FISS. First International Science Study

The IEA First International Science Study (FISS) focused on three fields of science: biology, chemistry, and physics.

The data were collected shortly after the introduction in many countries of reforms in science education. Thus, the study was concerned not only with student achievement across the domain of science, but also with methods of teaching, students' attitudes, and the development of students' practical skills and understanding of the nature of science. Instruments included student tests in all three fields and student, teacher, and school questionnaires. The study was conducted as part of the Six Subject Survey, which also investigated achievement in civic educationEnglish as a foreign languageFrench as a foreign languageliterature education, and reading comprehension. The data collection occurred in 1970–1971.

Target population

The target populations were 10-year-old students, 14-year-old students, and students in the final year of secondary school. Additionally, students specializing in a particular science subject were tested.

Participating education systems

Australia, Belgium (Flemish), Belgium (French), Chile, England, Finland, France, Germany (FRG), Hungary, India, Iran, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Sweden, Thailand, and United States.

Key findings

Student achievement and opportunity to learn

Schools had an effect on learning science. At both secondary school levels, a clear linear relationship was observed between opportunity to learn and student achievement, especially in the case of practical skills. However freer methods of inquiry did not lead to higher achievement.

No clear and consistent relationships were found between opportunity to learn in specific content areas and achievement for 10-year-olds. Controlled practical work of students led to better performance in science than did more informal investigation.

At both secondary school levels, students of teachers who were specialist science teachers, who had received more post-secondary education, who had participated in science curriculum reform, who had spent more time on preparation, or who were members of a subject association tended to perform better on the science achievement test.

Gender differences

Boys outperformed girls in all branches of science covered by the test. However, gender differences in achievement were considerably smaller in biology than in physics and the practical aspects of the subject.

Boys showed more favorable attitudes to science than girls but these attitudes were not clearly related to whether boys and girls were taught together in co-educational schools or whether they were taught separately.

Major publications

Bloom, B.S. (1969). Cross-national study of educational attainment: Stage I of the I.E.A. investigation in six subject areas (Vols. 1–2). Washington, DC: Office of Education (DHEW).

Comber, L.C., & Keeves, J.P. (1973). Science education in nineteen countries: An empirical study. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Passow, A.H., Noah, H.J., Eckstein, M.A., & Mallea, J.R. (1976). The national case study: An empirical comparative study of twenty-one educational systems. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Peaker, G.F. (1975). An empirical study of education in twenty-one countries: A technical report. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.

Walker, D.A. (1976). The IEA Six Subject Survey: An empirical study of education in twenty-one countries. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell.