UAE Students Still Perform Far Bellow International Average



UAE students demonstrated once again disappointing problem-solving skills, according to the latest rankings in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests. One may wonder why private schools are so expensive in Dubai? The PISA traditional tests include math, reading and science but in 2012, computer-based creative problem solving was introduced in response to the increasing demand for non-routine-analytic skills in job candidates.

PISA is an international assessment administered by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) to 15-year-olds. It measures teens’ reading mathematics and science literacy, as well as problem-solving. The fifth chapter, called “Creative Problem Solving” Students skills in tackling real-life problems” was released Tuesday and revealed that UAE is ranked 40th out of the 44 countries participating in the tests. The average Emirati teen scored 411, way below the OECD average of 500.

The international PISA tests are taken every three years since 2000 and in 2012 around 510,000 students from 65 economies took part in the key subjects’ assessments. The problem solving test was administered to nearly 85,000 teens in 44 countries. Singapore and South Korea are the world’s best problem solvers, according to the ranking with scores of 562 and 561 respectively. In fact, Asian countries dominate the list with Japan, Macao, and Hong Kong rounding up the top 5, followed by Shanghai, Chinese Taipei, Canada, Australia and Finland. UK students come at 11th position, while teens in the U.S. are 18th with average score of 508.

The findings also reveal large disproportion of the students’ proficiency. Across all OECD countries, 92% of teens are proficient at Level 1, which means they can explore a problem only in a limited way and only if they have encountered very similar situations before. In UAE, as well as in Uruguay, Montenegro, Malaysia, Brazil and Israel, more than one in five students doesn’t reach this elementary level. And fewer than one in ten 15-year-olds in UAE reaches Level 4. In fact, the proportion of students below Level 1 is larger than the proportion of students scoring at any higher level of proficiency, which means that the most common level for UAE teens is in fact, below the elementary level. There is also a difference in the performance of boys and girls in most countries – on average, boys score 7 points higher than girls in problem solving. The UAE, Bulgaria, Finland and Montenegro are the several exceptions where girls outperform boys.

The contexts of the problem solving tests were related, according to the report, to various situations that students may encounter outside of school. The assessment measured their practical skills rather than knowledge and that’s why is very important for the countries. The topics tested ranged from use of technological devices such as a remote control, and orientation in unfamiliar spaces, to using vending machines.


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