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     FrontPage Edition: Thu 29 November 2007

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Singapore ranked 4th in international reading literacy study 2006



Singapore has emerged 4th among 45 education systems which participated in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) 2006, an improvement from rank 15th in PIRLS 2001.
Participants could select the language(s) to conduct the tests in. Twelve education systems, including Singapore, chose English as the language medium.1
The findings from the study, which was conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), affirm that Singapore’s education system provides a sound foundation for the development of reading literacy in English for both functional use and literary experience.

The key factors contributing to Singapore’s good performance in PIRLS 2006 include:

• opportunities for our pupils to gain exposure to the English language from young;

• the educational resources available in school and the school climate;

• our English Language curriculum; and

• qualifications of our primary school teachers.

The PIRLS 2006 results were released by the IEA on 28 Nov 20072. A representative sample of our pupils – 7000 Primary 4 pupils from all primary schools in Singapore – took part in the study in October 2005. Background information on the study is found in Annex A.
Our pupils have done well in PIRLS 2006, despite the fact that many come from a non-English speaking background.
Singapore ranked 4th among 45 education systems which participated in PIRLS 2006, an improvement from rank 15th in PIRLS 2001 (see Table 1, Annex B). Singapore’s average score also improved from 528 in 2001 to 558 in 2006.
In addition, Singapore ranked top among the education systems in which pupils took their tests solely in English3.
When compared with education systems where English was one of the test languages, Singapore came in second after Canada (Alberta) but ranked higher than the other Canadian provinces, United States, England, New Zealand and Scotland (see Table 2, Annex B)
Singapore pupils showed significant improvement across all ability groups between PIRLS 2001 and PIRLS 2006, with the bottom 5% of our students showing the greatest improvement (see Table 3, Annex B).
Our top pupils performed very well. Among education systems which tested in English, Singapore had the second highest achievement score at the 95th percentile (i.e. the top 5% of our students), slightly below England.
(A) More Opportunities for Exposure to the English Language from Young and Conducive Learning Environment

Our pupils are better prepared for formal reading instruction before they begin primary school:

• A greater proportion of our pupils (84%) received more than two years of pre-primary education in PIRLS 2006 compared to PIRLS 2001 (55%). This was also higher than the 2006 international average of 60%.

The proportion of our pupils whose predominant home language is English increased from 37% in 2001 to 42% in 20054. In PIRLS 2006, 21% of our sampled pupils reported that they always speak English at home. This group of pupils had higher average reading achievement than pupils who always spoke their test language in all other education systems.

Singapore pupils continue to be supported through primary schools that provided a conducive environment for learning English. More of them were in primary schools that were well-resourced (73%) and had a positive school climate (66%), compared to the international average (52% and 37% respectively).
(B) Implementation of a New English Language Curriculum and Better Qualified Teachers

The PIRLS 2006 findings also indicate that our policies on the English Language curriculum and teacher training are progressing in the right direction:

The English Language Syllabus 2001 was implemented from 2001 and was used by pupils who participated in PIRLS 2006. This syllabus strongly emphasises language use through the study of a wide range of text types organised around three areas: (i) language for information, (ii) language for literary response and expression, and (iii) language for social interaction. The new syllabus also places greater emphasis on reading skills and strategies than the previous one.

Between 2000 and 2002, nationwide training workshops were conducted to prepare all English Language teachers to teach the new syllabus. There were also more primary school teachers with university qualifications in 2005 (47%) compared to 2001 (32%)5.

Reading literacy is the foundation for learning all subjects and is one of the most important abilities that pupils should acquire as they progress through their early school years.
The PIRLS 2006 results affirm that Singapore’s approach to the teaching of English Language is progressing in the right direction. Schools and parents should continue to work in close partnership to foster good reading habits in our pupils, including providing a conducive home environment for reading.
The Ministry of Education will continue its efforts in enhancing the primary school experience to ensure that our pupils are equipped with the literacy skills that they need to participate fully in the larger society.

1 Most educational systems chose their native language(s), e.g. Russian for the Russian Federation, Modern Standard Chinese for Hong Kong SAR and English/French for Canada (Alberta).

2 The PIRLS 2006 International Report is available on the PIRLS website,

3 United States, England, Scotland, Trinidad and Tobago

4 Source: Pupil Data Bank, Ministry of Education, Singapore.

5 Source: Ministry of Education, Singapore. Education Statistics Digest 2001 and 2006.

Source: Press Release 29 Nov 2007

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