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Finnish fourth-grade girls are outperforming boys in both mathematics and science, according to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
Finnish fourth-grade girls are outperforming boys in both mathematics and science, according to the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

The Ministry of Education and Culture has revealed that the dip in the performance of 15-year-old students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been duplicated by fourth-graders in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

Finnish boys, in particular, have seen their test scores in mathematics and science drop over the past couple of years.

“Girls have overtaken boys in all of the areas examined. In order to improve the results, attention should be paid especially to the attitudes and capabilities of learners at the beginning of their journey through the education system,” a ministry spokesperson says in a press release.

The 2015 TIMSS found that the average score of Finnish boys has fallen by 18 points in mathematics and 22 points in science since the previous iteration of the study in 2011. The average score of girls, meanwhile, has fallen by 2 points in mathematics and 10 points in science.

No such gender gap was noticeable in the 2011 TIMSS, as Finnish boys only narrowly outperformed girls in both mathematics and science.

“A drop in the share of boys with excellent scores is a key reason for the drop in the average score of boys. It is alarming that gender differences are noticeable at such an early stage of the education journey,” lament Jouni Vettenranta, a study co-ordinator, and Jenna Hiltunen, a researcher at the Finnish Institute of Educational Research.

“The national curriculum for basic education places an emphasis on the significance of school as a promoter of gender equality, but it seems yet to be realised.”

Finland, the press release indicates, was the only top-performing country in the 2011 TIMSS to record a decline in national average scores – from 545 to 535 in mathematics and 570 to 554 in science. Finnish fourth-graders consequently saw their ranking decline from 8th to 13th in mathematics and 3rd to 5th in science in the 2015 TIMSS.

Finnish learners continue to score relatively high on both knowledge and skills-based tests, despite the recent dip in test performance, remind Hiltunen and Vettenranta. “We ranked second among OECD countries in science and scored well above the OECD average in mathematics,” they point out.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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