International Comparative Studies
In 2003 Estonia participated in the TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) organised by the International Education Association (IEA) for pupils in the older age group, where the average age of pupils was 15.2 years. The study allowed for a comparison of performance in different countries and to explain the reasons behind different performances, to assess the efficiency of teaching Mathematics and Science in different countries, etc. It is important to point out that the TIMSS aimed to give feedback and demonstrate the link between the national curricula (national social and education policy), implemented curricula (development of curricula in schools and the work of teachers in classroom) and the acquired curricula (performance of
pupils and special features). Estonian pupils achieved 5th place in science (first in Geography, fifth in Chemistry and Environmental Studies) and 8th place in Mathematics among the 49 participating countries. Among European countries, Estonia was in 1st place in science and third in Mathematics after Belgium (Flemish community) and Holland.
Regardless of the good results, the summary showed that pupils in Estonia are not interested in Science or Mathematics and that the self-esteem of both teachers and pupils is low.
The PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) survey comparing the academic performance of students was conducted in Estonian schools by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) for the first time in April 2006. The first PISA survey in 2000 focussed on reading literacy and in 2003 on mathematical literacy, but the survey conducted in 2006 put the emphasis on scientific literacy and it also attempted to assess the attitudes of pupils for the first time. The PISA focuses mainly on the ability of young people to use their knowledge and skills for managing in everyday situations.
57 countries took part in the PISA 2006 survey (30 OECD countries and 27 partner countries) with a total of 400.000 pupils, who represented a total of 32 million pupils aged from 15 years and three months to 16 years and two months.
The Estonian sample included 4.865 pupils, 24.3% of whom studied in Russian-medium schools.
The survey included 127 Estonian-medium schools, 38 Russian-medium schools and four bilingual schools. 70.8% of the pupils who took part in the survey studied in 9th grade, 48.1% of the participants studied in city schools.
The results achieved by pupils in the PISA survey were presented in two ways: according to average performance and according to proficiency levels. According to average performance, Estonian pupils ranked fifth on the science scale after Finland, Hong Kong (China), Canada and Taiwan (China), in reading they ranked thirteenth and in mathematics they were fourteenth. According to the percentage of pupils at each proficiency level on the science scale, Estonian pupils ranked second after Finland, twelfth in reading and ninth in mathematics. Such high ranks result from the circumstance that most of our pupils have achieved the necessary baseline knowledge and skills in different areas.
Estonia will participate in the PISA Survey also in 2009 when the main emphasis will be on the assessment of reading literacy. Testing for the main survey was conducted in April this year.
In 2005, Estonia was invited to participate in the OECD Teaching and Learning International Survey. Headmasters and teachers from 200 schools took part in the survey conducted in 2008.
In 2009, Estonia will participate in the International Civic and Citizenship Educational Study. The goal of the study is to ascertain the level on which young people are prepared for participation in social life in different countries. The survey will give an overview of how young people understand the meaning of being a citizen and also of their knowledge and attitudes. The survey will gather information about how study work is organised in schools and classrooms in order to prepare pupils for managing in society. Grade 8 pupils will take part in the survey. A pilot study has already been conducted in Estonia and its main goal was to test the measuring tool. Estonia also participated in the previous similar study conducted in 1999.