Taiwanese teens did very well in the latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, a survey organized by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
The test, conducted every three years, examines more than half a million 15-year-old students in 65 countries and is the largest single study on schooling around the world.
It is designed to assess how students use what they have learned both inside and outside of school to solve problems
The OECD sees the survey as a tool for education authorities and policymakers to use to compare their students with those in other countries and to help them determine policies and set goals for their education systems.
The 2012 survey covered math, reading and science, but the main focus was on math. The results were released on Tuesday.
Shanghai, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan — which was identified as “Chinese Taipei” — and South Korea took the top five places in math, in that order. Macau placed sixth, with Japan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and the Netherlands rounding out the top 10.
Ranking at the top means those students measure about three years of schooling ahead of their counterparts from nations or “economies” with average scores, while Peruvian students, who placed last in all three categories, would be about six years behind those students from the top 10.
Out of the possible 1,000 points, Taiwan’s mean score for math was 560, compared with 613 for Shanghai, 573 for Singapore, 561 for Hong Kong and 554 for South Korea.
The scores for Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea were not statistically different, according to the report.
Taiwan’s mean score for both reading and science was 523, both well above the OECD average.
While the annualized change in points for Taiwan was an increase of 1.7 in math and 4.5 in reading, it dropped 1.5 points in science.
The survey found that Shanghai had the largest proportion of top performers in reading, with 25.1 percent.
More than 15 percent of students in Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore are top performers in reading, as are more than 10 percent of students in Taiwan, Australia, South Korea and eight other countries.
The OECD said the test results for Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau reflect that these are among the most economically advanced areas of China, so the results cannot be taken as representative for the country as a whole.
Overall, Asian nations cemented their hold on the top positions in all three categories, with only one European country making it into the top five in any category: Finland placed fifth in science.
The survey found that gender differences remain strong, with girls continuing to outperform in reading and boys showing better results in math.