Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Primary pupils lead the western world in Maths

The Daily Mail writes that primary school pupils lead the western world in maths skills, according to a new survey. Our ten-year-olds have outstripped their peers in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand as well as the rest of Europe, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.

But the news from the international comparison of 425,000 youngsters was not all good. English children have been passed in their turn by youngsters from Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Republic portrayed as a nation of barely-civilised simpletons by Sacha Baron Cohen's comic creation Borat. Experts said a traditional curriculum and a belief in the importance of maths and science were behind Kazakhstan's success. Though poverty is widespread in the oil-producing country, it has an emerging middle class keen on rigorous academic education.

The improvement among English children follows the introduction of a daily numeracy lesson in primary schools, which put renewed emphasis on times tables and arithmetic.

The survey, known as Timms (Trends in International Maths and Science Study), is held every four years. Our ten-year-olds were 17th of 26 countries in 1995 but seventh of 36 last year, while 14-year-olds were seventh of 49 - up from 25th of 41 in 1995. Among ten-year-olds England was decisively outperformed only by countries on the Pacific Rim, including Japan and South Korea.

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