This week, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) released the sixth installment of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), an analysis of secondary school students in math and science. More than 600,000 students from 60 countries and benchmarking regions participated.
The headlines came quickly:
Some positive: “These are the world’s best students in science and math,” “Science, Maths scores improve significantly.” Some praising: “US Fourth and Eighth Graders Score Higher in Math and Science;” while others lament for the same country: “US students lag peers in East Asia, Russia in math, science.” Some Ministers took it hard: “minister embarrassed by the “appalling results” in international ranking of national students“and education minister declares math ‘state of emergency.’“ And some offered advice: “We must invest in our education system.”
But which countries improved the most?
Once again, East Asian economies dominate the rankings, by a significant margin. Top-performing economies in math include Singapore (621), Korea (606), Chinese Taipei (599), Hong Kong SAR China (594) and Japan (586). These are followed by Quebec (543) and Russia (538). A surprise entrant into the top 10 in 2015 is Kazakhstan (528), which is followed by Ireland (523) and Ontario (522), one of two Canadian provinces in the top 10.
Top performers in science include Singapore (597), Japan (571), Chinese Taipei (569) and Korea (556). In fifth position is Slovenia (551), followed by Hong Kong SAR China (546), Russia (544), England (537), Kazakhstan (533) and Ireland (530).
Adding both scores, the top 10 become: Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong SAR China, Russia, Quebec, Slovenia, Kazakhstan and England.
Since the first round of TIMSS in 1995, no country has improved more than Lithuania in science: by 58 points, more than half a standard deviation, from 464 points to 522.
Between 1995 and 2015, the following countries have recorded the highest increase in science scores:
|Hong Kong SAR China||36||510||546|
|Hong Kong SAR China||25||569||594|
|Hong Kong SAR||61||1079||1140|
There have been some large gains since the last round in 2011. In math, Bahrain and Kazakhstan improved by a massive 45 and 41 points. In science, Malaysia improved by 44, Kazakhstan by 43 and Dubai by 40. Overall, the biggest increases were recorded by Kazakhstan, Dubai, Oman, Malaysia and Qatar.
These impressive gains can no doubt teach us a thing or two about what policies help children learn. The quick review presented here hardly scratches the surface as to what can be learned from deep analysis of the data and trends.