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Top marks for Irish pupils as they score highest across the EU in maths

Ireland was among 33 countries to participate in the international study at both levels.

Image: Shutterstock/hxdbzxy

IRELAND HAS BEEN named the highest performing EU country in mathematics at both fourth class at primary level and second year in post-primary.

Minister for Education Norma Foley today welcomed the results from TIMMS 2019 (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) which also shows students at both levels in Ireland scored significantly above average in maths and science.

The study – which is conducted every four years of students in fourth class and again in second year of secondary school – found that there were no significant gender differences in performance for maths and science at either level. 

Ireland was among 33 countries to participate in the study at both levels, which overall included 672,000 students from 64 countries. 

Overall, we came in 9th place in maths – although still highest in the EU. Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea led the top three while Northern Ireland came 7th and England 8th. 

This is the seventh time the study has been conducted, with the first taking place in 1995. 

In spring 2019, 4,582 fourth class students from 150 primary schools and 4,118 second year students from 149 post-primary schools completed tests of maths and science.  

Teachers were asked to complete questionnaires about the lessons they teach in maths and science, while principals were also asked about the school environment and resources.

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The results show that lower-achieving students performaned significantly better than the average of students in all countries taking the TIMMS, and the results show equity in terms of schools’ performance generally. 

However, the Department of Education said today that improvement is needed in some areas. For example, the highest performing students in maths and sciences are relatively under-performing compared to their peers in countries with a similar overall performance.

Minister Foley said: “We need to stretch the performance of higher-achieving students.  Concentrated efforts are required to improve the performance of higher achieving students in both subjects at both school levels.  

“This is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to implement a strategy to support gifted and talented students at both primary and post-primary levels.

With regards to the Junior Cycle developments, we are still in the early stage of implementation. The new approaches and emphasis on transversal skills, critical thinking and inquiry-based learning will take time to impact on students’ performance. However, it is interesting to note the relative strengths of new areas of the curriculum as a trend across Science and Mathematics.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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