TIMSS 2014/15: The importance of parents and caregivers

Publication Details

TIMSS assesses Year 5 maths and science skills and knowledge, and brings together background information from students, parents/caregivers, teachers and school leaders.

Author(s): Vafa Hanlar with Robyn Caygill and Michelle Lamy, Ministry of Education

Date Published: May 2018

Key Findings

In 2014, 460 teachers and 6,321 Year 5 students from 167 schools participated in the study. Just over half of the parents/caregivers of the participating students returned questionnaires (3,424 in total).

This information gives us insights into how parents can support their child's development. However, a single activity or behaviour is unlikely to guarantee improvement - a variety of activities interact to support children in their schooling and achievement.

Parents' behaviours and attitudes, the example they set, their hopes for their child, and the support they provide, are all linked to higher achievement of children. TIMSS 2014/2015 results highlight the kind of learning environments and experiences that are associated with higher achievement in Year 5 maths and science.

  • Doing early literacy and numeracy activities in the pre-school years together with their caregivers appears to benefit children later when they are at school. Activities listed include visit a library, read books, talk about what they read, play games involving shapes, and play with building blocks or construction toys. About sixty percent of parents reported they had done many of these activities often with their children ('often' was not further defined).
  • Parents' own interest and enjoyment of reading appears to infl uence their child's achievement. Children whose parents read for enjoyment for more than an hour a week (40% of them did) tended to have higher achievement in maths and science.
  • Reading sometimes or often with a child in their pre-school years was strongly associated with higher maths and science scores and also with childrens' regular reading habits at age 10 (Year 5).
  • Children in Year 5 who read more for enjoyment tended to have higher scores than students who did not.
  • Where teachers and principals perceived parental involvement and support to be higher in their school, students had higher mathematics and science achievement than those whose teachers and principals thought this was lower within their school.
  • The value their parents placed on maths and science in daily life, for employment and for dealing with real-world problems, was associated with higher achievement in maths and science for children.
  • A parent's expectation that their child will go on to tertiary education was associated with higher maths and science scores. Sixty-nine percent of parents hoped that their child would complete at least a bachelors' degree, and this included half of the parents who did not have a tertiary qualification themselves. Children whose parents have this expectation scored an average of 30 points higher than students whose parents expect they will achieve up to NCEA Level 3, or complete a national certificate or diploma.
  • Having access to books at home was strongly associated with higher maths and science scores as was visiting a library. Both of these behaviours show the value parents place on reading.

These results remind us of the importance of the home environment and the role of parents and caregivers in children's learning. Regardless of parents' own education levels or maths and science knowledge, the messages they give to their children about the importance of reading, learning and school can pay off . Regularly engaging in activities involving counting and words in the early years can help set children up to start school with an open and excited mind. Parents can role-model reading and spend regular time reading together with their children. Having an interest in the child's school life shows children that parents care about their learning. Parents' hopes and beliefs in their child's abilities, and the way they positively talk about school with their children may be powerful motivators for children to persevere with learning.

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