Australia has been ranked 39 out of 41 high and middle-income countries in achieving quality education, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Issued by the UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries, this is the first report to assess the status of children in 41 high-income countries of the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). It ranks countries based on their performance and details the challenges and opportunities that advanced economies face in achieving global commitments to children. The research is used to identify Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) seen as most important for child well-being.
Tony Stuart, CEO of UNICEF Australia said of the findings: “Most Australians would expect Australia to place in the top end of a ranking amongst EU/OECD countries. When it comes to child well-being indicators however, Australia places in the middle of the league table, 21st out of 41 EU/OECD countries. This seemingly average ranking hides some stark and troubling findings for children in Australia.
“UNICEF Australia is particularly concerned about the disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children with disabilities, and children from single parent households – children who are at risk of being left behind.
“Australia’s ranking of 39th out of 41 EU/OECD countries in terms of quality education raises serious red flags for children’s learning and development, which can severely impact their chances in life. A deeper dive into the data reveals that 71.7 per cent of 15-year-olds in Australia are achieving baseline competency in reading, mathematics and science (2015) and 80 per cent of children are participating in organised learning one year before the start of compulsory schooling (2013/14). We know that education is a great equaliser in society so it follows that poor quality education produces sharp inequality,” Mr Stuart added.
Based on the results presented in Report Card 14, UNICEF calls for the Australian Government to take action in five key areas:
- Put children at the heart of equitable and sustainable progress – Improving the well-being of all children today is essential for achieving both equity and sustainability
- Leave no child behind – National averages often conceal extreme inequalities and the severe disadvantage of groups at the bottom of the scale
- Improve the collection of comparable data – in particular on violence against children, early childhood development, migration and gender
- Use the rankings to help tailor policy responses to national contexts – No country does well on all indicators of well-being for children and all countries face challenges in achieving at least some child-focused SDG targets
- Honour the commitment to global sustainable development – The overarching SDG framework engages all countries in a global endeavour