Northern Ireland is 'best in Europe' at primary maths

Pupils In in both reading and numeracy, NI is the highest-ranked English speaking region in the world

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Northern Ireland is the best performing education system for primary maths in Europe, and the sixth best in the world, according to a major US study.

The region was also highly rated in global rankings for primary reading - being placed fifth in the world and second in Europe, behind Finland.

NI also surpassed England, which was placed ninth in global maths and 11th in world primary reading rankings.

The NI education minister said the local results were "truly impressive".


  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Hong Kong
  • Taiwan
  • Japan
  • Northern Ireland
  • Belgium (Flemish)
  • Finland
  • England (6th in 2007)
  • Russian Federation

Source: TIMSS 2011

The global rankings are the result of two studies - the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS).

The research was carried out by US academics who examined the results of tests taken by 900,000 pupils in over 60 countries.

Education superpowers

The TIMSS is produced every four years while the PIRLS is published every five years, but this is the first time Northern Ireland has taken part in the test results study.

The studies reveal that Asian countries continue to dominate the top of the global tables in maths, science and reading.

In global maths, NI took sixth place behind five Asian countries.

In reading, NI made the top five group - alongside such education superpowers as Finland and Hong Kong.

In terms of the proportion of pupils reaching the highest ability levels in primary reading, Northern Ireland was even more successful, ranked third place in the world.

In science, NI was placed 21st in the world, six places behind England which came 15th.

'Exceptional results'


  • Hong Kong
  • Russian Federation
  • Finland
  • Singapore
  • Northern Ireland
  • United States
  • Denmark
  • Croatia
  • Taiwan
  • Ireland
  • (England 11th place)

Source: PIRLS 2011

The NI Education Minister, John O'Dowd, said the "importance and significance of these findings cannot be overestimated".

"This is the first time we have measured our primary level schools against international standards and the results are truly impressive.

"In numeracy we rank just behind a group of high-performing Pacific-rim countries, whilst in both reading and numeracy we are the highest-ranked English speaking region in the world," Mr O'Dowd added.

The minister said the statistics showed the "exceptional results our system is producing at primary level education" and he paid tribute to staff in the sector for their "hard work and dedication".

"Pupils, teachers, all school staff, leaders and governors should be justifiably proud today of what they are achieving."

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