Equity and excellence

Ko te tamaiti te pūtake o te kaupapa

The child – the heart of the matter

Achieving equity and excellence in student outcomes is the major challenge for New Zealand education.

Our school system is characterised by increasing diversity of students and persistent disparities in achievement. Although many young people achieve at the highest levels in core areas such as reading, mathematics and science, the system serves some students less well.

International assessment studies provide evidence that New Zealand is one of few countries in which the mathematics and science achievement of 15-year-olds is on a trajectory of accelerated decline. The reading achievement of 15-year-olds is also on a steady decline.1 The decline in mathematics and science achievement is particularly significant for Māori,2 reflecting a long history of inequitable learning opportunities available to Māori young people.3

Recent Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data show that within the same school, young people can experience widely divergent opportunities to learn. This within-school inequality is amongst the highest found anywhere, and it is strongly related to achievement disparities.4

As a nation, our current priorities in education are to reduce achievement disparities within and across schools and to improve education provision, pathways and outcomes for all students. We need to make better use of the knowledge we already have about what makes a bigger difference.

Evaluation in New Zealand schools

The purpose of internal and external evaluation is to improve education outcomes and to ensure that schools are accountable for their stewardship.

Under the Education Act 1989 all schools are expected to be involved in an ongoing, cyclical process of evaluation and inquiry for improvement. Through the annual reporting process, they are required to report on the achievement of their students, their priorities for improvement, and the actions they plan to take.

New Zealand is recognised internationally as a leader in the area of school evaluation.  

[Internal evaluation] is at the core of the quality assurance and improvement process. It is conceived of as a rigorous process in which schools systematically evaluate their practice, using indicators as a framework for inquiry and employing a repertoire of analytic and formative tools.5

A key feature of the New Zealand approach is the integration of internal and external evaluation.

This is a photo of two older school girls reading