• Michelle Dickinson

New Zealand students record worst results in maths and science - how we can turn this around!

New Zealand's year 9 student's scores in the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) fell by the largest margins since the study began in 1994. Winning the title of our worse-ever results in a major international maths and science test is nothing to be proud of, but it's also something that could have been easily predicted.

Science achievement in New Zealand schools has been declining for a while now, and there is a pattern of disengagement with science that for many students starts in primary school.

So what's going on in our primary schools when it comes to STEM teaching and can we fix it?

As the eternal optomist, I think the answer is YES and as a data driven decision maker I'll tell you why.

At Nanogirl Labs Ltd we have been delivering hands-on STEM teacher training workshops for primary school teachers since 2016. This has given us unique insights into some of the challenges as well as many of the successes when it comes to STEM teaching across the country. Through our research over this time we have collected insightful data into some of the reasons for the lack of science teaching in primary schools across New Zealand. which we released today in our whitepaper.

Our findings include:

  • 7% of primary school teachers teachers surveyed reported that they did not teach any science at all in any of their classes.

  • 90% of teachers surveyed who reported that they taught little or no science said that they wanted to teach more science.

  • Only 22% of primary school teachers surveyed reported teaching science in their classroom regularly.

  • Low confidence is a major contributing factor to the high portion of teachers who do not teach science.

Our evidence also shows that even small amounts of training targeted at increasing primary school teachers confidence in STEM fields can make a huge difference:

  • After taking a Nanogirl Labs hands-on STEM PLD workshop, 95% of teachers reported that their confidence in science had increased significantly and they had an increased willingness to add science teaching into their classrooms.

While this sounds amazing, we have a waitlist of over 50 schools who sadly don't have the budget for STEM training.

Our mission at Nanogirl Labs is to give everyone, everywhere the chance to enjoy a meaningful relationship with STEM, and to do this we have to support and empower our teachers. Helping them to bring these subjects to life in school, as well as making STEM learning outside of the classroom, relevant and fun will help our students to build strong foundations in subjects crucial to innovation.

So how can you help to bring more STEM learning to primary schools?

Spread the word! Talk to your children's school and see if they are providing STEM learning training to their teachers.

If you are interested in supporting our 'science in schools' programme, you or your company might consider making a donation to our charity partner The Bright Future Trust. The trust supports access to STEM learning opportunities, and is helping us bring our programme to low-decile schools around the country.

If your organisation is interested in partnering with us to make a real impact - in schools, or through our other STEM programmes - please get in touch.


We can't keep underfunding our teachers and our schools - they literally create the future, and with investment we can change the tide and help New Zealand lead the world in science and innovation.

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