Japanese students ranked third in their ability to use reading skills to solve real-life problems in an international learning assessment test in 2022, climbing significantly from 15th in 2018, a global survey showed Tuesday.

In the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's computer-based test of 15-year-olds in 81 countries and economies, Japan also advanced from the previous survey to second from fifth in science and from sixth to fifth in mathematics.

With the latest survey targeting students affected by the coronavirus pandemic, a Japanese education ministry official analyzed that shorter school closures in Japan than in other countries may have influenced the results while also pointing to the effectiveness of exploratory learning and interactive teaching methods that have gained ground.

Students in Japan scored higher than the OECD average in reading, mathematics and science but were outperformed by Singapore, which occupied the top spot in all three categories.

Meanwhile, China, which led in the previous survey, represented by students in Beijing and Shanghai, and Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, did not participate due to the impact of the pandemic.

Questions in the latest assessment included using spreadsheet software to compare data on the proportion of forest areas in various countries and evaluating the credibility of a company website.

Around 6,000 Japanese students from 183 public and private high schools participated in the eighth iteration of the test that began in 2000. How to improve their reading comprehension has been a focus given the country's sharp decline in this category in the 2003 assessment.

While Japan did not score as high in reading this round as in the 2012 test, the OECD assessed that the long-term trend of Japanese students' overall performance was stable.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology cited factors such as stronger emphasis on discussion-based classes, as well as students' increased familiarity with computer-based testing amid the rise of digitalization in schools, for the improved score in the latest survey.

Overall, some 690,000 randomly selected students from 37 OECD countries and 44 non-member countries and economies took part in the latest version of the Program for International Student Assessment, focused on mathematics.