Aust kids good at problem-solving as team

The inaugural report ranked Australia highly coming in at 10th in the world

Not only are Singapore's teens the best in the world when it comes to science, math and reading, a new worldwide education assessment suggests they have the best social skills.

Girls did better than boys in every country that took the test, by the equivalent of six months schooling on average.

MOE noted that the study design is a standardised way of measuring and comparing collaborative problem-solving skills, but real-life settings may be more complex.

When students have a lot of communication-intensive activities - such as taking part in class debates or arguing about science questions - they are more likely to have positive attitudes towards collaboration.

But education does not end at the school gate.

Students may be falling behind in maths, science and reading but according to the PISA, when it comes to working in a group to solve problems, Australian 15-year-olds are among the best.

Five years ago, PISA carried out tests on individual problem-solving skills. But it's not necessarily always a direct correlation.

New Zealand students ranked in the top nine countries for ability in collaborative problem solving and New Zealand ranked second, just behind Singapore, as having one of the largest proportions of students who scored at the highest level of collaborative problem solving proficiency.

Mr Sng Chern Wei, the Ministry of Education's deputy director-general of education (curriculum), said the results reaffirm schools' efforts to create group learning experiences through initiatives like project work and community projects.

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Whereas the United States, which did not make it into the top 30 for science or maths, came 13 in the collaborative problem-solving test.

The differences were greatest in Australia, Finland, Latvia, New Zealand and Sweden, where girls score over 40 points higher than boys (on average).

In the sample test given by Pisa, called Xander, students were told that their teacher had put them in a three-person team for a competition. These included jigsaw tasks where each group member is given different information or skills; consensus building tasks, where groups must come to a decision after considering everybody's opinion and negotiation tasks, where not all group members share the same individual goals.

Overall, the United Kingdom scored an average of 519 points in the collaborative problem-solving assessments.

On average, Scottish pupils achieved an average score of 513, with boys getting 497 and girls 530. "It is hard to interpret that data", said Schleicher. But students who play video games seem to do worse, even after considering social and economic factors.

Nesta, a charity that supports innovation, found 67 per cent of teachers do not think the UK's education system is now equipping young people with 21st-century skills and that only 54 per cent of teachers in England have a clear idea of what collaborative problem solving means.

These results are mirrored in students' attitudes.

On average, 85% of students surveyed agreed with statements such as "I am a good listener", "I enjoy seeing my classmates be successful", "I take into account what others are interested in", "I enjoy considering different perspectives", and "I enjoy co-operating with peers".

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