TIMSS 2015 Grade 9 national report: understanding mathematics and achievement amongst Grade 9 learners in South Africa
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South Africa has participated in five cycles of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), beginning in 1995. The 2015 TIMSS Grade 9 study was administered in August 2015 by a team of researchers at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). Results of the 2015 TIMSS Grade 9 study are presented in this report. The focus areas for TIMSS are mathematics and science. This report also takes stock of past results in an effort to improve our understanding of what is required to improve academic performance in mathematics and science. TIMSS follows a two-stage stratified cluster sampling design. The TIMSS 2015 sample was explicitly stratified by
province, type of school (public and independent schools) and language of learning and teaching (LoLT) (English, Afrikaans and dual medium). The realised sample included 292 principals, 331 science teachers, 334 mathematics teachers and 12 514 learners. In addition to the learner assessment data, the study also collected contextual information from learners, teachers and school principals, making it possible to explore the factors that are related to Grade 9 mathematics and science achievement. Three analytical approaches are used in this report in order to maximise the value of the TIMSS study for policy and practice. The first approach is descriptive in nature and provides an overview of achievement in mathematics and science based on where learners live and learn. The second approach is inferential and employs multilevel modelling techniques to explore contextual factors associated with learner achievement. The final approach uses
item response theory (IRT) to compare what learners know to what they are expected to know based on the local curriculum. National proficiency benchmarks have been developed that are more closely aligned to the South African educational system. This is the first time that the TIMSS national report has constructed and reported on national proficiency benchmarks based on the TIMSS data. The findings that follow will be summarised based on the three analytical approaches.