Indicators

Science achievement: middle schooling

What We Have Found

New Zealand is continuing its comparatively high performance in science achievement at the middle schooling level with no significant change over the period 1994 to 2010.

Date Updated: October 2013

Indicator Description

Science scores for Year 9 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, chemical reactions, experimental procedures, insulation and conduction, forces, volcanoes, and the effect of weather on the environment. The indicator provides information about the cumulative health of science education after primary and intermediate school, and towards the end of the first year of secondary schooling.

How We Are Going

There has been no significant change in New Zealand Year 9 students' science performance over the period 1994 to 2010. Although achievement appears to be trending downward since 2002, this difference is not significant. The overall mean mathematics score for New Zealand Year 9 students in 2010 was 512, significantly higher than the TIMSS Scale Centre point (500).

The spread of scores, from the 5th to the 95th percentiles, was narrower in 2010 than in 1994 and 1998 but wider than in 2002. When compared with 2002, there were more low achievers in 2010.
 

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.

Nine percent of students reached the advanced benchmark in 2010. Ten percent of New Zealand Year 9 students did not reach the lowest TIMSS benchmark. In terms of the benchmark definitions, these were students who did not demonstrate some basic knowledge from the life and physical sciences.


Figure 1: Distribution of New Zealand Year 9 science achievement in TIMSS from 1994 to 2010
2013-inID-1871-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.


There has been little variation in the proportions of students reaching the high and advanced benchmarks over time. However, there were fewer students reaching the low and intermediate benchmarks in 2010 compared with 2002. 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. Although the proportion of students reaching the high and advanced benchmarks also appears to have reduced, this reduction was not statistically significant.

New Zealand Year 9 students' mean performance in science was significantly higher than 25 of the countries that also tested at Year 9 level but was significantly lower than 10 countries including Singapore, England, and the United States. New Zealand’s mean science achievement was not significantly different from that of students in six other countries, Hungary, Australia, Israel, Lithuania, Sweden, and Ukraine.

Items in TIMSS at the Year 9 level were designed around four content areas of science: biology, chemistry, physics, 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 9 students performed relatively better on Earth science questions and relatively worse on chemistry questions in 2010.

The mean science achievement of Year 9 girls significantly decreased between 2002 and 2010. In contrast there was no significant change in the mean achievement of boys. As a result of the decrease for girls, there is now a significant difference between the mean achievement of boys and girls in favour of boys. In previous cycles, there was no difference between boys and girls in terms of achievement. In terms of the content areas in TIMSS 2010, boys scored significantly higher than girls, on average, across all content areas.


Table 1: New Zealand Year 9 students' mean science scores in TIMSS, by gender (1994 to 2010)
YearMean
Girls
BoysOverall
1994497 (5.6)524 (6.1)511 (4.9)
1998
506 (5.4)
513 (7.0)510 (4.9)
2002515 (4.8)525 (6.7)520 (5.0)
2010
501 (4.6)522 (5.1)512 (4.6)
Notes:
  1. Standard errors are presented in parenthesis.
  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 and 2010.



Figure 2: New Zealand Year 9 students' mean science scores in TIMSS, by gender (1994 to 2010
)
2013-inID-1871-fig2
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 3: Percentage of New Zealand Year 9 students in each decile grouping reaching the TIMSS science benchmarks in 2010

2013-inID-1871-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 mathematics achievement of students from higher decile schools (9 and 10) was higher (546) than those from low decile schools (1 and 2 – 445 scale score points). There were high-achieving students in all decile groupings with eleven 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 three 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 Asian students has shown a significant increase since 1994. Between 2002 and 2010 there has been a significant decrease in the average science achievement of Māori and Pasifika students.


Table 2: New Zealand Year 9 students' mean science scores in TIMSS, by ethnic group (1994 to 2010)
YearMean
European
/Pākehā
MāoriPasifika
AsianOtherOverall
1994533 (4.4)472 (5.6)
430 (8.5)498 (12.0)525 (14.6)511 (4.9)
1998534 (4.5)472 (6.0)430 (12.0)515 (9.9)513 (17.3)510 (4.9)
2002540 (5.4)487 (5.6)465 (9.8)543 (8.2)524 (12.9) 520 (5.0)
2010533 (4.3)466 (5.5)439 (7.9)533 (7.5)
533 (8.3)
512 (4.6)
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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