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Asian students top maths, science, reading tests

Published Dec 11, 2012 12:59pm


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WASHINGTON: Asian schoolchildren dominate in reading, maths and science, coming in ahead of their peers in Europe and the US, according to an international study released on Tuesday.

The tiny city-state of Singapore takes first place in science among 13 and 14 year-olds and maths at age 9 or 10, with South Korea scoring nearly as high. Singapore takes second place to South Korea among the older students for maths, with Taiwan in third.

The results also lean toward Asian nations when it comes to advanced levels of learning.

In Singapore, 4 in 10 teenagers who were tested achieved the “advanced benchmark” in science, which requires an understanding of complex and abstract concepts in physics, chemistry, biology and other sciences. About 2 in 10 make the grade in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In the US, it's about 1 in 10.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study and its sister test, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, are used to measure knowledge, skills and mastery of curricula by elementary and middle school students around the world.

Students in rich, industrialised nations and poor, developing countries alike are tested.

In 2011, 56 educational systems took part in maths and science exams. Fifty-three systems participated in the reading exam.

The study is conducted every four years in nations around the world.

“These kinds of tests are very good at telling us who's ahead in the race. They don't have a lot to say about causes or why countries are where they are,” said Brookings Institution senior fellow Tom Loveless, who in previous years represented the US in the international group that administers the test.

In the US, children performed better than the global average. Elementary school children have improved their scores in reading and maths over the past four years, according to the study. But progress seems to fall off in later grades, where maths and science scores are stagnant.

“These 2011 international assessments provide both encouraging news about our students' progress and some sobering cautionary notes,” said US Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who warned the gains among younger children aren't being sustained in later grades. “That is unacceptable if our schools are to live up to the American promise of giving all children a world-class education.”

In the meantime, other countries are making significant strides.

Russian middle school students were about tied in maths with their American peers in 2007, the last time the study was conducted. Four years later, Russia's scores have surged and now surpass the US by a significant margin.

Globally, the gender gap appears to be closing. About half of the countries showed no statistically meaningful gap between boys and girls in maths and science.

The tests are carried out by the International Association for Evaluation of Educational Achievement, a coalition of research institutions.


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Comments (9) Closed

HeadStrong Dec 12, 2012 12:31pm
The innovation wave of IT and communication was mostly filled with Asian names. You can have an independent study of the names of heads of startups in silicon valley and other places, there is no shortage of Asian sounding names. This is a clear evidence of innovation shifting its drive to Asia. Already we are seeing that Asian economies are more robust in the face of turmoil caused by US and Europe because of their irresponsible lending practices. I can't wait for the onset of this evolving hypothesis into real hard facts.
ali bacha Dec 12, 2012 07:35am
I don't agree...
ali bacha Dec 18, 2012 10:56am
you have written useless comment. It is worth noticing article written.
Randy Dec 11, 2012 03:48pm
The problem with Asian students is that they function more like lawyers than like designers. A lawyer works with material that has already been there (the law) while a designers designs and creates new things. And people from the West are stronger in this than Asians, because of their education system and their culture which demands of them to find an answer in frequently changing new scenarios and situations. So the capability of innovation says more than some school tests.
raika45 Dec 11, 2012 01:27pm
Would be interesting to know where South East Asia students standings were .Singapore.a small tiny nation of barely 3 million of its citizens can create educational waves shows a great sense of government responsibility.
Ram Lakhani Dec 12, 2012 06:04pm
Where did you read this? First word..... Learn in Quran. Maths experts who are still followed all over were Muslims In religion they are Parrots....most dont know translation Muslims OK....Arabs not necessary....they are just few and
Aprophet False Dec 11, 2012 11:49pm
Fear not Pakistan is the number one in knowing religion! Who needs maths and science when the quran explains everything you need to know?
Sheila Noorani. Dec 12, 2012 10:23am
If you read the Holy Quran without bias then all the answers are there. We now know that the Quran tells us that the moon reflects the light from the sun. I learned this from Dr. Zakir naik who showed that because the Quran uses the word "noor" for light from the moon and does not do so for light from the sun that is clear evidence of proof. In fact the Quran even tells us about DNA, wind energy, and solar cells and reverse osmosis. Dr. Zakir Naik who lives in India has already proved this. There are advantages to having just one book, the Quran and in Arabic only. Pakistanis will get united once again around Islam and Arabic and at the same time we will be more learned in the sciences, mathematics and literature than any other people. we will bcome the true leaders of the Islamic world and be able to spread Islam. We must put all our efforts into becoming 100% Muslim and 100% Arabs.
Usman Dec 12, 2012 01:52pm
Singapore is far ahead than many other European nations. Just study the books by Dr. Yeap Ban Har (Mathematics), Ms. Ai Ling (Mathematics) and Mr. Sean Chua ( Chemistry) and you will find yourself that their method of teaching is best in the world.