TIMSS Repeat (1999) Logo
Go to the Publications page to download reportsStudy Instruments and ProceduresTIMSS 1999 CalendarContact UsTIMSS 1999 PartnersTIMSS Funding
TIMSS 1999

Click here to return to the TIMSS 1999 home page

Return to the Press Information page


Media Contact: Patricia Delaney Director of Media Relations
Boston College

TIMSS Project Contact:
Michael O. Martin
Ina V.S. Mullis
Co-Directors International Study

MEDIA NOTE: The full TIMSS 1999 reports are available on-line at the International Study Center's web site on the Publications page or by calling 617-552-1600. To arrange interviews with the TIMSS International Study Co-Directors Michael O. Martin or Ina V.S. Mullis, or to obtain camera-ready color charts, please call the Boston College Office of Public Affairs at 617-552-3352.


Download the exhibit with achievement results for mathematics and science







Report Shows Student Achievement for 38 Countries at the Eighth Grade

CHESTNUT HILL, MA (12-5-00) – Five Asian countries were the top performers in mathematics at the eighth grade level, according to the most recent major reports of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released today by the study's international directors at Boston College. Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong SAR had the highest average achievement in math; Japan also performed very well.

In science, Chinese Taipei and Singapore had the highest average performance, closely followed by Hungary, Japan and the Republic of Korea.

TIMSS is the largest international study of student achievement ever undertaken. When it was first conducted in 1995, it provided assessments of five grade levels: third, fourth, seventh, eighth and twelfth, involving half a million students across more than 40 countries.

The report released today outlines the results of a second assessment conducted at the eighth grade level in 1999, known as TIMSS 1999 or TIMSS-R (for TIMSS-Repeat, since it is a repeat or replication of TIMSS at grade eight). TIMSS 1999 was designed to provide trends in eighth grade mathematics and science achievement in an international context.

Thirty-eight countries participated in TIMSS 1999 [see p.3 for full list]. Of these, 26 also participated in TIMSS 1995 at the eighth grade and have trend data. Among the trend findings:

  • Between 1995 and 1999, countries that showed an increase in average mathematics achievement at the eighth grade were Latvia (Latvian-speaking schools), Canada, and Cyprus. Only the Czech Republic showed a decrease.
  • Between 1995 and 1999, countries that showed an increase in average science achievement were Latvia (Latvian-speaking schools), Lithuania, Canada, and Hungary. Bulgaria was the only country showing a decrease.

The new report not only identifies changes in mathematics and science achievement, but also provides a wealth of information on students' attitudes and habits, as well as on curriculum coverage, instructional approaches, and teacher preparation in mathematics and science.

Key findings include:

Gender Differences

  • In mathematics, most gender differences were negligible, with only four countries having significant differences (Israel, the Czech Republic, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Tunisia). Korea showed a decrease in the gender difference between 1995 and 1999. No country showed a significant increase in gender differences in mathematics performance.
  • Science, in contrast, had significant differences in average achievement favoring boys in 16 of the 38 countries. These differences were more apparent among high-performing students. Three countries, however, had a significant reduction in the gender difference between 1995 and 1999 – Hong Kong, Slovenia, and Israel.
  • In general, boys had a more positive self-concept than girls in mathematics and science. The exception was for countries where the sciences are taught as separate subjects, where girls had more positive self-concept than boys in biology. This, however, was outweighed by a more favorable self-concept for boys in physics, and to a lesser extent in earth science and chemistry.

Student Attitudes

  • Across the participating countries, students generally had positive attitudes towards mathematics and science, although less so in countries where science is taught as separate subjects at the eighth grade.
  • In each country, a positive self-concept in the ability to do mathematics and science was associated with higher achievement.
  • Eighth-grade students internationally had high expectations for further education. On average across countries, more than half the students reported that they expect to finish university. In almost every country, there was a positive association between educational expectations and achievement in mathematics and science.

Curriculum and Testing

  • On average across countries, the percentage of instructional time designated in the official curriculum for mathematics instruction remains about the same from grade 4 to grade 6 but then decreases by grade 8 (17, 16, and 13 percent, respectively). In contrast, the instructional time specified for science increases from grade 4 to grade 8 (from 11 to 16 percent).
  • Testing and assessment were widely used methods to support curriculum implementation. Approximately two-thirds of the countries conduct system-wide assessment at two or three grades, primarily to inform policy makers about achievement of the intended curriculum.


  • TIMSS results indicate that eighth-grade mathematics teachers have more confidence in their teaching preparation than science teachers. Internationally, mathematics teachers reported relatively high degrees of confidence in their preparation, with 63 percent of students on average taught by teachers who believed they were very well prepared. In contrast, eighth-grade science teachers reported only a moderate level of confidence in their preparation. Almost 40 percent of students on average were taught science by teachers who reported a low level of confidence in their preparation to teach science.


TIMSS is a collaborative research project sponsored by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and directed by the International Study Center in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. Researchers and educators from more than 40 research organizations in countries around the world collaborated in the design, development, and implementation of this enormous comparative achievement study, which is supported by the U.S. National Center for Education Statistics, the National Science Foundation, and the World Bank, among other organizations. Previous TIMSS results were released at Boston College in 1996 (7th and 8th grade levels), 1997 (3rd and 4th grade levels) and 1998 (final year of secondary school – 12th grade or equivalent).

Countries participating in the TIMSS assessment at the eighth grade in both 1995 and 1999 are: Australia, Belgium (Flemish), Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, England, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Islamic Republic of Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia (LSS), Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Romania, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States.

Countries participating only in the 1999 assessment: Chile, Chinese Taipei, Finland, Indonesia, Jordan, Republic of Macedonia, Malaysia, Moldova, Morocco, Philippines, Tunisia, and Turkey.

"TIMSS 1999 data provide invaluable international benchmarks that can be used to help define world-class performance in mathematics and science at the middle or lower-secondary school level," according to TIMSS International Study Directors Michael O. Martin and Ina V.S. Mullis. "Beyond comparisons in mathematics and science test scores, however, the reports provide rich information on educational policies and practices around the world.

"TIMSS is truly a rich resource," the Boston College researchers added. "The reports provide considerable grist for the conversation about what we want schools to accomplish and how we can go about improving the teaching and learning of mathematics and science."

– END –

Click here to return to the ISC homepage