NZ education on 'right track' - Gluckman

DR PETER GLUCKMAN: Education is on the right track.
DR PETER GLUCKMAN: Education is on the right track.

Despite a slip in global rankings New Zealand is on the right track with maths and science education, says the Prime Minister's chief science advisor.

» Click here to see how your school performed in National Standards and NCEA

New Zealand's education ranking has fallen from seventh to 18th in science, from 13th to 23rd in maths, and from seventh to 13th in reading, according to a report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last night.

The figures in the report were based on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Just over 4000 15-year-old Kiwi students took part in the assessment, which is done every three years.

Sir Peter Gluckman said the results were concerning: "There's no doubt that we are disappointed and concerned to see how our students have fared in the recent global rankings, but I think we need to put the issue in context," he said.

He pointed out limitations with such ranking systems, saying it was difficult to make objective comparisons between a diverse range of variables across local situations.

"Limitations notwithstanding, there is no denying PISA’s utility and the importance of understanding our performance trends over time. But it is just as important to understand that learning contexts are notoriously difficult to capture and that context matters, especially when it comes to devising mitigating strategies an appropriate interventions.

“There is no quick fix for raising student performance; success is the product of multiple internal and external factors, and the results of the National Monitoring survey (NMSSA), announced last week, have given us an important edge in these efforts," he said.

"We now have clear national data to show where intervention is needed most for students, for teachers and, I would add, for families and communities."

Education minister Hekia Parata said this morning the Government was fixing the issue.

"When we came into Government, we introduced National Standards, so that we would know, or at least the parents and teachers would know and each classroom would know, how well their child was doing, why they weren't learning in a particular area, what they needed to do about that and how they working together to achieve that."

She told Breakfast that PISA was far less comprehensive than National Standards.

"So what National Standards do, and by the way - National Standards measure exactly was PISA has just measured - but instead of waiting three years for a sample of 4000, we are now working with every child, in every classroom year on year."

Parata said education standards had been slipping for some time and the latest release was not a surprise.

"And the things that we've been doing as a Government have been focused on fixing that."

But Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said it was clear National Standards was not improving student achievement.

"It's a bit like saying that if a child is arriving at school hungry, putting them on the scales every morning to see if they've gained weight isn't going to solve the problem.

"If a child is struggling to learn to read, then testing them everyday to see if reading better isn't going to help them to read, so we have to put money and time and energy into things that will actually improve their achievement."

Hipkins conceded that standards were falling "slightly" under the previous Labour Government, but said they were "in freefall" now.

He said programmes like Reading Recovery should be available in every school, but the Government could not overlook the fact that each child was different.

"We already know who the kids are who are falling behind. Every teacher can tell us which kids in their class are struggling. What we should be doing is focusing resources and attention to actually fixing the problem.

Hipkins said Labour would also develop a similar Maths Recovery programme as well as get rid of National Standards.

"National's approach to educational underachievement has been to tie schools up in red tape. We need to free teachers and schools up to actually spend time teaching kids."

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