V.V. good at solving “paper” problems, so what? More peanuts?

In Uncategorized on 14/04/2014 at 4:20 am

We are Number 1 at problem-solving skills*, according to the results of international tests. Singapore and South Korea were top in tests taken by 15-year-olds. These problem-solving tests were taken at the same time as the Pisa tests, which compare how well pupils perform in maths, reading and science.

So what? A 5-year boy, from a country ranked 18th, is on Microsoft’s list of recognised security researchers.

A five-year-old boy who worked out a security vulnerability on Microsoft’s Xbox Live service has been officially thanked by the company.

Kristoffer Von Hassel, from San Diego, figured out how to log in to his dad’s account without the right password.

Microsoft has fixed the flaw, and added Kristoffer .

In an interview with local news station KGTV, Kristoffer said: “I was like yea!”

Don’t  see anyone that young, let alone any teenager, from S’pore, South Korea, China, Finland etc on that list.

Seriously, rankings like this have their uses (PR mainly; but most importantly as orange or red lights that there are serious problems in the education system) but the”real world rarely requires IQ-smart people to sit in silos, decipher data and reports, and solve pre-designed problems based on pure hard logic,” says Perry Tan (who GIC’s ex-chief economist says  has deep working HR experience with big global employers).

He also says:

The PISA test involves students solving pre-defined problems individually online.

How well does that translate to real world problem solving scenarios where you have to make sense of incomplete information and data; define the problem; collaborate and debate with others who have differing perspectives, cultures and styles; work with and around systems, processes and organisational dynamics; use intuition as much as logic to formulate a solution; market your solution to stakeholders to get buy-in; and finally drive relentlessly towards an outcome you want?

His edited comments appeared in the constructive, nation-building Today. TOC (the unconstructive, nation-destroyer run by those who are upset that the PAP didn’t select them as elite paper warriors. LOL, juz joking) gives the unedited letter:

Are peanuts the prize for problem-solving monkeys? Or bananas?

Well this article would imply that the answer is “Yes”,

Students, parents, teachers, school leaders and even local government officials all work together to get good scores. From a very young age, children are relieved of any other burden or deprived of opportunity to do anything else so they can focus on getting good scores.

The result is that Chinese college graduates often have high scores but low ability. Those who are good at taking tests go to college, which also emphasizes book knowledge. But when they graduate, they find out that employers actually want much more than test scores. That is why another study by McKinsey found that fewer than 10 percent of Chinese college graduates would be suitable for work in foreign companies.


*This longish excerpt from TRE  explains what the “problems” are. As I see it, there are lots of books that teach one how to solve these “problems”. Also gives background info on the various tests.

Singapore students have topped the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) problem-solving test.

PISA, organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), examines and compares how well education systems around the world are helping their students acquire the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in modern societies. It was first administered in 2000 and is conducted every 3 years with the most recent assessment in 2012. This is the second time that Singapore participated.

85,000 students worldwide took part in a computer-based problem-solving test. Singapore students beat other 15-year-olds from countries such as Japan, China and Finland.

Some of the types of questions that students had to answer are like:

  • Using a fictitious subway map, how do you get from “Diamond” to “Einstein” in the quickest way possible?
  • Plan how guests at a birthday party should be seated, based on a set of requirements

Nearly 3 in 10 Singaporean students were top performers – which means Singapore has the highest proportion of top performers in the PISA problem-solving test.

The 1,394 students from Singapore come from 172 schools, and they were randomly selected by PISA for the assessment.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s Acting Director for Education & Skills, said, “This data demonstrates that Singaporean students are not just spoon-fed. They are actually quite creative thinkers. They are actually able to engage with unfamiliar problems.”

Mr Schleicher added, “The idea of PISA is to reflect the type of skills that matters for the success of people in life and at work.”

“And we’re seeing, actually, big losses in employment, in tasks requiring routine cognitive skills. We’re seeing increases in tasks that require non-routine analytical skills, the capacity of students to extrapolate from what they know.”

Mr Schleicher also said that the world economy no longer pays for what a person knows. “Google knows everything. The world economy pays you for what you can do with what you know, and that makes a very big difference,” he said.

“Innovation today is no longer about you having a great idea and being able to do it. Innovation is to do with how you can connect with the ideas of others, people who share other ways of thinking, other belief systems.”

Mr Schleicher praised Singapore, “I think the reason why Singapore is doing well is because Singapore has very close eyes and ears of what’s happening in the world and the economy, and I think maintaining that is very critical.”




  1. Singapore and South Korea( East-Asian culture, particularly the Confucian ideology of education),were top in tests taken by 15-year-olds.
    Learning From Each Other:
    Creativity in East Asian and American Education

    Click to access Learning%20From%20Each%20Other.pdf

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