Science and maths scores flatlined

Results of the 2006/2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) released today show that New Zealand school children scored just barely above the study’s scale average of 500 in science achievement, and below the average in maths. Maths performance has stayed flat after previous gains, while science performance has fallen back to 1994 levels.

Perhaps more importantly, the study reveals that New Zealand teachers are spending significantly less time teaching science in the classrooms. This from the Ministry of Education website:

New Zealand spends less time at the middle primary level teaching science, according to teacher reports, than most of the English-speaking countries and many of the high-performing countries… Of particular note when examining the context in which to interpret science achievement results, New Zealand teachers are reporting far fewer hours spent in science instruction for the year (21 fewer hours on average) compared with 2002.

This surprising fact is attracting little notice in local media, perhaps because it was not included in the official MoE press release.

Interestingly, while the Ministry of Education’s site casually acknowledges Scotland as the country whose results are most similar to NZ’s performance, the UK press contains angry headlines about Scotland’s “unacceptable failings” in the latest assessment.

More information, including the just-released NZ national reports on trends in mathematics, science or a summary of key findings can be found on the ministry’s Education Counts website.


To download copies of the full NZ reports, click here.

For the international results, click here.