TIMSS 2019: Singapore Students Continue to Excel in Mathematics and Science

Published Date: 08 December 2020 12:00 PM

News Press Releases

1. Singapore's Primary 4 (P4) and Secondary 2 (S2) students continue to perform well in Mathematics and Science by international standards, according to the latest results from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019, a study by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

2. Reflecting on Singapore's performance in TIMSS 2019, Director-General of Education, Mr Wong Siew Hoong, said: "Given the proliferation of technology in our lives and the growing importance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-related competencies such as mathematical and scientific reasoning, problem-solving and critical thinking, it is encouraging that our students continue to do very well in Mathematics and Science by international standards and have positive attitudes towards learning these subjects. Their mastery of numeracy and scientific literacy will provide them with a strong foundation to develop other skills in life and enable them to seize opportunities in the workplace, particularly in the STEM-related fields. Our schools will continue to work with parents and the community to help our students further develop interests and competencies in these areas."

KEY FINDINGS

Singapore students continue to demonstrate a strong mastery of numeracy and scientific literacy

3. Our P4 and S2 students have done better than their peers in all participating education systems in overall Mathematics and Science mean scores, doing so for the third time since TIMSS 2003. Our S2 students have made a substantial improvement in Science relative to TIMSS 20151, scoring above 600 points for the first time. The mean scores of participating education systems for Grade 4 (equivalent to P4 in Singapore) and Grade 8 (equivalent to S2) Mathematics and Science can be found in the Annex.

Singapore students across all academic abilities have done well

4. All our students have done well by international standards, not just those who are academically stronger. In particular, our students who are academically weaker achieved scores that are among the highest across all participating systems. We will continue to help our students, across all academic abilities, achieve as high a level as they are capable of, by continuing to support those who need more help and encouraging the pursuit of excellence across the board.

The majority of our students can apply knowledge and concepts, and use reasoning skills to solve complex Mathematics and Science problems

5. Like in previous years, Singapore continues to have one of the highest proportions of our students who attained the top two international benchmarks2 ("Advanced" and "High") among participating education systems, in both Mathematics and Science. At least 7 in 10 of our students attained these two top benchmarks at each grade and subject (P4: Maths 84%, Science 74%; S2: Maths 79%, Science 77%), demonstrating their ability in applying mathematical and scientific knowledge and concepts, and using reasoning skills to solve complex problems. In fact, in TIMSS 2019:

  • Singapore is the only system where more than half of our P4 and S2 students attained the "Advanced" international benchmark in Mathematics (P4: Singapore 54%; International median 7%. S2: Singapore 51%; International median 5%).

  • Similarly, high proportions of our P4 and S2 students attained the "Advanced" international benchmark in Science (P4: Singapore 38%; International median 6%. S2: Singapore 48%; International median 7%).

  • Singapore also has the highest proportions of P4 and S2 students who attained the "Advanced" international benchmark in both Mathematics and Science across the top five education systems (P4: Singapore 35%; other systems in top five – range of 8%-23%. S2: Singapore 42%; other systems in top five – range of 8%-27%).

Only a very small proportion of our students — among the smallest across participating systems — did not manage to attain the lowest international benchmark of competence

6. Like in previous years, the proportions of our P4 and S2 students who did not manage to attain the lowest ("Low") international benchmark have remained very small, at between 1% and 2% for both subjects (International medians: 8%-15%).

7. Our P4 students have made much progress in both Mathematics and Science since Singapore first participated in TIMSS in 1995, with greater improvements by students who are academically weaker compared to those who are academically stronger. For example, in Science, the performance of our P4 students who are among our academically weakest improved by 100 points from 1995 to 2019, compared to a 44-point improvement by peers who are academically stronger. We will continue to provide the necessary support for our students who need more help to acquire essential skills.

Our students have positive attitudes towards learning Mathematics and Science but expressed less confidence in learning both subjects

8. Like in previous years, our students continue to have positive attitudes towards learning Mathematics and Science. For example, about 9 in 10 of our S2 students like learning Science and see value3 in studying Science.

9. However, our students also reported relatively less confidence in learning the subjects, compared with their same-grade international peers.

  • About 2 in 10 of our P4 students (3 in 10 internationally) and about 1 in 10 of our S2 students (2 in 10 internationally) reported being very confident in learning Mathematics.

  • About 2 in 10 of our P4 and S2 students reported being very confident in learning Science, compared to about 4 in 10 for G4 and 2 in 10 for G8 internationally.

10. This self-reported lack of confidence is similarly observed in other Asian education systems, and could be related to the cultures of these systems. Nonetheless, we will continue to work closely with parents and other stakeholders to help our students learn deeply, while fostering a stronger sense of confidence so that they can enjoy learning and maintain a strong desire to learn.

Our schools continue to provide safe and conducive environments for learning

11. Like in previous years, the environment in our schools is generally safe and conducive for students' learning. Our students feel safe and like being in school, with nearly 9 in 10 of our P4 and S2 students reported feeling a sense of belonging to their schools.

BACKGROUND OF TIMSS 2019

12. TIMSS is an international study that measures what students at Grade 4 and Grade 8 (equivalent to P4 and S2 respectively in Singapore) can do – understand, apply, and reason – in Mathematics and Science. TIMSS 2019 is the first cycle in which eTIMSS, the computer-based version of the TIMSS assessment, was administered.

13. TIMSS is conducted every four years. Singapore has participated in every cycle of TIMSS since its inception in 1995. A total of 72 education systems participated in TIMSS 2019. In Singapore, about 5,990 randomly-selected P4 students from all public primary schools and about 4,850 randomly-selected S2 students from all public secondary schools participated in TIMSS 2019. They are representative of the population of P4 and S2 students in Singapore.

14. For more information about IEA's TIMSS 2019, please visit http://timssandpirls.bc.edu.

 

Footnotes
  1. Our S2 students achieved a mean score of 597 points for Science in TIMSS 2015.

  2. TIMSS has four international benchmarks describing what students know and can do at the “Low”, “Intermediate”, “High”, and “Advanced” levels of achievement in each subject. Students who attained the “Low” international benchmark show only basic knowledge in the particular subject expected at the particular grade, while those who attained the “Advanced” international benchmark are highly competent in the subject, demonstrating a high level of understanding and ability to apply and reason in the subject.

  3. P4 students were not asked how much they value either subject.

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