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Australian teens are falling behind

Feb 13

Australian teens are falling behind


The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) survey tests shows that Australian 15-year-olds’ scores on reading, maths and scientific literacy have recorded statistically significant declines since 2000, while other countries have shown improvement.

Although there has been much media attention on falling international ranks, it is actually this decline in real scores that should hit the headlines. That’s because it means that students in 2000 answered substantially more questions correctly than students in 2012. The decline is equivalent to more than half a year of schooling. Our students are falling behind: three years behind students from Shanghai in maths and 1½ years behind in reading. In maths and science, an average Australian 15-year-old student has the problem-solving abilities equivalent to an average 12-year-old Korean pupil. An international assessment of school years 4 and 8 shows that Australian students’ average performance is now below that of England and the USA: countries that we used to classify as educationally inferior. The declining education standards are across all ability levels. Analysis of PISA and NAPLAN suggests that stagnation and decline are occurring among high performing students as well as low performers.