East Asian Countries Lead Achievement in Mathematics, Science, and Reading

Lauren Williams's picture
Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Students from Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong were top performers in fourth grade mathematics, followed by Chinese Taipei and Japan, according to results released today by IEA and the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College.

In fourth grade science, top-performing countries were Korea and Singapore, followed by Finland, Japan, and the Russian Federation.

At the eighth grade, Korea, Singapore, and Chinese Taipei led the world in mathematics achievement. Singapore led the world in science, followed by Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Japan.

In reading at the fourth grade, the four top-performing countries were Hong Kong, the Russian Federation, Finland, and Singapore.

TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 represent a landmark event--the first time the two renowned international assessments have been conducted concurrently. In 2011, TIMSS assessed 600,000 students in 63 countries and 14 benchmarking participants, and PIRLS assessed 300,000 students in 49 countries and 9 benchmarking participants.

TIMSS is assessed every four years, and TIMSS 2011 was the fifth measurement of trends in mathematics and science achievement at the fourth and eighth grades since 1995. PIRLS has measured trends in reading comprehension at the fourth grade every five years since 2001.

"A number of countries have been working hard to improve their educational achievement, for example, by redeveloping curricula, raising standards for teacher certification, or increasing the number of years of schooling," said Drs. Ina V.S. Mullis and Michael O. Martin, Executive Directors of the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center. "It is impressive that so many have been able to improve student performance since 1995."

At the fourth grade, looking at achievement trends over time, there have been more increases than decreases in overall mathematics, science, and reading achievement. In comparison, at the eighth grade there was more balance between achievement growth and decline, particularly in mathematics.

TIMSS and PIRLS 2011 also show:

-- Early childhood experiences supporting literacy and numeracy learning, in the home and in preschool programs, have strong positive relationships with fourth grade mathematics and reading achievement.

-- Schools that have more affluent student bodies, emphasize academic success, are safe and orderly, and have a well-prepared, skillful teaching force can positively affect student achievement.

-- Students' attitudes toward learning have a strong positive relationship with mathematics, science, and reading achievement, particularly at the fourth grade.