A snapshot of national standards results released today by Education Minister Hekia Parata suggests Maori and Pasifika students are failing in the education system.
The figures show among students in years 1-8, 76 per cent reached or exceeded the national standards for reading, 72 per cent for maths and 68 per cent for writing.
But 42 per cent of Maori are below or well below the national standard in writing, 34 per cent are below or well-below in reading and 38 per cent in maths.
Up to 46 per cent of Pasifika students are below or well-below the national standards in all three disciplines.
Ms Parata said the data gave the Education Ministry the opportunity to better target Maori and Pasifika students.
"Doing everything the way we've always done isn't going to work.''
Ms Parata defended the decision to release the data before all national standards data is released on the Education Counts website next week.
"What we've released today is the nationwide picture - what we will release next Friday is what schools have said about themselves.''
Asked why the data had been released at all given Prime Minister John Key has previously described it as "ropey at best'' Ms Parata said the comment was made in relation to comparisons between schools.
"What we're focusing on is what the data tells us, in an overall picture of schools across New Zealand - it tells us a story of where we're at, what our successes look like and also what our challenges are.''
Ms Parata said the national standards data echoed what was being found from NCEA results.
"This tells us we have a consistent set of challenges across our entire education system.''
NCEA data shows achievement by Maori and Pasifika students has improved dramatically in the past three years. The rate of Maori and Pasifika students passing NCEA was as low as 50 per cent. Now up to 74 per cent of Maori and Pasifika students are passing level 2 NCEA, up from 55 and 65 per cent in 2009.
Ms Parata said the national standards data showed more focus needed to be placed on Maori and Pasifika students and children from poorer homes and with special education needs.
"We're pretty excited that we now have a baseline across the country on what it is our challenge is.''