Kiwis among best and worst readers
Kiwi pupils are both some of the best and worst readers worldwide, an OECD report suggests.
A 65-country study, comparing 475,000 15-year-olds on reading, mathematical and scientific literacy, places New Zealand fifth, fifth and 10th.
But the study, the third in an OECD triennial programme, also shows New Zealand has one of the widest gaps between the top and bottom 5 per cent of pupils – with Maori and Pasifika pupils languishing near the bottom.
The average reading performance for 15-year-olds did not change between 2000 and 2009.
Wellington High School pupils Anahera Harris and Kimiora Nathan, both 15, identified themselves as poor readers who did not enjoy reading. “[It’s] not interesting. I used to like it [but] I just got over it,” Kimiora said.
The report identifies a correlation between pupils who enjoy reading and their ability – most prominently in New Zealand.
Anahera said reading was not well taught at her school. “They do tell us to [read] but we just don’t.” She would read more if the books that were set appealed to her.
The girls said they were more interested in sport and spending time with friends than reading.
Education Minister Anne Tolley said more needed to be done to lift achievement for Kiwi pupils across the board. “There is an urgent need to lift achievement levels.”
Education Ministry curriculum manager Mary Chamberlain said New Zealand had world-leading primary school reading and reading recovery programmes.
“The majority of our young people are really well-served by the system … but we have these groups of kids and the pattern’s remained the same since 2000, that we are not doing well for.”
National standards, to be introduced into primary schools next year, would identify pupils who needed extra help with reading early on.
“If you don’t intervene early and you don’t start to accelerate their progress if they’re falling behind … then all the data shows that grows bigger over time.”
The primary school teachers’ union says the report is being used “mischievously” to justify national standards.
Institute of Education president Frances Nelson said the report showed the country was performing well ahead of others, with even the 14 per cent of New Zealand participants classified as bottom readers above the overall mean of 19 per cent.
“This is a very, very, good news report and I think it’s mischievous of the ministry to tell people it’s not.” Teachers knew who underperforming pupils were. “National standards won’t help a single jot, good teaching will help.”
The 65-country, three-yearly report shows national and international trends:
European and Asian pupils are more likely to perform highly and Maori and Pasifika pupils are over-represented in low performance.
Compared to the eight top or high-performing countries, New Zealand has the widest range of scores between the highest 5 per cent and lowest 5 per cent performing pupils.
Girls outperform boys in every participating country. Among the top and high-performing countries, New Zealand has one of the largest differences between girls and boys.
In the 2009 report, 3 per cent fewer pupils were at the highest reading proficiency levels than in the 2000 report.
– The Dominion Post