PISA 2012: Top line results for New Zealand

Publication Details

Mathematical literacy was the major focus in PISA 2012 and reading and scientific literacy the minor focuses. Financial literacy was also assessed and we will not know the results until 2014.

Author(s): Research Division, Ministry of Education.

Date Published: December 2013

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In New Zealand, over 5,000 students (4,291 for core PISA subjects, 958 for financial literacy) from 177 schools took part in the study, in July 2012.

  • New Zealand students scored above the OECD average in mathematics, reading and science.
  • Australia had similar scores in mathematics and reading but had a higher science score.
  • New Zealand student performance remained relatively stable up to 2009. Between 2009 and 2012 performance in mathematics, reading and science declined.
  • The proportion of New Zealand students (below Level 2) increased between 2009 and 2012 in mathematics and science (eg, up from 15% in mathematics in 2009 to 23% in 2012). These are students who struggle to do mathematics or science and whose lack of skills is a barrier to learning.
  • Students who achieve Level 5 or 6 have advanced skills in mathematics, reading or science. In particular, New Zealand has a high proportion of students who are top performers in reading (14%).
  • New Zealand has a relatively high proportion of all-rounder students who are top performers across mathematics, reading and science even compared to the top performing countries (21% are top performers in at least one subject area and 8% are “all rounders”).
  • New Zealand has a relatively large proportion of both top performers (Level 5 and 6) and low performers (below level 2) in mathematics. In addition, New Zealand is counted among the 10 PISA countries and economies with the widest spread of achievement in mathematical literacy.
  • New Zealand students demonstrated relative strength in the mathematical area of uncertainty and data (statistics) and weaker achievement in space and shape (geometry and measurement). Their performance on change and relationships (aspects of algebra) and quantity (number and measurement) was close to the overall New Zealand average for mathematics.
  • Overall boys did much better than girls in mathematics, girls continued to do better than boys in reading and there was very little difference in science.
  • Overall New Zealand European/Pākehā and Asian students scored above the OECD average in mathematics and Māori and Pasifika students scored below the OECD average. However, students from all ethnic backgrounds attained scores right across the achievement spectrum.
  • The average scores in mathematics for boys and girls and for New Zealand Pākehā/European, Māori and Pasifika students all declined between 2009 and 2012, but there was no change for Asian students.
  • Overall, New Zealand is a country characterised by relatively high achievement (when compared to the OECD average) but the distribution of student performance shows that we have relatively low equality (equity) in learning outcomes.
  • New Zealand is a country where the variability of student PISA mathematics scores within a school is high while the variability in scores across schools is relatively low. However, the variability in scores across schools is increasing.

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