2018 PISA survey findings published

New Zealand 15-year-olds are doing well compared to their international counterparts in science and reading, according to the latest OECD survey.

The latest Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA, report shows New Zealand continues to out-perform most OECD countries in these subjects.

New Zealand 15-year-olds scored above the OECD average in each of the three subjects measured as part of this study – ranking eighth out of 36 for reading and seventh for science.

New Zealand students’ performance, while still above the OECD average, was lower for maths, ranking twenty-second out of 37 OECD countries.

PISA is conducted every three years and is the most robust internationally comparable assessment of reading, maths and science abilities.

There were no significant changes in average scores on these three subjects between 2015 and 2018, although there is a longer-term decline across all three learning areas.

Although New Zealand performs relatively well in all three subjects measured, the latest report showed concerning trends on reported well-being, reinforcing results from other surveys.

A second, New Zealand-focused report, published today, also contained positive results but for a younger group of learners.

The 2018 National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement, or NMSSA, found achievement in maths and statistics among primary age students had improved slightly.

Achievement in year 8 was higher than in 2013, by the equivalent of about half a year’s progress.

Dr Craig Jones, Deputy Secretary, Evidence, Data and Knowledge, welcomed the PISA and NMSSA findings for the contribution they make to informing policy direction in New Zealand.

Dr Jones said: “Across the system, we need good information if we are to respond to the needs of their learners.  Studies such as PISA and the NMSSA are a great source of data for policy makers, schools and educators because they show where things were going well and where more support might be needed.

“Unfortunately, the PISA study highlights a persistent challenge for New Zealand, which is our high rates of bullying. Fifteen percent of 15-year-olds report being frequently bullied – double the OECD average.

“That is very concerning and we all need to do more to address this challenge. We know that bullying is a societal problem not limited to schools. But there are things that schools can do to reduce bullying.

“Recent research conducted by the Education Review Office found schools that have implemented the Bullying-Free NZ Framework to a greater extent had lower rates of bullying.

“In terms of the learning areas, the PISA study shows more than 80 per cent of students are proficient in reading and New Zealand is among a group of countries with a high percentage of ‘high performers’ in reading.

“This means that lots of our kids are gaining the critical literacy skills needed to thrive in a fast-changing world.

“That’s great but we have many challenges to address. An increasing number of learners even in senior secondary level are struggling with their reading and there is a particularly strong relationship between socio-economic disadvantage and achievement in New Zealand.

“Early literacy is important and we are making significant investment in supports for literacy learning, foundational to improving all learning. We’re ensuring that all children receive effective teaching providing quality advice, tools and resources. And when this is not enough, we ensure that there is a range of effective additional supports available to address individual learners’ needs.

“Other things we’re doing to improve reading literacy include looking at how we can strengthen Initial Teacher Education (ITE). We’re also focusing on curriculum materials to support early literacy development, including refreshing the Ready to Read  Instructional Series.  As well as this we’re strengthening parental capability to read to children at home because we know it makes a positive difference.

“The reforms underway through the Education Work Programme will support all children to progress through the curriculum. The development of progress tools and increasing curriculum support at the frontline through a new Education Service Agency within the Ministry of Education will be particularly important in this regard.

Read the report on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) website [PDF 1.2 MB]

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) — OECD website

National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA)

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