Media Releases

PISA results show urgent need for increased support for tamariki

06 Dec 2023

The latest PISA results show that the incoming Government should continue the school lunch programme and provide more learning support for students and young people rather than mandating further testing, says education union, NZEI Te Riu Roa.

New Zealand performance declined in all three areas of reading, science and mathematics, however is still above the OECD average in each area. Alarmingly, 14 percent of New Zealand students did not eat at least once a week because of lack of money, compared to 8% on average in the OECD.

“Kids need a full stomach to learn. The Government should be investing in our tamariki, not cutting back on school lunches, handing out tax cuts or giving landlords a bonus,” says NZEI Te Riu Roa president Mark Potter.

“The data shows food insecurity disproportionately affects tamariki Māori, who make up nearly a quarter of the students currently enrolled in schooling. The Government’s recent moves to ‘balance the Aotearoa histories curriculum’ and remove visibility of te reo Māori further erode the sense of belonging and wellbeing for tamariki Māori.

"Already our students’ sense of belonging is well below the OECD average. We need an education system that clearly values the language, culture and identity of every student.”

NZEI Te Riu Roa says a significant concern with students’ declining maths results was their increase in maths anxiety, especially maths testing.

“While students said they felt well supported by teachers, National’s proposal to return to standardised testing twice a year every year from year 3 to year 8 is not going to help already highly anxious children,” says Potter.

“What is needed is more learning support specialists, smaller class sizes, professional learning for teachers and a teacher aide for every class.”



Reading – New Zealand’s mean reading score was similar over the 2012-2022 period. The 2022 reading score is lower than in 2009 and prior cycles. We remain above the OECD average, which did decline from 2018 to 2022, however NZ decline was less pronounced.

Science – New Zealand’s 2022 mean science score is similar to 2018 but lower than in 2015, 2009 and 2006. We remain above the OECD average.

Maths – New Zealand’s mathematics mean score has significantly declined since 2018 and over the long term, though we still sit slightly above the OECD average. 28 out of 37 OECD countries, and 45 out of all 81 participating countries have also significantly declined, pointing toward a global trend.

The New Zealand specific note can be found here.

The international report can be found here. Food insecurity on page 121.