Malta ranks 28th out of fifty countries in Maths rankings

Malta ranks 28th out of fifty countries in TIMSS 2011 study with regard to Maths

Education MInister Evarist Bartolo
Education MInister Evarist Bartolo

Malta's first participation in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) ranked the country 28th out of fifty surveyed nations whose 9-10 year-olds were assessed in their maths skills.

The average score for Malta in maths was 496 (TIMSS' scale centre point was 500).

Students in Year 5 primary, with an average age of 9.8 years, in all state, church and independent schools were assessed in TIMSS 2011, which is based on a four-year cycle of assessment.

Last week, the government announced that Malta had ranked a dismal 40th out of fifty countries in the same study's science rankings.

But with regards to Maths skills, Malta's score was slightly less than that of Italy (508), Austria (508), and Sweden (504) - while being comparable to that of Norway (459).

However Malta scored significantly better than that of Croatia (490), New Zealand (486), Spain (482), Romania (482), and Poland (481).

Welcoming Malta's Maths on Wednesday, Education Minister Evarist Bartolo was pleased to say that Malta performed considerable better in Maths than in Science.

Bartolo also drew attention to how male Maltese students score slightly better in Maths than female students - boys' average score was 499 while girls' average score stood at 492.

The report also found that, on average, independent school pupils scored significantly higher in Maths than church school pupils, who in turn did better than higher than state schools.

He noted that in all school types, Maltese male students scored significantly higher than females in all three content domains (number, geometric shapes and measure, data display) and all three cognitive domains (knowing, applying and reasoning)

Bartolo also said that the report found that Malta's proportion of students that achieve advanced international benchmark was as high as the international median (4%).

The proportion of Maltese students achieving High, Intermediate, and Low international benchmarks were slightly lower than the international averages for that respective benchmark however (3%, 7%, and 2% lower respectively).

Bartolo also explained that the Maths score is spread out over two domains composed of three sections each.

The Content Domain is composed of Numbers, Geometric Shapes and Measures, and Data Display, wile the Cognitive Domain is composed of Knowing, Applying, and Reasoning.

He said the report also highlighted the importance of English literacy, given that some Maltese students found difficulty with the survey language used.

He also noted that across those countries that participated in TIMSS 2011, the average annual amount of hours dedicated to Maths teaching is 162 hours (approx. 18% of total teaching time.)

However, in Malta that figure stood at 183 hours (approx. 205) of total teaching time, meaning that Malta is the 12th country with the highest proportion of total teaching time allocated to Maths.

"Overall, the results obtained are generally satisfactory," Bartolo noted, while however adding "there are areas which obviously one needs to focus on especially."

He insisted that while is encouraging that Malta's TIMSS 2011 placing in Maths is far better than that in Science, "we cannot pass a general comment on all the children in the country. While it seems we are doing well, we need to focus on those areas where might not be doing so well."

Asked about how State schools fare the worst among other schools, Bartolo suggested that this could be also due to other social factors - such as family background and other socio-economic issues - rather than a lower quality education.

"Schools make a difference, but some children tend to learn despite school, while others learn thanks to school. It is uncontested that State schools are those schools that face the biggest challenges in the educational sector," Bartolo said.

"Many children attend them, and it is there that schools have to make the biggest impact. Those children who are educationally prepared tend to be primarily found in independent schools and church schools," Bartolo said, pointing to parental preparation.

"Schools need to be approached within a grater social context, and children's backgrounds cannot be discounted. It is a big challenge to approach issues within education with these factors in mind."

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Maths is a subject which is a concern for many students around the globe as they lack basic skills and proper guidance, but seeing Malta doing good in maths at world level is always satisfying. This is the reason why number of Malta students is doing SAT prep and also cracking the exam with better score.