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Israeli 8th Graders’ Math Scores Ahead of All Western Democracies

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

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar at a Press conference in 2010, defending his decision to raise teachers' salaries by 42%.

Education Minister Gideon Sa'ar at a Press conference in 2010.
Photo Credit: Abir Sultan/Flash 90

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.

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.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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