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National and international research

This is an overview of the national and international studies undertaken in New Zealand that provide knowledge about achievement and attitudes across our education system.

These research studies provide comparisons between specific groups, for example: boys and girls, students of different ethnicity, and socio-economic background. Participation in international studies also allows comparisons of New Zealand students' achievement and learning contexts with other countries.

Public Achievement Information (PAI)

The term PAI is used to describe information about our students, schools and education system that is in the public domain.

This includes information about how New Zealand’s education system is progressing at national, regional and local levels against measures such as participation in Early Childhood Education (ECE), information about our children’s achievement and progress via National Standards and Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori, and how many students are gaining key NCEA qualifications by the time they leave school or turn 18. Good quality information provides a basis for communities, iwi, families, parents and whānau to engage and collaborate with schools and kura, and with other local stakeholders to support the achievement of their students.

PAI includes information about how New Zealand’s education system is progressing, at national, regional and local levels.  The PAI strategy supports public achievement and collective action with its focus on improving transparency and promoting the effective use of information to support improvement. The PAI Plan is the Ministry’s five-year plan for incrementally improving the range, quality and use of information to support improved educational outcomes.  

A range of information at the individual school level and Regional Council/Territorial Authority level is available on the MoE Education Counts website. This includes:

  • achievement information (National Standards, Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori and NCEA)
  • enrolment information
  • financial information.

Read more about the PAI project on the Education Counts website.

National Monitoring Study of Student Achievement (NMSSA) - Wānangatia Te Putanga Tauira

This study is a collaboration between NZCER, the Educational Assessment Research Unit (EARU) of the University of Otago and the Ministry of Education.

The aim of NMSSA is to assess and understand student achievement. It will show what New Zealand students know, think, and can do, what they aspire to, and how they are realising their goals. It will provide timely information and analyses to the Ministry of Education, the sector and the public on how well the educational system is delivering important educational outcomes.

NMSSA monitors nationally representative samples of students in Years 4 and 8 in English-medium schools, using a combination of survey assessments (involving 2000-4000 students) and in-depth assessments (600-800 students). These assessments will cover all learning areas of the New Zealand Curriculum over a four year cycle, as well as key competencies.

The NMSSA study builds on the strengths of the previous National Education Monitoring Project (NEMP). What makes this study innovative and different from NEMP is that alongside the in-depth assessment tasks, there will be, for some of the learning areas, a survey of a greater sample of students. The collection of contextual information to enhance our understanding of student achievement is another feature. Specific attention will be given to how Māori and Pasifika students are succeeding in English-medium schools and research will be conducted to better understand achievements among students with special learning needs.

Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)

The Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS) is an educational research study on children’s reading literacy achievement conducted in countries around the world. Administered every five years, the study is designed to measure trends in the achievement of middle primary school students as well as providing countries with a snapshot of achievement at each cycle. The study involves New Zealand’s Year 5 students.

As well as assessing students, PIRLS also collects background information from the students, their parents/caregivers, their reading teachers, and from school principals.

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS)

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is an educational research study on student achievement in mathematics and science around the world. It is designed to measure and interpret differences in national education systems in order to help improve the teaching and learning of mathematics and science worldwide. In 1994, TIMSS began the first study in a regular cycle of studies at four-year intervals. TIMSS assesses achievement in mathematics and science at middle primary (Year 5) and lower secondary (Year 9) levels, and collects background information on student, classroom and school contexts through questionnaires.

Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an international study that assesses how well 15-year-old students are prepared to meet the challenges of today's society. PISA assesses three key areas of knowledge and skills: reading literacy, mathematical literacy and scientific literacy.

PISA focuses on whether young adults can use their knowledge and skills to meet real life challenges, rather than whether they have mastered a specific school curriculum. This vision ties in with the goals and objectives of the New Zealand school curriculum, which is concerned with the development of skills and what students can do with what they learn rather than just content knowledge.

Find more about PISA:

International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS)

ICCS was an educational research study that aimed to investigate the ways in which young people were prepared to undertake their roles as citizens in the 21st century. New Zealand was one of over 30 countries taking part in the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS), and data collection took place in 2008.

This study measured student achievement through testing knowledge, conceptual understanding and competencies in civic and citizenship education. It also collected data about student activities, dispositions and attitudes relating to civics and citizenship.

Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey

New Zealand participated in the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALL) in 2006. ALL measures the prose literacy, document literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills of a representative sample of respondents aged 16-65 from participating countries. ALL built on the International Adult Literacy Survey (IALS) which was undertaken in 24 countries - including New Zealand - in 1996.