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Strong int literacy results for kiwi kids

Strong international literacy results for kiwi kids

New Zealand primary school children have maintained a consistently high standard in reading over the past decade according to the results of two international studies conducted in 2001, Education Minister Trevor Mallard said today.

Nearly 2500 year five pupils from 156 schools took part in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) in 2001. A second group of about 1200 students from 73 schools took part in the associated 10-year Trends Study. The Trends Study is a repeat of an international Reading Literacy Study last held in New Zealand in 1990. Both studies were released internationally overnight.

The mean score for New Zealand students (529) was higher than the international mean (500) in the PIRLS study. The 10-year Trends Study showed that students' overall performance in reading literacy was virtually the same in 2001 as it was in 1990.

"These are very pleasing results and affirm the work being done in our schools to achieve high literacy levels among our young people," Trevor Mallard said.

"It is particularly pleasing, given the increased diversity of students in our schools compared to 1990 when the last Reading Literacy Study was carried out. For example, there is a significantly higher proportion of students (12 per cent) in 2001 that sometimes or never speak English at home compared with 8 per cent in 1990.

"Not only have we maintained a very good overall performance in reading literacy but we can also be very proud to know that we have a high proportion (17 per cent) of our students amongst the top 10 per cent of students internationally.

"However, compared with other high achieving countries, we also have a high proportion (16 per cent) in the bottom 25 per cent.

"We recognise that there is much to do to help those children struggling with their reading and over the past three years we have put a number of initiatives in place to tackle the problem, particularly in the critical first years at school.

"This Government is determined that all children, no matter what their background, have the right start in life.

"The Literacy Leadership Programme for years 1-8 assists principals and school literacy leaders to improve literacy levels.

"The recently released Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning (AsTTle) helps schools identify the specific areas of reading, writing and numeracy where students are having difficulty, so classes can be better tailored to meet their needs. This means problems or gaps in learning can be picked up early, and fixed before it's too late.

"Classroom teachers are also being provided with more resources to guide them in their work and materials for pupils has been enhanced. For example, the Ready to Read books now have more support for struggling readers and new resources have been published for years 5-10. Most notable amongst these is The Game and Other Stories, a series developed on CD Rom targeting Mäori and Pasifika boys in years 7-10.

"As with all other countries taking part in PIRLS, girls fared better than boys in the study, but the difference in New Zealand was one of the largest to be observed internationally. The Trends Study shows that the size of this difference has not changed over the last decade," Trevor Mallard said.

Both studies also showed that there are family factors linked to pupils who do well.

"These factors include reading at an early age with parents or caregivers, having greater access to education resources, parents being positive about reading and students having a strong belief in their reading ability," Trevor Mallard said.

PIRLS also looked at bullying and related issues. The majority of students (91 per cent) said they felt safe while at school.

But they were more likely than children in other countries to report incidents of bullying, stealing, hitting or hurting.

"These findings, while worrying, are not straightforward and don't necessarily mean that our children suffer more from bullying or theft. It may mean they have a lower tolerance for this type of behaviour. These results should also be considered against the very high number of children who felt safe at school. They are, however, concerning," Trevor Mallard said.

A copy of the report can be found on the Ministry of Education website http://www.minedu.govt.nz

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