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Association of language proficiency and performance on mathematics and science assessments : the case of PISA 2015 Ledesma, Jenilyn

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the degree of association between reading proficiency and performance on mathematics and science assessments for students who speak the test language at home (TLH) and those who speak a different language at home (NTLH), in Canada, Singapore and Indonesia. The study also investigates whether this association varies with gender and socio-economic status (ESCS). The findings reveal significant differences in TLH and NTLH performance scores in all three countries; with the TLH group tending to outperform the NTLH group, except for Mathematics in Canada and Science in Indonesia. When statistical adjustments are made for reading proficiency, the adjusted and unadjusted mean scores for both mathematics and science show different patterns of differences for TLH and NTLH. The NTLH adjusted means are higher in both mathematics and science in all three countries compared to the TLH adjusted means. One explanation could be an underestimation of the scores for NTLH due to their lower reading abilities. Further analyses on the interaction between language group and gender reveal that, in Indonesia, female NTLH scores are higher for both subjects, while male NTLH scores are higher only in science, compared to TLH students. These findings point to disparities in score meaning in mathematics and science assessments, as well as limitations in comparing performances of TLH and NTLH students within the three selected countries. Given that numerous studies on youth comparisons across the globe often use the PISA reading literacy test as its basis, this study adds more evidence to the importance of considering cultural and linguistic diversity of students for appropriate comparisons within and across countries.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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