SA students come second last in global maths rankings

South African school students continue to struggle in latest Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) study, ranking near the bottom of the list.

More than 580,000 students in 57 countries took part in the study, which tests both 10-year-olds and 14-year-olds in maths and science every four years.

TIMSS showed that pupils from East Asian countries including Singapore, Hong Kong, Korea, Chinese Taipei, and Japan continue to dominate the the subjects of mathematics and science.

The same countries all placed in the top six for science. Russia placed fourth in science for 10-year-olds and seventh for 14-year-olds; while Slovenia’s 14-year-olds were fifth.

Singapore topped all four of the rankings’ tables.


South African grade nine students write exams for grade eights because the TIMSS assessment is deemed too difficult for the standard offered by the country’s education system

For South African participants, pupils from grade nine and grade five placed second last in mathematics, while pupils in grade nine placed last in science. Pupils in grade five did not take the science tests.

What makes South Africa’s participation particularly worrying is that grade nine students write exams for grade eights because the TIMSS assessment is deemed too difficult for the standard offered by the country’s education system.

The South African Human Sciences Research Council noted that TIMSS was first administered in South Africa in 1995 and has continued to be administered in 1999, 2003, 2011 and 2015.

Around of 12,500 learners and 330 mathematics and science teachers from 292 schools participated in the study.

Published by the  International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), the study is the longest running, large scale international assessment of mathematics and science education in the world

Read: SA bottom of global maths and science list

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SA students come second last in global maths rankings