Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'It's No Longer What You Know, It's What You Can Do with It'

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

'It's No Longer What You Know, It's What You Can Do with It'

Article excerpt

New problem-solving Pisa tests confirm East Asian supremacy

East Asia's global educational superiority extends beyond academic learning to students' ability to think for themselves and solve problems, evidence published this week suggests.

Countries and cities from the region occupied the top seven places in the results table for the new Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) problem-solving tests. East Asia also swept the board in conventional maths, reading and science league tables published by Pisa in December.

The latest news appears to counter any suggestion that the region's academic success is down to the common Asian stereotype of regimented classes and rote learning. Francesco Avvisati, an analyst at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which runs Pisa, said: "Asian countries are particularly good at those tasks that require knowledge acquisition, and those are the most abstract tasks that require higher levels of abstract reasoning and of self-directed learning on the part of students."

Although the seven territories with the highest results in maths also performed best in problem-solving, the order did change, with Singapore, South Korea and Japan some way ahead of the rest. Macao, Hong Kong and Shanghai - all Chinese territories - came next, followed by Taiwan.

Announcing the results in Singapore, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's acting director of education and skills, said: "A world economy no longer pays you for what you know - Google knows everything. The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know. That makes a very big difference."

The problem-solving results are the first from Pisa 2012 to pose any questions for Shanghai, which finished top in maths, science and reading. Dr Avvisati said that students in the city had been less able to "engage with problem situations that are interactive where the information is not given" than their counterparts in Singapore and South Korea.

Canada and Australia came eighth and ninth in the tests, followed by the two top-performing European countries: Finland and England.

The OECD said that students in England - the only UK country to enter the optional computer-based tests - performed "significantly better" than their counterparts in other nations with similar Pisa test scores in maths, science and reading. …

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