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TIMSS 1998/99: The School and Classroom Context for Year 9 Students' Mathematics and Science Achievement

Publication Details

Results from New Zealand's participation in the repeat of the Third International Mathematics & Science Study. The beliefs and attitudes of the teachers of the Year 9 students along with details of the school and classroom environment are presented.

The second in a two-part series (see Trends in Year 9 Students' Mathematics and Science Achievement: Results from New Zealand's participation in the repeat of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study), the report summarises the contextual findings from TIMSS-R focusing on the classroom, school and curricular context in which mathematics and science learning took place.

Author(s): Megan Chamberlain and Robyn Caygill

Date Published: August 2002

Executive Summary

The aim of this report is to summarise the contextual findings from New Zealand's participation in the repeat of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS-98/99).

This report is the second in a two-part series. The series is designed to present a descriptive summary of the findings from New Zealand's participation in TIMSS-98/99 at the Year 9 level. The first report focused on Year 9 student achievement and their beliefs and attitudes towards mathematics and science within a national and international context. The main achievement-related findings presented in the first report were:

Mathematics achievement

  • New Zealand Year 9 students, on average, achieved at about the international mean in mathematics for the 38 countries participating in TIMSS-98/99.
  • The New Zealand mean was similar to that for students in England and the United States, but was statistically significantly lower than the means for students in Canada and Australia.
  • Although it was not a statistically significant result, New Zealand, along with several other countries, recorded a decrease in mean mathematics achievement between 1994/95 and 1998/99.
  • The relative performance in mathematics of the cohort tested at the middle primary level in New Zealand in 1994/95 essentially did not change when they were assessed at the lower secondary level four years later compared to the 16 other countries that participated at these two educational levels.
  • While New Zealand girls in 1998, on average, achieved scores about the same as their female counterparts in 1994, boys achieved slightly lower scores when compared with male counterparts.
  • There was a small, statistically significant decrease in the mean achievement for Year 9 students in schools in the deciles 4 to 7 band (as defined by the Targeted Funding for Educational Achievement indicator) from 1994 to 1998.

Science achievement

  • New Zealand Year 9 students, on average, achieved significantly above the international mean in science for all 38 TIMSS-98/99 countries.
  • The New Zealand student mean was similar to those for students in Malaysia and the United States, but significantly lower than the means for students in Canada, Australia, and England.
  • New Zealand, as well as the United States, Belgium (Flemish), Italy and Romania, observed virtually no change in mean science achievement at the lower secondary level over the four years.
  • The relative performance in science of the cohort tested at the middle primary level in New Zealand in 1994/95 decreased slightly when they were assessed at the lower secondary level four years later, compared to 16 other countries that participated at these two educational levels.
  • The statistically significant difference between the mean science scores of New Zealand Year 9 boys and girls observed in 1994 (in favour of boys) no longer existed in 1998.


The focus of this second report is the classroom, school and curricular context in which mathematics and science learning took place in 1998. The beliefs and attitudes of the teachers of the Year 9 students along with details of the school and classroom environment are presented. Comparisons with Year 9 equivalent students in other countries are presented including details of the curricular variations across countries.

This report is divided into six sections:

  • Chapter 1 presents an overview to the study design, key findings pertaining to New Zealand from TIMSS-94/95, and some technical information about sampling. The measures and instrumentation used are detailed and a description of how results are presented is provided. Some comparative data on the countries involved in the study is also presented in this chapter.
  • Chapter 2 examines both the New Zealand and international curricular context for Year 9 students' achievement in mathematics and science.
  • Chapter 3 focuses on the school context in New Zealand at the time TIMSS-98/99 was administered. Some comparisons with other countries are also made.
  • Chapter 4 presents information on the Year 9 students' mathematics teachers including their educational background and teaching practices. Teachers' reports on approaches to assessment and the role of homework are also summarised. Comparisons are made with their counterparts from 1994, as well as some comparisons with their international counterparts in 1998/99.
  • Chapter 5 focuses on the Year 9 students' science teachers and the science classroom environment. A brief description of the demographic characteristics of the Year 9 science teacher is presented. Teaching practices including approaches to assessment and the role of homework, as well as an overview on teachers' emphases on scientific investigations are also discussed. Comparisons are made with the science teachers' counterparts from 1994 and with their 1998/99 international counterparts.  A brief summary of the main findings concludes this report.

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