Philippines ranks at the bottom of new PISA test on creative thinking

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Philippines ranks at the bottom of new PISA test on creative thinking
Empty paper, pens and a light bulb symbolize ideas.
Pixabay / qimono

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino students have one of the weakest creative thinking skills in the world, based on a newly launched global benchmarking test.

Fifteen-year-old students in the Philippines scored 14 points on average in the newly introduced creative thinking assessment of the 2022 cycle of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), placing the Philippines in the bottom four among 64 countries. 

This marks the first time that the PISA tested students on how well they can use their imagination and creativity to generate and improve upon ideas.

Filipino students' performance placed the Philippines in the same score range as three other countries on the bottom (or countries whose scores are not statistically different from the Philippines): Albania, Uzbekistan and Morocco.

The Philippines' mean score of 14 is also well below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 33, according to the PISA results on creative thinking published late Tuesday.

Countries that landed in the top five are Singapore (with students' average score being 41), Korea (38), Canada (38), Australia (37) and New Zealand (36).

Differences in the student performance of the highest- and lowest-performing countries are stark. 

For instance, only around 3% of Filipino students can match the creative thinking abilities of the average student in Singapore, based on Philstar.com's analysis of the publicly available PISA scores.

This is evidenced by the data that shows just 3.4% of Filipino students reached Level 5 proficiency in the test, while 30% of students in Singapore achieved this, the highest of any proficiency level in the developed nation. Level 5 is the second highest proficiency with scores of 41 to 48.

Similarly, no single Singaporean student who took the test scored at the lowest proficiency (Level 1, at less than six score points), whereas a third of all students in the Philippines scored at this level.

Besides Singapore, all other Southeast Asian countries who joined the creative thinking test, such as Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia and Thailand, scored below the OECD average but above the Philippines. 

Philstar.com has reached out to the Department of Education for comment.

Rep. Roman Romulo (Pasig City), chairperson of the House basic education committee, said the results underscored the need to improve students' knowledge in the most fundamental competencies of reading, mathematics and science.

"Once we’ve addressed the fundamental competencies, our learners will have confidence. With confidence, creative thinking should flourish," Romulo told Philstar.com.

Making students think outside the box

PISA defines creative thinking as "the competence to engage productively in the generation, evaluation and improvement of ideas that can result in original and effective solutions, advances in knowledge and impactful expressions of imagination."

During the 2022 test, students were given an hour to answer a set of creative thinking items in four domains: written expression, visual expression, social problem solving and scientific problem solving.

For instance, in one sample question, students were asked to come up with two completely different film story ideas based on a single visual prompt.

In another sample question, students were asked to provide original ideas on how to improve a wheelchair ramp for library users.

On its website, the OECD explained that it has started to measure students' creative thinking as nearly all PISA participating countries regard creativity as one of their intended student outcomes in secondary education.

The test "does not aim to single out exceptionally creative individuals, but rather to describe the extent to which students are capable of thinking creatively when searching for and expressing ideas, and how this capacity is related to teaching approaches, school activities and other features of education systems," the OECD said in its creative thinking framework for PISA.

Philippines sees biggest score improvement when students are curious

PISA 2022 found that curiosity — or the eagerness to learn new things and explore the unknown — was generally associated with creative thinking performance.

Students who reported being curious about many things and liking to know how things work scored around three points higher in creative thinking than those who did not, according to the OECD average.

This score difference based on curiosity leaps to four to five points higher in the Philippines — the highest of all PISA-participating countries.

Based on their answers to the PISA questionnaire, a whopping 81% of students in the Philippines said they agree or strongly agree with the statement: "I like learning new things."

Around 78% of students in the Philippines also said they agreed or strongly agreed that they "love learning new things in school," while at least 71% agreed or strongly agreed that they are "curious about many things."

Students in the Philippines remain among the world’s weakest in math, reading and science, PISA 2022 scores published in December 2023 showed, with the Philippines' overall score showing no significant improvement from 2018, when it first joined the test.

The OECD has conducted the PISA every three years since 2000. The latest cycle, which involved 81 countries, was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The test is designed to evaluate 15-year-olds' competencies in mathematics, science and reading as this is typically the age at which most students are still enrolled in formal education. 

In the Philippines, around 7,000 students from 188 randomly selected schools took the test. 

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