Part 1: Introduction

Education for Māori: Using information to improve Māori educational success.

In this Part, we:

The third audit in our five-year programme

For some time, educational outcomes for Māori students have been much lower than for other students. This difference has been acknowledged historically and exists even though New Zealand spends significant amounts on education. Among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, New Zealand spends the fourth-largest amount as a proportion of gross domestic product on education. Denmark, Iceland, and South Korea are the only countries that spend more.1

Currently, the Ministry of Education (the Ministry) has an important focus on improving outcomes for Māori students and other priority learners.

In 2012, we began a programme of work to answer the question:

How well does the education system currently support Māori students to achieve their full potential and contribute to the future prosperity of New Zealand?

We set out our programme of work in our report Education for Māori: Context for our proposed audit work until 2017.2

Our first performance audit in the programme examined how effectively the Ministry and schools were carrying out Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success: 2008-2012 (Ka Hikitia).3 This was the long-term educational strategy for supporting young Māori to thrive academically, socially, and culturally for New Zealand's future.

The overall goal of the Ka Hikitia strategy is to enable Māori to enjoy and achieve education success as Māori. The Ministry has described this as being when "Māori students are succeeding in our education system and achieving equitable results while maintaining and enhancing their identity, language and culture as Māori".

There were some implementation problems with Ka Hikitia. However, the strategy was helping to create the conditions for improved Māori student success. We were optimistic that the Ministry would better implement a "refreshed" Ka Hikitia strategy.

Ka Hikitia was updated in 2013. The updated strategy gave greater focus to "educationally powerful" partnerships. These are where a school's governors, teachers, students, and families work together to improve a student's overall performance.

Our second performance audit in the programme examined the relationships between schools and whānau.4 These relationships are more effective where there is good communication, there is a willingness to be flexible to enable effective participation, and communities feel listened to. This is not easy and requires constant attention.

Our audit objective and expectations

The objective of this performance audit, the third in our programme, was to determine whether the Education Review Office (ERO), the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), the Education Council of Aotearoa New Zealand, and Careers New Zealand (the agencies), the Ministry, and schools use and manage information effectively and efficiently to improve educational success for Māori.

When we refer to the "education sector", we mean all of the public entities involved in education. When we refer to the "education system", we mean everyone – the agencies, Ministry, schools, other governmental organisations dealing with education matters, parents, students, and whānau.

By data, we mean discrete facts, figures, and words that do not have any context. In this report, we refer to "hard" and "soft" data. Hard data is organised into a pre-existing format or structure, such as data collected through a form. Soft data has no pre-existing format or structure, such as a recorded conversation.

Hard and soft data can be summed up or put together to make information. Information is made of sentences, paragraphs, diagrams, and reports. Information gives data a context.

We expected that, to use and manage information effectively and efficiently to improve educational success for Māori, the Ministry, agencies, and schools would:

  • know what the right information is;
  • get the right information;
  • understand the information;
  • use the information appropriately to make informed decisions; and
  • make informed investment decisions about practices and initiatives that improve educational success for Māori by putting resources into effective programmes that show value for money.

These expectations are broadly cumulative. For example, an agency that does not have the right information is unlikely to make informed investment decisions. This is also the case when the agency has the right information but does not understand that information.

Audit scope and context

We did not include early childhood education entities or private schools in our audit. We initially included tertiary education institutions and the Tertiary Education Commission. As our work progressed, we excluded these entities to keep our work focused and the scale manageable.

During recent years, there has been a strong policy focus on supporting and encouraging the education sector to actively use information to enhance educational outcomes rather than only for administrative purposes.

We asked the Ministry for access to school achievement, engagement, participation, and administrative data for the 2014 school year. We used this to explore Māori students' achievement. We did not use any individual student information.

The largest investment in schools is in salaries. In 2014, about $4.4 billion of the $5.5 billion spent on schooling was spent on salaries for teachers and support staff.5 There is an appropriation for investment in initiatives that aim to improve the outcomes of target student groups. In 2014, this was $271 million.6 Some of these initiatives are aimed directly at improving educational success for Māori. However, many more initiatives are funded from other parts of Vote Education.

Appendix 1 describes many of these initiatives. We did not look into all of them because there are many and some were more established and well-known than others.

Some initiatives focus on helping parents, whānau, teachers, early childhood centres, and schools address problem behaviour, improve children's well-being, and increase educational achievement (for example, Positive Behaviour for Learning). Some initiatives are directly targeted at lifting academic performance (for example, Mutukaroa). Other initiatives are designed to improve the transition from school to work (for example, Youth Guarantee programmes).

Many of the initiatives do not have specific measures of success other than general expectations of improved educational outcomes.

How we carried out our audit

Our audit focused on the education sector as a whole, rather than individual agencies or schools.

This is because we wanted to take a strategic look at how information is used throughout the education system to inform decision-making and improve outcomes for Māori students.

To carry out our audit:

  • We interviewed principals, staff, and members of boards of trustees. We visited and obtained information from 13 schools. Using the Ministry's data, we selected 10 of these schools as contrasting pairs to identify whether the way each school used information made a difference. The pairs were of similar size, type, and decile.7 Each pair consisted of one high-scoring and one low-scoring school based on the performance of Māori students in National Certification in Educational Achievement (NCEA) level 2 or National Standards.8 When our auditors visited these schools, they did not know the achievement score of the school.
  • We interviewed staff and reviewed information and documents from the agencies.
  • We randomly selected 50 online school enrolment forms and reviewed these against various good-practice criteria for collecting ethnicity data.
  • We used information from our review of school charters from our previous Māori education performance audit (see paragraphs 4.15-4.21).

We also obtained advice and guidance from our Māori Advisory and Reference Group.

We obtained data from the Ministry and ERO. We used this data to perform an analysis of achievement, participation, and engagement against various factors that may relate to student achievement. We measured Māori student achievement using National Standards and NCEA Level 2, where it was available. We intended this analysis to be a "jar opener" to show the sorts of questions and insights that can be explored and understood using available information. Part of the data we obtained from the Ministry (Ngā Whanaketanga Rumaki Māori achievement data) was not analysed by us because it was incomplete.

This report outlines the results of this analysis. Appendix 2 sets out information about the data we obtained, the methods we used to analyse it, and the criteria we used to select the schools we visited.

The structure of this report

In Part 2, we show how we used the data we obtained from the Ministry and ERO to carry out some descriptive analysis and statistical tests about achievement, participation, and engagement for Māori students.

In Part 3, we outline the student and achievement information that the Ministry, agencies, and schools currently use, and its gaps and quality. We also look at the limitations of student management systems.

In Part 4, we outline where the education sector can use information better to improve Māori students' achievement. We also describe improvements that are currently under way in the sector.

1: We set out the historical and current context for Māori education in Controller and Auditor-General (2012), Education for Māori: Context for our proposed audit work until 2017.

2: Controller and Auditor-General (2012), Education for Māori: Context for our proposed audit work until 2017.

3: Controller and Auditor-General (2013), Education for Māori: Implementing Ka Hikitia – Managing for Success.

4: Controller and Auditor-General (2015), Education for Māori: Relationships between schools and whānau.

5: Ministry of Education, Annual Report 2014, page 9.

6: Ministry of Education, Annual Report 2014, page 104.

7: Decile measures the socio-economic position of a school's student community relative to other schools throughout the country.

8: For information on the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, see For information on the National Standards, see