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TIMSS 2015 Released

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The TIMSS 2015 results for math and science are out and the results are pretty predictable.

All the data can be conveniently downloaded from here: http://timss2015.org/download-center/. See also Steve Sailer’s post from yesterday.

Math (8th grade)

timss-2015-math

Science (8th grade)

timss-2015-science

An extension of Heiner Rindermann’s observation on the differences between the two major international standardized tests – namely, that PISA is more a test of general intelligence, while TIMSS loads more heavily on specific curricular knowledge (Rindermann 2015) – is that the difference between the two can be used as a rough proxy for the quality of school systems.

After all, raising general intelligence through special schooling methods is well nigh impossible, but it is possible to teach how to do fractions properly. As I pointed out back in 2013:

However, a second possibility is that the PISA-TIMSS/PIRLS gap is a proxy for differences in the quality of educational systems. It is more feasible to prepare for the TIMSS/PIRLS than it is for PISA, which is closer to an IQ test and is, as such, more difficult to improve through policy interventions. It is nowadays fashionable to lambast the ex-Soviet and East Asian school systems for “rote learning,” “stifling creativity,” and whatnot. However, the data shows that under these systems, pupils perform well above the levels they “should” as indicated by their underlying IQ levels. Meanwhile, in places where “creativity” and “self-expression” are given full bloom, where science lessons focus on the evils of plastic bags in between sermons on LGBT appreciation and the progressiveness of Islamic civilization, academic performance is somewhat less than what might expect based on the local students’ apparent IQ levels.

The ex-USSR countries do not have particularly high IQs by developed European country standards – Russia itself is at around 97 – but it is nonetheless the best performing non-East Asian country in the TIMSS math test, and second after Slovenia in science. Kazakhstan comes just after Russia in math, which is highly impressive given that ethnic Kazakhs have an average IQ of just 82 relative a British mean of 100 (Grigoriev & Lynn 2014).

The Scandis are the opposite in this respect – pretty respectable native general intelligence, but much poorer than expected scholastic results. In the last TIMSS, only around 15% (sic!) of Swedish and Finnish 8th graders were able to do basic fractions. Normally I would have a hard time believing this, but the source was impeccable, and the horror stories about Swedish schools I’ve heard from Swedish acquaintances makes me willing to give credence to such results.

The East Asians get the best of both worlds, and for all the criticism directed at the education system in both the US and England – especially the marked Finland worship you get after every round of PISA – they do pretty solidly as well.

As per usual, the results from Africa and the Arabs are hopeless. As an an Arab Gulf State bigwig once said, “My grandfather rode a Camel, my father rode a Camel, I drive a Mercedes, my son drives a Land Rover, his son will drive a Land Rover, but his son will ride a Camel.”

 
• Category: Race/Ethnicity • Tags: Education, Intelligence, TIMSS 

26 Comments to "TIMSS 2015 Released"

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  1. Quite impressive of the ex Soviet states to maintain decent school systems, but such a shame that their universities are still in the doldrums. This could be fixed for very little money. There’s a massive global glut of fundamental scientists (Katz’s “don’t become a scientist” was written in the early 00s and things haven’t improved).

    It’s also interesting to note that, whilst the curriculum night be traditional, the general regime of the schools in the ex Soviet states isn’t, and never really has been, harsh. Most uk schools used the slipper until the late 80s for comparison and most commonwealth ones still do.

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  2. I agree. However, Sochi ($50bn) and football ($20bn) are more important. Ultimately, Putin is not an intellectual, and prefers palling around with sportsmen instead of scientists. Which is fine, I suppose, except that it also translates into funding priorities.

    I think school BDSM has mostly been an Anglo fetish.

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  3. says:
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    Sorry.

    Simply refuse to believe that Russians – and all Slavs for that matter – never habitually beat children. Neither the parents or teachers.
    Runs contrary to everything to the whole gamut of human expierence, including all the great Russian authors.

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  4. Parents, sure. Schools – no.

    Corporal school punishment was banned in 1917. It just isn’t a thing in Russia.

    And (Slavic) Poland banned school corporal punishment in 1783 – the earliest such ban in the world!

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  5. The harshest form of punishment in my Soviet school days was sending an unruly kid to stand in a corner of the classroom for the remainder of the class. And that was only done in the early grades.

    When Patrick Swayze said “nobody puts Baby in the corner” in that cheesy movie, what did he mean? In my sovok mind that means being punished, but I’ve never heard of this practice in America, so maybe it meant something else to the screenwriters of that film.

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  6. In the last TIMSS, only around 15% (sic!) of Swedish and Finnish 8th graders were able to do basic fractions.

    This video shows Finnish 13 and 14 year-olds doing simple fractions. I had thought that they were all immigrants but I guess they represent a larger section of the school population. LINK

    TIMSS considers algebra and geometry to be advanced math courses, along with calculus. Only a fraction of high school seniors from nine surveyed countries have taken all three courses and very few of them have a firm understanding of the concepts that they were presumedly taught. Sweden did the absolute worst with 14.1% of their high school senior having taken advanced math courses. LINK

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  7. Correction: Italy did the worst in advanced math.

  8. Quite impressive of the ex Soviet states to maintain decent school systems, but such a shame that their universities are still in the doldrums.

    Depends which universities (and institutes). Places such as MGTU or MAI were, are and probably will remain one of the best technological schools in the world.

  9. The ex-USSR countries do not have particularly high IQs by developed European country standards – Russia itself is at around 97 – but it is nonetheless the best performing non-East Asian country in the TIMSS math test, and second after Slovenia in science

    There is much more to it than IQ. Singapore can have all IQ it wants–it will never be able to produce a space station, Boeing 787 or SU-35. Environment, culture other external factors and pressures matter a great deal.

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  10. But you could be expelled with a “wolf’s passport” (from what I remember of Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s autobiography).

    Personally, I think corporal punishment for 6-11 year old boys works. It’s quick and you don’t have to contact parents for every little thing (which is what happens now).

    I preferred it to being shouted at. The cane was no biggie. But I guess some kids are more sensitive.

    I was in the last generation of English primary school kids who “suffered” corporal punishment. We were also the last cohort where the majority of teachers were male (and the older ones WWII veterans). Primary teachers are now overwhelmingly female.

  11. Are you sure those “Finnish” kids are 13/14-year olds? I wasn’t good at maths in school and I didn’t go to some elite school (just a standard German gymnasium), but we did simple fractions in 5th grade iirc, that is at age 10/11.
    If Scandinavian school systems fail to teach pupils even something fairly simple like basic fractions, that’s not exactly impressive. But then Scandinavia seems badly overhyped anyway.

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  12. If you google “11 year-old kids” you will see the difference. The blonde girls in the video that I linked all have breasts and look older than 14 to be honest.

    You post is typical of comments I see on education blogs. You assume your personal experience from 20 or 40 years ago applies to everyone today, even if they are in a different country. Maybe you are just trolling me for fun, but a gymnasium is the highest level of secondary schooling in Germany, mid-level is realschule, and hauptschule is for kids of the lowest ability.

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  13. I agree that with the East Asian “debuff” to performance of an effective ~5 IQ points due to less drive/creativity/x, Singapore’s very modest population of 5.4 million (almost exactly equivalent to Saint-Petersburg), and its highly commercial/financial tilt it is indeed unlikely to do any of those things.

    However, if it were to increase military/MIC-type spending to 10% of GDP, and/or raise its average IQ by another standard deviation, I am sure it would be able to do any of those things pretty easily.

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  14. I was born in 1984, so I was referring to the mid-1990s. It’s true though that the German school system has declined since then (in some cases with quite astonishing rapidity, usually due to the influence of Social Democrats and Greens).
    Still, 14-year olds being unable to do basic fractions is an indictment of any education system, it makes me wonder what is supposed to be so admirable about Finland’s or Sweden’s system.

  15. Nobody but the sons of the szlachta went to school then …

  16. Still, 14-year olds being unable to do basic fractions is an indictment of any education system, it makes me wonder what is supposed to be so admirable about Finland’s or Sweden’s system.

    The OECD also publishes a much less well-known, but equally important, study of young adult skills. Sweden is a chart-topper there. So there isn’t a clear link between work performance/skills and PISA/TIMSS.

    Ultimately the economy depends on workers and their abilities.

    I agree that with the East Asian “debuff” to performance of an effective ~5 IQ points due to less drive/creativity/x

    Singapore is a terrible example. Look at Korea or Japan. Both are technologically more advanced than France or Germany. Japan doesn’t have a space program of the same extent to Russia because it has spent very little on military matters in the postwar era, and the space program is inevitably an outgrowth of military engineering. That’s why France is good at it, but Germany isn’t, even if Germany’s economy is bigger.

    If Japan had the same percentage of GDP that Russia has on defence, it could easily do it. There’s no “debuff”. It’s a giant hoax that people tell themselves to feel better when they get outcompeted by East Asians.

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  17. Turkey must cheat in these tests. There’s no way they can do so well considering how poorly the Turkish minority does in Greece and Bulgaria, and how poorly their diaspora performs in western Europe. Half or more of Turkish teenagers also do not attend school, you have to keep this in mind.

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  18. says:
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    You’re right, Sweden tops the problem solving score and beats Korea in numeracy score when it comes to OECD survey of adult skill, though Japan’s still the top dog.

    http://www.oecd.org/skills/piaac/newcountryspecificmaterial.htm

    No China in this survey, but Korea’s score relative to Japan is more “in line” with its economic history than in PISA or TIMSS. Turkey does very badly.

  19. Cenk Uygur, a Turkish immigrant, says that Turks in Germany don’t do well economically because it is easy for the poorly educated to immigrate to Germany for low-skilled jobs. He says that Turks in the US are successful because it is more difficult to immigrate to the US. Uygur is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia Law.

    LINK

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  20. Most Turks were and are uneducated, especially by western standards. The Turks that moved to Germany were just the ordinary Turks, and they perform very poorly academically and economically. Greece and Bulgaria also have Turkish communities left over from Ottoman times and they’re poorer and less educated than average there. FWIW the Turks from Greece are supposedly the elite Turks, the so-called ‘Rumelian Turks’ that tried bringing progress and modernity to Turkey, yet those left over in Greece are still poorer than average.

  21. However, if it were to increase military/MIC-type spending to 10% of GDP, and/or raise its average IQ by another standard deviation, I am sure it would be able to do any of those things pretty easily.

    I would I argue that it wouldn’t be able to do it even if it were to increase it to 20% GDP. But that is (was) precisely my point–IQ alone, while being important metric, doesn’t buy one the ability. Behavioral matrices, history, traditions, schools of thought, social interactio0ns and conditioning, size etc. play no less important role. The bottom line of civilization is its machines, or, in Marxian parlance–the production of the means of production. For that to happen some crucial criteria have to be met, geopolitical ones being one of the most important. Production of the iPhone (especially on imported processors) and production of SU-35 (or Arleigh Burke-class DDG)–those are things of a different order(s) of magnitude.

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  22. Another thing to look for that i noticed right away is the relatively insane figures for Russian 4th graders. this is basically the first Russian generation who is not affected by the 90′s pretty much at all since they were born in 2006~(last timms it was 2002 students who somewhat were affected IMO) And their figures in this exam are insane and even outscore some Asians in the 4th grade categories. I imagine ethnic Russian 4th graders from Moscow scored shanghai like imaginary figures in this one

  23. PCA analysis of the PISA and TIMMS results together (for those countries where both are included*), is an easy way to show the differences:

    View post on imgur.com

    Dimension 1 is overall performance across all 4 (PISA Math, PISA Science, TIMMS Math, TIMMS science). Everything goes up with this dimension. Highest performers: Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Japan. Weakest performers: Turkey, UAE, Malta.

    Dimension 2 separates stronger performers on TIMMS vs PISA: strongest performers on TIMMS relative to PISA are in order: Turkey, Korea, Russia, Hungary, United Arab Emirates, while strongest performers on PISA relative to TIMMS are: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Norway, Italy. The five most balanced countries in the tradeoff are roughly: Slovenia, England, Hong Kong, Japan, USA.

    Dimension 3 separates out Science nations vs Math nations: Most heavily Science vs Math: Slovenia, England, USA, New Zealand, Turkey and most heavily Math vs Science: Hong Kong, Malta, Korea, Italy, Norway.

    As much as including TIMMS might be a worse proxy of “IQ” than just PISA, I have included in the above graphic a measure of using the PC1 overall performance score to convert to IQ, based on the assumption that England is 100 and Japan 104.3 as in your PISA conversion. There’s a bit of swing, not too much, compared to PISA alone.

    *I didn’t bother to include countries with worse TIMMS performance than Turkey.

  24. Including the PISA reading measure as well (not surprisingly less correlated with the other measures):

    View post on imgur.com

    Rolling in the PIAAC measures of skills as well (data download: http://www.oecd.org/skills/):

    View post on imgur.com

    Singapore’s the biggest relative loser when the skills measure is rolled in as well, with the least advantage on PIAAC skills relative to TIMMS / PISA. Most other countries gain compared to the other PCA, as they are more advantaged relative to England and the East Asians on young people’s life skills than they are on young people’s education measures.

  25. You realize they can buy Dassault CATIA in East Asia too, right?? Hence a country like China that wants it can have J-20, J-35, Type 052D, Type 055 and C929 and myriad other things you find so impressive.

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