England's science and maths teachers should be proud of the Timss 2019 results, according to the executive director of the organisation running the study.
Published today, the results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study show that England is still in the top 15 in both subjects at primary and secondary – although the performance of 14-year-old students in science has declined to an all-time low.
Dirk Hastedt, director of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, praised England's teachers' performance.
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He said: "I think the teachers in England are doing an excellent job. And I think what is really outstanding is, of course, the achievement in grade 4 [10-year-olds] mathematics, where England is ranking very high, being one of the top 10 in the participating countries."
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But Mr Hastedt conceded: "We know that the East Asian teachers are achieving much higher, but we know that education there has a different role. In the settings that we experience, I think the teachers in England are doing a very, very good job and they should really be proud of the results of 2019."
Asked what England could learn from top-performing countries such as Singapore – which finished top in all Timss rankings for the second time running – Dr Hastedt said: "What is very special in Singapore is that dedication of teachers but also the time given to teachers for professional development, for preparing lessons – that's quite extraordinary.
"One other factor that plays a key role there is the importance of education for everyone. Teachers are highly appreciated and have an excellent reputation, and that is not the case, sadly, in a lot of countries. We need to look at that, we need to value education, we need to value the teachers.
"If that happens, we will see an improvement, I think. It’s not only something for schools, for education policy – it’s something that everyone can have a stake in."
Dr Hastedt also stressed the importance of giving teachers time for professional development.
According to the study, which includes a questionnaire for teachers, England's teachers say they need more professional development.
For example, 61 per cent of participating maths teachers said they require development in critical thinking and problem solving, while 57 per cent said they need training in ICT in maths – for science teachers the percentages were 56 and 55 respectively.
Dr Hastedt said: "These are areas in demand and we need to see how we can support teachers better."