Reference Articles

SINGAPORE Once Again Tops both 2016 Global Education Rankings

Two recent influential global rankings, TIMSS and PISA, have published their evaluations a week apart from each other.

Singapore, with its internationally acclaimed Singapore Maths approach, heads both global league tables: its students have come top in tests in all 3 measures: Maths, Science and Reading.

Having invested heavily in quality teachers, education research and materials over the past decades, Singapore’s approach to teaching Maths, Science and English is now a key reference point for educators in many countries including the USA.

According to the OECD the standard of education is a “powerful predictor of the wealth that countries will produce in the long run”. Singapore ranks among the highest in the world for per capita GDP.



The full results:

November 2016
TIMSS (Trends in Int’l Maths & Science), sponsored by the World Bank, UNDP & US Dept of Education, is conducted every 4 years across 630,000 students in some 60 countries, the latest in 2015. It measures Maths & Science proficiency at Years 4 & 8. Singapore consistently ranks top worldwide since TIMSS’ inception in 1995.



December 2016
PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), carried out every 3 years by the OECD, provides education rankings based on Maths, Science and Reading tests taken by 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries.

Singapore is in first place in all 3 Pisa test subjects, ahead of school systems across Asia, Europe, Australasia and North & South America.



Singapore tops latest OECD’s global school rankings

May 13, 2015
      BBC   :

Singapore again places 1st in biggest ever consolidated global school rankings by the OECD. Asian countries in the top 5 places.

Singapore heads the global table, followed by Hong Kong, S Korea, Japan and Taiwan. All these countries are categorized by the OECD as high-income.

Australia is in 14th place, with UK 20th and US 28th.

The rankings, based on test scores in Maths and Science in 76 countries, brings together a wide variety of international assessments, including the OECD’s Pisa and the TIMSS test run by US Department of Education, UNDP and the World Bank.

The Top-10 countries:

1.      Singapore6.    Finland
2.      Hong Kong7.    Estonia
3.      South Korea8.    Switzerland
4.      Japan9.    Netherlands
5.      Taiwan10.  Canada



Singapore students have consistently ranked at the top on global Maths & Science tests since the mid-1990s.

TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and its sister study PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) are projects of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). It is sponsored by the World Bank, the UN Development Program and the US Dept of Education. TIMSS started in 1995.

PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) is a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which commenced a few years later in 2000. Much of the PISA methodology follows that of TIMSS, and the reading component of PISA is inspired by the IEA’s PIRLS.



2 Dec 2013
How the ‘Singapore Math’ method can help children learn maths:
It starts at an early age. There are many reasons for the global success of the Singapore Math method, but one key factor is its step-by-step approach that can be used at home or in the classroom. Children are often introduced to numbers and to symbols such as + and – at the same time, which can be confusing to young brains. The Singapore Math method builds the young brain more gradually, from handling ‘concrete’ things, to drawing one-to-one ‘pictorial’ iconic representations of them, to eventually understanding and using the mysterious ‘abstract’ symbols with confidence. Another key element of its success is the Singapore ‘Model’ method…


The Boston Globe

10 June 2004
Massachusetts Schools import Singapore Math Model
“Singapore Math caught on in 1999, when that country’s students ranked first in an international study of mathematics and science education (US students finished 19th out of 38). Singapore had placed in the middle of the pack 4 years earlier, then implemented a new teaching system. After the 1999 results, educators worldwide began to examine the approach of this modern Southeast Asian island nation of 4.5 million people. Impressed by Singapore’s results, the Massachusetts Dept of Education began looking for a school district to implement that nation’s techniques. North Middlesex was the first to accept”…


The New York Times

30 September 2010
Singapore Math can be found today in more than 1,500 US schools
Singapore Math was developed by the country’s Ministry of Education nearly 30 years ago, and the textbooks have been imported for more than a decade. The earliest adopters in the United States were home-school parents and a small number of schools that had heard about it through word of mouth.


US Dept of Education – American Institutes of Research (AIR) Study

“…there must be something Singapore has developed to teach Maths that is better than the system we use in the US… ”

Comparison of US Math teaching with Singapore, a Recognized World Leader
“It is unreasonable to assume that Singaporean students have mathematical abilities inherently superior to those of US students. Rather, there must be something about the system that Singapore has developed to teach mathematics that is better than the system we use in the United States. That’s why it’s important to take a closer look, and see how the U.S can learn and how the U.S can improve”…


US President Obama

10 Mar 2009
Remarks on the success of the ‘Singapore Model’
… Singapore’s middle-schoolers outperform ours three to one… The solution…tougher standards…like those in Massachusetts…where 8th graders are now tying for first…


PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), USA

Mastery, Not Memorization
Supporters of Singapore math credit the Singaporean methods of instruction and curriculum for its students’ success. While American math instruction often relies on drilling and memorization of many skills each year, Singapore math focuses on children not just learning but also truly mastering a limited number of concepts each school year. The goal is for children to perform well because they understand the material on a deeper level; they are not just learning it for the test.


Herald Sun

4 Dec 2013
Latest PISA rankings: Australia is losing ground while Asian education giants surge
The latest 2012 OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) results show that Australia is ranked 19th in mathematics, 12th in reading and 15th in science. However, compared with the top countries, our results have gone backwards since the last test and we have fewer students among the best performers. In mathematics only 14.8 per cent of our students perform at levels 5 and 6, while the figure for Shanghai is 55.4 per cent, Singapore is 40 per cent, Hong Kong 33.7 per cent, Taipei 37.2 per cent and Korea 30.9 per cent. While the solutions are never straightforward there are lessons that can be learned…


The Australian

4 Dec 2013
Making the School System Work
The 2012 PISA report shows Australian students at the age of 15 are performing higher than the OECD average, but are being outperformed by their peers in the top participating Asian countries. Is there anything we can learn from these top-performing countries? Absolutely, so long as we understand the complete picture in terms of the approaches taken. The top performers focus on teacher quality. One of the approaches used in Singapore is to focus on the curriculum, not simply in terms of national curriculum statements, but also by linking teacher expertise to a “coherent curriculum” shaped by textbooks and teaching materials approved by Singapore’s Ministry of Education…


Australian Association of Mathematics Teachers (AAMT)

TIMSS aims to improve teaching and learning of maths and science by providing data about Year 4 and Year 8 students’ achievement in relation to different types of curricula, instructional practice, and school environments.

PISA looks at reading, mathematical and scientific literacy of 15 year-old students around the world.

Both of these international assessments are now included in the National Assessment Program agreed by the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA), and each assessment cycle involves a sample of Australian schools and students…



  1. TIMSS 2011 – Trends in International Maths & Science – Summary of Findings
  2. TIMSS Website – by the Interrnational Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement, Boston College
  3. US Dept of Education/American Institute of Research Study “Compares the Quality of U.S. Math Instruction with Singapore, a Recognized World Leader”
  4. American Institute of Research Study: “What the United States Can Learn From Singapore’s World-Class Mathematics System