Results of an international study show New Zealand is continuing to perform above the OECD average in reading, maths and science but has slipped against some countries, Education Minister Hekia Parata says.
The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, which is carried out every three years, compares the performance of just over half a million 15-year-olds from 65 countries or economies across reading literacy, maths and science.
Of the nearly 59,000 15 year olds in New Zealand schools in 2012, just over 4000 students took part in this PISA assessment.
The results show that New Zealand 15-year-olds who came through the education system from 2001-2012 are continuing to score above the OECD average in all three topics. However, New Zealand’s ranking on the OECD scale is lower than the last PISA report, particularly for maths and science.
Countries like Australia, Canada, Sweden and Finland have also declined, while Asian countries including China, Singapore, and Hong Kong have improved.
“The results confirm that our students who are achieving at the highest level are comparable to the best in the world – but the whole education system needs to be better geared to support all of our students to succeed,” Ms Parata says.
For New Zealand, PISA confirms a gradual slide which has been occurring since the early 2000s and echoes findings from earlier studies including the National Education Monitoring Project and the Trends in International Maths and Science Study.
The decline in performance is not the result of one factor, but the combination of a number of long-standing system issues to which this group of 15 year olds has been particularly exposed.
These include: the bedding in of a new NZ curriculum; a significant increase in the number of teachers but under-investment in raising teaching practice; poor behaviour cultures in some schools reflected by high exemptions, exclusions, stand downs; a focus on compliance rather than system performance; poorer transitions between one part of the education sector to the next; inadequate or no data on student achievement throughout key stages in learning at schools, and poor reporting to parents.
“This Government is addressing all of these long-standing issues,” Ms Parata says.
“It is also important to note that the 15-years olds that took part in this PISA study were not caught by National Standards, which aim to identify and support students with what they need earlier.”
Ms Parata says educational achievement is of fundamental importance to students, their parents and the Government.
“Our education plan has an unrelenting focus on giving all our young people a better education and raising achievement for all.
“During tight fiscal times we have invested $9.7 billion in education – the highest it has ever been – and in the top 20 per cent in the OECD for spend as a percentage of GDP. We are investing in all areas of the education system - students, teachers, principals and boards of trustees.
“For teachers and principals our review of professional learning and development is about to get underway, and we have announced a $10.5 million programme to boost maths and science teaching.
“We have set a Better Public Service target of 85 per cent of 18 year olds having an NCEA Level 2 or an equivalent qualification by 2017, we are continuing to invest in National Standards so parents can see how their child is progressing from an early age, and have established the Network for Learning to ensure all schools in New Zealand have access to ultra fast broadband.
“We have also introduced initiatives to raise the achievement of Māori, Pasifika and those with special needs, provided more pathways for 16 and 17 year-olds, and are promoting science, technology, engineering and maths-related careers to secondary school students.
“The whole system needs to be involved in lifting educational achievement, and that’s why we have focussed on a number of fronts at once.
“This Government is committed to raising achievement for five out of five kids. Successful young New Zealanders grow the potential of our country and every young person must have the opportunity to contribute.”