Girls Outdo Boys in Collaborative Problem-solving Skills, According to the Latest PISA Results

There’s a wide gap between the Finnish boys and girls when it comes to collaboration and problem-solving skills. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Young people in Finland ranked in fifth place among the OECD countries that took part in the OECD’s PISA 2015 assessment on collaborative problem solving and in seventh place among all the countries and economies that participated in the assessment. This is the first time that collaborative problem-solving skills were assessed. “The assessment shows that young people in Finland have good collaborative and problem-solving skills. The only element that raises concern in this assessment is the poor performance of boys. I have invited the researchers to find solutions for this weak point in our educational system,” said Minister of Education Sanni Grahn-Laasonen in a bulletin.

Collaborative problem solving refers to the ability to act effectively in a situation where a group of people attempts to solve a problem by exchanging information, skills and understanding among themselves. Reading skills and engagement in a discussion are highlighted in collaborative problem-solving. The countries that performed well in this assessment generally also performed well in other areas of the PISA survey.

Girls performed uniformly better than boys around the world, and nowhere was the gap in performance between the genders as wide as in Finland. The observation made in earlier PISA surveys that the performance of boys is poorer is reiterated in collaborative problem solving too.

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Girls performed uniformly better than boys around the world and nowhere was the gap in performance between the genders as wide as in Finland.

The average score points for Finnish students amounted to 534 points, and only the average score points of Singapore (561 points) and Japan (552) differed statistically significantly. The average score points for students in Hong Kong (541), Korea (538), Canada (535), Estonia (535), Macao (534), New Zealand (533) and Australia (531), were in the same category as Finland. The score points for students in Japan were higher than the rest of the OECD countries. There was no statistically significant difference in the score points between Korea, Canada, Estonia and Finland.

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The students performed the assessment interactively in a digital environment, where they communicated, using chat windows, with computer agents representing one or more students. To succeed, the students had to choose the options to take the floor that best supported collaboration constructively.

The results show that the Finnish educational system is equitable in the way it helps students learn problem-solving skills. Differences between schools were the second smallest in Finland after Iceland, and the impact of the student’s socio-economic background on collaborative problem-solving outcomes was minimal compared with the rest of the best-performing countries. Among the top ten, only the socio-economic background of students in Macao accounted for less of the variance in the results than in Finland.

The PISA 2015 survey results published in late 2016 covering the three core domains (reading, mathematics and science) showed regional differences in performance in Finland for the first time ever. However, the differences in the area of collaborative problem solving were much smaller than in the other domains and were for the most part not statistically significant.

Finnish-speaking schools performed better in the assessment than did Swedish-speaking ones. As in the rest of the domains in the PISA survey, students with an immigrant background did not perform as well in collaborative problem solving as did other students.

Source: The Ministry of Education and Culture

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