Released in the first week of December, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report has highlighted issues in education outcomes for Australian students (tested at Year 9), adding to the weight of other benchmarking reports released recently.
The leading international snapshot shows Australian science students are seven months behins where they were in 2006, Australian maths students are a year of school behind where they were in 2003 and the reading capabilities of Australian students are also a year behind where they were in 2000.
In a press release following the launch of the report, the Federal Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said Australian students continued to perform above the OECD average in PISA, but nevertheless the results show a trend of declining outcomes.
Minister Birmingham said the three-yearly report would be factored in to the Turnbull Government’s ongoing discussions regarding school reforms.
“Today’s PISA report goes further than last week’s Trends in Maths and Science report, this year’s NAPLAN results and the OECD Education at a Glance report in terms of not just showing a plateauing of results in Australia but that it shows a clear decline from year to year in Australia’s education performance,” Minister Birmingham said in the release dated December 7.
“While our school systems remain above average among developed economies we must acknowledge the reality that our performance is slipping. Given the wealth of our nation and scale of our investment, we should expect to be a clear education leader, not risk becoming a laggard. We must leave the politicking at the door and have a genuine conversation that is based on evidence about what we do from here.”
The PISA report has since been followed by the final NAPLAN results, which held some hope out for Australian educators fighting against the tide of declining scores.
The NAPLAN data shows that, compared with 2008, there have been some better results in all content areas except writing. This isn’t true of all year groups, and in recent years the NAPLAN results appear to have plateaued across the board.
A Summary of NAPLAN Results at the National Level:
- Reading results for Years 3 and 5 are better than they were in 2008. Compared with 2015, there has been no significant improvement.
- Spelling results for Year 3 are better than they were in 2008. Compared with 2015, there has been no significant improvement.
- Grammar/punctuation results for Year 3 are better than they were in 2008. Compared with 2015, there has been no significant improvement.
- Numeracy results for Year 5 are better than they were in 2008. Compared with 2015, there has been no significant improvement.
- Writing results for Year 9 saw a significant decrease since 2011 (the year from which results can be compared with for this domain).
- WA and Queensland made higher gains than other states.
- ACT, NSW and Victoria still have highest average achievement in Years 3, 5 and 7.
“There have been improvements in many schools across the country and some improvement in some states and territories,” said ACARA Chief Executive Robert Randall. “However, at a national level NAPLAN results have shown no significant improvement across the domains and year levels in the last few years. We should expect more for our children.”
Speaking to reporters in Canberra on December 14, Minister Birmingham urged parents to take a bigger role in the education of their children.
“Parents are the first educators … and the expectations and ambitions they set, the level of engagement in areas like early reading is absolutely critical to the success of children,” he said.
“Just reading to your kids for 15 to 20 minutes a day when they’re young can equate to 500 hours of reading experience they’ve had by the time they start school, which gives them a greater vocabulary.”
Education ministers will meet this Friday to discuss a new deal on school funding, which is expected to be finalised sometime next year in time for a 2018 roll out.