Aussie Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy Not Adding Up: OECD Where once Aus­tralia kept up with South Korea, it is now streak­ing ahead on tests that com­pare the aca­demic abil­ity of 15-year-olds around the world.

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In a typ­i­cal Aus­tralian class­room, the gap be­tween the achieve­ment of stu­dents at the top of the class and those at the bot­tom is more than seven years.

Ccom­puter skills are lag­ging be­hind decade-old bench­marks, and fewer Aus­tralian pupils are tak­ing maths than ever be­fore.

So steep has the na­tion’s ed­u­ca­tion slide be­come that Aus­tralia was sin­gled out for its de­clin­ing per­for­mance on the world stage in Dubai last week.

“[The de­cline] is very sig­nif­i­cant this round and I think it’s re­ally some­thing you have think about,” An­dreas Sch­le­icher said.

He is the ed­u­ca­tion chief of the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment ( OECD), widely re­garded as the most in­flu­en­tial ed­u­ca­tion fig­ure on the planet. Be­tween de­bates with Tony Blair and mes­sages from the Pope at the Global Ed­u­ca­tion and Skills Fo­rum in Dubai, Mr Sch­le­icher slammed Aus­tralia over its de­clin­ing re­sults in in­ter­na­tional stu­dent as­sess­ments (PISA).

This is be­fore the most re­cent set of PISA re­sults are due to be re­leased later this year. Where once Aus­tralia kept up with South Korea, It is now streak­ing ahead on tests that com­pare the aca­demic abil­ity of 15-year-olds around the world. Stu­dents from Poland and Viet­nam are now out­per­form­ing Aus­tralia’s teenagers.

If Aus­tralia’s re­sults were to match South Korea’s by the end of this cen­tury the Aus­tralian econ­omy would be AU$4.7tril­lion (F$7.42tn) bet­ter off, says the OECD. A new re­port from the Grat­tan In­sti­tute gave Aus­tralia’s ed­u­ca­tors plenty more to think about. Amid de­clin­ing stan­dards in a global con­text, Aus­tralia’s own do­mes­tic as­sess­ment sys­tem was also found want­ing. The re­port found many of the na­tion’s stu­dents were in­ca­pable of reach­ing bench­marks set by the Aus­tralian Cur­ricu­lum, As­sess­ment and Re­port­ing Au­thor­ity. Ac­cord­ing to the Grat­tan In­sti­tute year nine stu­dents were meet­ing the na­tional min­i­mum stan­dard even if they were ac­tu­ally achiev­ing be­low the level of a typ­i­cal Year Five stu­dent.

Aus­tralia must raise its sights,” says the re­port’s au­thor Peter Goss. “The bar we are set­ting with the [NAPLAN] na­tional min­i­mum stan­dard is just too low. If we set the bar too low, it is very hard to aim high.” The warn­ing signs have been there for over a decade. Aus­tralia’s PISA re­sults have been on the slide since 2003. NAPLAN tests have shown the writ­ing abil­ity of Aus­tralia’s stu­dents has not im­proved since 2008. All the while the com­puter lit­er­acy of the na­tion’s stu­dents has reached a cri­sis point. The 2015 re­sults showed that in an area cru­cial to the na­tion’s fu­ture pros­per­ity, only 55 per cent of 10,000 stu­dents tested by ACARA were con­sid­ered IT pro­fi­cient. The na­tion’s math­e­mat­i­cal abil­ity, draw­ing out­cry from the aca­demic and busi­ness com­mu­ni­ties.


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