TIMSS 2003 was the third in a continuing cycle of international mathematics and science assessments conducted every four years.
In this cycle, greater emphasis was placed on questions and tasks that would offer better insight into the analytical, problem-solving, and inquiry skills and capabilities of students. In addition to collecting achievement data, TIMSS 2003 also gathered extensive background information to address concerns about the quantity, quality, and content of instruction. TIMSS 2003 provided countries that participated in previous assessments (1995, 1999) with three TIMSS cycles of trends at the eighth grade and data over a second point in time at the fourth grade. The main data collection for TIMSS 2003 was conducted in 2002–2003.
The TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College, United States, served as the international study center for TIMSS 1995, working in close cooperation with the IEA, and the national centers of participating countries.
For more information, including in-depth reports and analyses, please visit the TIMSS 2003 website.
There were two target populations for the study: fourth grade and eighth grade students.
Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium (Flemish), Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Chile, Chinese Taipei, Cyprus, Egypt, England, Estonia, Ghana, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldova, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Palestinian National Authority, Philippines, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain (Basque Country), Sweden, Syria, Tunisia, United States (with Indiana as a benchmarking participant), and Yemen.
Student Achievement in Mathematics and Science
Asian countries outperformed many of the other participants. Singapore was the top performing country at both the fourth and eighth grades in mathematics and science. Students from Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Hong Kong SAR also did very well across the two subject areas.
There were large differences across countries in the percentages of students reaching the international benchmarks (performance levels identified by TIMSS to describe what students know and can do in mathematics and science, in four levels from low to advanced). In mathematics at the fourth grade, Singapore had 38% of its students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark, followed by just over 20% of the students in Hong Kong SAR and Japan. The highest performing countries at the eighth grade—Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, and Hong Kong SAR—had about one-third or more of their students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. In contrast, 19 of the lowest-performing countries had 1% of less of their students reaching this benchmark.
In science, Singapore had 25% of its fourth grade students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. The highest performing countries at the eighth grade—Singapore and Chinese Taipei—had one-third to one-fourth of their students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark.
At the fourth grade, many countries showed significant improvement between 1995 and 2003 in mathematics and science. At the eighth grade, there were improvements in several countries, but declines in a number of others.
Gender differences were negligible in many countries for mathematics, but in science at the eighth grade boys had significantly higher achievement than girls in the majority of countries. Nevertheless, girls had greater improvement on average than boys in science at the eighth grade, especially since 1999.
Home and School Factors
The home context was important in helping to foster higher achievement. At the eighth grade, students with more highly educated parents had higher achievement in mathematics and science. Across both subject areas and grade levels, students who always or almost always spoke the language of the test at home, had more books in the home, and reported using computers at home and school also had higher average achievement.
At least moderate curriculum coverage of the topics assessed was associated with higher achievement, but did not, in and of itself, necessarily lead to successful learning. The content also needed to be delivered in the classroom, in an effective way. School environments that were supportive of teachers and conducive to learning (measured, for instance, by principals' and teachers' perceptions of school climate, and teachers' characterization of school safety) were related to higher student achievement in mathematics and science.
For more information, please contact the TIMSS & PIRLS International Study Center.