PISA 2006: Scientific Literacy - How ready are our 15-year-olds for tomorrow's world? Publications
The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), an initiative of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), assesses three key areas of knowledge and skills: reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy. It is administered every three years, and each survey assesses one subject in more detail. In 2006 the main focus was scientific literacy.
Author(s): Maree Telford, Research Division, Ministry of Education.
Date Published: March 2010
- The mean score of New Zealand’s 15-year-old students in PISA 2006 was well above the OECD mean. Only two countries had a significantly higher score.
- New Zealand and Finland had the largest proportion of students at the top proficiency levels. At the same time New Zealand had a large proportion at the lowest levels relative to other high performing countries. As a result, New Zealand had one of the widest ranges of science scores of any OECD country.
- More than ninety percent of students were in school where there were top science performers.
- New Zealand students performed extremely well on identifying scientific issues and using scientific evidence. They were less strong on explaining phenomena scientifically.
- New Zealand students performed strongly on living systems and earth and space systems but were relatively weak on physical systems. They achieved high scores on the knowledge about science scale.
- New Zealand students were similar to, or slightly above, the OECD mean in terms of interest, enjoyment and motivation. They were below the OECD mean in terms of confidence in learning and understanding science.
- In terms of overall scientific literacy, there was no significant difference between boys and girls in New Zealand, although boys were slightly more likely to be at the top or bottom of the scale.
- On identifying scientific issues, New Zealand girls obtained significantly higher scores; boys were stronger on earth and space systems and physical systems.
- New Zealand boys enjoyed science more than girls and had greater confidence in their own ability.
- Pākehā/European students obtained the highest scores, followed by Asian, Māori and Pasifika students, in that order.
- The proportion of Asian students reaching the highest proficiency levels was similar to that for Pākehā/European students, but there was a higher proportion of Asian students at the lowest levels than Pākehā/European.
- Asian students had consistently the most positive views on engagement with science.
- There was a strong relationship between science achievement and students’ socio-economic background. This relationship was stronger in New Zealand than in most OECD countries.
- Students from single-parent families in 2006 performed less well overall than students from other family types. However, students from single-parent families at 15 were more likely to come from families with a low socio-economic background, and after taking socio-economic factors into account there was no difference in performance compared to students from other family types.
- Students born overseas with parents also born outside New Zealand (first-generation immigrants) performed almost as well as students with a New Zealand-born parent (‘native’). However, New Zealand-born students with parents born overseas (second-generation immigrants) performed significantly weaker overall.
- Other factors linked with high science literacy achievement included a high level of parental education, speaking English at home and having access to educational resources. Students who had changed school frequently were likely to perform less well.
- Students from high socio-economic backgrounds had more positive views on engagement with science.
- Students from large, urban and high-decile schools tended to have higher scores, as did students from schools where resourcing was considered to be good. Students from schools where principals reported science teacher shortages hindered instruction tended to have lower scores.
- Within New Zealand schools the scientific literacy ability of students was very diverse. The variation in student performance within schools was the largest of all PISA countries, but the variation between our schools was significantly smaller than the OECD average.
- Most New Zealand PISA students were in Year 11, but there were some in Year 10 or Year 12. The higher the year group, the higher the average score obtained.
- Ninety percent of the PISA students were taking a compulsory and/or optional science course; their average score was much higher than those who were not. Māori students were less likely than any other ethnic grouping to take science courses.
- The strongest relationship measured was between science literacy scores and educational aspirations. Those with a positive attitude to school in general, and science in particular, achieved higher scores than those who indicated a degree of disaffection.
Where to find out more
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