Asian students top latest global math, science study, report Boston College researchers

December 10, 2008

CHESTNUT HILL, MA -- Students from Asian countries were top performers in math and science at both the fourth and eighth grade levels, according to the most recent reports of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released by the study's directors Michael O. Martin and Ina V.S. Mullis of Boston College.

In mathematics, at the fourth grade level, Hong Kong SAR and Singapore were the top performing countries, followed by Chinese Taipei and Japan. Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation, England, Latvia, and the Netherlands also performed very well. In mathematics achievement at the eighth grade, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Singapore were followed by Hong Kong SAR and Japan. There was a substantial gap in average mathematics achievement between the five Asian countries and the next group of four similarly performing countries, including Hungary, England, the Russian Federation, and the United States.

In science, students from Singapore and Chinese Taipei were top performers at both grade levels. In science achievement at the fourth grade, Singapore was the top performing country, followed by Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong SAR. Japan, the Russian Federation, Latvia, England, the United States, Hungary, Italy, and Kazakhstan also performed very well. At the eighth grade in science, Singapore and Chinese Taipei again had the highest average achievement, followed by Japan and Korea. England, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hong Kong SAR, and the Russian Federation also performed well. [Note: Full charts at end of release.]

TIMSS is one of the world's most influential global assessments of student achievement in math and science. With more than 60 participants and 425,000 students assessed, TIMSS 2007 also is the largest study of student math and science achievement in the world. Each country sampled approximately 4,000 students in 150 schools. [Note: a list of participating countries is at the end of this release.]

The TIMSS 2007 report also provides data at the fourth and eighth grades for those countries that also participated in TIMSS 1995, 1999 and 2003.

"One of the great strengths of TIMSS is the ability to monitor progress in educational improvement over time," said TIMSS Directors Michael O. Martin and Ina V.S. Mullis of Boston College. "Such trend information is crucial in helping policy makers understand the impact of decisions about investment in education, curricular reform, and initiatives to improve instruction."

As with previous TIMSS reports, TIMSS 2007 data provide invaluable international benchmarks that can be used to help define world-class performance in mathematics and science at the middle or lower-secondary school level. Beyond comparisons in mathematics and science test scores, they said, the reports provide a wealth of information on educational policies and practices around the world, as well as on gender performance, home environment, curriculum and instructional approaches and teacher preparation in math and science.


TIMSS, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, is the largest assessment of international student achievement in the world and was the first to provide data about trends in math and science achievement over time.

TIMSS is a project of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) headquartered in Amsterdam, and is directed by the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at Boston College in collaboration with a worldwide network of organizations and representatives from the participating countries.

TIMSS 2007 is the fourth in a continuing cycle of international mathematics and science assessments conducted every four years. TIMSS assesses achievement in countries around the world and collects a rich array of information about the educational contexts for learning mathematics and science.

The TIMSS 2007 report involved more than 60 participants: it contains science results for 37 countries and 7 benchmarking participants at the fourth grade and for 50 countries and 7 benchmarking participants at the eighth grade. Each country sampled approximately 4,000 students in 150 schools. Trend data are provided at the fourth and eighth grades for those countries that also participated in 1995, 1999, and 2003.

To inform educational policy in the participating countries, TIMSS also routinely collects extensive background information that addresses concerns about the quantity, quality and content of instruction. TIMSS 2007 offers detailed information about mathematics and science curriculum coverage and implementation, as well as teacher preparation, resource availability and the use of technology.

Participating countries: Algeria, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, England, Georgia, Germany, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Korea, Republic of Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Palestinian National Authority, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Yemen. Benchmarking entities include the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec in Canada; Dubai (United Arab Emirates); Basque Country in Spain, and Massachusetts and Minnesota in the United States.

The full TIMSS 2007 reports are available on-line at

TIMSS 2007 Data Exhibits Summarizing Principal Achievement Results (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study)

Mathematics Achievement at the 4th Grade

Country Average Scale Score

Hong Kong SAR 607
Singapore 599
Chinese Taipei 576
Japan 568
Kazakhstan 549
Russian Federation 544
England 541
Latvia 537
Netherlands 535
Lithuania 530
United States 529
Germany 525
Denmark 523
Australia 516
Hungary 510
Italy 507
Austria 505
Sweden 503
Slovenia 502
TIMSS Scale Average 500
Armenia 500
Slovak Republic 496
Scotland 494
New Zealand 492
Czech Republic 486
Norway 473
Ukraine 469
Georgia 438
Iran, Islamic Rep. of 402
Algeria 378
Colombia 355
Morocco 341
El Salvador 330
Tunisia 327
Kuwait 316
Qatar 296
Yemen 224

Benchmarking Participants

Massachusetts, US 572
Minnesota, US 554
Quebec, Canada 519
Ontario, Canada 512
Alberta, Canada 505
British Columbia, Canada 505
Dubai, UAE 444

Science Achievement at the 4th Grade

Country Average Scale Score

Singapore 587
Chinese Taipei 557
Hong Kong SAR 554
Japan 548
Russian Federation 546
Latvia 542
England 542
United States 539
Hungary 536
Italy 535
Kazakhstan 533
Germany 528
Australia 527
Slovak Republic 526
Austria 526
Sweden 525
Netherlands 523
Slovenia 518
Denmark 517
Czech Republic 515
Lithuania 514
New Zealand 504
Scotland 500
TIMSS Scale Average 500
Armenia 484
Norway 477
Ukraine 474
Iran, Islamic Rep. of 436
Georgia 418
Colombia 400
El Salvador 390
Algeria 354
Kuwait 348
Tunisia 318
Morocco 297
Qatar 294
Yemen 197

Benchmarking Participants

Massachusetts, US 571
Minnesota, US 551
Alberta, Canada 543
British Columbia, Canada 537
Ontario, Canada 536
Quebec, Canada 517
Dubai, UAE 460

Mathematics Achievement at the 8th Grade

Country Average Scale Score

Chinese Taipei 598
Korea, Rep. of 597
Singapore 593
Hong Kong SAR 572
Japan 570
Hungary 517
England 513
Russian Federation 512
United States 508
Lithuania 506
Czech Republic 504
Slovenia 501
TIMSS Scale Average 500
Armenia 499
Australia 496
Sweden 491
Malta 488
Scotland 487
Serbia 486
Italy 480
Malaysia 474
Norway 469
Cyprus 465
Bulgaria 464
Israel 463
Ukraine 462
Romania 461
Bosnia and Herzegovina 456
Lebanon 449
Thailand 441
Turkey 432
Jordan 427
Tunisia 420
Georgia 410
Iran, Islamic Rep. of 403
Bahrain 398
Indonesia 397
Syrian Arab Republic 395
Egypt 391
Algeria 387
Colombia 380
Oman 372
Palestinian Nat'l Auth. 367
Botswana 364
Kuwait 354
El Salvador 340
Saudi Arabia 329
Ghana 309
Qatar 307
Morocco 381

Benchmarking Participants

Massachusetts, US 547
Minnesota, US 532
Quebec, Canada 528
Ontario, Canada 517
British Columbia, Canada 509
Basque Country, Spain 499
Dubai, UAE 461

Science Achievement at the 8th Grade

Country Average Scale Score

Singapore 567
Chinese Taipei 561
Japan 554
Korea, Rep. of 553
England 542
Hungary 539
Czech Republic 539
Slovenia 538
Hong Kong SAR 530
Russian Federation 530
United States 520
Lithuania 519
Australia 515
Sweden 511
TIMSS Scale Average 500
Scotland 496
Italy 495
Armenia 488
Norway 487
Ukraine 485
Jordan 482
Malaysia 471
Thailand 471
Serbia 470
Bulgaria 470
Israel 468
Bahrain 467
Bosnia and Herzegovina 466
Romania 462
Iran, Islamic Rep. of 459
Malta 457
Turkey 454
Syrian Arab Republic 452
Cyprus 452
Tunisia 445
Indonesia 427
Oman 423
Georgia 421
Kuwait 418
Colombia 417
Lebanon 414
Egypt 408
Algeria 408
Palestinian Nat'l Auth. 404
Saudi Arabia 403
El Salvador 387
Botswana 355
Qatar 319
Ghana 303
Morocco 402

Benchmarking Participants

Massachusetts, US 556
Minnesota, US 539
Ontario, Canada 526
British Columbia, Canada 526
Quebec, Canada 507
Basque Country, Spain 498
Dubai, UAE 489

SOURCE: IEA's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2007, conducted by Boston College. Copyright © 2007 International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). All rights reserved.

Boston College

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