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SINGAPORE TOPS THE TRENDS IN INTERNATIONAL MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE STUDY (TIMSS) 2003


1.      Singapore has emerged first in both Mathematics and Science in a 49-country study of Grade 4 (Primary 4) and Grade 8 (Secondary 2) students conducted in 2002-03.  The study, conducted by the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) based in Boston, USA, affirms the high quality of Mathematics and Science education in Singapore.

2.      Key factors contributing to Singapore’s good performance include:

  • students’ educational aspirations and attitude towards Mathematics and Science;
  • the educational resources available in school and at home;
  • the school climate and safety

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).


KEY FINDINGS

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 

CONTRIBUTING FACTORS

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.
 
School and Home Resources

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.

BACKGROUND

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.

________________________________________

[1] TIMSS 2003 International Reports and Technical Report are available on the TIMSS website, http://timss.bc.edu/.
[2] They are the advanced benchmark at 625, the high benchmark at 550, the intermediate benchmark at 475 and the low benchmark at 400.
[3] TIMSS 1999 did not involve Primary 4 students
[4] The Index of Availability of School Resources is based on principals’ average response to questions about shortages that affect general capacity to provide instruction, e.g. instructional materials; budget for supplies; school buildings and grounds; heating/cooling and lighting systems; and instructional space, and Mathematics/Science instruction, e.g. computers; computer software; calculators; library materials relevant to Mathematics/Science instruction; audio-visual resources; and Science laboratory equipment and materials.
[5] The PPSC was based on principals’ characterisations of “teachers’ job satisfaction”; “teachers’ understanding of the school’s curricular goals”; “teachers’ degree of success in implementing the school’s curriculum”; “teachers’ expectations for students’ achievement”; “parental support for students’ achievement”; “parental involvement in schools’ activities”; “students’ regard for school property”; and “students’ desire to do well in school”.
[6] In TPSS, teachers were asked how much they agreed with the 3 statements:  “This school is located in a safe neighbourhood”; “I feel safe in this school”; and “This school’s security policies and practices are sufficient”.
[7] The 4 participants were Basque Country (Spain), Indiana State (the United States), Ontario Province (Canada) and Quebec Province (Canada).


 

Table 1:   Average Achievement of Grade 4 Students

 

          Mathematics (Grade 4)

 

              Science (Grade 4)

Country

Average

 

Country

Average

Singapore

594

 

Singapore

565

Hong Kong, SAR

575

 

Chinese Taipei

551

Japan

565

 

Japan

543

Chinese Taipei

564

 

Hong Kong, SAR

542

Belgium (Flemish)

551

 

England

540

Netherlands

540

 

United States

536

Latvia

536

 

Latvia

532

Lithuania

534

 

Hungary

530

Russian Federation

532

 

Russian Federation

526

England

531

 

Netherlands

525

Hungary

529

 

Australia

521

United States

518

 

New Zealand

520

Cyprus

510

 

Belgium (Flemish)

518

Moldova, Rep. of

504

 

Italy

516

Italy

503

 

Lithuania

512

Australia

499

 

Scotland

502

International Average

495

 

Moldova, Rep. of

496

New Zealand

493

 

Slovenia

490

Scotland

490

 

International Average

489

Slovenia

479

 

Cyprus

480

Armenia

456

 

Norway

466

Norway

451

 

Armenia

437

Iran, Islamic Rep. of

389

 

Iran, Islamic Rep. of

414

Philippines

358

 

Philippines

332

Morocco

347

 

Tunisia

314

Tunisia

339

 

Morocco

304

 

Table 2:  Average Achievement of Grade 8 Students

 

          Mathematics (Grade 8)

 

              Science (Grade 8)

Country

Average

 

Country

Average

Singapore

605

 

Singapore

578

Korea, Rep. of

589

 

Chinese Taipei

571

Hong Kong, SAR

586

 

Korea, Rep. of

558

Chinese Taipei

585

 

Hong Kong, SAR

556

Japan

570

 

Estonia

552

Belgium (Flemish)

537

 

Japan

552

Netherlands

536

 

Hungary

543

Estonia

531

 

Netherlands

536

Hungary

529

 

United States

527

Malaysia

508

 

Australia

527

Latvia

508

 

Sweden

524

Russian Federation

508

 

Slovenia

520

Slovak Republic

508

 

New Zealand

520

Australia

505

 

Lithuania

519

United States

504

 

Slovak Republic

517

Lithuania

502

 

Belgium (Flemish)

516

Sweden

499

 

Russian Federation

514

Scotland

498

 

Latvia

512

Israel

496

 

Scotland

512

New Zealand

494

 

Malaysia

510

Slovenia

493

 

Norway

494

Italy

484

 

Italy

491

Armenia

478

 

Israel

488

Serbia

477

 

Bulgaria

479

Bulgaria

476

 

Jordan

475

Romania

475

 

International Average

474

International Average

467

 

Moldova, Rep. of

472

Norway

461

 

Romania

470

Moldova, Rep. of

460

 

Serbia

468

Cyprus

459

 

Armenia

461

Macedonia, Rep. of

435

 

Iran, Islamic Rep. of

453

Lebanon

433

 

Macedonia, Rep. of

449

Jordan

424

 

Cyprus

441

Iran, Islamic Rep. of

411

 

Bahrain

438

Indonesia

411

 

Palestinian Nat'l Auth.

435

Tunisia

410

 

Egypt

421

Egypt

406

 

Indonesia

420

Bahrain

401

 

Chile

413

Palestinian Nat'l Auth.

390

 

Tunisia

404

Chile

387

 

Saudi Arabia

398

Morocco

387

 

Morocco

396

Philippines

378

 

Lebanon

393

Botswana

366

 

Philippines

377

Saudi Arabia

332

 

Botswana

365

Ghana

276

 

Ghana

255

South Africa

264

 

South Africa

244

*  England

498

 

*  England

544

*England did not satisfy guidelines for sample participation rates at Grade 8.

 

 

 

Table 3: Index of High Availability of School Resources for Mathematics/Science Instruction

 

 

Singapore’s Average

(2003)

International Average

(2003)

Singapore’s

Average

(1995)

International Average

(1995)

Grade 4 Mathematics Instruction

86%

  33%

47%

26%

Grade 4

Science Instruction

85%

28%

47%

22%

Grade 8 Mathematics Instruction

88%

26%

55%

23%

Grade 8 Science Instruction

92%

26%

62%

22%

 


 

 

 

 



 
 

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