Photo Credit: Abir Sultan / Flash 90
Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar at a Press conference in 2010, defending his decision to raise teachers' salaries by 42%.
Minister Gideon Sa'ar at a news conference in 2010.

Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar on Tuesday morning presented data from international tests TIMSS (math and science) and PIRLS (literacy) of the The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

The tests examine the abilities of eighth graders in science and mathematics as well as the capabilities of fourth graders in literacy.

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According to current statistics, in mathematics, Israeli eighth graders have risen from 24th to seventh place in the world. Korea is in first place, followed by Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Russia and Israel. This makes Israeli eighth graders the best in math in the entire western world.

Science tests show Israeli eighth grade students rising from 25th to the 13th in the world. Israeli fourth graders reading tests came up from 31st to 18th in the world.

East Asian countries continue to lead the world in mathematics achievement. At the eighth grade, the Russian Federation, Israel, Finland, the United States, and England also were included in the top ten high-achieving countries. The U.S. states of Massachusetts, Minnesota, and North Carolina and the Canadian province of Québec also had high achievement, but lower than the East Asian countries.

Singapore, Korea, and Hong Kong SAR, followed by Chinese Taipei and Japan, were the top-performing countries at fourth grade literacy.

At the eighth grade, clearly the East Asian countries, particularly Chinese Taipei, Singapore, and Korea, are pulling away from the rest of the world by a considerable margin. Capitalizing on the head start demonstrated by their fourth grade students, these same five East Asian countries had by far the largest percentages of eighth grade students reaching the Advanced International Benchmark. Very impressively, Chinese Taipei, Singapore, and Korea had nearly half of their students (47–49%) reach the Advanced International Benchmark. Hong Kong SAR had about one-third (34%) reach this level, and Japan had over one-fourth (27%).

Next, the Russian Federation and Israel had 14 and 12 percent, respectively. At the High International Benchmark, Japan (61%) trailed the other four Asian high achievers ( 7 1–7 8%) , but the next highest were the Russian Federation and Israel with less than half (40–47%) achieving at the high level. At the Intermediate International Benchmark, the Russian Federation (78%) followed the five top-performers (87–93%), and at the Low International Benchmark Finland and the Russian Federation joined the five East Asian countries (with 95–99%), followed by Slovenia (93%).

Education Minister Sa’ar noted that the improvement in all three areas of learning included all of Israel’s socioeconomic groups. “A sharp improvement has been marked in the ratio of high scoring students. This rate is now higher than the world average in all three disciplines. There has been an absolute improvement of tens of percentage points in students’ achievements, as well as a dramatic improvement relative to teh comparable data.”

Sa’ar noted also that the improvement took place in both the Jewish and the Arab sectors, although the gap is still wide between Hebrew and Arab speaking students.

“This success was not achieved using magic but through hard work,” Sa’ar said.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Ed, your statement is unclear. Do you mean how much higher Israel’s scores would be if Jews in the dispersion were included? Or do you mean how much lower European and American scores would be without Jewish scholarship included?

  2. Kudos to Israel.

    A good bet that none of the Asian countries has a "no child gets ahead" program like the U.S. Good to see Minnesota up there, and it is the charter schools leading the way. My 9 year old grandson, Ethan, is one of the top 5th grade math students with a percentile ranking of 99%, but his interest is more in the realm of Science, History and Composition. Of course he has the advantage of one on one learning with me as his mentor and teacher, so gets individual attention.

    My main area of interest at that age was Mathematics and Geometric Proofs in the realm of axioms, postulates, corollaries and what have you, leading of course into Mathematical Logic and Reasoning. He will begin that study next year in 6th grade. The main problem I see today isn't necessarily with school finances, although that is a factor, nor with the dedication of teachers (think about it for a minute), but the home life. I grew up in an era when, not only my parents, but most others as well demanded level best completion and performance by their children. Today families often have both parents working to make ends meet, or have only one parent who by necessity is away much of the time for the same reason. That leaves academic accomplishment in the hands of others, who couldn't in most cases care nearly as much as a family member for an individual child.

    The other issue in the U.S. is the lack of a fast track program, for children who show promise in one area or another. In my day we were put immediately into an advanced program. There is no reward for excellence either, in most schools. I was pleased to see Nova Classical Academy, here in the Twin Cities beginning to give As, Bs, etc. But most public schools grade on meets or doesn't meet standards, or exceeds standards (which are pretty low in the first place. On Spelling and Vocabulary e.g. 25/25 is 100%, but then a score of 20/25, 21/ 25, 22/25, 23/25, 24/25 all receive the same percentage, leading to an inaccurate assessment. Well enough of this, I am totally dissatisfied with the current approach to education in the U.S., which is why I am educating my grandson myself.

  3. Ed, your statement is unclear. Do you mean how much higher Israel's scores would be if Jews in the dispersion were included? Or do you mean how much lower European and American scores would be without Jewish scholarship included?

  4. If Jewish children were not included in the western stats, the Israeli children would look that much smarter against the western countries stats. Jewish children in the western countries score much higher than non Jewish children, thus making western countires scores higher with them include, lower if they are not included!

  5. If Jewish children were not included in the western stats, the Israeli children would look that much smarter against the western countries stats. Jewish children in the western countries score much higher than non Jewish children, thus making western countires scores higher with them include, lower if they are not included!

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