New Zealand Slides In PISA Education Rankings, Social Inequality Blamed

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By Reissa Su | December 4, 2013 6:12 PM EST

New Zealand's education achievement ranking has dropped, according the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report released Dec. 3.

The data came from the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The assessment is held every three years with over 4,000 young Kiwis aged 15 as participants.

Dr. Peter Gluckman said he was concerned with the results. New Zealand had fallen 7th to 18th in Science, 13th to 23rd in Math and from 7th to 13th in Reading. He added despite the disappointment about the poor performance, the issue should be placed in context. 

He noted the limitations of education-based ranking systems. He believed it was difficult to evaluate using different variables in different local environments. Gluckman said there is no quick and easy way to improve student's performance.

The PISA results can help New Zealand identify areas that need intervention. New Zealand Education Minister Hekia Parata said the government is confident it can fix the issue. She added the education department has introduced the national standards so parents and teachers will know how students are doing in schools.

Parata said the PISA results were less comprehensive than the national standards. She noted only 4,000 Kiwi students were tested using PISA but with national standards, the government is working with every student in every classroom.

The minister acknowledged that education standards have fallen for a time and the OECD report did not surprise her. She reiterated that the government is determined to focus on the issue. The New Zealand government said the low rankings in education are due to issues in the system that has been going on for years.

The government identified that a new curriculum, poor behavior and inadequate information on student achievement have contributed to the country's poor student performance.

Opposition Blames Social Inequality

Meanwhile, Green Party education spokesman Catherine Delahunty said the OECD report revealed a key finding. She added there is a need to apply universal education policies to raise standards of education.

According to the report, high-performing countries put highly skilled teachers in socially disadvantaged schools. Delaunty believed the growing inequality in New Zealand has affected the quality of learning. She noted the national government plans to put unqualified teachers in public schools. 

Australia, Canada, Sweden and Finland have also dropped in education rankings while most Asian countries improved their scores. Shanghai, China topped Math, Reading and Science assessments.   

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