SEA-PLM 2019 Results

Achievement and test scales
Scale Creation
  • SEA-PLM test items were scaled using item response theory (IRT) scaling methodology by means of a one-parameter Rasch model for dichotomous items and the partial credit model.
  • Preliminary item calibrations were conducted separately by country. To ensure consistency of item parameters across countries measuring the underlying constructs for the 3 domains, an assessment of item fit, differential item functioning (DIF) by subgroup and item-country interaction analyses were conducted.
  • Final item calibrations by domain were conducted using the full country samples and then weighted by senate weights. The student-weighted likelihood estimates (WLE) and plausible values (PVs) methodology were then used on finalized regional item lists to generate values for children’s knowledge by domain. Estimations were based on the conditional item response model and the population model, which includes the regression on student background and questionnaire variables used for conditioning.
  • A conditioning three-dimensional model was built for each country. The principal components were estimated for each country separately. Subsequently, the components that explained 99% of the variance in all the original variables were included as regressors in the conditioning model.
  • Scale scores of all countries for each domain were normalized to 300 points and the standard deviation to 30 points, with all countries being given equal weighting. On this basis, the scores of approximately 2 in 3 children are in a range of 270 points to 330 points.
  • Each proficiency scale was divided into bands describing different levels of student proficiency.
  • Alignment between SEA-PLM proficiency scales and SDG indicators: The content of the final SEA-PLM proficiency bands for reading and mathematics was matched with the expanded definition of SDG 4.1.1a and SDG 4.1.1b to select the most appropriate band corresponding to the international definitions.


List of Achievement Scales
  • Mathematical literacy
  • Reading literacy
  • Writing literacy
Questionnaire and background scales
Scale Creation
  • Item response modeling (applying the Rasch partial credit model) was used for creating background questionnaire scales.
  • A composite index reflecting socioeconomic background was derived nationally, based on three parameters: the highest parental occupation of either parent, the highest educational level of either parent, and the home resources of the child’s family through the home resources scale.
List of Background Scales


  • Backgrounds
    • Resources in the home
    • Social-Economic Index (Nationally standardised)
  • Attitudes/perceptions
    • Positive attitudes towards school
    • Attitudes towards mathematics
    • Parental engagement towards schooling
  • Global Citizenship
    • Exposure to GC issues at school
    • Asian identity
    • Concern for global issues
    • Expected civic behaviour
    • Behavioural intentions associated with GC
    • Attitudes towards learning about GC-related issues



  • Backgrounds
    • Resources in the home
    • Social-Economic Index (Nationally standardised)
  • Attitudes/perceptions
    • Confidence in teaching methods
    • Community attitudes - Parents
    • Community attitudes - Students
    • Community attitudes - Teachers
    • Teacher reports on student attitudes
    • Issues affecting learning
  • Global Citizenship
    • Importance of learning about GC related issues - Teacher report
    • Importance of developing GC skills - Teacher report
    • Pre-teaching program GC skills - Teacher report
    • Teaching confidence GC skills - Teacher report
    • Mathematics teachers only - Confidence in teaching mathematics



  • Backgrounds
    • Resources in local area
  • Attitudes/perceptions
    • Issues hindering school capacity
    • Community attitudes - Parents
    • Community attitudes - Students
    • Community attitudes - Teachers
    • Frequency of issues occurring - among students
Overview of key study results

Student achievement

Mathematical literacy

  • Mathematical proficiency across countries
    • There was a large variation (from 1 to 57%) across participating countries of Grade 5 children who had a low proficiency in mathematics equivalent only to that expected in the first years of primary school.
    • Substantial difference was also found in the number of children performing at the highest levels of expected learning. While in some countries a large majority (91%) of Grade 5 children were able to perform complex mathematical operations and interpret different data sources, in others few children (8%) were prepared for these tasks.
  • SEA-PLM 2019 mathematics alignment with the SDGs
    • In mathematics, the percentage of Grade 5 children performing at or above SDG.4.1.1b ‘end of primary’ indicator ranges from 8 to 92% across participating countries.

Reading Literacy

  • Reading proficiency across countries
    • There was a large variation (from 2 to 82%) across participating countries in the number of Grade 5 children who reached Band 6 (the highest band) and could read, understand, and use explicit and implicit information from various text types to reflect on new ideas and opinions.
    • Similarly, there was a large variation (from 1 to 50%) across countries in the number of Grade 5 children with a level of reading proficiency equivalent to that expected in the first years of primary school (Band 2 or below, Band 2 being the lowest). These children were still at the stage of matching single words to an image of a familiar object or concept.
  • SEA-PLM 2019 reading alignment with the SDGs
    • The percentage of Grade 5 children performing at or above SDG.4.1.1b ‘end of primary’ indicator in reading ranges from 2 to 82% across participating countries.

Writing Literacy

  • Writing proficiency across countries
    • A vast proportion of students across all participating countries were unable to demonstrate the writing proficiencies expected of a Grade 5 student.
    • On average, approximately 9% of students who sat SEA-PLM 2019 performed at Band 7 and Band 8 (or above), the highest 2 bands.
    • The middle 4 bands had similar proportions of students in them; 51% of all students fell into 1 of the 4 middle bands.
    • Furthermore, 40% of students across all 6 SEA-PLM 2019 countries were in the lowest 2 bands, indicating that they had only limited writing skills.


Global citizenship education

  • Environmental issues (such as climate change and environmental pollution) and local topics related to the classroom environment (e.g., solving disagreements with classmates and solving problems in the community) appeared to be the most important and valued global citizenship topics and concepts learned at primary school.
  • The majority of children reported that they participated in school activities that relate to global citizenship education, such as communicating ideas to their classmates, voting for class leaders, and participating in an activity to make the school more environmentally friendly.
  • Most of the teachers indicated they were prepared for and felt confident teaching almost all topics listed in the questionnaire. However,
    • Children’s rights and respecting diversity were the topics teachers said they were most prepared for during pre-service training, and these were also the topics teachers felt most confident teaching.
    • Teachers were consistently less prepared for teaching globalization (34% ‘very well’) or challenging inequality (42% ‘very well’) and also felt less confident teaching these topics.
  • Most of the Grade 5 children and teachers in most of the countries have a better grasp of local issues than of regional and global ones.


Children’s background, home influence, and school experience

  • Children from higher socioeconomic backgrounds and those attending schools in wealthier neighborhoods performed better than children from less advantaged backgrounds.
  • Girls were more likely to perform better than boys, regardless of socioeconomic status or school location, depending on the achievement domain.
    • In all countries, boys had lower levels of achievement than girls in reading and writing.
    • In 3 out of the 6 countries, they had lower levels of achievement in mathematics in comparison with girls.
  • Children who spoke the language of instruction more often at home achieved higher levels of literacy in reading, writing, and mathematics than those who did not, except in the Philippines.
  • Children who had attended at least 1 year of preschool education consistently performed better than children who had not.
  • Children who had repeated a grade were more likely to have lower levels of achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics in comparison with children who had not repeated a grade.


School environment and teacher profiles

  • Children learning in larger schools in well-resourced locations, with a textbook for each child, performed better than children in smaller, less well-resourced schools.
  • In 3 of the participating countries, school principals reported that the lack of qualified teachers was a significant issue hindering school capacity to provide instruction to children.


Children’s, teachers’, and parents’ attitudes and engagement

  • About 80% or more of children in all countries expressed positive attitudes about school – such as liking school, feeling safe at school, and having a sense of belonging.
  • On average, children who felt better and safer at school performed better than children who reported less positive feelings.
  • In all countries, higher levels of parental engagement were associated with higher reading, writing, and mathematics scores in children.
  • A large majority of children attended schools where their teachers considered that a lack of basic knowledge (74%) or a lack of interest (63%) affected children’s learning in class.
  • Around one-third of children attended a school where teachers reported that children’s hunger in class (34%) or lack of sleep (32%) were issues affecting children’s learning.
  • In several countries, a high percentage of teacher absenteeism and lateness were reported by children.
Sources - Report(s) of results