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Low participation decreases meaningfulness of international education results

New Zealand students’ low participation rates in the latest international reading, maths and science assessments shows its increasing irrelevance to many countries, says Chris Abercrombie, PPTA Te Wehengarua acting president.

He was commenting in response to media reports that New Zealand schools’ and student participation in the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) last year was 72 percent -well below the benchmark of 85 percent of invited schools and 80 percent of invited students.

“It’s no surprise that only 72 percent of Aotearoa New Zealand schools and students took part. Here, participation is voluntary and we have seen over the last several years an increasing unwillingness among students to do these assessments.

“In other countries, particularly those that have traditional styles of assessment, i.e. rote learning and multi-choice questions, participation in PISA is compulsory and students are actually trained in how to do the assessments.

“For New Zealand and other countries that have moved beyond these old-school assessment styles, PISA is becoming increasingly meaningless. The only thing it consistently shows is that young people from wealthier backgrounds do better academically than those from poorer families. And more schools here are saying they do not need PISA to tell them what they know already.

They are more interested in raising achievement levels and ensuring better educational outcomes for all young people.”

Chris Abercrombie said when students did the latest PISA assessments, in 2022, the world was in the midst of a pandemic and PISA was simply not a priority.

“Definitely in Aotearoa New Zealand, it was an unnecessarily high stakes investment for low return for schools.”

“I hope the low participation levels give the OECD some pause for thought about the relevance and meaningfulness of this system, and encourage it to consider alternative processes which better reflect what is happening in education around the world.”


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