Thursday, July 03, 2008

Maths in Armenia | comparing through TIMSS

What is the average Armenian secondary school student’s competence in Maths and Science? Is Armenia doing fine, or is it time for the education policy makers to review the secondary school curricula. Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) proposes an answer to these questions. TIMSS is an international evaluation of the mathematics and science knowledge of fourth and eighth grade students around the world. It was first conducted in 1995, and is administered once in every four years since then. In 2003, alongside with over 60 countries from around the world, Armenia also participated in the study.

Singapore (605), Hong Kong (586), Chinese Taipei (585), Japan (570) lead the TIMSS charts both in Maths and Science. The good news is that Armenia is among the countries that have high scores in Maths among the eight graders. Armenia is the 23rd in the chart, with an average score of 478 and is ahead of Serbia (477), Bulgaria (476), Romania (475) - countries that are above the international average score (467). The picture is different when it comes to the Maths scores of the fourth graders. Armenia’s indicators (456) are significantly lower than international average (495), leaving behind only Norway (451), Iran (389), Philippines (358), Morocco (341) and Tunisia (339).

Science scores among both the eight and fourth graders in Armenia are disappointing: 461 for the eight graders vs. 574 international average score and 437 vs. 489.

Interestingly, girls in Armenia show better results both in Maths and Science than boys (that's not the typical story). Look at the average grades below.


4th grade

8th grade















Some alternative studies conducted in Armenia suggest that TIMSS sample may not be representative of the overall population. If we understand the argument correctly, the authors of this study argue that students included in the sample in Armenia are from middle-upper classes. Effectively this could mean that the poorest remain underrepresented. This may be an interesting topic for research (any potential fellows out there?).

TIMSS methodology, datasets and the questionnaires are available for further analysis here. The study is not conducted in other countries yet, although Georgia looks poised to join TIMSS.


Katy said...

Some argue that TIMMS doesn't do a good job measuring "science" or "math" as it is taught in some cultures as well.

With boys and girls scoring differently, there could be a lot of speculation on this -- girls generally do work harder in school and perhaps at these ages, they are working hard in order to do better to get a spot at university? Perhaps boys don't feel as pressured for this? And perhaps boys cram for their university entrance exams right before they take them while girls are constantly preparing?

This also leads into a discussion of Armenia's final school year being year 10. IMHO, 16 is too young to graduate. When I am at the university here in Armenia, I am shocked at how immature the students (especially the boys) are compared to American students (ages 18-21 rather than 16-19). Is it just the age difference? No, it is also the system. But I wonder if one more year in school, like most of the world does, might do Armenian young people some good.

xcaucasus said...

I agree with your comment that 16 is too young to graduate, especially if momentous decisions need to be taken at that point. Unfortunately, some of higher education here feels like an unfortunate continuation of secondary schools.

Boys and girls and school performance, all sorts of reasons. I really wonder about that, and would love for someone to do more research on the topic.

What do you mean with measuring science or maths " as it is taught in some cultures as well"? I would think that this stuff is pretty fixed (although of course there are inveterate relativists out there).

Katy said...

Well, differences in math could include word problems versus "traditional" mathematics. I would imagine that in cultures where word problems are taught since early childhood (American), those children would do better where as "traditional" math problems would be more challenging for those children.

And with science, there are so many decisions about what could be taught! I think that human anatomy is very very important, for example. Does any country teach that?

In American schools, the 9th form might be biology, then 10th form chemistry, then 11th form physics. In Armenian schools the get a bit of each in every form. This is just so different!