British Pupils 'Lead the Western World at Maths'

Daily Mail (London), December 10, 2008 | Go to article overview

British Pupils 'Lead the Western World at Maths'


Byline: Laura Clark

PRIMARY school pupils lead the western world in maths skills, a survey said yesterday.

Our ten-year-olds have outstripped their peers in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand as well as the rest of Europe, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Sweden.

But the news from the international comparison of 425,000 youngsters was not all good.

English children have been passed in their turn by youngsters fromKazakhstan, the former Soviet Republic portrayed as a nation of barely-civilised simpletons by Sacha Baron Cohen's comic creation Borat, pictured.

Experts said a traditional curriculum and a belief in the importance of maths and science were behind Kazakhstan's success.

Though poverty is widespread in the oil-producing country, it has an emerging middle class keen on rigorous academic education.

The improvement among English children follows the introduction of a daily numeracy lesson in primary schools, which put renewed emphasis on times tables and arithmetic.

The survey, known as Timms (Trends in International Maths and Science Study), is held every four years.

Our ten- year- olds were 17th of 26 countries in 1995 but seventh of 36 last year, while 14- year- olds were seventh of 49 - up from 25th of 41 in 1995. Among ten-year-olds England was decisively outperformed only by countries on the Pacific Rim, including Japan and South Korea.

The result contrasts sharply with two similar studies last year which showed Britain plummeting down the world rankings.

Schools Minister Jim Knight said the findings of Timms were unambiguous..

'Our teenagers are leading Europe,' he said. 'We can be really proud of our position in maths and science.' But Shadow Children's Secretary Michael Gove said: 'It hardly gives confidence that we will compete in hard subjects that count when countries with all Kazakhstan's disadvantages are outstripping ours'. …

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