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Media Contact: Patricia
Delaney Director of Media Relations
TIMSS Project Contact:
Michael O. Martin
Ina V.S. Mullis
Co-Directors International Study
MEDIA NOTE: The full TIMSS
1999 reports are available on-line at the International Study Center's
web site on the Publications page
or by calling 617-552-1600. To arrange interviews with the TIMSS International
Study Co-Directors Michael O. Martin or Ina V.S. Mullis, or to obtain
camera-ready color charts, please call the Boston College Office of
Public Affairs at 617-552-3352.
the exhibit with achievement results for mathematics and science
INTERNATIONAL STUDY FINDS ASIAN COUNTRIES
DOMINATE MATH AND SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT
Report Shows Student Achievement for 38 Countries at the Eighth Grade
CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12-5-00) Five Asian countries were the top performers
in mathematics at the eighth grade level, according to the most recent
major reports of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study
(TIMSS), released today by the study's international directors at Boston
College. Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong
SAR had the highest average achievement in math; Japan also performed
In science, Chinese Taipei and Singapore had the highest average performance,
closely followed by Hungary, Japan and the Republic of Korea.
TIMSS is the largest international study of student achievement ever
undertaken. When it was first conducted in 1995, it provided assessments
of five grade levels: third, fourth, seventh, eighth and twelfth, involving
half a million students across more than 40 countries.
The report released today outlines the results of a second assessment
conducted at the eighth grade level in 1999, known as TIMSS 1999 or TIMSS-R
(for TIMSS-Repeat, since it is a repeat or replication of TIMSS at grade
eight). TIMSS 1999 was designed to provide trends in eighth grade mathematics
and science achievement in an international context.
Thirty-eight countries participated in TIMSS 1999 [see p.3 for full list].
Of these, 26 also participated in TIMSS 1995 at the eighth grade and have
trend data. Among the trend findings:
- Between 1995 and 1999, countries that showed an increase in average
mathematics achievement at the eighth grade were Latvia (Latvian-speaking
schools), Canada, and Cyprus. Only the Czech Republic showed a decrease.
- Between 1995 and 1999, countries that showed an increase in average
science achievement were Latvia (Latvian-speaking schools), Lithuania,
Canada, and Hungary. Bulgaria was the only country showing a decrease.
The new report not only identifies changes in mathematics and science
achievement, but also provides a wealth of information on students' attitudes
and habits, as well as on curriculum coverage, instructional approaches,
and teacher preparation in mathematics and science.
Key findings include:
- In mathematics, most gender differences were negligible, with only
four countries having significant differences (Israel, the Czech Republic,
the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Tunisia). Korea showed a decrease
in the gender difference between 1995 and 1999. No country showed a
significant increase in gender differences in mathematics performance.
- Science, in contrast, had significant differences in average achievement
favoring boys in 16 of the 38 countries. These differences were more
apparent among high-performing students. Three countries, however, had
a significant reduction in the gender difference between 1995 and 1999
Hong Kong, Slovenia, and Israel.
- In general, boys had a more positive self-concept than girls in mathematics
and science. The exception was for countries where the sciences are
taught as separate subjects, where girls had more positive self-concept
than boys in biology. This, however, was outweighed by a more favorable
self-concept for boys in physics, and to a lesser extent in earth science
- Across the participating countries, students generally had positive
attitudes towards mathematics and science, although less so in countries
where science is taught as separate subjects at the eighth grade.
- In each country, a positive self-concept in the ability to do mathematics
and science was associated with higher achievement.
- Eighth-grade students internationally had high expectations for further
education. On average across countries, more than half the students
reported that they expect to finish university. In almost every country,
there was a positive association between educational expectations and
achievement in mathematics and science.
Curriculum and Testing
- On average across countries, the percentage of instructional time
designated in the official curriculum for mathematics instruction remains
about the same from grade 4 to grade 6 but then decreases by grade 8
(17, 16, and 13 percent, respectively). In contrast, the instructional
time specified for science increases from grade 4 to grade 8 (from 11
to 16 percent).
- Testing and assessment were widely used methods to support curriculum
implementation. Approximately two-thirds of the countries conduct system-wide
assessment at two or three grades, primarily to inform policy makers
about achievement of the intended curriculum.
- TIMSS results indicate that eighth-grade mathematics teachers have
more confidence in their teaching preparation than science teachers.
Internationally, mathematics teachers reported relatively high degrees
of confidence in their preparation, with 63 percent of students on average
taught by teachers who believed they were very well prepared. In contrast,
eighth-grade science teachers reported only a moderate level of confidence
in their preparation. Almost 40 percent of students on average were
taught science by teachers who reported a low level of confidence in
their preparation to teach science.
TIMSS is a collaborative research project sponsored by the International
Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and directed
by the International Study Center in the Lynch School of Education at
Boston College. Researchers and educators from more than 40 research organizations
in countries around the world collaborated in the design, development,
and implementation of this enormous comparative achievement study, which
is supported by the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, the
National Science Foundation, and the World Bank, among other organizations.
Previous TIMSS results were released at Boston College in 1996 (7th and
8th grade levels), 1997 (3rd and 4th grade levels) and 1998 (final year
of secondary school 12th grade or equivalent).
Countries participating in the TIMSS assessment at the eighth grade
in both 1995 and 1999 are: Australia, Belgium (Flemish), Bulgaria, Canada,
Cyprus, Czech Republic, England, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Islamic Republic
of Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia (LSS), Lithuania,
Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak
Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States.
Countries participating only in the 1999 assessment: Chile, Chinese
Taipei, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldova,
Morocco, Philippines, Tunisia, and Turkey.
"TIMSS 1999 data provide invaluable international benchmarks that
can be used to help define world-class performance in mathematics and
science at the middle or lower-secondary school level," according
to TIMSS International Study Directors Michael O. Martin and Ina V.S.
Mullis. "Beyond comparisons in mathematics and science test scores,
however, the reports provide rich information on educational policies
and practices around the world.
"TIMSS is truly a rich resource," the Boston College researchers
added. "The reports provide considerable grist for the conversation
about what we want schools to accomplish and how we can go about improving
the teaching and learning of mathematics and science."