The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies (TIMSS) is a series of international tests of science and mathematics knowledge conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The tests are taken by students in US Grades four and eight or equivalent.
The most recent tests were conducted in 2019 and reported last month. They make sobering reading and suggest that universities in the United States may become less competitive in the future as these students leave secondary school and head towards higher education.
Average test scores for Grade Eight Mathematics are led by East Asia with the first five places taken by Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong. A little way behind but still doing well are Russia, Ireland and Lithuania. The USA and England are somewhat above average but well behind East Asia.
The performance of African and Middle Eastern countries is poor. The five lowest scoring countries are Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Morocco.
There are a few interesting differences within countries. Dubai is well ahead of Abu Dhabi and in South Africa the provinces of Western Cape and Gauteng are above the national average.
The situation for Grade Eight Science is very similar. The top five are Singapore, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Russia and the bottom five are Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, and South Africa. Again, the USA, and England come in somewhat above average.
It is also disturbing that within the US the gap between top and bottom scoring fourth and eighth graders in both mathematics and science has increased even before the onset of the current epidemic. The worsening gap is largely the result of declining scores among less able students.
This will have serious implications for the ability of the US to maintain the quality of teaching and learning and eventually to maintain its leading role in international research.
IEA TIMSS & PIRLS