England nears top of world league

13th June 1997 at 01:00
"Rather good at science but could do much better at maths" concludes a 26-country survey on English nine-year-olds. These findings are very close to the same study's findings on our 13-year-olds last November. David Budge reports

Although England is short of talented primary-aged mathematicians it appears to have a reassuringly large number of budding scientists.

Only three of the 25 other countries that took part in TIMSS - Korea, Japan and the United States - did significantly better in the science tests.

Furthermore, 13 per cent of the English pupils were placed in the top 10 per cent internationally. That was 2 per cent more than even the Singaporeans and Japanese achieved, although they had a higher overall score. And only the United States did substantially better in this respect, pushing 16 per cent of its Year 5 children into the top 10 per cent.

None of the Western European countries surveyed achieved higher overall mean scores than England. The performance of Austrian and Dutch children was not substantially different from the English. But Greece, Iceland, Norway and Portugal all recorded lower scores.

Among the English-speaking countries, Australia, Canada, the United States and Scotland were on a par with England at Year 4, although the Americans pulled ahead in Year 5. New Zealand was the lowest-performing English-speaking country in science, as it was in maths.

The English pupils also comfortably outscored Hungary, Latvia, Hong Kong and Thailand. And, perhaps more importantly, England proved itself the equal of Singapore, which has emerged as one of the strongest Pacific Rim nations in recent international studies.

The relative position of England, compared with Hong Kong, appears to have improved, but the gap between us and Korea and Japan appears harder to close.

One consolation, however, is that the English children scored above the international mean in each of the four areas tested: Earth science, Life science, Physical science and Science and the environment.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today