SINGAPORE TOPS THE TRENDS IN INTERNATIONAL MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE STUDY (TIMSS) 2003
2. Key factors contributing to Singapore’s good performance include:
3. The results were released by IEA in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003 on 14 Dec 2004 (Boston time)1. A representative sample of our students – 6700 Primary 4 and 6000 Secondary 2 students from all primary and secondary schools in Singapore took part in the survey in October 2002. The representative sample of Secondary 2 students came from all courses – Special, Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical).
4. Singapore is first in Mathematics and Science for Grades 4 and 8 in TIMSS 2003 (see Tables 1 and 2).
5. To compare performance across countries, four points on the scale were identified in the study for use as international benchmarks.2 Singapore’s top performance in both subjects is seen from the international benchmarks attained.
6. International Benchmark (Grade 4). For Mathematics, 38% of Singapore students performed at or above the advanced benchmark, 73% reached the high benchmark and 91% reached the intermediate benchmark. The corresponding international averages were 9%, 33% and 63%. For Science, 25% of Singapore students performed at or above the advanced benchmark, 61% reached the high benchmark, and 86% reached the intermediate benchmark. The corresponding international averages were 7%, 30% and 63%.
7. International Benchmark (Grade 8). For Mathematics, 44% of Singapore students reached the advanced benchmark, 77% reached the high benchmark, and 93% reached the intermediate benchmark. The corresponding international averages were 7%, 23% and 49%. For Science, 33% of Singapore students reached the advanced benchmark, 66% reached the high benchmark, and 85% reached the intermediate benchmark. The corresponding international averages were 6%, 25% and 54%.
Consistent Good Performance
8. The consistent good performance of Singapore students in the last three studies viz. TIMSS 1995, TIMSS 1999 and TIMSS 2003 shows Singapore’s sustained academic excellence in Mathematics and Science.
9. Singapore’s Secondary 2 students have consistently performed among the top in Mathematics and Science in the three studies. They finished first in both Mathematics and Science in TIMSS 1995, first in Mathematics and second in Science in TIMSS 1999, and first in both Mathematics and Science in TIMSS 2003.
10. Singapore’s Primary 4 students finished first in Mathematics and seventh in Science in TIMSS 1995 and first in both Mathematics and Science in TIMSS 2003.3
11. Possible contributing factors for Singapore’s high performance as identified by the study include:
Students’ Educational Aspirations and Attitude towards Mathematics and Science
12. Our students regarded doing well in their studies as important. The most popular educational aspiration cited by students in the study was “to finish university”.
13. 75% of our students from both grades who took part in the study enjoyed learning Mathematics and Science. There was a significant upward trend from 1995 and 1999 in the percentages of students from both grades agreeing “a lot” that they enjoyed learning the two subjects.
14. Among all participating countries, Singapore had the highest Index of Availability of School Resources.4 In this area, there were also significant increases in the Index between 1995 and 2003. Table 3 gives further details on the survey on school resources.
15. Most of our students also had good access to educational resources at home including books, computers and study desks. For instance, 89% of Primary 4 students surveyed and 94% of Secondary 2 students surveyed have a computer at home, compared to the international averages of 65% and 60% respectively.
School Climate and Safety
16. TIMSS 2003 created an Index of Principals’ Perception of School Climate (PPSC).5 Internationally, 23% of Grade 4 and 15% of Grade 8 students were in schools with a high PPSC. Compared to the international averages, a greater proportion of Singapore students attended schools with a high PPSC - 32% at Primary 4 and 30% at Secondary 2.
17. TIMSS 2003 produced an Index of Teachers’ Perception of Safety in the Schools (TPSS).6 Internationally, 70% of the students at both Grades were in schools with a high TPSS. Compared to the international averages, 88% of Primary 4 students and 91% of Secondary 2 students in Singapore attended schools with a high TPSS – the highest percentage among all countries.
18. In 1990, the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) decided to measure student achievement and collect information to facilitate student learning in Mathematics and Science on a regular basis every four years. IEA is an international authority on the study of educational standards. It has more than 50 institutional members including countries like Canada, England, Japan, Singapore and the United States.
19. The first of the large-scale international studies to measure trends in student performance began in 1994-1995 with the original TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study).
20. TIMSS 1995 compared the performance of 45 countries at Grades 3, 4, 7 and 8 (i.e. Primary 3 and 4, and Secondary 1 and 2). Singapore ranked first at Secondary 1 and 2 in both Mathematics and Science. At Primary 3 and 4, Singapore ranked second and first respectively for Mathematics, and seventh in Science.
21. TIMSS 1999 compared the performance of 38 countries at Grade 8 (i.e. Secondary 2). A majority of the participating countries had also participated in TIMSS 1995. Singapore was ranked first in Mathematics and second in Science in TIMSS 1999.
22. Renamed as the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, TIMSS was conducted for a third time at Grades 4 and 8 in 2002-2003. Students from 49 countries and 4 other participants7 took part in TIMSS 2003. Singapore conducted the test in October 2002. Primary 4 and Secondary 2 students from all primary and secondary schools and courses, i.e. Special, Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical), participated in TIMSS 2003.
 TIMSS 2003 International Reports and Technical Report are available on the TIMSS website, http://timss.bc.edu/.
Table 1: Average Achievement of Grade 4 Students
Table 2: Average Achievement of Grade 8 Students
Table 3: Index of High Availability of School Resources for Mathematics/Science Instruction