Irish students score above international average in maths, science, literacy

11 Dec 2012

Irish primary school students have scored above average in major international tests of maths, science and literacy, results published today show, however, Ireland did not make it into the top-performing countries in any of the three tests.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 2011) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS 2011) tested primary school students in the equivalent of fourth class in reading, science and mathematics in more than 60 countries. The students who took part were, on average, just over 10 years old.

Results of tests

In the TIMSS 2011 test, Irish students scored above the international average in mathematics. Ireland placed 17th out of 50 participating countries.

Irish students scored significantly below countries such as Korea, Japan, Finland, England, Singapore, Northern Ireland, and the Unites States, and at about the same level as students in Germany, Lithuania and Portugal.

In science, Irish students again scored significantly above the international average and placed 22nd out of the 50 participating countries.

Irish students scored significantly below countries such as Korea, Finland, Japan, Sweden, England, Singapore, and the United States. Ireland’s score did not differ significantly from 10 countries, including Italy, Northern Ireland and Australia.

The PIRLS report shows that in reading, Irish students ranked 10th out of 45 participating countries.

Students in only five countries performed significantly better than Irish students: Hong Kong, Finland, Singapore, the Russian Federation and Northern Ireland.

Irish students scored significantly higher than students in 31 other countries, including Germany, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand.

‘Cannot be complacent’

Ireland’s Minister for Education and Skills Ruairí Quinn, TD, congratulated Irish students and teachers on the good results they had achieved but said we cannot be complacent.

“In all three tests, pupils in a number of countries are performing significantly above the performance of Irish students,” said Quinn.

“This is the first time that we have these international comparisons in reading, maths and science available to us at the primary level. While encouraging, they demonstrate the real need to work on the issues we are seeking to tackle in the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy. We need to build on the good work in reading going on at primary level into second level, especially at junior cycle. Clearly, we also need to improve our teaching of mathematics and science at all levels. 

“However, I am especially delighted to see that Ireland has a reduced proportion of lower-performing students in reading than other countries.

“On average 5pc of students in all countries failed to at least reach the Low Benchmark level in reading and 10pc in mathematics; the equivalent proportions in Ireland were only 3pc for reading and 6pc for mathematics.

“I believe that this is further evidence that our supports for DEIS schools and the special needs resources that we have given to all schools are working,” Quinn added.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic