Pupils in England have performed significantly better than average in international tests designed to gauge their problem-solving aptitude.
While they just failed to make the top ten, which was occupied by the likes of Shanghai, Japan and Singapore, they ranked 11th in the world in the study - better than most other western countries, including France and Germany.
Pupils in England scored 517, against an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 500. Finland is the only European country to rank higher than England in the tests.
Rather than testing theoretical knowledge, the questions focused on skills that are essential for the modern jobs market.
Pupils were set problems that may arise in real-life situations, such as working out the cheapest ticket for a rail journey from a range of options.
The results are based on a sample of 85,000 pupils across 44 of the 55 countries which took part in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests. Some 137 English schools participated.
In a reversal of the GCSE and A-level results trend, boys were found to outperform girls when it comes to real-life problem solving abilities.
However, the results also show that one in six pupils failed to reach the baseline level of proficiency in problem solving. In addition, the performance of immigrant pupils was found to be behind that of their British-born peers.
Pisa analyst Francesco Avvisati said immigrant children lag behind in problem solving and science but do better in reading and maths, which they tend to focus on.
The findings will come as welcome news for the government following the country's mediocre performance in the Pisa rankings for maths, reading and science.
The OECD said: "In England, students perform significantly better in problem solving, on average, than students in other countries who show similar performance in mathematics, reading and science.
"This is particularly true among strong performers in mathematics, which suggests that these students, in particular, have access to learning opportunities that prepare them well for handling complex, real-life problems."
Posted by Alan Douglas