Australia’s students in top 10 for problem solving: PISA

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Australia’s students in top 10 for problem solving: PISA

Australian students are among the world’s best performers in a global ranking of their ability to work together.

The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) tested 125,000 15-year-olds in 52 countries and economies to analyse how well they work together as a group, their attitudes towards collaboration and the influence of factors such as gender, after-school activities and social background.

The report ranked Australia at 10th of the participating countries, behind Canada at 5th and New Zealand at 9th, but ahead of the United States (13) and the United Kingdom (15).

“In a world that places a growing premium on social skills, education systems need to do much better at fostering those skills systematically across the school curriculum,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.

“Parents and society at large must play their part too. It takes collaboration across a community to develop better skills for better lives.”

Girls did better than boys in every country tested, a result which Federal Government Education Minister Simon Birmingham said needs to be addressed.

“We need to hone in on tackling the gender divide that has seen the results of Australia’s boys trail behind girls and work to close the performance gap between students from high and low socio-economic status backgrounds,” he said.

Mr Birmingham said the report showed nearly twice the number of Australian students were highly skilled in problem solving than the OECD average.

“The findings are a testament to the skills of our teachers, the influence of Australian families and the culture in our education system,” he said.

“As workforces become more and more globalised, it’s skills like collaboration that can deliver significant competitive advantages.”

The test revealed no significant difference in the performance of advantaged or disadvantaged students, or between immigrant and non-immigrant students but showed that exposure to diversity in the classroom tended to be associated with better collaboration skills.

Active students who attended physical education or played sports generally had a more positive attitude towards collaboration, while students who played video games outside of school scored slightly lower collaborative problem solving on average. However, students who accessed the internet or social networks outside of school scored slightly higher.

Australian students also scored above average for Science, Maths and reading, but all skills had declined in the country since 2006.

Mr Birmingham said the Federal Government is working to ensure excellence in all areas of school education.

“While 62 per cent of our students performed better in collaborative problem solving than was expected based on their reading, Maths and Science scores, a focus on one skill shouldn’t come at the expense of the others,” he said.

The government has assembled a panel of education and policy experts to recommend how schools and educators can better focus resources in classrooms.

“The report makes it clear that some of the most important factors in these collaborative problem solving results is in the strong, positive relationships that exist between students, teachers and parents,” Mr Birmingham said.

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