Grade 4s above average, study says

by Gavin Wilson
Staff writer

Canadian Grade 4 students have performed well in a UBC-based international test of mathematics and science skills, according to recently released survey results.

The second phase of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) was written by Grade 4 students in 26 countries. The results of phase one, which tested Grade 8 students, were released last November.

The latest results show that Canadian Grade 4 students averaged 64 per cent in science, five percentage points higher than the international mean. In mathematics, the Canadian score was 60 per cent, one percentage point higher than the international mean.

Comparing overall achievement in science between Canada and other participating nations, five countries scored higher, seven attained similar results and 13 had lower averages. In mathematics, eight scored significantly higher, seven did as well and 10 did significantly more poorly.

"The results are good news for Canada, and represent an important step forward in our understanding of how students are taught and learn these two critical subjects," said David Robitaille, international co-ordinator of TIMSS and head of the Faculty of Education's Dept. of Curriculum Studies.

"Not all countries performed as well in Grade 4 as they did in Grade 8. Canadian students, however, performed quite well and at about the same level in both grades," he said.

Robitaille added that while the release of test results for grades 4 and 8 represent an important step for TIMSS, its work is far from over.

"The more significant analyses, looking for links between curriculum and teaching practices on the one hand and student achievement on the other, are still to come, and efforts are under way to raise the money needed to carry out those analyses," he said.

TIMSS is the world's largest test of mathematics and science skills. Test results were released in St. John's, Nfld. in conjunction with the Learned Societies conference.

The TIMSS survey marks the first time in an international study that Canada was represented by a national sample of schools, including public, private, separate, English and French-speaking. Five provinces -- B.C., Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland -- selected samples large enough to make interprovincial comparisons possible.

There was no significant difference in achievement between Canadian boys and girls in either subject, paralleling results for Grade 8.

TIMSS, launched in 1991, compares mathematics and science curricula and teaching methods of school systems, as well as achievement scores and attitudes of students toward the subjects.

TIMSS was conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), an association of universities, research institutes and ministries of education which conducts co-operative international research studies in education.

Funding for Canadian participation and international co-ordination of the study was also provided by Human Resources Development Canada, Industry Canada and the B.C. Ministry of Education, Skills and Training.