Australian students’ Pisa scores still declining despite climb into OECD top 10 | Australian education #Australian #students #Pisa #scores #declining #climb #OECD #top #Australian #education

Australia’s year 9 students have climbed into the top 10 of OECD countries, the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) results show, while continuing a longer-term trend of national decline.

The 2022 Pisa results, released on Tuesday evening by the Australian Council for Educational Research (Acer), showed Australia’s overall performance was above the OECD average in all categories, after sitting at average for the first time in mathematics in 2018.

Since 2000, Pisa has measured the literacy of 15-year-olds every three years. The most recent cycle, with 81 participating nations, was delayed by a year due to Covid.

Australia’s Pisa performance over time

The results showed Australia was up 13 places compared with 2018 in mathematics, behind nine other countries and equal ninth in reading and science.

Singapore placed highest in all categories, with a mean score of 575 in mathematics, 561 in science and 543 in reading – compared to Australia’s 487, 507 and 498.

Japan, Korea, Estonia, Canada, Macau and Taiwan also outperformed Australia, while Australia scored higher than New Zealand in mathematics and the UK and the US in reading.

Acer said the nation’s improvements on the international scale had more to do with the poor performance of other countries.

Senior research fellow at Acer and report co-author, Lisa De Bortoli, said it was “encouraging” results had stabilised, however noted 38 countries declined in mathematical literacy between 2018 and 2022 – including top performers Hong Kong and Finland.

“Our position in the top 10 is largely due to the performance of other countries dropping below ours,” De Bortoli said. “A significant number of students are failing to demonstrate they have more than basic skills.”

The latest scores came off the back of Australia’s 2018 results, the nation’s worst ever performance. Eleven countries that were performing higher than Australia in 2018 were now performing at a similar level.

The proportion of low performers has increased

“We’ve stabilised which is good news but in the bigger picture, we have declined over time,” De Bortoli said. “There is reason to be concerned about this.”

Since results began, Australian students’ scientific literacy had declined by 20 points, equivalent to a year of schooling.

Performance in mathematics had declined 37 points, equivalent to almost two years’ schooling, while performance in reading literacy had fallen 30 points, equivalent to a year and a half of schooling.

Just over half of students achieved the national proficient standard in maths (51%), rising to 58% in science and 57% in reading.

De Bortoli said students meeting proficiency standards alone were “treading water” when they “should be swimming”.

“What I get concerned about is 15-year-olds will be disempowered, our workforce demands have higher levels of skills and some of these kids don’t have the basics,” she said.

Results found Australian students from disadvantaged backgrounds were more likely to fall behind in all categories and were, on average, around five years of schooling behind their counterparts.

Indigenous students were around four years of schooling behind non-Indigenous students and students from regional and remote areas were also at a disadvantage.

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The education minister, Jason Clare, said the results demonstrated Australia’s education system could be “a lot better and fairer”.

“We have to fix the funding gap and fix this education gap,” he said.

“That’s why I want the school funding agreement we negotiate next year to tie funding to the sort of things that help children who fall behind, to catch up, keep up and finish school.”

Performances were the worst in Tasmania and the Northern Territory, with mean scores below the OECD average in mathematics and on par with the average in reading and science.

Students performed highest in the ACT across all categories and significantly above the OECD average.

At the same time, the number of students meeting high standards had decreased while low performers had increased.

Averaged across all categories, a quarter of students in Australia were low performers, meaning their proficiency was too low to enable them to participate effectively and productively in life, compared with 8% in Singapore.

While more than 70% of students in the highest socioeconomic quartile reached the national proficient standard in all categories, just 30% of students in the lowest quartile were proficient in mathematics, 40% in science and 41% in reading.

Less than 4% were among high performers in all three categories, meaning they’d reached the highest two proficiency levels, compared with more than 20% of students from the top quartile.

Results were similar among First Nations students, with less than 30% reaching the national proficient standard across all categories and around half among lower performers in science and reading. In mathematics, 57% of First Nations students were low performers.

In all categories, students in major city schools performed at a higher level than students in regional schools, equivalent to more than a three year gap in schooling compared with remote schools.

Compared across the school sectors, students at government schools in Australia scored more than 40 points lower than independent schools in mathematics, reading and science, equivalent to around a two-year education gap.

Acer chief executive, Prof Geoff Masters, said a commitment to reform of the schooling system was needed to lift student performance.

He pointed to systems in Estonia and South Korea which had focused improvement efforts on “transforming the frameworks within which teachers and schools work”.

“Their approach to teaching and learning gives greater priority to the development of deeper conceptual understanding and students’ abilities to apply what they learn across different contexts,” he said.

Female students performed at a higher level in reading while males performed higher in mathematics. Both genders performed at similar levels in science.

#Australian #students #Pisa #scores #declining #climb #OECD #top #Australian #education

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