Asian Nations Do Well in TIMMS Math, But It’s not Because Asian Schools Are Better

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The results of those world comparison tests are out again, with some predictable results

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study:
Progress in International Reading Literacy Study:


“Asia continues to dominate the top echelon of scores across subject fields. The tiny city-state of Singapore takes first place in eighth-grade science and fourth-grade math, with South Korea scoring nearly as high. Singapore takes second place to South Korea in eighth-grade math, with Taiwan in third. The results also lean toward Asian nations when it comes to advanced levels of learning. In Singapore, 4 in 10 eighth-graders achieved the “advanced benchmark” in science, which requires an understanding of complex and abstract concepts in physics, chemistry, biology and other sciences. About 2 in 10 make the grade in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. In the U.S., it’s about 1 in 10.”

“Some U.S. states that were measured separately were clear standouts, performing on par with or better than some top-performing Asian countries. Eighth-graders in Massachusetts and Minnesota score far better in math and science than the U.S. average. But in California and Alabama, eighth-graders fell short of the national average.”
From the actual report:

At grade 8, the United States was among the top 24 education systems in mathematics (11 education systems had higher averages and 12 were not measurably different) and scored higher, on average, than 32 education systems. •

The 11 education systems with average mathematics scores above the U.S. score were Korea, Singapore, Chinese Taipei-CHN, Hong Kong-CHN, Japan, Massachusetts-USA, Minnesota-USA, the Russian Federation, North Carolina-USA, Quebec-CAN, and Indiana-USA.

• Among the U.S. states that participated in TIMSS at grade 8, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana scored both above the TIMSS scale average and the U.S. national average in mathematics. Colorado, Connecticut, and Florida scored above the
TIMSS scale average, but they were not measurably different from the U.S. national average. California was not measurably different from the TIMSS scale average but scored below the U.S. national average, while Alabama scored both below the TIMSS scale average and the U.S. national average in mathematics.

Here is ranking of 4th graders

Average mathematics scores of 4th-grade students, by
education system: 2011
TIMSS scale average 500

Average mathematics scores of 4th-grade students, by
education system: 2011
TIMSS scale average 500

US 4th graders by race

Grade 4
white 559
black 489
hispanic 520
Asian 583
Multiracial 554

Here is the list of nations with US races for comparison:
Singapore1 606

Korea, Rep. of 605
Hong Kong-CHN1 602
Chinese Taipei-CHN 591
Japan 585
US Asian 583*

——– advanced Asian states ————-
Northern Ireland-GBR2 562
US White 559
US Multiracial 554*
Belgium (Flemish)-BEL 549
Finland 545
England-GBR 542
Russian Federation 542
United States 541*
Netherlands 540
Denmark 537
Lithuania 534
Portugal 532
Germany 528
Ireland 527

—————– upper european —————-
US Hispanic 520*
Serbia 516
Australia 516
Hungary 515
Slovenia 513
Czech Republic 511
Austria 508
Italy 508
Slovak Republic 507
Sweden 504
Kazakhstan 501
Malta 496
Norway 495
Croatia 490
US Black 489*
New Zealand 486
Spain 482
Romania 482
Poland 481
Turkey 469
Azerbaijan 463
Chile 462
Thailand 458
Armenia 452
Georgia 450

————– Arab / Muslim states —————
Bahrain 436
United Arab Emirates 434
Iran, Islamic Rep. of 431
Qatar 413
Saudi Arabia 410
Oman 385
Tunisia 359
Kuwait 342
Morocco 335
Yemen 248

It is not so surprising that the advanced Asian economies are bunched up at the top, or the the US ranks with the better European nations. Not mentioned by anybody in the press is who is at the bottom which seems to be everybody in the Arab / Muslim camp who are not lacking in oil money from the west.

The message the mainstream press wants you to believe is that American butts are being kicked by the Asians, and American minorities always get an awful education. But the thing that I am the ONLY guy on the planet besides Steve Sailer and his little band of IQ hawks notices every year since the 1980s is that if US schools are so awful, why do so many Asians want their kids to be in American schools, and why is it that the Asian kids in US schools are about as far ahead as the Asians from overseas?  What does it take for the education establishment to get off  this “Asian schools are better” and “Minority education always is inferior to whites” mantra?

US Asians at 583 would be right after the sequence of Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan at 583. US whites are exceeded only by Northern Ireland, and ahead of every other European nation.  US Hispanics barely trail the economic powerhouse of Germany at 520 and beat the mostly European Australians.  US Blacks may trail in the US, but they are about the same as the mostly white New Zealand, and in the same neighborhood as Sweden, Spain, Romania and Turkey. They may trail SOME whites, namely those in the US, but euroAmericans score higher than anybody but the Asians, including most other European nations.

It’s pretty much the same at Grade 8, here is a shortened list, but you get the idea:


Grade 8
Korea 613
Singapore 611
Chinese Taipei 609
Hong Kong 586
US Asian 583
Japan 570

— Asians —
US white 559
Multiracial 554
Russian federation 539

US hispanic 520
Israel 516
Finland 514
United States 509

— Top European —
Italy 498
black 489
New Zealand 488

— Arab / Muslim

Qatar 410
Bahrain 409
Jordan 406
Palestinian Nat’l Auth. 404
Saudi Arabia 394
Indonesia 386
Syrian Arab Republic 380
Morocco 371
Oman 366
Ghana 331

In 8th grade, US Asians bookend the Asian nations, US whites by themselves beat EVERY other European nation, and the hispanics score as if THEY are an advanced European nation.  Blacks again score in the lower middle of European groups, which isn’t so bad at all.  And look at the bunch of nations at the bottom. It’s not just the occupied the Palestinians who are suffering in math scores, it’s also all the other nations supporting them, so maybe Mitt Romney really was onto something  when he was roundly attacked by suggesting the  Jews might be doing something better than their Muslim rivals culturally.



About the Author

MIT electrical engineering computer science graduate has written conservative columns on politics, race / culture, science and education since the 70s in MIT The Tech and various publications in including New Republic and National Review.