Singapore students beat 15 countries in global literacy study results to achieve second place

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Students leave for classes after their recess in Singapore. Reuters (Representational Image)

The results of the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study showed that primary four Singapore students have surpassed 15 other countries such as the US in an international test that was conducted to measure their capacity of reading and navigating online texts.

The results, declared last month, shows Singaporean school children standing second in the online task where they were supposed to answer questions related to web information. Earlier in 2011, the country managed to receive the fourth position in the same test. The study also showed that parents play an important role in improvising their children's reading abilities.

The program is in vogue since 2001 and for the first time included components to assess how school children understand available online information in the digital age including the changing nature of people's involvement in processing information.

More than 319,000 students from all over the globe took part in the online test, and 6,500 Singaporean primary school children had participated in it. Russia took the first place after surpassing 58 educational systems in the test. Singapore achieved the second position, followed by Hong Kong, Ireland, and Finland, which were ranked third to fifth on the list.

International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an independent, international cooperative of national research institutions and governmental research agencies, sponsored the test.

All the participants were given two reading passages, including narrative fiction and informational texts. It also included multiple-choice and written-response questions. After the test, more than a quarter of Singapore students achieved the highest level of accomplishment in the study.

Singapore's Ministry of Education (MOE) praised the improvement of their students in literacy performance, especially the change of the English language teaching techniques in schools.

The newly introduced Strategies for English Language Learning and Reading have changed the teaching techniques as students now learn grammar and vocabulary through stories and texts and not just by merely reading textbooks and doing worksheets.

MOE's deputy director-general education of Singapore, Sng Chern Wei appreciated the school students for their achievement in literacy as well as in communication and higher-order reading skills.

The results also showed that weaker students had improved a lot as only three percent of the students had performed below the "low" benchmark in reading.

Sofia Gita Parkash, the head of the English language department at Fairfield Methodist Primary School also mentioned that the strong national curriculum helped the Singaporean students to set a high standard.

Some selected students of Gita's school are being trained to be reporters and ambassadors for their school. The main objective of such programs is to make the students habituated with communication skills. Already 120 students are part of this program, which started four years ago.

Gita Parkash believes that communication skills are very important to build a proper base in English. She said that apart from teaching students grammar, they want them to learn how to greet people, how to code switch, how to react to different situations including different cultures and contexts.