New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) national surveys

The New Zealand Curriculum main image

What the resource is:
This report looks at the findings the latest cycle of New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) which periodically surveys primary and secondary schools, in order to assess the impact of recent educational reforms.

The research sample included schools in each sector (2007 for primary and 2006 for secondary), and the questionnaires incorporated different versions for principals, teachers, trustees (governors) and parents.

The report details matters relating to curriculum, assessment and the use of ICT. Comparisons are made between sectors and the different groups surveyed. Additionally, this report makes comparisons with the previous surveys in 2003, in order to assess change over time during a period in which the revised New Zealand National Curriculum was introduced.  


Key findings or focus:
An interesting focus of the Report is the responses from the various respondents at a time of curriculum change. They give an insight into how change can be assessed from different points of view, and allow comparison with what might be expected in the light of curriculum change in the UK.


The new New Zealand Curriculum was published in 2007, and in contrast to its predecessor, its function was to "set the direction for student learning and to provide guidance for schools as they design and review their curriculum" (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 2007. p6). The new curriculum was not intended to be prescriptive, but to provide a "framework and common direction for schools", allowing flexibility and authority to shape their own curriculum to allow teaching and learning "that is meaningful and beneficial" (p37). It is based upon principles, values, five key competencies deemed necessary for living and lifelong learning and eight learning areas (New Zealand Curriculum). In the curriculum, the potential of e-learning and use of ICT is highlighted and, in reflecting the demands of work and society in the 21st century, the skills of self reliance, communication, collaboration and creativity are valued.


The surveys can be said to assess the way in which different stakeholders in the two sectors approach curriculum change.


The survey findings of the primary sector

(At the time of the survey in 2007, the primary sector knew the details of the draft Curriculum and was already working towards these.)


In 2007, the curriculum emphases in the primary sector remained as Maths, reading and writing, but alongside this the roles of assessment for learning, inquiry learning and the use of ICT were also identified as being important, indicating progression towards the aims of the revised New Zealand Curriculum.


A half of all teachers could see that the new Curriculum would support them in the integration of two or more curriculum areas and in the development of new skills. A third also said they had already implemented the new key competencies. However, 30% stated that it would not make much difference to what they were already doing. Parents at this time were unsure about its impact.


Barriers to whole school and curriculum change were seen by  school principals as a lack of time and money, whereas teachers identified lack of time, size and diversity of classes.


Since the last survey in 2003, ICT seemed to have played a more important role in primary schools, with its increased use in a wide range of activities, and progressive change of use through the age ranges from games and exercises to independent work and research. There was general agreement that ICT was making learning more engaging and motivating, although some teachers indicated doubts about its value; the report suggests an ignorance of the scope of ICT on the part of some teachers.


The survey findings of the secondary sector

(The revised New Zealand Curriculum was not published until after the survey, but its contents were known, and responses indicated that moves already taking place in schools were broadly aligned with the intent of the Curriculum.)


In 2006, the main priorities for curriculum change for  school principals were Literacy, Numeracy, ICT integration and transition/employment skills. Thinking skills, inquiry learning and  leaenring through problem solving also featured, although less strongly.


Teachers tended to indicate that strategies for curriculum change were already in place, or in the process of being implemented, with a focus on attempting to achieve greater depth in fewer areas. More than a quarter of schools had implemented the key competencies, or were in the process of considering them. However, the integration of two or more curriculum subjects was less common in secondary schools than in primary schools. Secondary schools were also less likely to have introduced, or considered a focus on, assessment for learning, problem solving, inquiry learning, more depth on fewer topics, the key competencies, individual learning programmes, and using parents as a source of information.


Female teachers appeared to be more willing to attempt new ideas and more likely than males to have implemented a range of curriculum initiatives.


The biggest barrier to whole school change was seen as lack of time and money. Teachers, as in primary schools, mentioned class size, but also lack of resources and the time taken in assessing national standard tests.


ICT was widely used with style of use changing with age. Doubts were more prevalent amongst secondary teachers than primary as to its value. Younger teachers, however, tended to be more confident.


Changes across both sectors since 2003


Some interesting elements of change are:

  • The influence of the NZ Curriculum has led to an increase since 2003, in the attention to skills of thinking, problem solving and a greater awareness of learning styles, ways of learning and multiple intelligences. However, the report states that the surveys do not indicate what these innovations have actually meant to the respondents.
  • There has been a greater move in both sectors towards formulating their own curriculum in line with the new framework.
  • There has been a greater use of ICT.
  • Primary teachers were now more concerned with target setting and analysis of achievement to inform practice.
  • The proportion in favour of Government National standards and assessment has increased, rather than being neutral, while the level of opposition has remained constant.


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
The Report's authors are part of the research team of the New Zealand Council for Educational Research, which as an organisation has not only been responsible for assessing the effects of these curriculum changes, but also in updating news on curricular change through the New Zealand Curriculum website. The New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) is New Zealand's only national, independent educational research organisation.


The quality and credibility seems assured, since this represents an ongoing process of analysis, covering a wide range of schools across the two phases. The results of successful integration of the new curriculum are somewhat skewed against secondary schools, due to the fact that the draft curriculum was introduced after the survey. The report tabulates the responses in great detail.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
ITE students are asked to consider the philosophies and aims of the curriculum they will be teaching, and to consider the best ways to teach with this in mind. Changes to the structure of curriculum can be considered with students in the same way, as well as reactions to change. This report considers the effects of curriculum change, and any work within the areas of curriculum studies and ideologies could include reference to it, particularly in relation to the position in the UK. The New Zealand Curriculum could be compared the present National Curriculum for KS3 and 4, and the content of the recent curriculum reviews of the primary sector. The emphasis with each is on successful learners gaining relevant skills for the 21st century, and in looking at areas of learning in a new framework that allows greater flexibility.


The report could therefore prove useful in assessing NZ practitioners' and other stakeholders' reactions to change and the curriculum itself. The development and integration of ICT into the new curriculum could also serve as a useful comparison.


The relevance to ITE students:
Students should be aware of ongoing change in education, particularly in connection with the curriculum and the effects such change can have on the child, student, teacher and parent.

It would be useful to look carefully at the New Zealand Curriculum in greater detail, to reflect upon the ideology, aims and aspirations and compare these to the situation in the UK. What similarities and differences are there? The responses also reflect the views of the people affected by change, and offer an opportunity to reflect on how different stakeholders have reacted.

The responses related to the use of ICT could also provide a basis for comparison on the issues.


Reviewed by:

Terry Whyte


Related Resources

The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:

Fullan, M. & Stiegelbauer, S. (1991) The New Meaning of Educational Change (Second Edition). Teachers College Press: New York



NZ Ministry of Education (2007) The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media

Rose Review

Cambridge Review


Authors :

Sandie Schagen and Rosemary Hipkins

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New Zealand Council for Educational Research

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