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Drop Off In Science Achievement Not Surprising

10th December 2008 For Immediate Release

Drop Off In Science Achievement Levels Not Surprising

The results of an international study showing a marked drop in student achievement levels in science comes as no surprise, according to the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa.

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study is conducted every four years. It measures achievement levels among Year 5 students in 59 countries and the results for 2006/7 have just been released.

It shows that achievement levels in mathematics have risen steadily, and New Zealand students were well above the average compared to the other 36 English speaking countries. However in science, achievement levels have dropped back to 1994 levels, and New Zealand students were, on average, lower than 21 of those 36 countries.

NZEI says those results reflect the focus primary schools have put on literacy and numeracy in recent years and that focus has paid off.

NZEI President Frances Nelson says in many ways science has fallen victim to curriculum crowding and schools need to prioritise the work they do.

"Primary school classrooms and property entitlements also aren't set up to dedicate space for teaching specialty subjects such as science."

"Secondary school results show that students are doing well in science. This indicates that the work being done in primary schools is being used as a springboard for success once students have specialist teachers and programmes available at secondary level," she says.

NZEI believes one of the most compelling indicators of student achievement is socio-economic, and the TIMMS study confirms that link. It shows that achievement in science was higher among students from higher socio-economic backgrounds.

NZEI continues to argue that poverty has a major effect on a child's learning and greater government and community commitment is needed in tackling it if schools and communities are to successfully raise student achievement levels across all learning areas.


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