Non-cognitive Skills and Singaporean Students: International Comparisons

Project Number
OER 48/08 LS

Project Duration
May 2009 - February 2012


The performance of school students from East Asia and Singapore on cognitive tests that are employed in PISA and TIMSS large-scale international surveys is excellent. Countries from this region tend to be among the top 10 high-scoring countries in the world. High but somewhat lower level of performance is also shown by the European (West and East Europe) countries. This finding has led to a lively debate among educationists about the nature of what became known as the East Asian Learner paradox. However, recent studies that focus on non-cognitive background variables from these same large-scale surveys point to significant differences between East Asian (Confucian) countries and East and West Europeans. In particular, Confucian Asians tend to score high on measures of anxiety and low on measures of self-concept and self-efficacy/confidence Assuming that differences between these two world regions on non-cognitive measures are important because, among other things they are likely to affect learning outcomes, it is necessary to replicate the findings using more reliable, in-depth and theoretically grounded measures of these psychological constructs. Furthermore, it is necessary to broaden the nomothetic net of constructs related to the three main constructs showing the differences since it is possible that deeper psychological processes underlie the observed results. Singapore has not participated in previous PISA projects and its similarity to Confucian countries on non-cognitive variables is based only on TIMSS' findings. Because of its history and cultural make-up, it is conceivable that Singapore will differ from both European and Confucian countries in the levels of anxiety, self-concept and self-accuracy/confidence. In this project, we shall survey three European (The Netherlands, Austria and Czech Republic) and three Confucian (South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan) countries and compare non-cognitive skills of secondary school students from these six countries and Singapore.

Research Themes
International & Comparative Studies- Pedagogies in East Asian Schools

Funding Source

Related Links
SingTeach Issue 28 (Jan/Feb 2011): Seeing Research in Action

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