Prime Minister John Key says he welcomes the debate generated by the publication of national standards data.

Education Minister Hekia Parata released a snapshot of national standards data on Friday ahead of the full release of the data on the Education Counts website this Friday.

Fairfax beat the Education Ministry to it and published the data of more than 1000 primary and intermediate schools after it sent Official Information Act requests to each school.

"It is the great thing about national standards that for three days our newspapers have been full of debate about what's happening in our classrooms, the level of performance and under-performance and maybe what some of the causes are," Mr Key told Newstalk ZB.


"If you don't measure, monitor or report something, how can you fix it, and in my view this is going to lead to both a national conversation and understanding of what some of those challenges are and a sense of where we should direct resources."

The snapshot of data revealed on Friday showed Maori and Pasifika students are being failed by the education system.

It showed 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.

Mr Key said the data is important as it has started a conversation between parents, school staff and students.

Principals and the New Zealand Education Institute said the release of the data provided no context for the school and was one-dimensional.

The data does not take into consideration students who may have English as a second language, or students with special needs.