Media Release: Are Kiwi kids getting the education they deserve?

Media release
2 March, 2021

A well-functioning education system is vital to equip our children for life.

However, a new report from The New Zealand Initiative says it is not clear whether the education system is serving our children as well as it should.

Educational Performance and Funding in New Zealand: Are our children getting the education they deserve? takes a closer look at the evidence on New Zealand students’ educational achievement and examines whether a lack of funding may be playing a role.

Authors Senior Fellow Dr David Law and Policy Analyst Joel Hernandez focused on results from three international education surveys; the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS), the Trends in Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Education funding in New Zealand compared to other OECD countries was also examined.

“The results showing decades of decline in our primary and secondary students’ reading, maths, and science performance, are unfortunately not new or surprising. For instance, between 2000 and 2018 our ranking in maths deteriorated significantly, from 4 out of 41 to 27 out of 78 participating countries in PISA," says Joel Hernandez.

Dr David Law says, “It was surprising, however, to find that New Zealand’s per-pupil spending on both primary and secondary students had increased substantially while our education performance was in decline. The rate of growth was such that per-pupil spending on primary students increased from 76.9% to 93.9% of the OECD average between 2006 and 2017. For secondary students, spending increased from 75.5% to 105.4% of the OECD average over the same period.“

However, evidence suggests that the positive relationship between spending and educational performance one might expect is not universal. For countries that cumulatively spent over $US 50,000 on the education of 6-15-year-olds, a group to which New Zealand belongs, higher levels of spending do little to lift educational performance.

“Not only does it appear that our additional investment in education has not borne fruit, but it also seems as though we should not necessarily expect that it will in the future,” says Dr David Law.



Dr David Law and Joel Hernandez are available for comment. To schedule an interview, please contact:

Simone White, Communications Officer
P: 04 494 9109 / 021 293 7250

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