Arab TIMSS 2003 Regional Report Executive Summary

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 2003) is the third cycle of the international mathematics and science assessments conducted on a four-year cycle. TIMSS assess achievement in countries all over the world and collects a rich array of information about the educational contexts for learning mathematics and science, with TIMSS 2003 involving 50 countries.

Following the release of the TIMSS 2003 International Report by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA), the United Nations Development Programme decided to prepare a report on the achievements of Arab countries in TIMSS 2003, in full coordination with the Arab countries that participated in the study. This report aims at providing decision-makers in these Arab countries with a comprehensive analysis of the performance and achievements of their countries in the TIMSS 2003 study.

The Arab TIMSS 2003 Regional Report includes the results of 10 Arab countries that participated in TIMSS 2003 study. Eight countries participated at eighth grade level (Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, National Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, and Syria), Morocco and Tunisia participated at both eighth and fourth grades, while Yemen only participated at fourth grade level.

The Arab TIMSS 2003 Regional Report includes six chapters. The first chapter covered the procedures of the TIMSS 2003 study, its theoretical framework, objectives, tools, field tests, and surveys. The first chapter also showed the samples of the participating countries and the mechanisms used to choose these samples. Moreover, it gave an idea about the participation of the Arab countries in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study TIMSS) that started in 1995 with the participation of only one Arab country to reach 10 Arab countries in TIMSS 2003 study.

The second chapter tackled the average achievement in mathematics for each country in comparison with the Arab and international averages. It also analyzed the average achievements in accordance to a number of variables particularly mathematical contents and gender. Moreover, it tackled the achievement in mathematics according to international benchmarks identified by the international organizations supervising the study.

In this chapter, the results for eighth grade showed that the Arab average achievement in mathematics of 393 was obtained compared to the international average of 467, and this indicates the low Arab average in mathematics, which is due to the low average achievement of the samples of the students of the Arab countries against the international average.

As for the gender differences in mathematics achievement for eighth grade, the gender difference was negligible; however, girls outperformed boys in some countries. In contrast, boys had higher achievements in Lebanon, Tunisia and Morocco, whereas, similar achievements were attained in Egypt, Syria, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia.

TIMSS identified four benchmark levels to describe what students know and can do in mathematics, while demonstrate the range of performance internationally – advanced, high, intermediate, and low. The results of eighth grade in mathematics showed that only a small percentage (less than 1%) of Arab students reached advanced international benchmark, while 45% of Arab students did not reach the low international benchmark category.

As for fourth grade, only three Arab countries participated, including Tunisia, Morocco, and Yemen. The results in mathematics were worse than the ones for eighth grade, as average achievement of 321 was obtained compared to international achievement of 495 and the achievements of both males and females were close. Concerning the international benchmark, the results were worse than ones achieved for eighth grade, as 76% of Arab students did not reach the low benchmark.

In the third chapter, the average achievements in mathematics were linked to specific variables related to student, curricula, teacher and school, in order to provide data to assist educators at all levels to reach recommendations that will help policy-makers improve educational systems in the Arab world.

Concerning the variables related to the student, this Chapter also looked at the social and economic background of the student and student’s aspirations, confidence in his qualifications, educational skills, and interest in the mathematics subject. As for the variables related to the curricula, it included the existence of national curricula and examinations, percentage of school time allocated for mathematics, skills covered in mathematics curriculum, the extent to which the national mathematics curriculum covers the mathematical skills that were measured in the international study’s tests.

As for the variables related to the teacher it included the requirements for enhancing and supporting the teaching profession in mathematics, national entities concerned with the teaching profession, as well as the academic and technical preparations for mathematics teachers. As for school variables, they focused on class instructions and the classes (sections) that took the examinations of the international study, time allocated for teaching mathematics, contents of the mathematics subject that is taught to students, teaching methods used by teachers, the use of calculators and computers in both teaching and learning methods, teaching strategies used by mathematics teachers, participation of the local community and parents in the educational process, the school climate, and safety measures inside schools.

The fourth chapter of the report tackled the average achievements in science for each country in comparison to both the Arabic and international averages. Average achievements were analyzed according to a number of variables such as the content of the science subject and gender. The chapter also tackled the performance in science in comparison with the international benchmarks set by the international organizations that supervise the study.

This chapter showed that the Arab average achievement in science for eighth grade reached a score of 419 compared to the international performance average of 474, this indicator reflected that the low Arab average in science. However, Jordan is the only Arab country that scored above the international average by one point.

As for gender differences in science achievements for eighth graders, results indicated that Arab girls outperformed boys. As for performance on a country level, girls had significantly higher average achievement than boys in Bahrain, Jordan, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. In contrast, boys obtained higher average achievement in Morocco and Egypt, whereas no significant difference in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

The study’s results for eighth grade in science showed that only a small percentage (1%) of Arab students reached the advanced international benchmark, while (41%) of Arab students did not reach the low international benchmark.

Tunisia, Morocco and Yemen participated in the study at the fourth grade level in science. Results in science for grade four were worse than the ones for eighth grade. The Arab average achievement for this grade scored 289 in comparison with the international average score of 489, and the difference score between girls and boys is 7 points.

As for international benchmarks for fourth grade, same results as eighth grades were reached, however it was worse, as 76% of Arab students did not reach low international benchmark.

In the fifth chapter, achievement indicators in science were also linked to a number of specific variables related to students, curricula, teacher and school, in order to provide data to assist educators at all levels to reach recommendations that will help policy-makers improve educational systems in the Arab world.

This chapter also tackled student’s family background (social and economic) student’s ambition, confidence in his qualifications, educational skills, and interests in the science subject. In addition to indicators related to curricula, which includes the existence of national curricula and examinations, percentage of school time allocated for the science subject, skills covered in the science curriculum, the extent to which the national science curriculum covers the science skills that were measured in the international study’s tests.

As for the variables related to the science teacher, it included the requirements for enhancing and supporting the teaching profession in science, national entities concerned with the teaching profession, as well as the academic and technical preparations for science teachers. On the other hand, as for school variables, they covered class instructions and the classes (sections) that took the tests of the international study, time allocated for teaching science, contents of the science subject that is taught to students, teaching methods used by teachers, the use of computers in both teaching and learning methods, teaching strategies used by science teachers, participation of the local community and parents in the educational process, the school climate, and safety measures adopted in schools.

The sixth chapter included a number of recommendations based on the results of the international study. These included the following:

  • General recommendations the participation of Arab countries in such studies.
  • Recommendations regarding curricula
  • Recommendations concerned with teaching methodologies.
  • Recommendations concerned with the school climate, teaching instructions, and teaching inside schools
  • Recommendations regarding teachers

Moreover, this chapter includes some annexes on the achievements of the countries that participated in TIMSS 2003 study.