08 December, 2020 – Minister Foley welcomes publication of TIMSS 2019 results showing that Ireland is the top performing EU country in Mathematics in fourth class in primary-school and second year at second level

  • Ireland is the top performing EU country in Mathematics at both fourth class in primary and second year in post-primary.
  • The performance in Science at fourth class and second year is significantly above the TIMSS centre point
  • The performance of Irish students in Mathematics and Science has remained stable and strong over the last four years
  • Boys and girls at fourth class and second year performed equally well in Mathematics and Science tests

The Minister for Education Norma Foley TD today (Tuesday 8 December 2020) welcomed the TIMSS 2019 (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) results which show Ireland’s fourth class pupils in primary school and second year student in post-primary school are performing significantly higher than the average of students in all countries taking the TIMSS tests in Mathematics and Science.

TIMSS takes place every four years and aims to measure how well fourth class pupils and second year students are performing in Mathematics and Science.

The key findings of the 2019 assessments include:

  • The performance of Irish students in Mathematics and Science has remained stable and strong
  • Both primary and second level students in Ireland scored significantly above the average in both Mathematics and Science.
  • Ireland is the top performing EU country in Mathematics at both fourth class in primary and second year in post-primary.
  • There are no significant gender differences in performance for Mathematics or Science, at either level.

Minister Foley said: “Ireland has maintained its strong performance in Mathematics and Science across the TIMSS cycles with Irish students again ranked among the top performing European countries at fourth class in primary and second year in post primary. In particular, Ireland is the top performing EU country in Mathematics at both fourth class and second year.

“This high performance reflects the commitment and hard work of our school communities but also the significant efforts that have been put into the National Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, curricular review and redevelopment, the STEM Education Policy Statement and the Digital Strategy for Schools.

“It is also of note that there are no significant gender differences for Mathematics or Science, at either level. This is very positive given my Department’s focus on improvements in relation to gender balance in STEM.”

The results being published today show that lower-achieving students performed significantly better than the average of students in all countries taking the TIMSS tests in Science and Mathematics at both levels and the results show equity in terms of schools’ performance generally.

However, despite the high performance in fourth class and second year Mathematics and Science, it is apparent that there is a need for improvement in some areas. The findings suggest that the highest performing students in Ireland in Mathematics and Science are under performing, relative to their peers in countries with similar overall performance.

Minister Foley said “The results show areas that we need to focus on. For example, we need to stretch the performance of higher-achieving students. Concentrated efforts are required to improve the performance of higher achieving students in both subjects at both school levels. This is in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government to implement a strategy to support gifted and talented students at both primary and post-primary levels”.

The Minister also said “We must provide high-quality continuing professional development for teachers which incorporates a specific focus on extending ‘higher-achieving’ students, dedicated resources, and on promoting skills in Mathematics and in Science to include digital learning skills.

“With regards to the Junior Cycle developments, we are still in the early stage of implementation. The new approaches and emphasis on transversal skills, critical thinking and inquiry-based learning will take time to impact on students’ performance. However, it is interesting to note the relative strengths of new areas of the curriculum as a trend across Science and Mathematics.

“The Government is committed to providing a STEM education for all our learners that nurtures inquiry, critical-thinking and problem-solving capacities. The results from TIMMS 2019 will be taken in to account when considering actions in the next STEM Education Implementation Plan.

“I have just announced a further €50m investment for ICT in our schools. This brings the total investment to €210m since 2017. Now more than ever, it is vital that our learners become more and more adept at using technologies for education”.

Further information:

Launch video and supporting documentation on https://www.education.ie/en/The-Education-System/International/timss.html

The national report on TIMSS in Ireland can be accessed at www.erc.ie.

International reports on TIMSS can be accessed at https://timssandpirls.bc.edu/

For further information, contact:

ENDS

Appendix A: Background to TIMSS 2019

Appendix B: Mean country scores and standard errors for the TIMSS 2019 Eighth grade assessment, with significant differences compared to Ireland’s mean score