The results of the latest international benchmarking test conducted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showed that Singapore’s educators are amongst the best in the world. Singapore’s 15-year-olds outperformed students of the same age from 71 other countries and economies in using science, mathematics and reading skills to solve problems.

Greater Emphasis on Critical Thinking Skills

The fine adjustments made in Singapore over the years to emphasise higher-order critical thinking skills have taught the students to shift from mastering content knowledge to becoming problem solvers. On the other hand, there is a need to observe Singapore’s placing in another Pisa 2015 test result that will be out by the middle of 2017. It should be noted that Pisa 2015 assessed students on an important 21st century skill, which is collaborative problem solving beyond assessing students’ strengths in mathematics, science and reading.

Pisa 2015 assessed students on an important 21st century skill, which is collaborative problem solving beyond assessing students’ strengths in mathematics, science and reading.

These tests were part of the recent efforts by the OECD to measure other skills that are becoming increasingly critical to thrive in the workplace. To assess collaborative problem solving skills, the students are asked to tackle a problem by collaborating with a partner, which is a software program in this case. Accordingly, the students have to use their interpersonal and communication skills to engage the program and pool knowledge and skills to complete a task. The OECD explained that the ability to collaborate is an important skill because a great deal of problem solving work currently being done in the world is performed by teams in an increasingly global and computerised economy.

Virtual Collaboration & the Ability to Critically Analyse Global & Inter-Cultural Issues

A University of Phoenix Research Institute study has also identified virtual collaboration as one of 10 key skills for the future workforce.

The OECD is looking at testing other skills as well. The next round of Pisa tests, in 2018, is likely to include a new measurement of global competence, which will look at how well students can navigate an increasingly diverse world, with an awareness of different cultures and beliefs.

Broadly defined as the ability to critically analyse global and intercultural issues to aid social cohesion, global competence is a game changer, according to Dr Andreas Schleicher, the education and skills director of OECD.

The navigation skills and the character qualities that will help them find their own way through an uncertain, volatile and ambiguous world

Dr Andreas Schleicher
the education and skills director of OECD

Writing in the media earlier this year, he said that increasingly, schools also have to ensure that children develop “the navigation skills and the character qualities that will help them find their own way through an uncertain, volatile and ambiguous world”.

To assess global competence, students will be tested on their comprehension of a range of global and intercultural issues such as the environment, poverty, economic integration, inequalities and migration.

The test details have yet to be confirmed, but students may be asked how much they know about these topics and then given some source material to exercise their critical and analytical skills, for example, opinions on whether the sources are reliable.

When asked how the OECD picks which skills to test, Dr Schleicher said that the people who design the test look very carefully at the evolution of skills demanded in our societies.

Many of the skills that schools have traditionally emphasised, requiring students to master content, are becoming less important for success in the real world, he noted.

In contrast, creative thinking, teamwork and social skills are becoming more important.

The OECD looks at how the world and the skills that people need are changing, and then tries to reflect that in its measures.