PISA 2006: Student attitudes to and engagement with science: How ready are our 15-year-olds for tomorrow's world? Publications
This report examines the attitudes of 15-year-old students to science, along with a measure of their engagement with science.
Author(s): Robyn Caygill, Ministry of Education.
Date Published: September 2008
Interest, enjoyment and motivation with respect to science
- Around two-thirds of New Zealand 15-year-old students agreed that they had an interest in learning about science, and a similar proportion thought it would be useful for them in the future.
- At least half of 15-year-old students reported high or medium interest in human biology, chemistry and astronomy. Fewer students reported this level of interest in other topics in science.
- Approximately four in every ten students wanted a career involving science, and just under a quarter expected to be working in a science-related career at age 30.
- Compared with mathematics and English, fewer New Zealand 15-year-old students thought it was important to do well in science (18 percentage points less than English; 19 points less than mathematics).
- Students with higher engagement with science - as measured by statements on enjoyment, interest and motivation - generally had higher achievement in science than those with lower engagement.
Beliefs in own abilities in science
- At least half of New Zealand students were positive about statements on how good they believe they are at science (self-concept), although fewer (40%) agreed that learning advanced science topics would be easy for me .
- The majority of students agreed that they could perform a selection of scientific literacy tasks involving activities such as providing explanations, interpretations or descriptions, or discussing scientific evidence (self-efficacy).
- Students with higher self-belief, as measured by statements about how good they are at science (high self-concept) and statements about the ease of performing a selection of science tasks (high self-efficacy), were likely to show a stronger performance in scientific literacy than their counterparts with lower self-belief.
Value beliefs regarding science
- In general, the vast majority of New Zealand 15-year-old students felt that science was of value to society and that advances in science were important.
- Students were less likely to agree that science is important to them personally in their current and future life than to agree it is important for society in general.
- Students who placed a higher value on science (both for society and for themselves) were more likely to have a higher achievement than their peers who placed a lower value on science.
Scientific literacy and the environment
- The average New Zealand student was concerned about - and not very optimistic about - the possibility of improvement in environmental issues. However, they were generally less likely than their OECD counterparts to be concerned about these issues, either for themselves or for their country.
- Environmental awareness and responsibility for sustainable development were positively associated with achievement, whereas concern for environmental issues was not.
Attitudes to and engagement with science by gender
- A higher proportion of boys reported they enjoyed science compared with girls, and were more likely to engage in science-related activities than girls, whereas a higher proportion of girls expected to be in a science-related career at age 30.
- Boys were more likely to have higher self-belief in science than girls, more likely to express a high general value of science, and equally likely to express a high personal value of science.
- Girls were more likely to report high levels of concern and responsibility for the environment than boys.
Attitudes to and engagement with science by ethnic grouping
- Asian students were more positive in their views on engagement with science, were the most likely to have higher self-belief in science, reported the highest level of engagement in science-related activities, and were the most likely to express a high value of science, both generally and personally.
- Māori students were the least positive in their views on engagement with science, were least likely to have high self-belief in science, and were least likely to express a high value of science, both generally and personally.
- Students’ level of concern for environmental issues did not differ markedly across ethnic groupings.
Comparisons with other countries
- In general, compared with other OECD countries, New Zealand students were more likely to agree that science will be useful for them in their future, and equally likely to report an intention to pursue science in the future. New Zealand students were equally likely as students in other OECD countries to enjoy science, but less likely to be interested in science.
- On average, New Zealand students were less likely to believe they are good at science (have a high self-concept) but just as likely to have a high self-efficacy (agree they could perform a selection of science tasks) as their counterparts in the OECD.
- The average New Zealand student was less likely to engage in science-related activities than their peers internationally, but just as likely as their peers in Australia.
- The average New Zealand student was less likely than their OECD counterparts to be concerned about environmental issues, either for themselves or for their country.
Where to find out more
If you have any questions about PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) please email: PISA Mailbox