Students from the East Asian and certain European countries outdo those from the other parts of the world in mathematics, science and reading comprehension, according to a set of global studies released in the U.S. Tuesday.
Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei and Japan were the top performers in mathematics at both fourth and eighth grades, analyzed in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) published by the International Association for the Evaluation of Education Achievement (IEA), which conducts its research out of Boston University.
There was a substantial gap in achievement between these five East Asian countries and the next highest performing countries, including the Russian Federation, Israel, Finland, the U.S. and England, a statement that accompanied the results stated.
The top-performing countries in science at the fourth grade were led by South Korea and Singapore, followed by Finland, Japan, the Russian Federation, Chinese Taipei and the U.S.
In science at the eighth grade, Singapore ranked highest, followed by Chinese Taipei, South Korea and Japan. Among the better performers in the category were Finland, Slovenia, the Russian Federation, Hong Kong and England.
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The U.S. students outperformed the international averages and were among the top performers compared with the 60 countries and the educational systems that administered the fourth-grade math and science tests and the 59 countries that gave the eighth-grade exams. The U.S. students were either placed in, or tied for, the top 13 spots in all the tests.
A parallel study, Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), ranked Hong Kong and Singapore among the top performing countries in the fourth-grade reading comprehension.
Worldwide, out of 45 participating countries, only 12 nations had an average achievement below the PIRLS center-point of 500, the study found, and in nearly all countries girls scored better at reading than boys.
The U.S. was ranked 17th in a study, published late last month, of the education systems of 50 countries, behind several Asian and Scandinavian nations, which claimed the top spots.
Finland and South Korea had grabbed first and second places respectively in a global league table published by the education firm Pearson. They were followed by Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore.
The study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit, combined international test results and data such as literacy rates and graduation rates between 2006 and 2010.