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Student performance in Finland at international top level

Ministry of Education and Culture 11.12.2012 11.00
News item

The basis for the Finnish youth’s success in international assessment studies is already founded in primary school. The fourth graders, who were the target for the international comparison for the first time in 25 years, were highly successful in reading literacy, mathematics and science. The success continued at the eighth grade. However, the joy of learning is already lost in the fourth grade.

These are the main results of two international assessment studies TIMSS and PIRLS. TIMSS measures trends in mathematics and science achievement at the fourth and eighth grades, and PIRLS measures trends in reading literacy achievement at the fourth grade.

– The results tell us how well the curricular contents are learnt, that is how successful the Finnish school system has been. By contrast, the earlier PISA studies measuring these same three areas of learning assess how well the students can apply their knowledge to real-life situations, Professor Pekka Kupari from the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä clarifies.

Finland very close to the top in reading literacy and science

The reading literacy score of the Finnish fourth graders (568) is the second best among 45 countries together with Russia. Only Hongkong ranked better (571). Singapore came fourth. The differences between these countries are so small that in practice, the reading literacy skills in these four countries are the same.

In science, the Finnish fourth graders (570 points) ranked third among 50 countries after Korea (587) and Singapore (583). Also the Finnish eighth graders did excellent in science; their 552 points wereenough to reach the fifth place in the comparison of 42 countries. The top consists of four Asian countries, led by Singapore (590 points).

Mathematics skills among the best in Europe

The Finnish fourth graders’ score in mathematics (545) was the eighth highest among 50 countries. Among the OECD countries it was enough to reach the fifth place, and among the European countries it was enough to rank third after Northern Ireland and the Flemish part of Belgium. The best score in mathematics was achieved by some Asian countries, such as Singapore (606), Korea (605), and Hongkong (602).

The Finnish eighth graders’ score in mathematics (514) was the eighth highest among 42 countries and the second best in Europe after Russia. Also here five Asian countries (Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Hongkong and Japan) achieved the highest scores.

Considering the mathematics scores, however, there is some reason to worry. In Finland, TIMMS also compared the seventh graders’ skills to the earlier TIMSS 1999 and it was noticed that during these twelve years, the mathematics skills have slightly deteriorated. This has not happened in science.

Boys’ weaker reading literacy skills and the effect of home pose challenges for equality

The achievement scores reveal huge differences between the highest and lowest performing countries on all three assessment areas. In contrast, the differences within Finland are one of the smallest in international comparison.

The scores of individual students were not affected much by whether they lived in the countryside or the city, or by where in Finland they lived. However, the wealth of the home correlated with the scores in reading literacy, as well as in mathematics and science.
In Finland, the gender gap in terms of the fourth graders’ achievement in reading literacy is 21 points for the girls, which is one of the largest among the participant countries. However, in mathematics and science the Finnish gender differences were rather small at both grades when compared internationally.

– From the viewpoint of equal learning, the biggest challenge of the Finnish primary and secondary education is related to the boys’ reading literacy skills. Also the differences caused by the effect of one’s home have to be minimised, University Lecturer Sari Sulkunen summarises.

Joy of learning is lost

Although the skills and knowledge of the Finnish students are of a high international standard, the schools have not been very successful when it comes to the students’ attitudes and learning motivation.

The Finnish fourth graders’ reading motivation and commitment to the learning of reading are one of the lowest among the participant countries. Only one third of the students like mathematics and only one fifth have a good commitment to learning. The attitudes towards reading literacy and mathematics are among the poorest in the entire study. The situation is relatively similar regarding science.

The joy of learning is even weaker when taking a look at the eighth graders. Only 10% of the students like mathematics, 15% value mathematics a lot and merely 6% are committed to learning it. This means that in country comparisons Finland is among the three with the weakest motivated students. Over a half of the students do not like chemistry and physics. The situation is slightly better with biology and geography. Finnish results are also relatively weak for students’ general appreciation for science and their commitment to learning it.

– The ways of teaching in primary and secondary school need urgent reshaping. The results clearly indicate that the aims of the National Core Curriculum for Basic Education, which emphasise the students’ own interests and needs in teaching, have not been achieved, University Researcher Jouni Vettenranta and Professor Pekka Kupari note.

TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) and PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study) are organised by IEA, which reports on the international student achievements. The Finnish Institute for Educational Research has answered for conducting the studies in Finland. The research is funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

 

 

Poikien lukutaito ja kotitaustan vaikutus ovat haaste tasa-arvolle

Maiden väliset erot osaamispisteissä ovat suuret kaikilla kolmella alueella. Suomen sisällä osaamiserot ovat kansainvälisesti verrattuna tutkimusmaiden pienimpiä.

Osaamiseen ei vaikuttanut paljoakaan asuinpaikan sijainti ja koko, mutta sen sijaan kodin varallisuustaso on yhteydessä oppimistuloksiin niin lukutaidossa kuin matematiikassa ja luonnontieteissäkin. Neljäsluokkalaisten välinen ero lukutaidossa on 21 pistettä tyttöjen hyväksi. Ero on vertailumaiden suurimpia. Sen sijaan matematiikan ja luonnontieteiden osalta erot tyttöjen ja poikien välillä ovat kummallakin luokka-asteella kansainvälisesti verraten pieniä.

- Oppimisen tasa-arvon näkökulmasta suomalaisen peruskoulun suurimmat haasteet liittyvät poikien lukutaidon kehittämiseen tyttöjen tasolle ja oppilaiden kotitaustan vaikutuksen tasoittamiseen, kiteyttää yliopistonlehtori Sari Sulkunen.

Oppimisen ilo hukassa

Suomalaisten neljäsluokkalaisten lukemismotivaatio ja sitoutuminen lukemisen opetukseen ovat vertailumaiden heikoimpia. Matematiikasta pitää paljon vain kolmannes oppilaista ja sen opetukseen on hyvin sitoutunut ainoastaan viidennes oppilaista. Sekä lukutaidon että matematiikan osalta suomalaisoppilaiden asenteet ovat vertailumaiden heikoimpia. Suunnilleen samanlainen tilanne on luonnontieteiden osalta.

Kahdeksasluokkalaisilla oppimisen ilo on neljäsluokkalaisiakin heikompaa ja suomalaiset sijoittuvat kolmen huonoimmin motivoituneen maan joukkoon. Luonnontieteissä yli puolet ei pidä kemiasta ja fysiikasta. Biologiasta ja maantiedosta pidetään jonkin verran enemmän. Myös luonnontieteiden arvostus ja sitoutuminen sen opetukseen ovat vertailumaihin nähden heikkoa.

- Peruskoulun opetustavat kaipaavat kipeästi uudistamista. Tulokset kertovat selvästi, ettei valtakunnallisen Perusopetuksen opetussuunnitelman mukaisessa tavoitteessa oppilaiden kiinnostuksesta ja tarpeista lähtemisessä opetuksessa ole onnistuttu, huomauttavat yliopistontutkija Jouni Vettenranta ja Pekka Kupari.

Tutkimusten julkaisut, grafiikka ja verkkosivut: http://ktl.jyu.fi/ktl/timss-pirls


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