TIMSS 2019 provincial results show that WC education continues to improve
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) has presented the detailed Western Cape results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019. Earlier this week, our province was revealed to have achieved the highest scores in the country for both Mathematics and Science when the national results were presented earlier this week.
149 schools, 149 principals, 162 science teachers, 170 mathematics teachers and 5 350 learners from our province participated in the 2019 round of the study. This increased sample allows the Western Cape to be considered a ‘benchmarking participant’ on the international ranking, comparing our performance to the rest of the world. It also means the results are more precise, with a lower standard error.
Highlights from the provincial results include:
- Our scores have increased significantly since 2011, and greatly exceed that of the country as a whole.
- We also rank between 6 and 8 places higher on the international ranking than South Africa as a whole, and two places higher than Gauteng (which has a greater GDP per capita and lower poverty rate than we do).
- 64% of Mathematics learners and 60% of Science learners have achieved a basic mathematical/scientific knowledge. And an impressive number of learners reached the ‘advanced’ achievement level – 3% for Mathematics and 6% for Science.
- The best improvements occurred in the lowest performing schools. The WCED has been working hard to improve the quality of education of our learners in underperforming schools, and these results confirm the indications from our annual Systemic Test Results: Western Cape education continues to improve.
- We completely agree with the HSRC’s statement that the research suggests that the quintile categorisation of schools should be revisited, given that Quintile 4 schools actually scored lower on average than Quintile 1, 2, and 3 schools. We have been saying for some time that the Quintile system does not accurately reflect the real poverty levels on the ground.
- The finding that 80% of learners, in both fee-paying and no-fee schools, are in schools where Grade 9 learners have access to computers, is of particular importance given the global pandemic we are currently facing. The WCED has made access to eLearning a priority, and we will continue pushing the boundaries with innovations in this regard.
Some people have asked what the point of participating in such evaluations is, and if it is fair to compare South Africa to advanced countries.
My response is that if we do not have consistent evaluations, we will not be able to know if we are improving or not. It is well known that what gets measured, improves. Evaluation is not something to be afraid of – it should be seen as a way to identify gaps and areas of concern, and to develop strategies to improve in those areas. We will remain committed as a province to undertaking the most accurate measurements and evaluations of our progress that we can, and to work on improving so that we can compete with the best in the world.
I thank the HSRC and the officials of our department led by the DDG: Curriculum and Assessment Management Dr Peter Beets for their implementation of this study. This is a massive undertaking, and it is rather nerve-wracking to decide to have our province included as a bench-marking participant. The improved accuracy of the results, and the valuable insights offered by the additional analysis of the factors influencing achievement, confirm that this was the right decision.