The three yearly PISA cycle ranks 70 countries based on a one-day snapshot of 15 year olds across reading, mathematics and science. Each cycle focuses on a different area; the 2015 focus was on science.
The 2015 PISA results show a consolidation of New Zealand student performance, after disappointing rankings in the previous PISA cycle in 2012. Overall, New Zealand has improved its ranking in all categories – from 13th in 2012 to 10th in 2015; from 23rd to 21st in maths; and from 18thto 12th in science.
However, the results show that inequality in learning outcomes is still very problematic for New Zealand. A wider gap between the top ten per cent and bottom ten per cent of New Zealand students exists than in most other OECD countries.
Our top students continue to perform well – New Zealand has one of the highest proportions of all round top achievers – yet, the proportion of low achievers has remained at 2012 PISA levels.
On average Pākehā/European and Asian students scored above the OECD average in science, reading and mathematics, however, Māori and Pasifika students scored below the OECD average in all three subjects.
Education Minister Hekia Parata acknowledges that more needs to be done to address the imbalance, especially given that the results of the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) released last week, tell a similar story.
“I’m very proud of our students who achieved these excellent results, but it is balanced by my concern that we still have far too many in the lowest performing cohort and we see little shift in Māori and Pasifika from this group. So we have more to do,” she says.
NZEI Te Riu Roa President Louise Green says the PISA results underline the link between inequality, poverty and student achievement in New Zealand.
“For the second time in a week, international assessments show we have a problem,” says Green, “We need to put more resources into schools in high poverty communities to ensure all kids get the support they need.”