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Kiwi kids' maths lagging: global study

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 30/11/2016

Young Kiwi students are performing below the global average in maths and are behind children in all other English-speaking countries, a new study has found.

The Trends in International Maths and Science Study looks at students at Year 5 and Year 9 every four years and compares them with nearly 600,000 of their counterparts in 57 countries.

While New Zealand students' performance in maths hasn't changed since 2011 and has improved slightly in science, other countries have made gains, leaving Kiwis behind all other mainly English-speaking countries, except for in Year 9 science, where Australia ranked lower.

In science, students at both Year 5 and Year 9 came in just above the global average, with Year 5 showing the most improvement from four years ago.

And while New Zealand's gap between low and high achievers was still smaller than when the study started 20 years ago, it had gotten worse since 2011.

The gap was larger than many countries, with Maori and Pasifika students identified as scoring lower on average in tests.

Education Minister Hekia Parata said that gap was one of the key things the government would be working to address in the coming year.

"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," she said.

She said she welcomed the results overall as showing improvement, particularly in science.

But New Zealand's largest education union, NZEI, said the data showed the government's National Standards policy had failed to improve children's results and the achievement gap was driven by poverty.

"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," NZIE president Louise Green said.

Labour's education spokesperson Chris Hipkins said the results at best showed New Zealand's performance was "stagnant".

"National's approach of restricting the focus of our education system to a narrow range of performance measures has failed," he said.

New Zealand also came in third worst of any country in terms of bullying, with only 40 per cent of students saying they were "almost never" bullied, compared to more than 75 per cent in leading countries and an average of 56 per cent.

Ms Parata said a lot of work, including new cyberbullying guidelines and laws, had been brought in since the test was conducted.

"The longstanding issue of bullying remains an ugly and unwanted presence in our schools, but I am optimistic for the future," she said.

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