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PISA results confirm education challenge

Hon Hekia Parata

Minister of Education


3 December 2013

Media Statement

Embargoed until 11.00pm, 3 December 2013

PISA results confirm education challenge

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.”


PISA results 2000-2012

2000Reading2000Maths2000Science
1Finland5461Hong Kong-China5601Korea552
2Canada5342Japan5572Japan550
3New Zealand5293Korea5473Hong Kong-China541
4Australia5284New Zealand5374Finland538
5Ireland5275Finland5365United Kingdom532
7New Zealand528
OECD average500 OECD average500 OECD average500
2003Reading2003Maths2003Science
1Finland5431Hong Kong-China5501Finland548
2Korea5342Finland5442Japan548
3Canada5283Korea5423Hong Kong-China539
4Australia5254Netherlands5384Korea538
5Liechtenstein5255Liechtenstein5365Liechtenstein525
6New Zealand52212New Zealand52310New Zealand521
OECD average494 OECD average500 OECD average500
2006Reading2006Maths2006Science
1Korea5561*Chinese Taipei5491Finland563
2Finland5472Finland5482Hong Kong-China542
3*Hong Kong-China5363*Hong Kong-China5473Canada534
4Canada5274Korea5474Chinese Taipei532
5New Zealand5215Netherlands5315Estonia531
11New Zealand5227New Zealand530
OECD average492 OECD average498 OECD average500
2009Reading2009Maths2009Science
1*Shanghai-China5561Shanghai-China6001*Shanghai-China575
2Korea5392Singapore5622Finland554
3Finland5363Hong Kong-China5553*Hong Kong-China549
4*Hong Kong-China5334Korea5464*Singapore542
5*Singapore5265Chinese Taipei5435Japan539
7New Zealand52113New Zealand5197New Zealand532
OECD average496 OECD average499 OECD average501
2012Reading2012Maths2012Science
1Shanghai-China5701Shanghai-China6131Shanghai-China580
2Hong Kong-China 5452Singapore5732Hong Kong-China555
3Singapore5423Hong Kong-China5613Singapore551
4Japan5384Chinese Taipei5604Japan547
5Korea5365Korea5545Finland545
13New Zealand51223New Zealand50018New Zealand516
OECD average496 OECD average494 OECD average501


Please note:

Science : PISA 2000 and 2003 science is not comparable with PISA 2006 onwards because the measurement scale for science was recalibrated for PISA 2006 as the test questions used in 2000 and 2003 did not cover the full breadth of the PISA science framework.

Maths : Similarly PISA 2000 mathematics is not comparable with PISA 2003 onwards because the measurement scale for mathematics was recalibrated for PISA 2003 as PISA 2000 covered only two of the four content areas of the mathematics framework used for the assessment of mathematics from PISA 2003 onwards.

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