Indicators

Science achievement: primary schooling

What We Have Found

The mean science achievement of New Zealand Year 5 students was about the same in 2011 as in 1994. Although results from 1994, 1998, and 2002, showed a steady increase, this trend did not continue with a significant decrease between 2002 and 2006 and again between 2006 and 2011.

Date Updated: October 2013

Indicator Description

Science scores for Year 5 students.

Why This Is Important

Science is a major influence on many aspects of children's daily lives. Science education involves developing skills and knowledge to investigate the living, physical, material, and technological components of the environment and to make sense of them in logical and creative ways. An understanding of science is necessary as society grapples with major challenges and opportunities that confront our world.

This indicator draws on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) assessments that included questions on the structure of living things, human health, conducting fair experiments, dissolving, electrical circuits, magnetism, fossils, and the environmental impact of human behaviour.

How We Are Going

There was a significant improvement in New Zealand Year 5 students' science performance over the period 1994 to 2002 but in 2006 this dropped back to 1994 levels. Between 2006 and 2011 there was a further decrease so that the mean performance for New Zealand Year 5 students (497) was statistically similar to the TIMSS Scale Centre Point (500).

The spread of scores, from the 5th to the 95th percentiles, was relatively narrow in 2011, but the most narrow in 2002. However, both the top and bottom of the distribution, as well as the mean for 2011, were considerably lower than in 2002.

The international science benchmarks are four points on the science scale; the advanced benchmark (625), the high benchmark (550), the intermediate benchmark (475), and the low benchmark (400). The performance of students reaching each benchmark is described in relation to the types of questions they answered correctly. Five percent of students reached the advanced benchmark in 2011. Fourteen percent of New Zealand Year 5 students did not reach the lowest TIMSS benchmark. In terms of the benchmark definitions, these were students who did not demonstrate some elementary knowledge of life, physical, and Earth sciences.


Figure 1: Distribution of New Zealand Year 5 science achievement in TIMSS from 1994 to 2011
2013-inID-1867-fig1

Notes:
  1. Standard errors are presented in parentheses
  2. Data for the small proportion of students assessed in Māori in 2002 (~2%) are excluded from this table to ensure comparability with data reported for 1994, 1998, 2006 and 2011.


The proportion of students reaching the low benchmark in 2011 (86%), was lower than 2002 (92%), but similar to all other cycles. Note that the proportion shown for the low benchmark also includes students who performed at the advanced, high, and intermediate benchmarks. This is because, by definition, students who could do the more complex questions associated with, for example, the high benchmark, would also be able to complete the easier questions associated with the intermediate and low benchmarks. For the high and advanced benchmarks the proportion of students reaching these in 2011 was lower than all other cycles.

New Zealand Year 5 students' mean performance in science was significantly higher than 17 of the countries that also tested at Year 5 level but was significantly lower than 29 countries including Singapore, England, the United States, and Australia. New Zealand’s mean science achievement was not significantly different from that of students in three other countries: Romania, Kazakhstan, and Norway.

Items in TIMSS at the Year 5 level were designed around three content areas of science: life science, physical science and Earth science. The content area scores were calculated on the same scale as the overall science score and therefore can be compared with the overall score. New Zealand Year 5 students performed relatively better on Earth science and life science questions compared with physical science in 2011.

The mean science achievement of Year 5 girls and boys was the same in 2011. This pattern was evident for nearly all of the previous cycles, with the exception of 1994 where girls had higher achievement than boys. However, the range of achievement for boys was wider than for girls in 2011 and in all previous cycles. In terms of the content areas in TIMSS 2011, boys scored significantly higher than girls, on average, in Earth science but the same in all other content areas.


Table 1: New Zealand Year 5 students' mean science scores in TIMSS, by gender (1994 to 2011)
YearMean
GirlsBoysOverall
1994
511 (4.8)499 (7.0)
505 (5.3)
1998511 (5.9)518 (6.6)
514 (5.9)
2002526 (3.2)521 (2.3)523 (2.3)
2006
506 (2.8)502 (3.5)504 (2.6)
2011496 (3.0)497 (2.6)497 (2.3)
Notes:
  1. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.
  2. Data for the small proportion of students assessed in Māori in 2002 (~2%) are excluded from this table to ensure comparability with data reported for 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2011.



Figure 2: Percentage of New Zealand Year 5 students reaching the TIMSS science benchmarks (1994 to 2011)
2013-inID-1867-fig2
Notes:
  1. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.
  2. 'At or above' means that the proportion of students at the benchmark includes those that achieved at higher benchmarks also.


Figure 3: Percentage of New Zealand Year 5 students  in each decile grouping reaching the TIMSS science benchmarks in 2011
2013-inID-1867-fig3
Notes:
  1. Standard errors are presented in parentheses.
  2. 'At or above' means that the proportion of students at the benchmark includes those that achieved at higher benchmarks also.


The average science achievement of students from higher decile schools (9 and 10) was higher (537) than those from low decile schools (1 and 2 – 428 scale score points). There were high-achieving students in all decile groupings with seven percent of students from deciles 1 and 2 schools achieving at or above the high benchmark. However, there were more students in the high decile schools achieving at or above the high benchmark. There were also low-achieving students in all decile groupings with four percent of students from deciles 9 and 10 schools not reaching the low benchmark. However, there were more students in low decile schools achieving below the low benchmark.

The average science achievement of Pākehā/European students has shown a significant decrease since 1994. The changes for Māori, Pasifika, and Asian students between 1994 and 2011 are not statistically significant. Between 2006 and 2011 Asian students had a significant decrease.



Table 2: New Zealand Year 5 students' mean science scores in TIMSS by ethnicity (1994-2011)
YearMean
European
/Pākehā
MāoriPasifika
Asian
Other
Overall
1994534 (3.9)457 (12.0)441 (14.9)493 (16.7)
~
505 (5.3)
1998541 (4.8)478 (8.0)436 (13.8)517 (10.0)~514 (5.9)
2002532 (3.0)509 (4.9)496 (5.2)529 (4.2)536 (9.9)
523 (2.3)
2006
528 (2.3)459 (4.9)431 (5.4)529 (6.8)
502 (6.7)504 (2.6)
2011522 (2.3)455 (3.6)439 (5.0)505 (5.1)
~497 (2.3)
Notes:
  1. Data for the small proportion of students assessed in Māori in 2002 (~2%) are excluded from this table to ensure comparability with data reported for 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2011.
  2. For this indicator ethnicity is prioritised in the order of Māori, Pasifika, Asian, Other (except European/Pākehā) and European/Pākehā.
  3. For this indicator European/Pākehā refers to people who affiliate as New Zealand European, Other European or European (not further defined). For example, this includes and is not limited to people who consider themselves as Australian (excluding Australian Aborigines), British and Irish, American, Spanish, and Ukrainian.

References

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