Wednesday, May 17, 2006

TIMSS 2003 Update: When Juan dela Cruz Went into Battle with a Tattered Textbook

Once again, poor Juan dela Cruz was anything but combat-ready when he went to battle for the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). The result—another disaster. Hopes of uplifting the quality of the country’s science and math education once again flickered upon the release of the TIMSS 2003 results last December 2004.

For the grade 4 or 9-year-old level in mathematics, the Philippines ranked 23rd among the 25 participating countries, garnering an average of 358 against the international average of 495. In the grade 8 or 13-year-old level, the country ranked 41st among the 45 participants, with an average of 378 compared to the international average of 466. In science for the 9-year-old level, the country’s 332 points average gave it the 23rd place among 25 participants. In the 13-year-old level, the 377 points average placed the Philippines 42nd among 45 participants.

TIMSS is the first worldwide research on math and science competencies. It is conducted every four years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). The results of the studies give participating countries a reliable assessment of the state of their math and science education. Data gathered from the TIMSS are useful in helping governments formulate policies regarding the science and math education in their countries, determining accountability among key stakeholders in education, and pinpointing areas of excellence and aspects for improvement and monitoring.

In the 1995 TIMSS, then called the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, the Philippines ranked 39th in math and 41st in science out of the 42 participating countries. In the TIMSS R in 1999, the Philippines ranked third to the last for both math and science out of 42 countries.

The Philippine sample in the latest TIMSS (2003) was composed of 9 and 13 year-olds (grade 4 and second year high school) from 150 schools nationwide. Like in the past TIMSS evaluation, the exam was composed of both intellective and non-intellective tests, the former measuring the students’ math and science skills and the latter identifying the factors that affect academic performance (i.e. school resources, instructional materials/equipment, computer use, class size, teacher qualification, and language of test). The teachers and administrators of participating schools also took a set of non-intellective tests to determine their effect on student achievement.

The results did not come as a surprise to officials of the Department of Education (DepED). According to DepED’s National Educational Testing and Research Center Director Dr. Nelia Benito, the results validated the findings of the recent national achievement tests they have administered to elementary and high school students. Their own tests revealed that elementary and high school students found it difficult to understand basic scientific concepts, do inferences, classify biological and physical matter, and solve scientific problems. Dr. Benito also said that even if the students were capable of understanding basic mathematical principles, it was difficult for them to apply these in proving, analyzing, and comprehending data on algebra, geometry, and statistics.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST), however, choose to be optimistic about the results. In an article posted on their Web site, they analyzed the latest TIMSS results by comparing it with the TIMSS results of 1999. The analysis revealed interesting information which may have otherwise been overlooked. They report that “the overall performance of Philippine schools in science and mathematics in TIMSS 2003 improved significantly compared to that of the 1999 study.” They attribute the said improvement in the adjustment done in 1995 in the entry level of Filipino students in grade 1—from 7 years old to 6 years old. In effect, the 13 year-old students who participated in the latest TIMSS evaluation were in second year high school compared to the 13 year-olds in 1999 who were only in their first year. Here are other interesting findings of DOST’s TIMSS results analysis:

• In the 9-year-old level, participants scored better in mathematics than in science. In the 13-year-old level, participants faired equally in both subjects.
• Among the regions who participated in the TIMSS, participants from Region IVA scored the highest in both math and science in the 9-year-old level while participants from the CAR in the 13-year-old level scored the highest in both subject areas. Regions which showed improvement in their performance in both subjects as compared to their 1999 achievement levels were CAR, Regions I, III, V, VII and XII.
• The performance of CAR, Regions I, II, V, VII, and XII showed an improvement compared to the results of the 1999 TIMSS.
• Participants from private schools scored higher in both math and science in both levels, except in the case of participants from science and technology high schools who scored higher in math.
• Participants who came from schools who have sufficient instructional materials and resources (textbooks, the Internet, the computer, and other learning tools) scored better in both math and science. Computer use may have improved the participants’ performance in the subject areas.
• Class size has an effect on the participants’ performance. In the 9-year-old level, participants who belonged to classes with not more than 32 students performed better in mathematics than those from a class with 33 or more students. In the 13-year-old level, participants with class size of up to 40 students did better in both subject areas than those with a larger class size.
• Participants in the 9-year-old level whose teachers have graduate degrees performed better. The opposite is true for the 13-year-old level. In addition, students of teachers who have a degree in mathematics in both levels had higher scores in science and math.
• Participants who speak English at home performed significantly better in both subjects.

Perhaps not all hope is lost. Taking the country’s consistent failing performance as a challenge, the government had taken the necessary steps to prepare for the next TIMSS. Recognizing the importance of teachers’ skills in molding excellent students, the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) plans to release this year an Internet-based program that aims to improve the curriculum development skills of public school teachers. This is a sequel to the institute’s Rescue Initiatives in Science Education (RISE) program. RISE, a cooperation between DOST-SEI and Marcos State University Regional Science Teaching Center (MMSU-RSTC), is the curriculum source and financial provider for the 28-day training program for elementary science teachers in performance enhancement. Several Regional Science Teaching Centers all over the country are operating under this program which has trained 701 teachers to date. This and other continuing efforts to improve the curriculum, provide good and sufficient instructional materials, and get the schools wired to the Internet are just some of the ways the government is responding to the alarming results of TIMSS. We will know if these seeds will bear fruit in four years during the next round of testing.

Science high schools lead Philippine schools in Mathematics Test of TIMSS 2003.

DOST, DepEd to lead Philippine Participation in TIMSS 2003.

Asian Countries Dominate Again, Nearly 50 countries participate in new TIMSS assessment.

Abad alarmed over Filipino students ranking in math and science assessments.

DOST to launch online curriculum development project. Http://

Filipino students rank third to last in international math and science quiz.

NOTE: This article was co-written with Rita Mirano.

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