TIMSS 2015: New Zealand Year 5 Science results

Publication Details

This report describes the science achievement of Year 5 students in TIMSS 2014/15. Analyses of achievement by sub-groupings (such as gender and ethnicity) and background information are also presented and comparisons are made with New Zealand across cycles and also with other countries. Characteristics of teachers, including their preparedness to teach science, teaching activities that took place within science lessons, resources, and teacher attitudes and perceptions, as well as the school climate for learning, are explored. The report also includes information about home climate and early learning activities that Year 5 students were engaged in at home.

Author(s): Robyn Caygill, Sunita Singh and Vafa Hanlar, Comparative Education Research Unit, Ministry of Education

Date Published: November 2016

Introduction

SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT OF NEW ZEALAND YEAR 5 STUDENTS SINCE 1994 – 20 YEARS OF TRENDS

The average (mean) science achievement of New Zealand Year 5 students in 2014/15 was the same as that of the students 20 years ago, but was significantly[1] higher than 2010/11. The gap between the high and low achievers (range) for Year 5 students in 2014/15 has not changed since 2010/11, but is not as wide as it was in 1994/95 and 1998/99.

New Zealand Year 5 students' mean science achievement in 2014/15 was significantly higher than 14 countries, but lower than the mean score of 30 countries, including all the other predominantly English-speaking countries who participated.

CLASSIFYING NEW ZEALAND YEAR 5 STUDENTS AS LOW TO ADVANCED PERFORMERS

Six percent of New Zealand Year 5 students were classified as advanced performers (reached the advanced benchmark), while 12 percent of students were classified as below low performers, who did not perform simple science tasks.

Compared with other countries, New Zealand was around the middle when considering the proportion of advanced performers, but had a high proportion of lower performers. High performing countries had at least a fifth of their middle primary students classified as advanced performers, and four percent or fewer classified as below low performers.

The proportions of Year 5 students reaching each classification in 2014/15 was significantly lower than in 2002/03 (the TIMSS cycle with the best results for New Zealand students). The proportion of Year 5 students classified as intermediate or high performers, has increased significantly between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF NEW ZEALAND YEAR 5 STUDENTS WITHIN SCIENCE

Since 2006/07, New Zealand Year 5 students have consistently shown greatest strength in Earth science and life science, compared to physical science. The life science score significantly increased between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

New Zealand Year 5 students did significantly better at reasoning, compared with knowing and applying their knowledge. There has been an improvement in the averages for both knowing and reasoning between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

TIMSS AND THE NEW ZEALAND SCIENCE CURRICULUM

Many New Zealand Year 5 students were working at level 2 of the curriculum by the end of the year, rather than level 3. Not surprisingly, those students in classes working at higher levels had higher science achievement.

When the TIMSS test was compared to curriculum expectations for New Zealand Year 5 students, there were questions considered more advanced than our curriculum. More advanced questions help to identify advanced achievers. However, when the test was reduced to contain only those appropriate to New Zealand Year 5 students, the average student got around half the items correct (51%).

New Zealand Year 5 students did best on life science questions, the area of the curriculum most likely to be covered by their teachers.

SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT OF YEAR 5 BOYS AND GIRLS

Year 5 boys and girls had the same science achievement, on average, but boys had a wider range than girls. Boys and girls in 2014 both had significantly higher science achievement than 20 years ago. Since 2010/11 there has been a small increase in achievement for both boys and girls, with the increase for girls statistically significant.

SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT, ETHNICITY, AND LANGUAGE OF THE HOME OF YEAR 5 STUDENTS

Nearly one-quarter of all Year 5 students identified themselves as belonging in more than one ethnic grouping; the groupings were Māori, Pasifika, Pākehā/ European, Asian, and Other. There was a wide variation in science achievement within ethnic groupings, with advanced achievers and very low achievers in all ethnic groupings.

The average science achievement within ethnic groupings has not changed significantly since 2010/11.

Māori had lower average science achievement than non-Māori. Similarly, Pasifika students had lower average science achievement than non- Pasifika. There was evidence that this achievement gap narrows when socio- economic factors are taken into account.

Nearly one-third of Year 5 students regularly spoke a language other than English at home (most also spoke English).

SCIENCE ACHIEVEMENT AND SOCIO-ECONOMIC STATUS OF YEAR 5 STUDENTS

Children in homes with many resources for learning had higher science achievement, on average, than those whose homes had fewer resources.

Science achievement was higher, on average, for students in schools with more affluent students than those in schools with more economically disadvantaged students. The difference in science achievement between these two groupings within New Zealand was higher than most other countries in the TIMSS study.

Footnote

  1. The word 'significant' is used to describe statistical significance. Statistical tests show that these results are 95% certain.

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