PISA reports English students perform better at problem solving than students in countries with similar maths and reading results.
Published in April the fifth volume of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) 2012 results, Creative Problem Solving, opens with this statement about the importance of problem solving as a life skill:
In modern societies, all of life is problem solving. Changes in society, the environment, and in technology mean that the content of applicable knowledge evolves rapidly. Adapting, learning, daring to try out new things and always being ready to learn from mistakes are among the keys to resilience and success in an unpredictable world.
The PISA problem solving tests, administered for the first time in 2012, found that English students performed significantly above the OECD average, achieving 11th place in the rankings, and also that England’s students perform significantly better in problem solving, on average, than students in other countries who show similar performance in mathematics, reading and science.
However, students in England were only average on interactive and static tasks. In these knowledge-acquisition tasks students must select, organise and integrate information and feedback received, in order to represent and formulate their knowledge about the problem. Students need to be open to novelty, tolerate doubt and uncertainty, and dare to use intuitions to initiate a solution.
All these are skills developed by participation in arts subjects.
The report found that the best-performing countries in problem-solving often do particularly well in knowledge-acquisition tasks.