Education Minister Hekia Parata says she is “encouraged” by how New Zealand fared in the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study 2015 (TIMSS) results, however others believe New Zealand students should be performing much better.
TIMSS is an international comparative study of student achievement, conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). Fifty-five countries participated in TIMSS 2015.
“TIMSS has highlighted areas we are working hard to improve, but I am pleased it has reflected some of the hard work being done in other important areas of education,” says Parata.
These highlights include student access to digital technologies being the highest out of all the TIMSS countries, and achievement linked with early childhood education attendance.
Parata also drew attention to how New Zealand’s Year 5 and Year 9 students have increased their achievement in mathematics and science, compared with the previous TIMSS cycle in 2010.
However, primary teachers’ union NZEI Te Riu Roa is appalled that the latest TIMSS results put New Zealand children in year 5 and 9 near the bottom of international rankings when compared with other developed nations. The union says the results are an indication that National Standards aren’t working and calls for the government to “stop experimenting on New Zealand children”.
"The Government should see this as a warning that National Standards are not the answer to lifting the achievement of New Zealand children – well resourced schools and well supported teachers are,” says NZEI president Louise Green.
"One of the most serious problems highlighted in TIMSS is the huge imbalance between the results of Maori and Pasifika children and others. National Standards have done nothing to fix this disparity which TIMSS, like other studies, has linked to poverty.”
Parata agreed that the report showed that achievement levels of Maori and Pasifika students were “not as strong as their classmates”.
“Although the gap between our top performers and our lowest has closed significantly in recent years, it is still too wide,” she says.
“Next year, for the first time, our Government is targeting operational funding to students most at risk of educational underachievement as part of our investment to address this gap.”
Also of concern was the TIMSS 2015 finding that a large proportion of New Zealand students had experienced some form of bullying behaviour.
“The longstanding issue of bullying remains an ugly and unwanted presence in our schools, but I am optimistic for the future. There’s been a lot of work since TIMSS conducted its survey in 2014 to address bullying in schools,” says Parata.