In Media releases

Tuesday 08 December 2020 1530AEDT

Australian school students elevated into global top-10 for mathematics performance
Data released overnight from the latest quadrennial TIMSS testing reveals Australian students at Year 8 level have achieved significantly improved performance levels compared to previous surveys, and compared to their peers worldwide.

TIMSS – Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study – is administered every four years assessing the effectiveness of teaching in mathematics and science at Year 4 and 8 levels, enabling comparison over time, and across states and countries.

The 2019 TIMSS results released this evening are the sixth iteration of this influential assessment, showing that Australia has improved academic achievement in mathematics by Year 8 students. Only six countries included in the survey achieved higher outcomes than Australia, placing it ahead of 25 nations, with another 7 performing at the same level as Australia.

“An improvement of this magnitude validates the commitment of the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) to promoting the attraction and career relevance to students and parents, developing resources for teachers of mathematics in primary and secondary schools, and advocating for heightened qualifications and professional development needed by mathematics teachers”, said Professor Asha Rao, AMSI’s interim director.

“We urge governments to heed AMSI’s calls for mathematics teachers to possess specific qualifications in the discipline, recognising the importance of educating a future workforce equipped to innovate through application of mathematics, statistics and data sciences”, Professor Rao added. “The current pandemic illustrates the risk to Australia’s wellbeing if a basis of informed advice from epidemiologists with mathematical modelling capabilities are not sustained.”

Amongst Australian Year 8 students, 68 percent achieved the TIMSS Intermediate international benchmark for proficiency in mathematics, with Singapore continuing to dominate at the top of the global table with an outcome of 96 percent.

“The increased result at Year 8 level is highly encouraging and shows the value of AMSI’s work across the sector” said Professor Rao, “but static performance by Year 4 students shows that investment in mathematics education at primary and secondary levels needs to be increased.”

“AMSI research confirms continuing inequity exists across socio-economic groups, and between cities and the regions” warned AMSI advocacy and policy manager Dr Maaike Wienk. “These results are encouraging but heavily skewed by improvements in the achievement of Year 8 students in New South Wales, and do not necessarily reflect national trends. AMSI remains a vocal advocate for redressing inequalities and ensuring every Australian child has access to high quality mathematics education.”

14,950 students from 571 schools across Australia participated in the 2019 TIMMS study spanning 64 countries.

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