TABLE TOPPERS. A comparative study of pupil performance in more than 40 countries has confirmed that English children really are poor at maths - but its science findings are surprisingly upbeat. David Budge reports. Singapore's children are the new holders of the "world's top scholars" title. Previous studies have suggested that either Korea or Japan was at the head of the international educational league table, but neither country managed to match the tiny island republic in the TlMSS tests.
Singapore finished top in both maths and science in each of the two age groups that the study covered (the equivalent of Years 8 and 9 in England), and no other country even came close to challenging it.
The second most successful country, Korea, was runner-up in maths in both age groups and in the Year 8 science table. The Czech Republic, the European country that scored highest in the science tests, edged Japan into third in the Year 9 table. Japan also claimed third place in both maths tables and finished fourth in the Year 8 science tests.
Belgium's Flemish-speaking children excelled in the maths tests, outscoring all but the Pacific Rim countries, Singapore, Korea, Japan and Hong Kong, in both year groups. The Slovak Republic also did consistently well in both the maths and science tests but the Scandinavian countries, Sweden, Norway and Denmark, were lowly placed in both subjects.
Germany did marginally better than England in the maths tests but was excluded from the rankings because its pupils were substantially older than the average. France's maths performance was appreciably better than England's in both age groups but its science scores were surprisingly poor. Only 1 per cent of its older pupils were in the top 10 per cent internationally compared with 17 per cent in England.