A Comparison of Science Learning across Ten Countries

Year: 1993

Author: Young, Deidra J., Fraser, Barry J.

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) conducted a study of achievement in science in 19 countries in 1970 (First International Science Study) and in 24 countries/educational systems in 1983/84 (Second International Science Study). There were ten countries who participated in both of these studies. The IEA is a voluntary research organisation and does not select countries to participate in its studies. Rather, research centres in each country elect to participate as long as they have the experience and financial resources to conduct and fund the study. The participating countries plan the study on a cooperative basis, taking care to ensure that the test instruments are fair to all countries in terms of curriculum and culture. Additionally, care was taken that all student background questions, attitude scales and other measures were comparable cross-nationally. The Second International Science Study (SISS) sampled students from 24 countries and from three age groups: 10-year-old, 14- year-old and year 12 students (Rosier & Keeves, 1991; Postlethwaite & Wiley, 1992; Keeves, 1992). In this study, the 14-year-old student sample was analysed. The complex sample design meant that the normal assumptions of simple random sampling could not be made if statistical significance was to be tested in a valid manner. For this reason, a multilevel model was developed which accounted for the nested nature of the data. The range of variables available in the SISS from which selection could be made included school resources and environment, teacher and student characteristics and opinions. For the 14-year-old student population, there were more than 350 separate student variables to choose from. The magnitude of this database has provided educational researchers with a remarkable opportunity to examine science education in these countries. This research focused upon data from ten countries from the Second International Science Study, specifically the 14-year old students (Population 2) in Australia, England, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Thailand and the United States of America. In these countries, most 14- year-old students were required to be in school and science was generally compulsory (with the exception of Thailand). The purpose of this research was to investigate the relationship between the student's reported description of science learning and their performance in a science achievement test. This relationship was analysed using multilevel modelling for each of the ten countries.