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Year 8 TIMSS Results

Tuesday December 18, 2012

These are summary results for Australia from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) for Year 8. They are also compared with results from earlier years.

Overall, Australia is doing much better by Year 8 relative to other countries than it is for Year 4.

Mathematics
Only six countries had a significantly higher average Year 8 mathematics score than Australia in 2011. With a score of 505, Australia scored significantly higher than 27 countries and statistically similar to eight countries. However, there has been no change in Australia’s average score since 1995.

The proportion of students performing at the low international benchmark or below in Australia (37%) was similar to many other Western countries. However, it was much higher than in the high performing East Asian countries where the proportion ranged from 7% to 13% and higher than in Russia (3%) and Finland (27%). The proportion at the advanced level (9%) was higher than in many Western countries including Finland (4%), similar to some countries such as England (8%), but well below that of the East Asian countries where it ranged from 27% to 48%.

The proportion of students at the low benchmark or below was similar to that in 2007, while the proportion at the advanced level increased slightly from 6% to 9%. However, the proportions at each level have not changed significantly since 1995.

The gap between the top and bottom 5% of students in Australia in 2011 of 283 points was statistically similar to that in many other countries. It was much lower than in Taiwan and Israel but much higher than in Finland, Hungary, Norway and Sweden. The gap in Australia increased slightly from 2007 to 2011.

The average score of students whose parents did not complete secondary school was almost identical to that of Indigenous students (438 and 437 respectively).

Students who have at least one parent with a university degree had an average mathematics score a substantial 132 points higher than that of students whose parents did not complete secondary school. This achievement gap was nearly double the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and the same as the gap between Indigenous students and students whose parents have completed a university degree.

There was a significant decrease in the average score of students whose parents did not complete secondary school between 2007 and 2011, from 472 to 437. The average score of students of parents who completed a university degree increased from 546 to 569. As a result, the achievement gap between the two groups almost doubled from 74 to 132 points.

There was a huge contrast in the proportions of students from different family education backgrounds at different achievement levels. More than one quarter (27%) of students who had at least one parent complete a university degree reached the advanced benchmark compared to only 2% of students of parents who did not complete secondary school. In contrast, a massive 71% of students of parents who did not complete secondary school were at or below the low international benchmark, but only 14% of students of a parent who had a university degree were at or below the low benchmark. There was a large increase in the proportion of students of parents who did not complete secondary school at or below the low benchmark from 51% to 71% between 2007 and 2011.

The mean score for Indigenous students was well below that of non-Indigenous students, with a difference of 70 points. A negligible proportion of Indigenous students were at the advanced maths level (1%) compared to non-Indigenous students (9%). Over two-thirds of all Indigenous students (68%) were at the low benchmark or below compared to 34% of non-Indigenous students.

There was no significant change in the mean score of Indigenous students between 1995 and 2011 or between 2007 and 2011. There was also little change in the proportions of students at different levels between 2007 and 2011.

The mean score of remote area students were well below that of metropolitan students, with a difference of 64 points. Only 2% of remote area students were at the most advanced maths level compared to 10% of metropolitan students. Sixty per cent of remote area students were at or below the low benchmark compared to 34% of metropolitan students.

There was a slight decrease in the average score of remote area students since 2007 and an increase in the proportion at or below the low international benchmark.

There was no statistically significant difference between the mean scores of LBOTE and English speaking students in Year 8 mathematics. The proportion of students at or below the low benchmark was similar for both groups, but a much higher proportion of LBOTE students was at the advanced level.

The mean score of LBOTE students increased by 36 points between 2007 and 2011; the proportion at the advanced level increased from 12% to 21% and the proportion at or below the low benchmark decreased from 50% to 37%.

Science
Only nine countries outperformed Australia in science in 2011. Australia’s average score of 516 was statistically higher than 26 countries and similar to six other countries. However, Australia’s average score was not significantly different from in 1995.

The proportion of students performing at the low international benchmark or below in Australia (30%) was similar to many other Western countries. However, it was much higher than in the high performing East Asian countries where the proportion ranged from 13% to 20% and much higher than in Finland (12%). The proportion at the advanced level (11%) was higher than in many Western countries, similar to some others such as USA (10%) and Finland (13%), but well below that of the Korea, Taiwan and Singapore where it ranged from 20% to 40%.

The proportions at each level have not changed significantly since 1995, although there was a small increase in the proportion at the advanced level between 2007 and 2011.

The gap between the top and bottom 5% of students in Australia in 2011 of 277 points was one of the largest in the developed world, only significantly exceeded by Singapore and Israel. It was similar to several other countries and much higher than in Finland, Hong Kong and Norway. The gap in Australia increased slightly from 2007 to 2011.

The average score of students whose parents did not complete secondary school was statistically similar to that of Indigenous students (446 and 459 respectively).

Students who have at least one parent with a university degree had an average science score that was 134 points higher than that of students whose parents did not complete secondary school. This achievement gap was double that of the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and higher than the gap between Indigenous students and students whose parents have completed a university degree.

There was a significant decrease in the average score of students whose parents did not complete secondary school between 2007 and 2011, from 487 to 446. The achievement gap between these students and those of parents who had a university degree increased from 82 to 134 points.

There was a huge contrast in the proportions of students from different family education backgrounds at different achievement levels in science. Nearly one-third (29%) of students who had at least one parent complete a university degree reached the advanced benchmark compared to only 3% of students of parents who did not complete secondary school. In contrast, a massive 64% of students of parents who did not complete secondary school were at or below the low international benchmark, while only 10% of students of a parent who had a university degree were at or below the low benchmark. There was a large increase in the proportion of students of parents who did not complete secondary school at or below the low benchmark from 40% to 64% between 2007 and 2011.

The mean science score for Indigenous students was well below that of non-Indigenous students, with a difference of 65 points. Only 2% of Indigenous students were at the advanced level (2%) compared to 11% of non-Indigenous students. Fifty-eight per cent of Indigenous students were at the low benchmark or below compared to 28% of non-Indigenous students.

There was no significant change in the mean score of Indigenous students between 1995 and 2011 or between 2007 and 2011. There was also little change in the proportions of students at different levels between 2007 and 2011.

The mean score of remote area students were well below that of metropolitan students, with a difference of 57 points. Only 4% of remote area students were at the most advanced maths level compared to 12% of metropolitan students. Just over one half of remote area students were at or below the low benchmark compared to 28% of metropolitan students.

There was a slight decrease in the average score of remote area students since 2007 and an increase in the proportion at or below the low international benchmark.

There was no statistically significant difference between the mean scores of LBOTE and English speaking students in Year 8 science. The proportion of students at the advanced level was similar for both groups, while the proportion of LBOTE students at or below the low benchmark was higher than for English speaking students.

The mean score of LBOTE students increased by 22 points between 2007 and 2011; the proportion at the advanced level increased from 9% to 13% and the proportion at or below the low benchmark decreased from 50% to 42%.

Trevor Cobbold

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