ENGLISH children are among the top in the world at maths, but are lagging behind countries such as Slovenia and the Czech Republic in science, new research suggests.
It reveals that England is slipping down the international rankings in science, sparking concerns that schools are not spending enough time on the subject.
But the country remains one of the top 10 performers in maths at ages 10 and 14 and is rising up the rankings in reading, according to the findings of two highly-respected studies.
The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (Timms) and Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (Pirls) compares standards in the three subjects around the world.
The findings are based on tests taken by hundreds of thousands of pupils in different nations in 2011. Both reveal that East Asian countries such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Korea dominate the tables.
In primary science, England has fallen to 15th out of 50, compared with seventh out of 36 four years ago – the last time the study was conducted. For secondary science at age 14, England has dropped to ninth place out of 42 areas, compared with fifth out of 45. Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said the fall represented “not just a relative decline, but an absolute fall in performance”.
The drop coincides with the last government’s decision to axe the externally marked primary school SATs test in science, she said.
In maths, England’s 10-year-olds came ninth out of 50 areas, compared with seventh out of 36 in 2007, while among 14-year-olds England was placed 10th out of 42, compared with seventh out of 45 in 2007.
In reading, the Pirls study, which looked at the results of 10-year-olds, shows England is now 11th out of 45, compared with 15th out of 40 five years ago.
Shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg said the results show schools in England are “some of the best in Europe”.