TIMSS 2002/03: Mathematics and Science Achievement in New Zealand: Year 5 Summary Report

Publication Details

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, 2002-2003 (TIMSS-02/03) is the third cycle of this international study of mathematics and science achievement conducted under the auspices of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA).

Author(s): Comparative Education Research Unit, Ministry of Education

Date Published: December 2004

The study was administered in New Zealand and other Southern Hemisphere countries in late 2002 and in Northern Hemisphere countries in early 2003. The study involved students equivalent to New Zealand’s Year 5 and Year 9 students from 25 and 46 countries respectively. This report presents some of the main results for New Zealand at the Year 5 level, placed in an international context.

Key Findings

Mathematics achievement

  • New Zealand Year 5 students, on average, achieved at about the international mean in mathematics for the 25 countries participating in TIMSS-02/03 at the middle primary level.
  • The New Zealand student mean in mathematics was similar to those reported for students in Australia and Scotland, but significantly1 lower than the mean scores of students in 15 other countries, including England and the United States.
  • New Zealand was one of six countries that recorded a significant improvement in mean mathematics achievement between TIMSS-94/95 and TIMSS-02/03. Other countries in this group were Hong Kong (SAR), Latvia, England, Cyprus and Slovenia.

Science achievement

  • New Zealand Year 5 students, on average, achieved significantly above the international mean in science across the 25 countries in TIMSS-02/03.
  • The New Zealand mean science score was similar to that recorded for students in the Russian Federation, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium (Flemish) and Italy, but significantly lower than the means for students in eight other countries, including England and the United States.
  • New Zealand was one of nine countries reporting a significant increase in mean science achievement between TIMSS-94/95 and TIMSS-02/03. England, Hong Kong (SAR) and Singapore were also in this group.

Students, classroom and school context

  • About half of the New Zealand Year 5 students in TIMSS-02/03 expressed a high level of self-confidence in mathematics and science. This was similar to the proportion across all countries, but lower than the proportions of Australian, American and Dutch students.
  • New Zealand students in middle primary generally enjoyed learning mathematics and science, as did their Australian and American counterparts. There was a significant increase between TIMSS-94/95 and TIMSS-02/03 in the proportions of New Zealand students who reported enjoying these subjects ‘a lot’.
  • Proportionally more Year 5 students in New Zealand attended schools where principals’ perceptions of the school climate were more positive than was observed internationally.
  • There has been a significant increase between 1994 and 2002 in the proportion of New Zealand Year 5 students who attended schools where principals felt that resource shortages had no or minimal impact on the schools’ ability to provide instruction in either mathematics or science.


  1. The use of the term ‘significant’ refers to statistical significance at the 0.05 level.

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