09/12/2020

Bad news about the education system, again

2 min

The 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) shows that the performance of Catalan primary schoolchildren has declined since 2015, and has returned to 2011 levels. Specifically, five years ago 9 and 10 year olds scored 511 points in science, and now they have dropped to 504. These results are taken from tests that the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) takes every four years to evaluate the level of primary school students in these subjects, which are strongly related to economic progress.

The results of Catalan schoolchildren are particularly worrying because not only are they far from the OECD average (527 points in mathematics and 526 in science) but they are even slightly below the Spanish average (502 in mathematics and 511 in science). If we look closely, it is clear that there is a correlation between these results and those of the PISA tests, since in both cases the highest results are those of Castilla y León (528 points in mathematics) and La Rioja (527). Madrid also outperforms Catalonia in this area, scoring 518 points.

This report is also helpful to look at which countries lead the ranking. In mathematics the countries are, in the following order: South Korea, Japan, Northern Ireland, and England. And in science: South Korea, Japan, Finland, and Latvia.

Interestingly, the Spanish average score is higher than that of countries such as France, Italy, Portugal, Belgium, Chile, and New Zealand, which means that the education system in these countries, especially the French Republican model, is also in crisis.

In any case, experts have been warning for some time about the loss of scientific skills among Catalan schoolchildren, who have not managed to consolidate the small rise that took place between 2011 and 2015. In addition, the Ministry of Education has warned of an increase in the gender gap in mathematics, since boys get 15 points more on average than girls. In science, on the other hand, this gap has narrowed.

These results should help the Ministry implement concrete plans to improve performance in these areas. This effort is now more necessary than ever, since the closure of schools during the last quarter of last year threatens to have created a wider social gap between students who have been able to follow courses online, and those who have not. This school year is being saved for the time being, but it is all still very fragile.

We must be aware that, together with health, education must be an absolute priority from a budgetary point of view, since we are gambling with our future as a country. If we are not able to reverse the trend set by the TIMSS, in the long run this will cause us to lose opportunities and move away from those countries that are committed to scientific research.

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