Pilot Twelve-Country Study

The IEA Pilot Twelve-Country Study was conducted in order to investigate the feasibility of undertaking more extensive assessments of educational achievement.

Testing was carried out in five areas: mathematics, reading comprehension, geography, science, and non-verbal ability. The tests were originally prepared in either English, French, or German, and had to be translated into five other languages (Finnish, Hebrew, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Swedish) or adapted for different versions of the three source languages. Background information, such as students' gender and parents' occupational status, was also gathered. The data were collected in participating countries in 1960.

Target population

The assessment was conducted on 13-year-old students. In some countries, the national sample was only partially representative.

Participating education systems

Belgium, England, Finland, France, Germany (FRG), Israel, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, and Yugoslavia.

Key findings

Student achievement and its measures

Results from the study were presented as a set of "national profiles" for the participating countries, showing points of relative strength or weakness across the five subject areas. The students from French-speaking countries (Belgium, France, and Switzerland) and Poland performed better in mathematics than students from English-speaking countries (England, Scotland, and United States). In reading comprehension, Yugoslavia, Scotland, and Finland showed higher average performance, whereas in geography, Germany, Israel, and Poland were the top performers. In science, the United States and Germany scored well; England and Scotland performed well in non-verbal ability.

Overall, the variation between national means was small compared to the variability of scores within each of the participating countries; nevertheless, they were large enough to justify further studies to investigate the differences between countries. The smallest variation in achievement between countries occurred for reading comprehension and science, and the largest for geography and mathematics.

Gender differences

The gender differences were smallest in Sweden and Scotland and largest in Poland, Germany, and Belgium. In the United States, girls performed better than boys in all areas. In other countries, girls outperformed boys in reading comprehension, non-verbal ability, and mathematics. In science and geography, boys showed higher average achievement than girls.

Major publications

Foshay, A.W., Thorndike, R.L., Hotyat, F., Pidgeon, D.A., & Walker, D.A. (1962). Educational achievements of thirteen-year-olds in twelve countries: Results of an international research project, 1959–1961. Hamburg: UNESCO Institute for Education