Top GCSE maths students in England two years behind Asian peers

22 February, 2013

Top GCSE maths students in England two years behind Asian peers

Children will be increasingly benchmarked against international standards.

Research has revealed that England’s highest achieving pupils are still two years behind the top students in other countries such as Hong Kong and Taiwan by the time they take their GCSE exams.

Researchers at the Institute of Education, University of London, studied children’s maths achievements in two international studies, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). The results indicate that England’s brightest students can match their counter-parts in leading East Asian countries at 10 years of age, but then fall behind.

This has led to the researchers suggesting more needs to be done to ensure the most talented pupils are able to progress at the same pace as the highest achievers in other countries. Ministers have raised concerns about England falling down international rankings, having come 28th in maths in the PISA 2009 tests.

In primary maths, students in England ranked 9th in the TIMSS evaluation in 2011, three places lower than we ranked in 2007. The main concern raised, however, is the gap between the top 10% of pupils in England compared to the highest achievers in East Asia in the age group of 10 to 16 years of age.

Author of the study, Dr John Jerrim, said: “At age ten the highest achievers in England can roughly match the highest achievers in Taiwan and Hong Kong, but by age 16, the highest achievers in England are roughly two years behind the highest achievers in those countries.”

The research has raised concerns that England’s most able students make less progress generally than those of similar abilities across the 12 other countries studied, and therefore more needs to be done to help younger children with their maths skills from an early age.

The report states that “having a pool of very highly skilled individuals is vital for technological innovation and long-run economic growth,” and thus the gap in achievement for our brightest pupils is of concern.

Sean Coughlan, BBC News education correspondent, said: “Such comparisons have become increasingly influential – measuring pupils against the standards of international competitor countries. Globalisation in the jobs market and the economy has seen education ministers wanting to benchmark pupils’ achievement against current international rivals.”

Children will be increasingly benchmarked against international standards, to ensure they are equipped to succeed in the global market. Kumon is committed to maximising the potential of each child through individualised, advanced study, enabling them to compete in, and contribute to, the global community.