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World: Students From U.S., Eastern Countries Vary in Skills

Washington, 11 June 1997 (RFE/RL) -- An international educational survey says fourth-grade students in the Czech Republic, Slovenian, and Hungary are better than pupils in the United States in mathematical skills, but worse in science.

The survey, entitled "Pursuing Excellence: A Study of U.S. Fourth-Grade Mathematics and Science Achievement in International Context" features data collected in 1995 from 26 countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia.

The survey, made public in Washington Tuesday, is part of a larger study called the Third International Mathematics and Science Study, which tested more than half a million students at three grade levels in 41 countries. The results of the eight-grade students were released last September and the results of the twelfth-grade students will be made public sometime next year.

The survey is being coordinated by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement, an independent international cooperative of research centers and departments of education in more than 50 countries.

U.S. President Bill Clinton, who has made a public commitment to focus on education during his second term in office, personally accepted the results of the study during a ceremony Tuesday at the White House.

Clinton praised teachers and parents for their work in promoting education in the U.S. and stressed that bipartisan support in the Congress for education spending was a critical factor in meeting the nation's goals of high educational standards.

U.S. students scored among the top three in terms of performance in science, trailing only South Korea and Japan. The Czech Republic placed seventh; Slovenia eleventh; Hungary fifteenth; and Latvia eighteenth.

In regards to math skills, the Czech Republic scored sixth among the nations rated, Slovenia eighth; Hungary tenth; and Latvia fifteenth. The U.S. was rated twelfth.

The study also determined that single factors such as doing more homework, watching less television and learning in smaller classes do not alone guarantee high performance internationally.

The study concluded that the U.S. showed no gender gap in fourth-grade mathematics. However, in some content areas of fourth-grade science, boys in the U.S. outperformed girls.

In his speech, Clinton said: "We have to have the conviction that every child in America can learn, and we have to know that this report proves we don't have to settle for second-class expectations or second-class goals."