The literacy landscape in Aotearoa New Zealand

What we know, what needs fixing and what we should prioritise
Primary education Secondary education Educational evaluation New Zealand

This paper summarises the evidence for how best to improve children and young persons’ literacy development in Aotearoa New Zealand. There is an urgent need to have acceptable equity and excellence outcomes for all our students. Among 15 year-olds, literacy achievement levels have been dropping and wide disparities remain unchanged.

The authors purpose better outcomes will result from optimising learning and development across all ages, rather than focusing on isolated, limited or piecemeal solutions. Changing one variable at one point is unlikely to make an overall difference. Instead, multiple changes during sensitive periods and at transitions are needed.

Key findings

Knowledge gaps

Evidence is lacking in some areas. For example, we know very little about what literacy activities actually occur in the everyday experiences of children and young people, and what outcomes eventuate from these activities. Even less is known about literacy progress through kura kaupapa Māori, but many of the recommendations here that focus on English medium education could be extended to Māori medium schooling.

Constraints and enablers for change

There are constraints on and enablers for greater success in equity and excellence objectives. These range from the preparation of teachers, through to the limited funding for research and development in educational science. Disparities in living circumstances, or structural inequalities and discrimination, also contribute to our challenges in equity and excellence.

Recommendations by period/transition

The evidence we do have means we can identify periods and transitions where specific improvements can be made. Across all periods, experimental evidence suggests we can use digital tools and platforms to improve literacy.


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