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Philippines lowest out of 58 countries in 4th-grade math, science —int’l study

The Philippines was ranked last out of 58 countries in terms of performance in fourth-grade mathematics and science by an international education cooperative in a study released Tuesday.

Filipino fourth graders scored “significantly lower” than other countries with scores of 297 in math and 249 in science in the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

The study’s benchmarks were 625 for “advanced,” 550 for “high,” 475 for “intermediate,” and 400 for “low.”

The last time that the Philippines participated in the TIMSS, in 2003, the country scored 358 in math and 332 in science.

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, which conducts the study every four years, said 92 percent of countries scored low in math and science in 2019.

Meanwhile, the top-performing students came from the Philippines' neighbors Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong, with Singaporeans scoring 625 in math and 595 in science.

Joining the Philippines in the bottom five countries were Morocco, Kuwait, South Africa, and Pakistan.


The advanced benchmark in math means students “apply their understanding and knowledge in a variety of relatively complex situations and explain their reasoning,” while a high score means students “apply conceptual understanding to solve problems.”

Only 1 percent of Filipino students reached the high benchmark in math.

The intermediate benchmark means students “apply basic mathematical knowledge in simple situations” and a low score means students “have some basic mathematical knowledge.”

Six percent of Filipino fourth graders got an intermediate score, while 19 percent were in the low benchmark in math.

An advanced score in science means “students communicate their understanding of life, physical, and Earth sciences and demonstrate some knowledge of the scientific process of inquiry” while the high benchmark means students “communicate and apply knowledge of life, physical, and Earth sciences.”

Only 1 percent of Filipino students achieved a high score in science.

The intermediate benchmark means “students show knowledge and understanding of some aspects of science” and a low score means “students show limited understanding of scientific concepts and limited knowledge of foundational science facts.”

Five percent of fourth-grade Filipino students made it to the intermediate benchmark while 13 percent were ranked low.

Factors affecting achievement

The study said students from homes with more educational resources like books, internet connection, and parents with higher levels of educational attainment performed better in math and science.

Similarly, students who attended schools with fewer resource shortages had higher average achievement in math and science.

TIMSS also linked students’ early educational activities to higher achievement in their primary years of schooling.

“Fourth grade students had higher achievement, on average, when their parents had engaged them in literacy and numeracy activities at an early age in the home, when the students had attended pre-primary education, or when they had literacy and numeracy skills upon entering primary school,” it said.

The study also underscored that teachers reported a “sizable gap” between their professional development needs and the professional development opportunities recently made available to them.

“About 70 percent [of students] had teachers who reported needing future professional development” when it comes to integrating technology into instruction and honing students’ critical thinking skills, TIMSS said.

The Philippines shifted to distance learning modalities this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many students attending class online or learning at home through printed modules. 

Last month, the country dropped seven spots to the 27th ranking in the 2020 English Proficiency Index. 

In 2018, the Philippines was also ranked lowest out of 79 countries in reading comprehension.  — BM, GMA News