PISA 2015: New Zealand summary report

Publication Details

This summary report provides an overview of New Zealand results for science, reading and mathematics literacy in an international context. In addition this report looks at the overall trends in New Zealand achievement for each of these subjects as well as for priority learners (Māori, Pasifika and low socio-economic students).


“A prior version of these reports was published on the 6th December 2016. There was a minor error that has now been corrected. These reports are accurate as of 22 December 2016”.

Author(s): Steve May with Jonathan Flockton and Sarah Kirkham, Comparative Education Research Unit, Ministry of Education

Date Published: December 2016

Key results

  • New Zealand's average scores in science, reading and mathematics after declining between 2009 and 2012 have remained similar to the 2012 results. New Zealand's average achievement in mathematics,science and reading remains above the OECD average.
  • New Zealand's relative standing compared to other countries in science and reading has improved since 2012.
  • Compared to 2012, there has been no increase in the proportion of low achievers in reading, mathematics or science. There are larger proportions of students with low performance in science, reading and mathematics than there were before 2012.
  • The proportion of top performers in reading and science is similar to 2012. There has been a small drop in the proportion of top performers in mathematics. The proportion of top performers in each subject is lower than it was before 2012.
  • Our very best students continue to do well. The proportion of New Zealand students that are top performers in at least one of science, reading and mathematics is above the OECD average and we still have one of the largest proportions of students that are top performers in all three subjects.
  • On average in New Zealand boys did slightly better than girls in mathematics and girls did much better than boys in reading. There was no significant difference between boys and girls in science achievement.
  • On average Pākehā/European and Asian students scored above the OECD average in science, reading and mathematics. Māori and Pasifika students scored below the OECD average in all three subjects.
  • A relatively high proportion of Māori and Pasifika students score in the lower proficiency levels in all three subjects compared to New Zealand students overall. However, Māori and Pasifika students are represented at all proficiency levels.
  • The distribution of student performance in New Zealand shows that we have relatively low equality (equity) in learning outcomes. There is a wider gap between the top ten percent and bottom ten percent of our students than in most other OECD countries.
  • Compared to the OECD average there is a larger difference in achievement between students from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds in New Zealand. However, compared to earlier cycles of PISA a student's socio-economic background is not such a strong predictor of how well they will achieve.

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