey a more positive one and more effective one for our students.”

PISA 2018 results reveal less love for reading and fewer with a growth mindset

pisa 2018

Image source: iStock

There are many positives to draw from last year’s assessment. For one, students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds in Singapore outperformed students across the OECD than the average on all three subjects.


The MOE said these results showed Singaporean students “demonstrated competencies that would enable them to navigate the challenges of the future.”

Specifically, “PISA 2018 shows that our students are able to integrate content and generate inferences, compare and contrast viewpoints, reason with insight, communicate arguments, and identify evidence to support claims.”

While Singaporean students showed much better reading scores, it’s important to note that students also reported enjoying reading less compared to attitude measures taken in 2009.

Furthermore, they also expressed a much higher fear (72 per cent) of what other people will think of them in light of failure compared to the OECD average (56 per cent).

In particular, girls were more worried about this than boys, especially among top-performing students.

40 per cent of students do not believe that they can improve beyond their current abilities, with 60 per cent possessing a growth mindset.


Singapore’s education system is seeing its hard efforts rewarded with such amazing results. But take care to ease your child’s mind so he/she isn’t over worried!

Sources: Ministry of Education Singapore

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

Written by

Vinnie Wong

app info
get app banner