Mathematics Achievement and the Inequality Gap: TIMSS 1995 to 2015

  • Vijay ReddyEmail author
  • Andrea Juan
  • Kathryn Isdale
  • Samuel Fongwa
Part of the Policy Implications of Research in Education book series (PIRE, volume 10)


This chapter uses data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) to describe the achievement patterns of Grade 9 learners in South Africa from 1995 to 2015. Achievement continued to be low and unequal, but had improved by 0.9 of a standard deviation over this period. This is an improvement of approximately four grade levels. The largest improvement was at the lower end of the achievement spectrum. The achievement gap between learners attending no-fee and fee-paying schools was one standard deviation. We then examined the continuities and discontinuities from home to school with regard to resources, educational climate and practices using Grade 5 TIMSS data. In general, the availability of resources and learning activities in learners’ homes was low and unequal, with learners in fee-paying schools enjoying higher levels of resources and home educational activities. This inequality continues into schools. However, the school climate and environment is far from optimal in both school types. We conclude that in order to decrease the inequalities in opportunities and achievement gaps, social protection policies must be continued in order to improve the home and school conditions of learners in no-fee schools. Further, school climate, learning culture and pedagogical inputs must be improved for all learners so that achievement levels are raised.


TIMSS Mathematics achievement Achievement gaps Determinants of achievement Achievement inequality 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vijay Reddy
    • 1
    Email author
  • Andrea Juan
    • 1
  • Kathryn Isdale
    • 2
  • Samuel Fongwa
    • 3
  1. 1.Education and Skills DevelopmentHuman Science Research CouncilDurbanSouth Africa
  2. 2.QER ConsultingCape TownSouth Africa
  3. 3.Education and Skills DevelopmentHuman Science Research CouncilPretoriaSouth Africa

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