10th December 2008 For Immediate Release
Drop Off In Science Achievement Levels Not Surprising
The results of an international study showing a marked drop in student achievement levels in science comes as no
surprise, according to the education sector union NZEI Te Riu Roa.
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study is conducted every four years. It measures achievement levels
among Year 5 students in 59 countries and the results for 2006/7 have just been released.
It shows that achievement levels in mathematics have risen steadily, and New Zealand students were well above the
average compared to the other 36 English speaking countries. However in science, achievement levels have dropped back to
1994 levels, and New Zealand students were, on average, lower than 21 of those 36 countries.
NZEI says those results reflect the focus primary schools have put on literacy and numeracy in recent years and that
focus has paid off.
NZEI President Frances Nelson says in many ways science has fallen victim to curriculum crowding and schools need to
prioritise the work they do.
"Primary school classrooms and property entitlements also aren't set up to dedicate space for teaching specialty
subjects such as science."
"Secondary school results show that students are doing well in science. This indicates that the work being done in
primary schools is being used as a springboard for success once students have specialist teachers and programmes
available at secondary level," she says.
NZEI believes one of the most compelling indicators of student achievement is socio-economic, and the TIMMS study
confirms that link. It shows that achievement in science was higher among students from higher socio-economic
NZEI continues to argue that poverty has a major effect on a child's learning and greater government and community
commitment is needed in tackling it if schools and communities are to successfully raise student achievement levels
across all learning areas.