Tuesday 28 June 2016

I take it back! Almost.

The New Zealand PIAAC results out today indicate huge improvements for New Zealand in regard to literacy.  It also has us slightly above the OECD average for numeracy.  Finally, we did pretty well in regard to problem-solving scoring in the front pack of countries. We actually appear at the top of the 'proficiency in problem solving in technologically-rich environments' graph.  Well done NZ! 

First thing... I was wrong. I predicted we may have dropped in our rankings, but we have not.  Happy to be wrong.

A couple of things I'd like to mention because there is so much depth to the data. The really interesting stuff will be hidden away. 

When you read the bullet points be aware that 'low numeracy' is defined as level one, or a score below 226 or below.  The ALLS included level 2 as well (>276).  If we then add up the PIAAC scores of level one and two we get 51%.  

That is exactly the same as ten years and at least half a BILLION dollars ago!

Second, much of this can be put down to the high scores of people born overseas.  What happens when we remove them from the equation?  This is important because the results engender questions about how skills are learned and maintained in NZ. The concern may be whether we are importing skills, but perhaps not developing them.  However, note that the Pasifika and Maori trajectory is on a steep rise. This suggests great things for both groups.  If this keeps up, they'll be leading the charge.

Anyway, I suspect the talking points over the next few months will relate to:

  • The impact of age on L&N
  • The impact of education on L&N
  • 25% overseas - The second highest of any participating country (Where did they go to school?)
  • Why did the Education and Training industry score so low in numeracy, and why have things gotten worse since 2006?   
  • Field of study mismatch. We report being either over or under qualified for our roles more than other countries.  Why?


  1. ok this is super interesting... and timely considering we're about to start pulling apart the NCALNE qual and rebuilding it into the NZCALNE. I hope you can unpack this data some more and comment.

    I'm particularly interested in whether there is real change or not in the data sets, or even if they can be compared. If we are at 51% for ALLS L1 and 2 equivalent AND we've added high scoring overseas born learners to the equation, then have we in fact stayed the same or gone down if you isolate these variables.

    I predict multiple back patting in government departments, followed (or preceded) by shuttering of annoying stats grads employed as interns and research assistants.

  2. I have yet to really drill down, but certainly no, or very little change re numeracy. Other countries have fallen back making us look better. Literacy is very good, and reflects higher actual scores than in the ALLS. Yes, MOE and co will be very happy and I'm sure everyone will be happy to take some responsibility. Yet, we don't know if any actual initiative is responsible - (the survey included 6100 people), or what accounts for the change. I've become a bit dubious, and not just because I'm a doomsayer, but rather because in my travels I haven't seen the improvements. Could be bias blindness on my behalf though.

  3. Everyone needs a doomsayer...! I'm sure that further analysis will sort out any bia blindness. Just about to do my own analysis shortly

  4. Hey D:

    If the ALLS levels can be compared to the PIAAC levels 1 - 5 I don't think there is any real change in the numbers.

    Overall Literacy at Level 5 has increased one % point from ALLS (15) to PIAAC (16. This is comparing Prose Literacy scores to the current literacy scores. We have 1% less at PIACC level 1 including <L1 (12%) versus ALLS (13%) level 1.

    Re Numeracy: It looks like this. PIAAC Level 4-5 has dropped 1% (16 to 15%). Level 3 has increased 1% (33 to 34). Ditto for Level 2. Level 1 and below has decreased (20% to 19% combined).

    I don't see much change here, apart from the smallest 1% increase for numeracy where it matters. I'm not clever enough to tell you if it's significant or not.

    I've emailed my draft graphic on this to your Slack account.

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