Aside from being the 3rd most exposed to bullying culture, Singaporean students are also the world’s most anxious about their studies, a Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study found.

The OECD conducts triennial tests called the Programme For International Student Assessment (PISA) to measure the connection between well-being and achievement.

It emerged that of the 5,825 Singapore students, significantly higher levels of anxiety were reported among Singaporean students than over 50 other countries polled.

An overwhelming number of Singapore students answered affirmative to questions such as “I often worry that it will be difficult for me to take a test”; “I worry I will get poor grades at school”; “I feel very anxious even if I am well prepared for a test”; “I get very tense when I study for a test”; and “I get nervous when I do not know how to solve a task at school”.

76% reported feeling very anxious for a test even if they were well prepared, a jump higher than the OECD average of 55%.

When asked to comment on the statistics, the Ministry of Education attributed the stress levels to the demography of the survey, which comprised exclusively 15 year-olds who were allegedly preparing for their Secondary 4 O and N Level examinations.

“Hence… it is understandable that our students are likely to be more anxious about doing well,” the MOE said.

Nevertheless, the MOE noted that there is a trade off to being highly motivated yet highly stressed.

“Research has shown that stress at appropriate levels can be a motivating force to energise us for the challenges we face. That said, we recognise that while there is no certainty of causality, having overly high achievement motivation is also correlated with anxiety levels,” it said.

“Hence, while we are encouraged that our students are highly motivated to learn and achieve, we are cognisant that this must not come at the expense of their well-being,” said the ministry, adding that schools put in much effort to help students understand the meaning of their learning, instead of focusing solely on their achievements.

“Ultimately, stress and anxiety is a personal response arising from one’s expectations and the ability to manage challenges. In the light of this, our schools focus on helping students gain a wider perspective, looking beyond achievement, by helping them manage their expectations and understand their strengths and weaknesses. This will also help our students develop more resilient and positive mindsets.”

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