The worrying reason behind NZ's dropping teenager education levels

A global report on education shows the level of reading, maths and science among New Zealand teenagers is declining.

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While our 15-year-olds rate above the average, the trend is downwards and the report throws up a worrying possibility as to why. Source: 1 NEWS

While our 15-year-olds rate above average, the trend is downwards, and the report throws up a worrying possibility as to why.

"Probably 70 per cent do well enough, we can be reassured by that, 20 per cent are in difficult situations, 10 per cent really struggle," Children's Commissioner Andrew Becroft told 1 NEWS.

Around 600,000 students from 79 OECD countries and economies were tested. China topped the rankings, while New Zealand students were in the top 30 for each topic, ahead of the US and Australia.

But our performance is on the slide.

Reading, from an initial high level in 2000, has declined steadily, but it's still above the OECD average. The trend is even more stark in mathematics and sciences, with maths falling below the OECD average.

The education ministry investigated the initial drop, but doesn't have a single explanation.

"One of the leading theories we've got is that there were significant shifts in the pedagogy, particularly around mathematics at that time," Ministry of Education's Craig Jones told 1 NEWS.

Students were also asked about their wellbeing. Thirty-two per cent of New Zealand students said they were bullied a few times a month, above the OECD average of 23 per cent.

"Our continuing high rate of bullying, which frankly is somewhat of a national disgrace," Mr Becroft said.

"No New Zealander should be proud of that figure."

Students who were regularly bullied were more likely to be poorer readers and have skipped school.

The Children's Commissioner wants a compulsory Government plan to tackle the issue, but others disagree.

"Not at this point," Mr Jones said.

"We are pushing very hard to make sure that our bullying results come down."

Multiple education reviews are underway and the ministry is planning to stay the course and see those through.