Cyprus doesn’t score rock bottom in Maths and Science, but the results are not encouraging
By Stefanos Evripidouu
(archive article - Thursday, December 11, 2008)
Nicosia always scores highest, followed by Paphos, Larnaca and Limassol
CYPRUS ranks 22nd in Mathematics and 33rd in Science among school pupils from 49 countries around the world, with performance levels either staying the same or deteriorating since 1995.
According to research carried out in 2007 by TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study), Cypriot pupils performed at around the same level as pupils in Malaysia, Norway, Bulgaria, Israel, the Ukraine and Romania.
The performance of Science pupils in Cyprus roughly matched that of pupils in Iran, Syria and Turkey.
The results of the research were announced yesterday by Constantinos Papanastasiou, Associate Professor at the University of Cyprus, who ran the team that conducted the survey in Cyprus.
The TIMSS research sample took in 7,347 secondary schools in 49 countries, including 67 gymnasiums in Cyprus, counting for 4,339 pupils, or 47 per cent of the total number of pupils.
Papanastasiou noted that on average girls came up with much higher results than boys in both maths and science, while urban schools performed better in both subjects than rural schools.
The academic also highlighted that the results showed a consistent trend among individual town performances. Since 1995, Nicosia has always scored highest, followed by Paphos, Larnaca and Limassol.
Another consistent trend was the performance of pupils whose parents are university graduates. These pupils faired better than those with parents holding a high school diploma, while pupils with parents who only finished primary school brought in the lowest results.
With the international average being 500 points, the school with the highest average in maths received 511 points in maths, while the school with the lowest average got 410. The highest individual score in Cyprus was 694 points.
In the science test, the highest school average was 510 and the lowest 380, with one pupil getting an all time high of 687 points.
The TIMSS study takes place every four years, starting in Cyprus in 1995 where the country scored an average 468 points in maths and 452 in science.
The following study in 1999 showed a marked improvement, however by 2003, the average had dropped in maths by 17 points and in science by a whopping minus 21 points. Despite some improvement in both subjects, by 2007, the average performance in maths failed to reach the 1995 levels, proving three points short at 465. In science, the average improved to match the old 1995 level at 452 points.
In terms of international standing, Taipei came top in maths with 598 average points, followed by Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. Qatar came last with 307.
In science, Singapore topped the charts with 567 points, followed by Taipei, Japan, Korea and England. Ghana was on the bottom with 303 points.
In terms of individual pupils who excelled in maths, 45 per cent of pupils examined in Taipei got more than 625 points. In Cyprus, only two per cent of pupils overstepped the 625 mark.
Papanastasiou noted that Cyprus had the minimum teaching hours in Mathematics and Science among all participant countries.
“When I saw the results of Cyprus the first time I thought my glasses had blurred. I never thought our students would bring such low results. But seeing the size of the study in repeated tests, I am convinced that this is our level,” he said.
Education Ministry Permanent Secretary Olympiou Stylianou said the ministry got the message and would take the results into account when working on the current programme of educational reform.
“It’s a bit early to know the reasons for these levels. It could be teaching methods, or content of the syllabus, but we will include these results in our reform targets, which are also about improving creativity, critical thinking, innovation. We are talking about a much bigger picture,” she said.
The permanent secretary highlighted that the ministry had already taken many important steps as part of the reform process. She also noted that certain factors played a part in falling performances, like the influx of foreign children and children with special needs in schools.
“We have to look at what our target is? What kind of pupils and civilians do we want? We want thinking citizens with critical thought. We have to look at teaching methods and the material.
“There is a very big effort at the moment touching on all we’re doing in education. It requires patience, and a systematic long term effort,” she added.
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