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New trend: Swedish students improve maths performance

Published tisdag 29 november 2016 kl 10.41
The Timss study is carried out every four years.
The Timss study is carried out every four years. Credit: Anders Wiklund/TT.

Swedish pupils have improved performance in maths and physics, according to the global TIMSS study. "This is a break in the trend," says Mikael Halápi, acting director at the National Agency for Education.

Pupils in year 4 and year 8 have improved performance in maths, and pupils in year 8 have also improved in physics, compared to the last time the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) was carried out, in 2011. 

For pupils in the science programmes in upper secondary school, ages 16-18, the performance in maths has improved, while the performance in physics has gone down slightly since the last time this part of the study was carried out, in 2008.

These results are welcome after Swedish students for several years with worsening results in the Swedish schools.

"It feels great, it is fun to stand here saying that the results have improved, especially after such a long time of negative news," Maria Axelsson, in charge of the study of the younger pupils, in year 4 and 8, told Swedish Radio.

However, by international comparison, Sweden is still behind other countries in the performance in maths.

"If we compare to the other Nordic countries in year four, Sweden performs worse than Norway, Denmark and Finland," said Maria Axelsson at the press conference.

And while the study shows clear improvements, the students still have some way to go if you make a historic comparison. For example, the performance in maths for the upper secondary school students has improved by 19 points, to 431 points, since the test in 2008, but compared to the 1995 result, the performance is still down by 71 points.

7700 Swedish students in 274 upper secondary schools, and over 8000 pupils in year 4 and 8 at 294 schools took part in the study, which was carried out last spring. 

Sweden's TIMSS results:

  • Maths year 4: 519 points (+15 since 2011)
  • Science year 4: 540 points (+7, but the increase is not statistically certain) 
  • Maths year 8: 501 points (+17) 
  • Science year 8: 522 points (+13) 
  • Maths, year 3 in upper secondary school: 431 points (+19 since 2008) 
  • Physics, year 3 in upper secondary school: 455 points (-42) 

The international average has been set to 500 points.

Source: IEA via TT news agency

In about a week's time, at the beginning of December, the other big study into student performance, PISA, will be presented. PISA gives a picture of how 15-year-olds are doing in school. The result in last year's PISA report sent shock-waves throughout Sweden, as is showed worsening results for the pupils in all three areas: reading, maths and science.

Next to the PISA study, TIMSS is the biggest international study in to student performance. It is carried out every four years, and focuses on the performance of children in year 4 and year 8, while TIMSS Advanced focuses on students in upper secondary school.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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