Posts about Singapore

Math Education Results Show China, Singapore, Korea and Japan Leading

The most comprehensive comparison of student achievement in math and science around the globe undertaken by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) focuses on math understanding of 15 year olds (the 2014 report will focus on science). The 2009 report focused on the results of science education student achievement around the globe.

2012 results for the math portion (rank – country – mean score)(I am not listing all countries):

  • 1 – Singapore – 573
  • 2 – Korea – 554
  • 3 – Japan – 536
  • 5 – Switzerland – 531
  • 6 – Netherlands – 523
  • 7 – Estonia – 521
  • 8 – Finland – 519
  • 9 – Canada – 518
  • 12 – Germany – 514
  • 24 – UK – 494 (this is also the OECD average)
  • 34 – USA – 481
  • 49 – Malaysia – 421
  • 50 – Mexico – 413

All 34 OECD member countries and 31 partner countries and economies participated in PISA 2012, representing more than 80% of the world economy. Portions of China participated and did very well including Shanghai-China (highest mean score of 613 points – if you ranked that as a country, I ignored these “regional results” in the ranks I shown here), Hong Kong-China (561, 3rd if including countries and regions together), Chinese Taipei [Taiwan] (560, 4th), Macao-China (538, 6th).

Boys perform better than girls in mathematics in 38 out of the 65 countries and economies that participated in PISA 2012, and girls outperform boys in 5 countries.

Related: Playing Dice and Children’s NumeracyNumeracy: The Educational Gift That Keeps on GivingMathematicians Top List of Best OccupationsThe Economic Consequences of Investing in Science EducationCountry H-index Ranking for Science PublicationsEconomic Strength Through Technology Leadership

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How To Make Your Own Pesticide with Ingredients from Your Kitchen

Video by the Singapore National Park Board, on creating your own pesticide with just water, dish-washing liquid, chili, garlic and cooking oil.

Related: Pigs Instead of PesticidesAutomatic Cat FeederRethinking the Food Production SystemBuild Your Own Tabletop Interactive Multi-touch ComputerScience Toys You Can Make With Your KidsPesticide Laced Fertiliser Ruins GardensLiving in Singapore

4 and 8 Year Old Sisters Impress with Squeak

Young programmers win big

XtremeApps is a competition based in Singapore where competitors program computer applications from scratch.

Armed with just the basics in the Squeak programming language, as well as encouragement – but no help – from mum and dad, the Chan sisters came up with an application called Health Fairies.

It is an interactive, educational story with an anti-smoking message: The main protaganist is a beautiful young girl who loses her youth, and good looks, because she puffs away like there’s no tomorrow.

The sisters took the bulk of the June holidays to complete their entry. They had to come up with the storyline, draw the characters, and write programs that animated the characters, among other things.

Their effort paid off: Health Fairies landed a merit award in the junior category of the contest, beating 68 other contestants, mostly 11 and 12 year olds.

Related: Programming with PicturesProgrammerssoftware development posts on our management blogGlobal Cancer Deaths to Double by 2030

Best Research University Rankings – 2008

The annual ranking of research Universities are available from Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. The methodology values publications and faculty awards which provides a better ranking of research (rather than teaching). Results from the 2008 rankings of Top 500 Universities worldwide, country representation of the top schools:

location Top 100 % of World
% of World GDP % of top 500
USA 54     4.6%   27.2%  31.6%
United Kingdom 11  0.9  4.9 8.3
Germany   6  1.3  6.0 8.0
Japan   4  2.0  9.0 6.2
Canada   4  0.5  2.6 4.2
Sweden   4  0.1  0.8 2.2
France   3  0.8  4.6 4.6
Switzerland   3  0.1  0.8 1.6
Australia   3  0.3  1.6 3.0
Netherlands   2  0.2  1.4 2.4
Denmark   2  0.1  0.6 0.8
Finland   1  0.1  0.4 1.2
Norway   1  0.1  0.7 0.8
Israel   1  0.1  0.3 1.2
Russia   1  2.2  2.0 0.4
China  20.5  6.6 6.0
India  17.0  1.9 0.4

There is little change in most of the data from last year, which I think is a good sign, it wouldn’t make much sense to have radical shifts over a year in these rankings. Japan lost 2 schools in the top 100, France lost 1. Denmark (Aarhus University) and Australia (University of Sydney) gained 1. Last year there was a tie so there were 101 schools in the top 100.

The most dramatic data I noticed is China’s number of top 500 schools went from 14 to 30, which made me a bit skeptical of what caused that quick change. Looking more closely last year they reported the China top 500 totals as (China 14, China-Taiwan 6 and China-Hong Kong 5). That still gives them an impressive gain of 5 schools.

Singapore has 1 in the 102-151 range. Taiwan has 1 ranked in the 152-200 range, as do Mexico, Korea and Brazil. China has 9 in the 201-302 range (including 3 in Hong Kong). India has 2 in the 303-401 range.

University of Wisconsin – Madison is 17th again 🙂 My father taught there while I grew up.
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Collegiate Inventors Competition

A novel way to treat cancer has won the top honor at the 2007 Collegiate Inventors Competition, an annual program of the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation. Ian Cheong of Johns Hopkins University was announced as the grand prize winner, receiving a $25,000 prize, during a ceremony last night on the campus of the California Institute of Technology.

This year’s winners also include John Dolan of the University of California, San Francisco in the graduate category for his work on the Dolognawmeter, a device to measure the effectiveness of painkillers, and Corey Centen and Nilesh Patel of McMaster University in the undergraduate category for their work on creating a CPR assist device. The McMaster team and Dolan each received a $15,000 prize from the competition, which is sponsored by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the Abbott Fund.

The Collegiate Inventors Competition has recognized and encouraged undergraduate and graduate students on their quest to change the world around them for 17 years. Entries for 2008 are due by 16 May 2008 and must be the original idea and work product of the student/advisor team, and must not have been (1) made available to the public as a commercial product or process or (2) patented or published more than 1 year prior to the date of submission to the competition. The entry submitted must be written in English.

The invention, a reduced-to-practice idea or workable model, must be the work of a student or team of students with his or her university advisor. If it is a machine, it must be operable. If it is a chemical, it must be complete with evidence of successful application of the idea. If it is a new plant, color photographs or slides must be included in the submission. If a new or original ornamental design for an article of manufacture is submitted, the entire design must be included in the application. In addition, the invention should be reproducible.

Related: Inventor TV ShowsEngineering a Better Blood Alcohol SensorModern Marvels Invent Now ChallengeSchoofs Prize for Creativity

Ian Cheong, 33, arrived at Johns Hopkins University from his native Singapore prepared to focus on cancer therapy. Drugs used in cancer treatment routinely kill the healthy cells as well as the cancer cells because they are potent but nonspecific. Cheong took on the task of finding a way to make the cancer drugs more specific. He injected bacterial spores into the subject which made their way to oxygen-poor areas within cancerous tumors. Then, Cheong put a cancerfighting drug in lipid particles and injected those liposomes into a subject. The germinated bacterial spores also secrete a protein that makes liposomes fall apart when the drug-containing liposomes are in the proximity of the tumors, and the drug is released only in those specific areas. Cheong, originally educated as a lawyer, received his Ph.D. in cell and molecular medicine from Johns Hopkins and is currently working on postdoctoral research. His advisor, Bert Vogelstein, receives a $15,000 prize.

The idea for this post was submitted through our post suggestion page.

Diplomacy and Science Research

Today more and more locations are becoming viable for world class research and development. Today the following have significant ability: USA, Europe (many countries), Japan, Canada, China, Brazil, Singapore, Israel, India, Korea and Australia (I am sure I have missed some this is just what come to mind as I type this post) and many more are moving in that direction.

The continued increase of viable locations for significant amounts of cutting edge research and development has huge consequences, in many areas. If paths to research and development are blocked in one location (by law, regulation, choice, lack of capital, threat of significant damage to the career of those who would choose such a course…) other locations will step in. In some ways this will be good (see below for an explanation of why this might be so). Promising new ideas will not be stifled due to one roadblock.

But risks of problems will also increase. For example, there are plenty of reasons to want to go carefully in the way of genetically engineered crops. But those seeking a more conservative approach are going to be challenged: countries that are acting conservatively will see other countries jump in, I believe. And even if this didn’t happen significantly in the area of genetically engineered crops, I still believe it will create challenges. The ability to go elsewhere will make those seeking to put constraints in place in a more difficult position than 50 years ago when the options were much more limited (It might be possible to stop significant research just by getting a handful of countries to agree).

Debates of what restrictions to put on science and technology research and development will be a continuing and increasing area of conflict. And the solutions will not be easy. Hopefully we will develop a system of diplomacy that works, but that is much easier said than done. And the United States will have to learn they do not have the power to dictate terms to others. This won’t be an easy thing to accept for many in America. The USA will still have a great deal of influence, due mainly to economic power but that influence is only the ability to influence others and that ability will decline if diplomacy is not improved. Diplomacy may not seem to be a science and engineering area but it is going to be increasingly be a major factor in the progress of science and engineering. Continue reading

Singapore Supporting Science Researchers

Grooming research talent seen as crucial for Singapore by Jeana Wong

And to attract overseas talents, it will need to build world-class facilities, attract skilled mentors and focus its research spending on clear areas in which it has a strong hold.

He says it is not unusual for governments to develop infrastructure and talent in the basic sciences at the tertiary education level.

Singapore reportedly is even looking at proposing a grand management plan for an Indonesian island.
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Scientific Illiteracy

Scientific Illiteracy and the Partisan Takeover of Biology by Liza Gross, Public Library of Science:

Since 1979, the proportion of scientifically literate adults has doubled—to a paltry 17%. The rest are not savvy enough to understand the science section of The New York Times or other science media pitched at a similar level. As disgracefully low as the rate of adult scientific literacy in the United States may be, Miller found even lower rates in Canada, Europe, and Japan—a result he attributes primarily to lower university enrollments.

While the 17% figure does not amaze me I am surprised that the scientific literacy has doubled since 1979.

A comparison of science education achievement: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (TIMSS), Average science scale scores of eighth-grade students, by country (2003), top 13 shown below:
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Singapore woos top scientists with new labs

Singapore woos top scientists with new labs, research money by Paul Elias:

Singapore’s siren song is growing increasingly more irresistible for scientists, especially stem cell researchers who feel stifled by the U.S. government’s restrictions on their field.

Two prominent California scientists are the latest to defect to the Asian city-state, announcing earlier this month that they, too, had fallen for its glittering acres of new laboratories outfitted with the latest gizmos.

They weren’t the first defections, and Singapore officials at the Biotechnology Organization’s annual convention in Chicago this week promise they won’t be the last.

Other Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea and even China, are also here touting their burgeoning biotechnology spending to the 20,000 scientists and biotechnology executives attending the conference.

In all, the country has managed to recruit about 50 senior scientists — far short of what it needs, but a start for a tiny country of 4.5 million people off the tip of Malaysia.

Another 1,800 younger scientists from all corners of the world staff the Biopolis laboratories, which were built with $290 million in government funding and another $400 million in private investment by the two dozen biotechnology companies based there. Biopolis opened in 2003 and contains seven buildings spread over 10 acres and connected by sky bridges

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