News reports on December 9th pointed to the high standing of English pupils in recent international mathematics and science tests, with one headline announcing "English children 'best at maths in Europe'".
TIMMS (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study) international tests were first carried out in 1995 with pupils of ages of ten and fourteen being tested in mathematics and science. Tests have been carried out at four year intervals since then, so that recent progress is charted against the tests taken in 2003. The 2007 test results show English pupils to be seventh in mathematics at ages ten and fourteen. This shows a rise from 10th position for ten year olds and a rise from 18th for fourteen year olds. In 1995 ten year olds were 17th and fourteen year olds were 25th, although the number of participating countries has changed during this period of time. In the recent tests in science, ten year olds were 7th, down from 5th in 2003, and fourteen year olds were 5th, a rise from 7th in 2003.
The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) carried out the study which is "a worldwide research project, taking place every four years and providing data about trends in mathematics and science achievement over time. It assesses the knowledge and skills of pupils aged 9-10 and 13-14 around the world, and enables researchers to collect extensive background information about the quantity, quality, and content of teaching, which can be used to make comparisons between participating countries". In 2007 there were 36 countries taking part in the tests for ten year olds and 48 countries in the tests for pupils aged fourteen. The top performing countries included many from the Pacific Rim such as Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
The National Report gives details of the performance of English pupils in several areas including the content and cognitive domains, gender differences, pupils attitudes, and teachers and schools. These details can be accessed from the link below. One finding, also highlighted by the English media, concerns pupils' enjoyment of these subjects, where England was found to have a "profile, of high performance but relatively low enjoyment". This "was common in other high scoring countries" but has led the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, Ed Balls to comment "... we are on the way to being world class but as we move towards this goal we need to make sure every child has fun in the classroom as well as achieving good results".
Below you can find links to the report itself, the TIMMS webpage, a press notice from the DCSF and reports from media.
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