Macau is world's vice-champion in maths: PISA

2023-12-06 03:15     BY Gabriel Tam    Comment:2

Macau has achieved its “historically best” maths performance by ranking No.2 worldwide, after Singapore and before Hong Kong, according to official data released yesterday.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) yesterday published the global results of its Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA) 2022, and the Education and Youth Development Bureau (DSEDJ) promptly held a press conference at its headquarters to present its analysis of Macau’s overall performance.

PISA is an international study which began in 2000. It aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of secondary school students in its participating countries and regions. Every three years, a randomly selected group of 15-year-old students takes tests in three key subjects – mathematics, science and reading – with the focus given to one subject in each year of assessment, according to the OECD official website.

The website said that the PISA 2022 assessment, which focused on literacy in mathematics and involved about 690,000 students globally, was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During yesterday’s press conference, DSEDJ Director Kong Chi Meng said that among the 81 participating countries and regions, Macau ranked second, third and seventh respectively in mathematics, science and reading. According to Kong, local students have achieved an “exceptional” performance in all three core subjects, with the rank of mathematics being the highest ever since Macau joined PISA in 2003.

Kong described Macau’s No.2 ranking globally in maths as its “historically best” PISA result.

Despite its high ranking, Macau students’ scores in the assessment (552, 543 and 510 in mathematics, science and reading respectively) were all lower than those in its 2018 edition (558, 544, 525), according to the PISA 2022 report released on the OECD website.

The report noted that the top five spots globally were dominated by East and Southeast Asian countries, except for Ireland that was ranked second in reading. Singapore took top ranking in all the three subjects, while Taiwan (under the name of Chinese Taipei), Japan, South Korea, Estonia and Canada ranked among the top ten in each of the categories.

Cheung Kwok Cheung, professor of the Faculty of Education of the University of Macau (UM), said in the press conference that Macau’s education system has made an “outstanding” achievement in closing the gap of performance between students in different socio-economic classes and in promoting educational equality. He quoted the OECD report as saying that Macau had the smallest proportion of students in the world that are below the “baseline level of scientific literacy” (defined by PISA as the level at which students begin to demonstrate the scientific knowledge that enables them to participate in life situations related to science and technology), adding that this implied a high degree of inclusiveness created by the local school system.

Cheung noted that Macau was one of the few participating economies that managed to maintain and even improve its performance amidst the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic such as school closures and lockdowns, which have led to “an unprecedented decline” in average study performance worldwide. He said this exemplified the “resilience” and “adaptability” of Macau’s educational policies and strategies, adding that there was still room for improvement in terms of grade retention and sense of school belonging, and that the government should continuously learn from other well-performing countries such as Singapore.

According to a statement by the DSEDJ, PISA 2022 included the happiness of students into its assessment criteria for the first time. It said the OECD report warned that many students in Macau reported a high fear of failure and limited engagement in extracurricular activities such as sport. In light of this, the statement said that the bureau would pay more attention to the evaluation and promotion of students’ physical and mental well-being in the future. 

Education and Youth Development Bureau (DSEDJ) Director Kong Chi Meng (centre), Research and Educational Planning Department Chief Wong Kin Mou (right), and University of Macau (UM) Prof. Cheung Kwok Cheung pose during yesterday’s press conference at the bureau’s headquarters. – Photo: DSEDJ

This table provided by the DSEDJ shows the top 15 countries and regions in PISA 2022’s three core subjects – mathematics (left column), science (middle column) and reading, with Macau ranked second, third and seventh respectively.

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