The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) has placed Singaporean students first in mathematics and science for the second consecutive time in its study (‘Singapore students top maths, science rankings for second consecutive edition of international study‘).
IEA is an international cooperative of national research institutions and governmental research agencies based in Amsterdam. It conducts large-scale comparative studies across different countries’ education system. IEA’s TIMSS assesses 4th (Pri 4) and 8th grade (Sec 2) students every 4 years.
The results from 2019 edition of TIMSS released yesterday (8 Dec), show that for both Pri 4 and Sec 2 cohorts, Singaporean students came out top in math and science, beating students from the rest of the countries in the study.
For the 2019 study, nearly 600,000 students from some 60 countries were involved. In Singapore, some 5,990 Pri 4 students from all 186 public primary schools here, and 4,850 Sec 2 students from all 152 public secondary schools participated. All the students were randomly selected. China and India, however, did not participate in the study.
The rankings are as follows:
For Pri 4 math and science rankings, both Philippines and Pakistan were right at the bottom of the rankings. Singapore was the only education system where more than half the students achieved scores of at least 625 for mathematics, the cut-off score for the highest tier, the “advanced” benchmark.
Some 54 per cent of Primary 4 pupils here met the advanced benchmark for maths, compared with the global median of 7 per cent, while 51 per cent of Sec 2 students reached the same mark, compared with the global median of 5 per cent.
MOE director-general of education Wong Siew Hoong said, “It is encouraging that our students continue to do very well in mathematics and science by international standards and have positive attitudes towards learning these subjects.”
“Their mastery of numeracy and scientific literacy will provide them with a strong foundation to develop other skills in life and enable them to seize opportunities in the workplace,” he added.
Singaporean PMETs loses jobs as govt continues to give work pass to foreigners
It is encouraging that MOE director-general is optimistic about the mastery of numeracy and scientific literacy of Singaporean students, enabling them to “seize opportunities in the workplace” when they grow up. However, many of the highly skilled out-of-job Singaporean PMETs may not necessary feel the same way.
Over the years, the Singapore government has been adopting an “open-door” policy giving out work pass for large number of foreign PMETs to work in Singapore:
At the end of last year, there were 393,700 foreign PMETs on Employment Pass and S Pass, compared to 381,300 the year before. They compete and even replace Singaporean PMETs, regardless if they meet the job requirements or not.
Just 2 months ago in Oct, it was reported that a finance and insurance company was caught pre-selecting a foreign candidate for a managerial role at its Singapore office, after a whisleblower, the firm’s human resource manager filed a complaint with TAFEP against the company.
It was found that while the company posted a job advertisement on the national Jobs Bank for the minimum period of 14 days, the company went ahead to sign the employment contract with the foreign applicant even before the job advertisement on the Jobs Bank had expired.
Furthermore, it was found that the work experience and educational qualifications of the pre-selected foreigner, a British national, also did not meet the advertised requirements. The advertisement received more than 60 applications with 28 locals fulfilling the advertised requirements, but none of them were invited for interviews.
Singaporean PMETs driving Grab
Shaun Ow, was working in the private sector for some 11 years in various industries before he was retrenched several years ago. He then tried to find a job for more than a year before giving up. He ended up driving Grab to feed his family. He told the media that he has to work very hard, driving everyday for 12 to 14 hours non-stop. On average, he would be making 20 to 25 trips daily and hardly has any time for his family.
With regard to Singaporean PMETs driving Grab, Prof Walter Theseira, an economist at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), warned, “The jobs offer no career path and do not provide workers with significant marketable skills. This means that workers in such jobs will inevitably end up disadvantaged compared to their peers who are able to stay in jobs that offer a career path and the opportunity to build marketable skills.”
That is to say, PMETs who switched to driving Grab or taxi would have an even harder time getting a job in the market later because it would not help to build up their resume.
At the Singapore Bicentennial Conference in Oct last year, former Singapore’s UN Permanent Representative Professor Tommy Koh also noticed the trend of displaced Singaporeans becoming Grab drivers.
He warned the 4th generation PAP leaders to look into allegations of discriminatory hiring practices. “We should not abandon the displaced workers because we don’t want more and more Singaporeans to become Grab drivers or, worse, to join the ranks of the angry voters,” he said.
“Remember this: It was the angry voters who helped to elect President (Donald) Trump in the United States. It was the angry voters in the United Kingdom who voted to leave the European Union,” Prof Koh further warned.
In any case, it appears that Prof Koh’s warnings proved to be prescient. In the recent GE in Jul this year, the ruling PAP government lost another GRC – Sengkang GRC – to angry voters. Its overall share of popular vote at 61.2 percent fell below the 65 percent which it had hoped for. As more Singaporean students enter the workforce and continue to be displaced by foreigners, PAP’s popular vote can only go down further, notwithstanding their career path being destroyed by driving Grab.