Singapore has the highest achieving students in international education rankings, with its teenagers coming top in tests in maths, reading and science. The influential Pisa rankings, run by the OECD, are based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in more than 70 countries. The UK remains a middle-ranking performer – behind countries such as Japan, Estonia, Finland and Vietnam. OECD education director Andreas Schleicher said Singapore was not only doing well, but getting further ahead. What is Pisa? In three sentences The Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) provides education rankings based on international tests taken by 15-year-olds in maths, reading and science. The tests, run by the OECD and taken every three years, have become increasingly influential on politicians who see their countries and their policies being measured against these global school league tables. Asian countries continue to dominate, with Singapore rated as best, replacing Shanghai, which is now part of a combined entry for China. Asian countries on top Asian education systems dominate the upper reaches of the these results tables – accounting for the top seven places for maths, with Singapore followed by Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan, Japan, China and South Korea. So why is Singapore so successful at education? Singapore only became an independent country in 1965. And while in the UK the Beatles were singing We Can Work It Out, in Singapore they were really having to work it out, as this new nation had a poor, unskilled, mostly illiterate workforce. The small Asian country focused relentlessly on education as a way of developing its economy and raising living standards. And from being among the worlds poorest, with a mix of ethnicities, religions and languages, Singapore has overtaken the wealthiest countries in Europe, North America and Asia to become the number one in education. Prof Sing Kong Lee, vice-president of Nanyang Technological University, which houses Singapores National Institute of Education, said a key factor had been the standard of teaching.Singapore invested heavily in a quality teaching force – to raise up the prestige and status of teaching and to attract the best graduates, said Prof Lee. The country recruits its teachers from the top 5% of graduates in a system that is highly centralised.All teachers are trained at the National Institute of Education, and Prof Lee said this single route ensured quality control and that all new teachers could confidently go through to the classroom. This had to be a consistent, long-term approach, sustained over decades, said Prof Lee. Education was an eco-system, he said, and you cant change one part in isolation.