Botswana’s Performance In TIMSS Study (Part 2)


We have learnt that TIMSS is a study of mathematics and science conducted at form one level. In our last article, we indicated that the country performed below the TIMSS scale centre point of 500. It scored 391 points out of 1000 in mathematics and 392 points out of 1000 in science. Do not worry about the total score of 1000.

However, analysis by regions shows that none of the ten regions performed above the TIMSS Centre point. Comparatively, South East region performed the highest in both subjects, scoring 433 and 449 points in mathematics and science respectively, followed by North East region.

These are the only regions with a mean performance above 400 points. It is understandable why these two regions topped the list. In addition to being located along the railway line, they consist of either a number of urban centres and/or cities. And we know that English medium schools are found in urban centres and cities.

As previously indicated in the last article, English medium schools perform better than Tswana medium schools. Nevertheless, analysis showed that even if English medium schools are excluded, the two regions still performed better than the rest. Thus the proximity of Tswana medium schools to urban centres and cities gives them advantage over others.

To get a clear detailed picture of the quality of education of Botswana learners in maths and science, TIMSS introduced what is called the performance benchmarks. These are descriptions of learners’ performance at various points along the TIMSS Mathematics and Science achievement scales, which ranged from zero to one thousand points.

These benchmarks are ‘’advanced international benchmark’ which described a learner who scored at least 625 out of 1000 points. The next benchmark is the ‘’High benchmark’’ which described a learner who scored between 550 and 625 points.

Following this is the ‘’intermediate benchmark’’ which described a learner who scored between 475 and 550 points. The last benchmark is the ‘’low benchmark’’ which described a learner who scored between 400 and 475 points. Any learner who scored below the ‘’low benchmark’, that is below 400 points, was considered to be extremely deficient in the subject matter.

Examination of the results showed that less than one percent of learners reached the advanced benchmark in both maths and science. Comparatively, 42% of Singapore learners reached advanced benchmark in science and 54% in maths. What is interesting is that cumulatively, about 48% of Botswana learners reached at least ‘Low benchmark’’ in maths while in science it was about 51%. Compared to Singapore, about 99% of its learners reached at least low benchmark in maths while in science it was 97%.

Therefore at least 58% of Botswana learners in maths and 46% in science need intensive interventions to be able to reach at least Low benchmark. Comparatively, only 1% of Singapore learners in maths and 3% in science need intensive interventions to reach at least Low benchmark.

Although all regions have high proportion of learners who needed rigorous interventions, Kgalagadi region has the highest percentage of 68%, of learners who needed such interventions in both mathematics and science.

As indicated in the previous article, the purpose of participation in international assessment surveys was not to compare performance with any other country, but to gauge the level of education so as to devise appropriate interventions. The introduction of Outcomes-Based education is one such intervention meant to improve the quality of education.

Yes, It’s possible!


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