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Competent Learners @ 16: Competency levels and development over time - Technical report

E. Hodgen

The main aim of the Competent Children / Competent Learners project is to chart the development of competencies (in the context of home, leisure, and educational experiences) that may account for differences in patterns of development and young people’s performance.

At age 16, we have data for 448 young people. These data include results from literacy, numeracy, and logical problem-solving (pattern completion tasks), and ratings from subject teachers (English, their favourite subject, and their least favourite subject) in relation to attitudinal competencies for the 412 young people who were still at school.
The latter comprise four competencies: (Some of these overlap with the key competencies that are now being included in the curriculum.)

  • focused & responsible
  • thinking & learning
  • social skills, and
  • social difficulties.


In this first report of the results and analysis of the material gathered during 2005, when the sample group was aged 16 years, we start by describing their competency levels, and concurrent relationships between the competencies. We then analyse the relationship between the young people’s current competency levels, and four social characteristics: gender; family income levels; maternal qualification levels; and ethnicity. To do this, we first compared the proportion of young people scoring above and below the median in each competency for each of the social characteristics in turn. We then fitted linear models, including all of the social characteristics, to see which of these characteristics contributed significantly to performance over and above the other characteristics.

Finally, we report our analysis of the predictability of current levels of performance in relation to earlier levels of performance. We have analysed the data at a number of different levels: overall trends have been modelled using structural equation models, and quartile groupings have been used to describe differences in patterns over time for high and low performers.

The Competent Children, Competent Learners sample was originally chosen in relation to the main focus of the first phase of the study, which was the role of early childhood education experiences and quality. This meant our units for sampling were early childhood education types (other than ngä köhanga reo), rather than social characteristics. This and the fact that our sample was chosen from the Wellington region, has resulted in a sample that is not nationally representative in terms of social characteristics. Our sample has proportions of young people from high-income families, and those whose mothers have trade or tertiary level qualifications, which are higher than the national average, and lower proportions of Mäori and Pacific young people.


More about the Competent Learners at 16 technical report 
More Competent Learners reports 
More about the Competent Learners longitudinal study

Year published: 
Publication type: 
Research report
NZCER, for the Ministry of Education
Full text download: 
not full-text
Edith Hodgen