DUMBED DOWN UN­DER

Ed­u­ca­tion system fail­ing our kids

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - CLARE MAS­TERS

AUS­TRALIA has plum­meted down in­ter­na­tional ed­u­ca­tion rankings with a ma­jor re­port strip­ping bare the fail­ings of a na­tional school system which has left our chil­dren years be­hind the rest of the world in lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy. De­spite more than $18 bil­lion be­ing spent in the Gon­ski re­forms from 2014-17, Aus­tralian stu­dents are about a year be­hind in key sub­jects with scores in read­ing, maths and sci­ence at the coun­try’s low­est level since test­ing be­gan, ac­cord­ing to the 2018 Pro­gram for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent As­sess­ment.

AUS­TRALIA’s schools sys­tems are fail­ing our stu­dents with a ma­jor new in­ter­na­tional re­port show­ing we are now fall­ing years be­hind the rest of the world in lit­er­acy and nu­mer­acy.

Aus­tralian stu­dents are about a year be­hind in key sub­jects with our scores in read­ing, maths, and sci­ence drop­ping to Aus­tralia’s low­est since test­ing be­gan, ac­cord­ing to the 2018 Pro­gram for In­ter­na­tional Stu­dent As­sess­ment (PISA).

For the first time Aus­tralia has failed to ex­ceed the OECD av­er­age in maths and was one of seven coun­tries, in­clud­ing Fin­land, Ice­land, Korea, the Nether­lands, New Zealand and the Slo­vak Repub­lic, that ex­pe­ri­enced de­clin­ing met­rics across all three sub­jects of read­ing, math­e­mat­i­cal and sci­en­tific lit­er­acy.

Aus­tralia’s ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor is in shock with ex­perts call­ing on gov­ern­ments to recog­nise the re­port as “the line in the sand”. Record Gon­ski fund­ing has failed to lift stan­dards while a cri­sis in teacher short­ages is forc­ing ed­u­ca­tors to teach out­side their spe­cial­ist sub­ject — with­out the nec­es­sary qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

An over­crowded cur­ricu­lum has also caused ed­u­ca­tors to only have time to teach to the mid­dle of the class.

The Aus­tralian ver­sion of the re­port is pro­duced by the Aus­tralian Coun­cil for Ed­u­ca­tional Re­search (ACER) and PISA Na­tional Project Man­ager, ACER’s Dr Sue Thom­son said the big­gest sur­prise was that Aus­tralia has not beaten the OECD av­er­age for maths.

“For me that is a line in the sand,” she said. “I don’t want to be re­port­ing next time we are be­low the OECD av­er­age. There are a num­ber of coun­tries that have im­proved while we have not im­proved.”

Czech Repub­lic, Es­to­nia, Ma­cao (China), Switzer­land and Bel­gium were be­hind Aus­tralia in the orig­i­nal re­port in 2000 and are now out­per­form­ing us in maths.

Our maths per­for­mance is down in all states and ter­ri­to­ries, with sig­nif­i­cant de­clines in SA, NSW, Tas­ma­nia, WA and the ACT, and the small­est de­cline recorded in Vic­to­ria.

Dr Thom­son said Aus­tralia should now be look­ing to learn from other coun­tries and re­assess where fund­ing is go­ing. “It is about where that money goes and what it is do­ing,” she said. “We have a crowded cur­ricu­lum, teach­ers don’t have enough time to make sure stu­dents are de­vel­op­ing that deep un­der­stand­ing they need.”

She said the in­crease in outof-field teach­ers means teach­ers are only teach­ing from the text­book. She ref­er­enced a PE teacher be­ing asked to teach maths. “He was one chap­ter ahead of the stu­dents at all times,” she said. “If you don’t have the un­der­stand­ing your­self it is much harder to pick up the weaker kids and help scaf­fold them. And you can’t give the high-per­form­ing kids the work they need.”

Dr Thom­son said that im­pact was re­flected in the PISA re­sults with the in­crease in lower and av­er­age per­form­ers and a drop in high per­form­ers.

A re­cent study from the Aus­tralian Math­e­mat­i­cal Sciences In­sti­tute found 22 per cent of Aus­tralian Year 8 stu­dents are be­ing taught by outof-field teach­ers, com­pared to an in­ter­na­tional av­er­age of 13 per cent. More than 600,000 15-year-old stu­dents in 79 coun­tries and economies took part in PISA 2018, in­clud­ing 14,273 Aus­tralian stu­dents in 740 schools. In con­trast to NAPLAN, which tests skills, PISA looks at how the stu­dents can ap­ply their read­ing, maths, sci­ence lessons to real life.

Coun­tries top­ping the charts in­cluded grouped prov­inces of Beijing, Shang­hai, Jiangsu and Zhe­jiang (China) and Sin­ga­pore, which scored sig­nif­i­cantly higher in read­ing than all other coun­tries. Es­to­nia, Canada, Fin­land and Ire­land were the high­est-per­form­ing OECD coun­tries in read­ing.

In com­par­i­son to Bei­jingShang­hai-Jiangsu-Zhe­jiang (China), Aussie stu­dents per­formed at a level roughly one­and-a-half school years lower in read­ing lit­er­acy, around three-and-a-half school years lower in math­e­mat­i­cal lit­er­acy, and around three years lower in sci­en­tific lit­er­acy.

Sink­ing more fund­ing into the system is not the an­swer, ex­perts say, point­ing to more than $18 bil­lion of Gon­ski fund­ing spent from 2014 to 2017.

Glenn Fa­hey, Cen­tre for In­de­pen­dent Stud­ies, said PISA pro­vided fur­ther ev­i­dence that there’s no as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween fund­ing and bet­ter achieve­ment. “We have NAPLAN, we have had sev­eral years of Gon­ski, we now have PISA and we are still not see­ing that ed­u­ca­tion re­turn,” he said.

Con­dell Park Christian School stu­dents Gabriel Battistuzz­i, Kayleigh Geron­imo, Noah Fahd and Charlese Fahd and (in­set) prin­ci­pal Don­ald Leys. Pic­ture: Ro­han Kelly

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