Israel improves slightly in international math and science ranking

Israeli students ranked 9th in math and 16th in science among the 39 participating countries.

Back to school amid a pandemic (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
Back to school amid a pandemic
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
Israeli students ranked among the top 10 countries in math and among the top 20 in science, improving slightly in their achievements over previous results, according to the 2019 study by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.
The TIMSS study, conducted once every four years, works to evaluate the knowledge and skills of eighth graders in 39 countries around the world in math and science. Some 3,371 eighth graders from 157 schools took part in the study in Israel in April and May 2019.
For the first time, the test was conducted in a digital format.
In 2019, Israel rose by eight points in math to 519 points, ranking at ninth out of the participating countries, and by six points in science to 513 points, ranking 16th.
Singapore led in both math and science in the study, with Taiwan, South Korea and Japan joining them in the top four in both categories.
This year's grade in math is the highest Israel has scored in the study since it joined the TIMSS in 1999. In science, this is Israel's second highest score, as the country scored higher in 2011.
Some 83.38% of Israeli eighth-grade students reached TIMSS's Low International Benchmark in mathematics, while 15% reached the Advanced Benchmark in math compared to the international average of about 5%. Some 12% reached the Advanced Benchmark compared to the 7% internationally.
An improvement was recorded among Arab-Israeli students as well, with an average 16-point increase in math and 25-point increase in science. The percentage of struggling Arab-Israeli students has also fallen by about 10%. While Hebrew speaking students have performed better in all previous studies, the gaps between Hebrew-speaking and Arabic-speaking students have narrowed and even closed completely in some cases in 2019.
Concerning homeschooling, which has become a prevalent issue amid the continuing coronavirus pandemic, students with fewer resources for home learning perform lower than their peers who have more resources, with a 12% difference between the two groups in the fourth grade and 19% in the eighth grade on average.
In almost all countries in the study, significantly more students with parents having a university degree reach the Low International Benchmark compared to their peers with parents without a degree.
The 2019 study also found that more countries have girls with a higher average achievement in science compared to boys than vice-versa. This is drastically different from the findings in 1995, when no countries reported girls performing higher than boys.
However, the study also found a growing gap between fourth-grade girls and boys in mathematics, with boys outperforming girls on average in almost half of the participating countries in 2019, compared to only a third of the countries in 2015.
In Israel, boys performed better in both math and science among Hebrew-speaking students, while girls performed better in science among Arabic-speaking students. There was no noticeable difference between the genders in math among Arabic-speaking students.
"Encouragingly, trends in mathematics and science are largely improving in fourth and eighth grades, with the majority of students achieving minimum proficiency," said the executive director of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), Dr. Dirk Hastedt in a press release.
"However, there is still a certain percentage not achieving the minimum benchmark standard, and we must not forget the large score gaps that remain in many countries between the top and bottom performing students, which has only been underlined by the COVID-19 pandemic this year," he said.