It is the wake-up call we needed. If it was a school report sent home to parents it would read something like this: “Australia has enormous potential, but unfortunately a lack of application has resulted in her not achieving the results she is capable of. If Australia concentrates more, and works harder on achieving outcomes her results will improve immensely.”
Australia’s results in two international studies which compare the abilities of Year 4 students in reading, maths and science with students from other countries are less than flattering.
In mathematics Australian Year 4 students ranked 18th internationally, 25th for science and 27th for reading. There has been little improvement in the maths and science outcomes over the period Australia has participated in the study. It was the first time Australia had been included in the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study and the results show performance problems in all states. Australia’s ranking at 27 out of 45 countries puts the reading abilities of Year 4 students on par with those of Poland, Lithuania and New Zealand.
The most disappointing result, however, and the reason for some swift action is that about one quarter of Australian students did not meet the minimum acceptable standard of proficiency.
These results place new importance on the Gonski Review and its call for more money to be spent on education.
But what we must understand is why Australia is lagging. Are there issues with the curriculum, are our teachers adequately trained, are there enough resources and is there too much emphasis on other areas of education which impact on a students’ ability to perform in key study areas?
More money needs to be spent in the right areas to achieve the right results. The Gonski Review is a good start. The good news is that by Year 8 Australian students have improved in the rankings, moving to 12th for science and maths.
What these studies show is Australia has to do better and it will come at a price. The longer we leave it, the more children will miss out on reaching their full potential through quality education.