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The myth of New Zealand’s declining educational performance

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posted on 2023-08-01, 03:11 authored by Gavin T. L. BrownGavin T. L. Brown

Much has been made of the gradual decline of New Zealand’s rank order position on the OECD PISA tests. When PISA was first deployed New Zealand tended to score in the first 5 to 10 countries of the world. Now, however, New Zealand is ranked near the middle. This has been used to suggest that there is something wrong in our educational system. I wish to address some of the myth behind such claims. The myths addressed include:

  • the perception that NZ performance is getting worse
  • that the NZQA literacy/numeracy tests are wrong
  • that frequent testing is needed
  • that curriculum levels are too wide

I also address international comparative testing to explain why New Zealand's middle of the world ranking might not be as bad as it is made out to be. I touch on factors that invalidate the comparisons, including:

  • the unfair comparison of a city state to a nation
  • the unfair selection of participants by China at OECD's permission
  • the power of frequent testing on East Asian children
  • the importance of valuing stuff that is not easily put on a test



University of Auckland