TIMSS 2002/03

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2002/03 was the third in a cycle of international comparative studies that provided participating countries with the opportunity to examine trends in mathematics and science achievement at the middle primary level (Year 5) and lower secondary level (Year 9).

TIMSS Cycles, Information, Publications and International Data

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For information about each individual four year cycle of the study and publications based on the national results from TIMSS please refer to the 'Related Pages' inset box. For links to international publications, data and information on the IEA website please refer to the 'Where to find out More' inset box.

TIMSS 2002/03 Key Facts

Key Facts : TIMSS 2002/03

When:        2002.

Who:          4,300 Year 5 students 3,800 Year 9 students from 390 schools.

What:        Mathematics and science achievement.

How:         Conducted under the auspices of the IEA; managed internationally by Boston College; and managed within New Zealand by the 
                   Ministry of Education.

Where:      In 46 countries or education systems at Year 9, with 25 of these also taking part at Year 5 (including New Zealand).


This study is conducted on a four-year cycle. The first study was administered in participating countries in 1994/95, and the second cycle in 1998/99.

The third TIMSS assessment was administered in New Zealand and other Southern Hemisphere countries in late 2002, and in Northern Hemisphere countries in the first quarter of 2003.

In 2002/03, TIMSS developed new assessment frameworks which describe the mathematics and science knowledge and proficiencies being assessed at the two educational levels. These frameworks served as a foundation for the frameworks for the fourth cycle of TIMSS being conducted in 2006/07.

Key Findings

Year 5: Mathematics Achievement

  • New Zealand Year 5 students, on average, achieved at about the international mean in mathematics for the 25 countries participating in TIMSS-02/03 at the middle primary level.
  • The New Zealand student mean in mathematics was similar to those reported for students in Australia and Scotland, but significantly lower than the mean scores of students in 15 other countries, including England and the United States.
  • New Zealand was one of six countries that recorded a significant improvement in mean mathematics achievement between TIMSS-94/95 and TIMSS-02/03. Other countries in this group were Hong Kong (SAR), Latvia, England, Cyprus and Slovenia.

Year 5: Science Achievement

  • New Zealand Year 5 students, on average, achieved significantly above the international mean in science across the 25 countries in TIMSS-02/03.
  • The New Zealand mean science score was similar to that recorded for students in the Russian Federation, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium (Flemish) and Italy, but significantly lower than the means for students in eight other countries, including England and the United States.
  • New Zealand was one of nine countries reporting a significant increase in mean science achievement between TIMSS-94/95 and TIMSS-02/03. England, Hong Kong (SAR) and Singapore were also in this group.

Year 9: Mathematics Achievement

  • New Zealand Year 9 students, on average, achieved significantly above the international mean in mathematics for the 46 countries participating in TIMSS-02/03. However, New Zealand's performance relative to other countries that had participated in the previous assessments essentially did not change over the eight years since the first assessment in 1994/95.
  • The New Zealand student mean was similar to those reported for students in Australia, Scotland, Sweden, and the United States, but was significantly lower than the means for students in 13 countries including Singapore, Korea, Hong Kong (SAR), Chinese Taipei, Japan, Belgium (Flemish), and the Netherlands.

Year 9: Science Achievement

  • New Zealand Year 9 students, on average, achieved significantly above the international mean in science for the 46 countries in TIMSS-02/03. Furthermore, New Zealand's performance relative to countries that had participated in the previous assessments returned to about the same level as in 1994/95, after decreasing in 1998/99.
  • The New Zealand student mean was similar to those for students in Australia, Sweden, and the United States, but significantly lower than the means for students in eight countries including Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Korea, Hong Kong (SAR), Estonia, and Japan.

Related Pages

Where to find out more

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