Measuring global education goals: How TIMSS helps
Target 4.a: Learning Environments
Overall, among 31 countries with observations at both levels, Grade 4 students are more likely to report bullying—for 32% it occurred on a monthly basis and for 7% on a weekly basis, on average. By contrast, among Grade 8 students, the prevalence rates were 22% and 4% on average. While the frequency differs between grades, the scales between grades are different, and eighth grade includes more negative experiences than fourth grade. The prevalence rates of bullying in Grade 8 are at least twice the average of this sample in the Gulf Countries. For instance, 21% of Grade 4 students in Kuwait and Qatar and 12% of Grade 8 students in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates reported having experienced bullying on a weekly basis.
The importance of a safe environment as a factor determining learning has been recognized in the Education 2030 Agenda. Learning assessments are a prime source of information on the prevalence of bullying. TIMSS 2019 offers interesting insights on the incidence of this behaviour in primary and secondary education from the student questionnaires 13 . Students bullied ‘about weekly’ had a score that was similar to a student having experienced 6 of 11 behaviours ‘once or twice a month’ (e.g. ‘made fun of me or called me names’ or ‘sent me nasty or hurtful messages online’) and the other 5 behaviours‘a few times a year’, on average. Higher scores were classified as corresponding to students being bullied ‘about monthly’, so less frequently.
FIGURE 4.A: Percentage of Grade 4 and 8 students who experience bullying, by frequency
TIMSS 2019 participating entities reflected in the figure above have been selected by and named according to UNESCO.
Note: *Norway and Turkey administered the fourth-grade assessment to fifth-grade students, Norway administered the eighth-grade assessment to ninth-grade students.
TIMSS 2019 also provides some insights on accessibility of school infrastructure for learners with disabilities. According to responses provided by principals, the percentage of students at schools where instruction is ‘affected a lot’ by a lack of resources for students with disabilities is 16% at Grade 4 and 12% at Grade 8. Countries in South-Eastern Europe appear to be doing much worse than this average. For instance, at Grade 4 level, 57% of students in Albania and 56% in North Macedonia and at Grade 8 level, 27% of students in Romaniawere reported to be affected a lot by principals.
The 2019 TIMSS also collects information on school characteristics that correspond to SDG global indicator 4.a.1 around the proportion of schools offering basic services. For instance, it can be a source on the availability of computers in school. In Grade 8, across all participating countries, there were 2.8 students per computer in urban and 4.1 students per computer in rural schools. Turkey had the highest disparity with a ratio of 3.4 in urban and 10.3 in rural schools. By contrast, Lebanon had the highest reverse disparity with a ratio of 8.4 in urban and 5.0 in rural schools.
13 For the TIMSS 2019 student context questionnaires visit: https://timssandpirls.bc.edu/timss2019/
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