Asia and Europe Tops in Science Studies

WASHINGTON--A new international assessment of student achievement in science and mathematics has found that seventh- and eighth-grade students in Asia and Eastern Europe, as a group, lead the world in science and math. But The Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), released yesterday, reveals no clearly marked path to high achievement.

The surprising bottom line in the latest reports from TIMSS, a massive project involving more than half a million students in 45 countries, is that traditional education yardsticks--hours spent doing homework or money spent on classroom technology, for instance--don't correlate with achievement in science and math among precollege students around the world. "There is no simple answer to this complex problem," says Albert Beaton, a professor of education at Boston College and the international director of the study. "More teacher training, more use of calculators, more classroom time, more homework--none of those by themselves explain what's happening."

In the reports, Singapore comes out on top among 41 countries in both math and science, followed by the Czech Republic, Korea, and Japan. The United States is slightly below average in mathematics and slightly above average in science. South African students bring up the rear in both subjects. For more details, see the News Report in the 22 November issue of Science, available after 5 p.m. today.