Education a priority for New Zealand, says OECD

The OECD’s new report makes several policy recommendations for our education sector in the hopes of strengthening our future economy.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s new report on New Zealand lists education as one of the key priorities for our country and makes several recommendations to strengthen achievement.  

The report, titled the OECD’s Economic Survey of New Zealand (May 2024), found the 2007 curriculum to be “high-level”, creating large variability in teaching. It also found that the Ministry of Education did not have the capacity to support schools to implement national policies, “increasing stress and inducing distrust of national reforms”. Finally, the report found that “A sizeable proportion” of teachers did not feel fully prepared in core teaching areas, and primary teachers were “insufficiently prepared” to teach mathematics and science.  

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For these key findings, the OECD recommended that our national curriculum become more detailed, including specifying learning outcomes, competencies, core concepts and knowledge by year-group. It also recommended the curriculum include assessment and teaching resources. The report recommended the Ministry of Education expand its regional offices and reinstate specialist subject advisors, especially for primary and intermediate levels. Finally, it recommended more content and pedagogy for initial teacher education (ITE), especially in mathematics and science. It recommended a corresponding change to teaching standards.  

The OECD says New Zealand’s declining achievement is translating to a loss of productivity in our economy. AdobeStock by arrowsmith2.

The OECD, which administrates the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), says that New Zealand has demonstrated declining achievement over the past decade. It estimates this has impacted economic productivity by 4 percent. The full report cites evidence that poor educational attainment has lifelong consequences, and notes education should be treated as an investment into human capital.  

Although the report praised the devolved school system, the OECD says that horizontal and vertical support systems are weak, leading to “highly variable” learning outcomes. The devolved system, which came about as a result of the 1980’s “Tomorrow’s Schools” reform, means schools in New Zealand are highly autonomous, allowing teaching to be adjusted to local context. However, this places a high burden on leaders and teachers to design content and curriculum. The report says that although we should keep the system, its implementation needs improvement. 

The report noted New Zealand’s inequities, especially among outcomes for Māori and Pacific children. As a precursor to improving equity, the OECD recommended efforts be made for improving attendance, including addressing bullying and attitudes to school.  

Education was only one area of policy focus in the report. Other recommendations included increasing market competition, a focus on climate mitigation and adaptation, and a tightening fiscal policy. According to the OECD, these policy recommendations will put New Zealand in a good position for future economic growth.  

The OECD’s Economic Survey of New Zealand is conducted every 18 months, and is intended to be a snapshot of our current economic conditions.  

Naomii Seah

Naomii Seah is a writer and journalist from Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. She enjoys crochet, painting, and a coffee or two at the beach. Her work can be found at The Spinoff, The Pantograph Punch, Stuff, and of course, School News NZ.
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