Poor Problem Solving Skills – Australia Behind Singapore

Australian students are 3 years behind Singapore in maths due to poor problem-solving skills.

Recent PISA results have shown an alarming decline in Australian students’ maths, science, and reading abilities due to poor problem solving skills.

In particular, the low maths score is due to a lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills – skills that begin developing in early childhood – before kindergarten.

Graph showing Australian achievement trends

Enhancing Childhood Education through the Crucial Role of Alternative Teaching Techniques

In the realm of childhood education, children must actively acquire essential skills during the crucial developmental stage of their brains. This stage presents a unique opportunity for rapid, effortless, and enjoyable learning.

Singapore, a consistent top performer in PISA rankings since joining the OECD in 2009, owes its success not only to alternative teaching techniques but also to recognizing the significant impact of the home environment on a child’s learning abilities.

One such alternative teaching technique, which Singapore embraced in 2003, closely aligns with the longstanding practices of the Shichida Method. For over 60 years, the Shichida Method has been implementing this technique, utilizing tangible objects to convey abstract concepts through carefully tailored incremental steps, taking into account each child’s age and developmental level.

Amanda Morin, in her article on Singapore Math Teaching Strategies and Materials, describes this approach as follows: “The method uses a three-step learning model, which consistently introduces concepts in a progression. It moves from the concrete to visual representation and then on to the more abstract (questioning and solving written equations). Students are taught not only to know how to do something but also why it works” (Morin, 2019).

For instance, let us compare a typical Australian classroom scenario to a Shichida class when teaching division. In the former, the math teacher would typically introduce division by presenting the necessary steps and actions to solve a division problem, with students merely observing. However, in a Shichida class, the teacher engages the students by presenting a relatable scenario: sharing a given number of fruits among themselves, their parent, and the teacher. By using their senses and hands, the students collaborate with their parents to tackle the problem at hand.

As students progress in their Shichida journey, division problems are reintroduced, this time in the form of visual representations such as pictures or dots on a worksheet. The students count and visually comprehend the problem before arriving at the solution. Only when they have developed confidence in the physical and visual aspects of division do they transition to abstract equations, such as 12 ÷ 3 =?

The Shichida Method

The three-step model of the Shichida Method, which aligns with the natural order of children’s cognitive development, facilitates a deeper understanding of complex concepts and establishes a robust foundation for future learning. As a result, this approach significantly reduces children’s anxiety surrounding learning, particularly in mathematics.

Furthermore, the Shichida Method applies the three-step model to various fundamental areas, including literacy, memory, critical thinking, spatial recognition, creativity, and basic concepts such as colors, shapes, and time. Additionally, by presenting concepts from multiple angles, this method ensures that every type of learner has an equal opportunity to comprehend the material taught. This crucial aspect is often overlooked in traditional educational settings.

In the Australian context, where low-quality teachers and outdated teaching methods persist even in private schools, Australian children cannot effectively compete on the global stage with a mere infusion of government funds into an already flawed education system.

In the past, policymakers allocated additional funding to bolster formal testing, intensifying stress levels among students, teachers, and parents. To effectively address the underlying issues, Australia must acknowledge the critical importance of embracing new teaching methods and giving priority to early childhood education. Only by implementing these measures can Australia bridge the gap and exert a lasting influence on the educational landscape, empowering its children to flourish in the ever-evolving world they inhabit.

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