UNRWA students score better than the national average in maths and science, says international study

16 April 2013

16 April 2013
East Jerusalem

UNRWA’s schools in the West Bank score above local maths and science averages, a new study has found.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an international mathematics and science evaluation that compares the achievement of 4th and 8th grade students in 63 other countries. The evaluation allows for the collection of extensive data on the quantity and quality of teaching all over the world.

The latest study revealed that UNRWA students in the West Bank scored better than the national average scoring 430 points in maths and 451 in science as compared to their national colleagues, with the national average achievement set at 404 in maths and 420 in science.

Prioritising success

According to UNRWA’s education department, the achievements shown in the study are the result of hard work and coordination between students, their parents, school management and teachers.

“2011 was our first foray into TIMSS. We made it a goal and priority to achieve high scores, but high scores were not our only focus”, said school principal Ali Aseedeh. “Rather, the skills that are built in the process is what made TIMSS a central tool in our teaching strategy”.

Unconventional methods

While the hard work of students is at the heart of the high scores, UNRWA teachers have gone out of their way to help their students. Maths teacher Ghassan Ismail organised private tutoring sessions in his home, after school and at weekends. School administrators created special maths and science periods every day, giving a focus and attention to the exam that would facilitate the high-scoring trend. The motivation and initiative of school staff provided the students with the support they needed to realise their potential.

At Aqbat Jabr school near Jericho, school principal Salhuddin Massalam pioneered a participatory approach to improving grades, announcing an ‘open-door policy’ by which his teaching team, his students, and their parents are able to be in constant contact with him and each other about teaching developments.

Practice makes perfect

Parents and teachers at Aqbat Jabr decided to open the school to students on Saturdays for extracurricular activities and exam-preparation sessions. Science teacher Omar Wahdan presided over mock exams for the students. It seems that practice makes perfect: in the last academic year, Aqbat Jabr’s TIMSS evaluation scores ranked second in the West Bank.

Principal Salhuddin hopes that the communicative atmosphere he has been fostered will continue to have positive results, while 7th grader Jalaal Salama, 12, says “I want to continue my school’s high achievement. I’ll work hard to make sure that we only get better.”

Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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