Thai students drop in world maths and science study

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Poor quality of teaching blamed for decline in scores since 2007

Thai students’ scholastic performances have dropped again in an international assessment – the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2011, which was released worldwide yesterday.

“The problem over the quality of teachers was a major cause of Thailand’s drop in performance in TIMSS 2011,” Precharn Dechsri, deputy director of the Institute for the Promotion of Teaching Science and Technology (IPST) told a press conference yesterday at the Education Ministry.

The scores of Grade 8 (Matthayom 2) students dropped from 441 in 2007 to 427 in 2011 in maths, while science scores decreased from 471 in 2007 to 451 in 2011. Thai pupils were ranked 28th in mathematics and 25th in science among students from 45 countries and 14 states in TIMSS 2011.

Younger students from Grade 4 (Prathom 4) who participated in TIMSS 2011 for the first time got 458 in mathematics and 472 in science. They were ranked 34th in mathematics and 29th in science among students from 52 countries and seven states.

Precharn said most Thai teachers taking those subjects at both levels – from 79-86 per cent – graduated with bachelor degrees and that was above the international average of 57-63 per cent. But while Thai teachers had “more” degrees, most were not ready in terms of doing lesson plans and were not confident teachers.

He cited a report which said that for Prathom 4, only 50 per cent of maths teachers were prepared in planning lessons, while only 47 per cent were confident in their teaching. And only 38 per cent of science teachers had prepared lessons and 39 per cent were confident teachers. That meant the rest were not “ready” to teach or confident doing so. The figures were below international averages from 59-83 per cent.

“Also, the percentage of our Matthayom 2 teachers’ readiness and confidence were low.

“The higher-degrees that teachers obtain do not guarantee quality education,” he said.

“Our teachers’ quality is lower. Teachers who are not good at what they teach are not confident in teaching their pupils. Teachers who have not taught subjects that they graduated in also encounter this problem,” Precharn said.

“We have to help boost teachers’ confidence and readiness. Teachers’ quality improvement is a big issue that we have to do urgently.”

The amount of time students spend studying was the main cause of poor performances. While the hours that Thai students study each day were longer than those in many other countries, Thailand had fewer weeks of study each semester. Overall, Thai students spent less time studying over a year, the deputy director said.

Students also lacked learning from laboratories or experiments that arouse their interest because Thailand focused too much on content.

“The performance of students in the East and provinces close to Bangkok as well as schools under supervision of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration increased sharply.

“IPST will study what’s caused this. However, IPST will have to study why the performance of students in the upper North fell sharply in the latest results,” he said, adding that IPST planned to improve 25 poor performing provinces. IPST would use different approaches to help students with different performance levels, especially those who did poorly.

Many Asian countries and regions led achievements in mathematics and science. Students from Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong were top performers in Grade Four maths. In Grade Four science, the top countries were South Korea, Singapore and Finland. For Grade Eight, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan led the world in maths. Singapore led in science, followed by Taiwan and South Korea, according to the results released by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement and the TIMSS and PIRLS International Study Centre at Boston College.