26 October 2016

New Zealand students among the world’s smartest

A recent report from the OECD has ranked New Zealand as having the seventh highest performing graduates in the world.

University student smart

The OECD’s Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIAAC) assesses literacy and numeracy skills, as well as the ability to solve problems in technology-rich environments across 40 countries.

OECD rankings tableIn news coverage of the report, the BBC’s Sean Coughlan noted that while international university rankings typically measured reputation, staff ratios and research output, PIACC was the first to compare the capability of students who have been taught in those universities.

“None of the countries in the top places make much of an appearance in conventional university rankings,” Sean said.

“In the QS World University Rankings, there were 32 US universities in the top 100, but only one from New Zealand, but graduates from New Zealand are higher achieving than their US counterparts.”

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's education director said the results prove that ability levels vary hugely among people, even when they have similar qualifications, due to "major differences in the quality of higher education".

Key points:

  • Adults in New Zealand scored above the OECD average in literacy, numeracy and problem solving in technology-rich environments.
  • New Zealand’s immigrant population is one of the most skilled, highly proficient immigrant populations across OECD countries. English-speaking, foreign-born immigrants in New Zealand scored higher in literacy and numeracy than English-speaking, native-born New Zealanders. In all countries and economies, foreign-language immigrants tended to have lower literacy skills, but in New Zealand only 8.5% of English-speaking immigrants had low proficiency in literacy, compared to the OECD average of 22.3%.
  • The differences in skills proficiency related to age, gender, education and social background were less pronounced in New Zealand than in other countries.
  • In New Zealand, even more so than in other OECD countries, higher proficiency in literacy and numeracy had a positive impact on labour force participation and wages.

The full report on New Zealand’s scores can be found here.

The BBC news report can be found here.

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