28 Nov 2000
SINGAPORE NUMBER ONE IN MATHEMATICS AGAIN IN THE THIRD INTERNATIONAL MATHEMATICS AND SCIENCE STUDY 1999
Singapore has emerged first in Mathematics in a 38-country survey of grade eight (Secondary Two) students in mathematics and science conducted in 1998-99. Singapore is ranked second in Science. The excellent results are testimony to the high quality of Mathematics and Science education in Singapore. The significant value which parents and the community place on education, the excellent work of our teachers and principals, the high access to IT and other resources at home and in school, the rigorous curriculum in Singapore schools are among the key factors contributing to Singapore's good performance.
- These results were released in the Third International Mathematics and Science Study 1999 (TIMSS 1999). It covered a representative sample of 5,000 Secondary Two students from all courses - Special, Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical). The study replicated an earlier study (TIMSS 1995) conducted in 1994.
Key Findings - Quantitative
Most Students in International Top Half
- Singapore is first in mathematics and second in science
for TIMSS 1999 (see Table 1).
- Most Singapore students are in the international top half. 93% and 80% of our students are in the international top half for Mathematics and Science respectively (see Table 2).
- A high proportion of Singapore students are also able to achieve excellent results. 46% and 32% of our students reached the international top 10% in Mathematics and Science respectively.
- There were sufficient data to analyse the performance of Chinese and Malay students. For mathematics, 96% of our Chinese students are in the international top half while 83% of our Malay students are in the international top half. For science, 86% of our Chinese students and 61% of our Malay students respectively are in the international top half1 .
Consistent Good Performance
- The consistent good performance of students at both TIMSS 1995 and TIMSS 1999 shows sustained academic excellence in mathematics and science.
- Singapore's Secondary Two students have consistently performed among the top in mathematics and science for both TIMSS 1995 and TIMSS 1999.
- Tracking the performance of the same cohort of students who were in Primary Four for TIMSS 1995 and in Secondary Two for TIMSS 19992 , Singapore students have progressed remarkably in the course of four years in both Mathematics and Science.
a) For Mathematics, Singapore students who were top in TIMSS 1995 at Primary Four still maintain their top position in TIMSS 1999 at Secondary Two.
b) For Science, Singapore Primary Four pupils who were ranked 7th in TIMSS 1995 have moved to a higher ranked position of 2nd at Secondary Two in TIMSS 1999. Science is taught in our primary schools only from Primary Three, instead of Primary One as in most of the other countries.
Key Findings - Qualitative
- The study also identified several interlocking factors which helped Singapore to sustain its top positions:
- Our students not only perform well, but also have a positive attitude towards mathematics and science. 86% and 79% of Singapore students like mathematics and science respectively, in contrast to about half of the students in other top performing countries like Korea and Japan. Our students also regard doing well in mathematics, science and languages as important.
Good Home Support
- Our students have good access to home educational resources, particularly computers. 80% of the students report that they have a computer at home. This is an increase from the 50% of students who reported similarly in TIMSS 1995. The percentage is also among the highest internationally.
Committed Teachers, Good School Organisation and Availability of School Resources
- The commitment and hard work of teachers and principals is evident in the time and effort spent in planning lessons, marking students' work and other tasks.
- Compared to schools in the other countries, fewer schools report that absenteeism, late coming and discipline problems are serious.
- Singapore schools have higher availability of resources for instruction, compared to schools in the other countries. Resources surveyed include instructional materials, budget for supplies, school buildings and grounds, instructional space, computers, library materials and audio-visual resources. Singapore stands out in having a relatively high proportion of students reporting that the computer is used at least once in a while in their mathematics (54%) and science (46%) classes. Internationally, the use of computers in class is not prevalent.
- The mathematics and science curriculum in Singapore has been found to be more comprehensive than that of many countries. About 80% or more of the topics listed in the curriculum framework for TIMSS 1999 are expected to be taught to Secondary Two students in Singapore, higher than international averages. Singapore's rigorous curriculum is continually reviewed to ensure that it remains relevant for our students. Singapore also has an efficient system to implement the curriculum comprehensively across all schools.
- The study was conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). IEA is an international authority on the study of educational standards and it has more than 50 institutional members including countries like Canada, England, Japan, Singapore and the United States. Chinese Taipei and Malaysia were among the newcomers to the 1999 study.
- In Oct 1998, 5,000 Secondary Two students from all secondary schools in Singapore took part in the survey, along with 180,000 students from around the world. Students in all courses, i.e. Special, Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical), participated in TIMSS 1999.
- For TIMSS 1995, which tested at Primary Three, Primary Four, Secondary One and Secondary Two levels, Singapore ranked first at Secondary One and Two in both mathematics and science. At Primary Three and Four, Singapore ranked second and first in mathematics respectively and seventh in science.
Table 1: Ranking of Countries in TIMSS 1999
| ||Chinese Taipei|
|Korea, Rep. of|
|Hong Kong, SAR|
| ||Korea, Rep. of|
| ||Czech Republic|
| ||Slovak Republic|
| ||Belgium (Flemish)|
| ||Hong Kong, SAR|
| ||Russian Federation|
| ||United States|
| ||New Zealand|
| ||Latvia (LSS)|
| || || |
| || || || ||International Avg.|
| ||Macedonia, Rep. of|
|Macedonia, Rep. of|
| ||Iran, Islamic Rep.|
|Iran, Islamic Rep.|
| ||South Africa|
Table 2: Proportion of Students in the International Top Half (A Selection of Countries)
1 The sample size of the other ethnic groups were too small for the results to be statistically meaningful.
2 Since grade 4 students in TIMSS 1995 would have reached grade 8 in TIMSS1999, countries were able to keep track of the performance of the same cohort of students between the two studies relative to other countries.
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