According to data recently released from the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS), countries in Eastern Asia continue to lead international academic rankings for students between the ages of 10 and 14.
The study, published by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), is the longest running international assessment of maths and science education across the world. Conducted once every four years, over 600,000 students participated in the most recent study in 2015.
While areas like Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan continue to dominate overall, the results did show improvements for Britain in both maths and science, with maths results currently at the highest they have been in the last 20 years for all ages, writes Josie Gurney-Read for The Telegraph.
Among 10-year-old students, the UK’s score increased by 12.8% between 1995 and 2015, going from 484 to 546. Meanwhile, the 14-year-old age group saw a 4% increase during the same time period.
At the same time, science scores for 14-year-olds in the UK caused the country’s international rank to rise from ninth to eighth place out of 39 countries. However, Richard Adams writes for The Guardian that the increase in rank is mainly due to Finland having not entered students in that age group. Finland earned the title of highest-performing European country in 2011.
Robert Coe, a professor of education at the University of Durham, said that the rankings themselves can be a bit misleading, going on to say that each round of testing, as well as each age and subject, includes a different set of countries.
“A better indicator is to look at the actual score and compare it with previous performance. All four of the results for England are up on the previous round , though mostly by a marginal amount, either within the range of sampling variation or simply regaining the loss that was suffered between 2007 and 2011. A rise of 11 points in the score for age 14 maths is more substantial and looks like an upward trend, bringing it a bit more into line with the other three,” said Coe.
Primary students in Northern Ireland continued to see high math scores, maintaining their overall country ranking of 6th place earned in 2011. Exam results for these students were found to be the highest in all 49 of the European countries to participate.
However, results found a “pronounced” difference between the top performing country and the next highest performers, being 23 points for the younger age group and 48 points for the older group.
Singapore was found to be the top performing country for both math and science.
A separate assessment, the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), is due to release their own rankings through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Results of the assessments, which test students in math, literacy, and science, are published once every three years.
The most recent results of the PISA assessment found 22% of 15-year-olds throughout the UK performing at the lowest proficiency in maths when compared to countries such as Korea and Singapore, which saw the number of low-performing 15-year-olds below 10%.
As a result, the Government implemented a total of 35 maths hubs throughout England that followed the math education method used in East Asia in an effort to improve standards.
“Today’s results show our pupils are more engaged and confident in both subjects compared to some of the top performing countries. Mastering these skills will ensure there is no limit to a pupil’s ambition and will ensure our future workforce has the skills to drive the future productivity and economy for this country,” said school standards minister Nick Gibb.
Gibb went on to say that a new curriculum that increased the demands made within primary math classes would be implemented in schools in September 2014. He added that £2.5 billion had also been invested into the Pupil Premium in an effort to promote educational equality.