“Today’s PISA report goes further than last week’s Trends in Maths and Science report, this year’s NAPLAN results and the OECD Education at a Glance report in terms of not just showing a plateauing of results in Australia but that it shows a clear decline from year to year in Australia’s education performance,” Australian Federal Education Simon Birmingham.
- In reading literacy where Australia ranked equal sixteenth, Australian independent schools ranked first, Australian Catholic schools ranked equal seventh, while the Australian public school system was below the OECD average
- In scientific literacy where Australia ranked fourteenth, Australian independent schools ranked second, the Australian Catholic system tenth, while the Australian public school system had fallen below the OECD average
- In mathematical literacy where Australia seems to have ranked 21st, Australian independent schools ranked equal fifth, Australian Catholic schools equal 17th, while public schools were well below the OECD average. .
The release of the TIMSS 2015 report attracted much media and political attention .... because of the way it suggested that Australia is falling behind in maths and science performance at school. ... Looking at the results, I had real difficulty in understanding just what TIMSS told us and what we might do about it.
The results suggested, too, that kids in metropolitan areas were likely to do better than kids in regional areas who in turn do better than kids in remote and very remote areas. Indigenous kids performed less well than non-indigenous kids. No surprises in either case,
Now consider this pattern. Regional areas have fewer higher income families and a smaller proportion of higher educated people. That feeds into lower academic performance. Indigenous people have lower incomes and academic attainments too and are also more likely to live in regional areas. So the measures are interrelated.
“While our school systems remain above average among developed economies we must acknowledge the reality that our performance is slipping. Given the wealth of our nation and scale of our investment, we should expect to be a clear education leader, not risk becoming a laggard. We must leave the politicking at the door and have a genuine conversation that is based on evidence about what we do from here.
“Commonwealth funding for schools has increased by 50 per cent since 2003 while our results are going backwards. I’m not suggesting that adequate funding is not important, of course it is vital, but as the OECD notes Australia ranks as spending the fifth highest amount on education in the OECD and once you get to that level there is little value in just increasing spending, the harder task is to invest in the areas that the evidence says makes a difference." Minister Birmingham
"While the overall decline in the achievement of Australian students is of concern, there is evidence of a drop in performance across the OECD." Independent Schools PISA summary
"Success in PISA rankings and other global league tables are an important part of the Singapore “brand”. Singaporean academic Christopher Gee calls this the “educational arms race”. Highly competitive schooling is the norm." Professor Amanda Wise, The Conversation
"Public discussion in Australia around why we are not doing as well as the Singaporeans is largely focused on what goes on in that country’s schools.
Yet there is one thing missing from the reporting on Singapore’s success: the role of private tuition (private tutors and coaching colleges) and the part it plays in the overall success of students in the tiny city-state." Professor Wise
- 60% of high school, and 80% of primary school age students receive private tuition.
- 40% of pre-schoolers receive private tuition.
- Pre-schoolers, on average, attend two hours private tuition per week, while primary school aged children are attending, on average, at least three hours per week.
The Strauss piece is the simplest description of the Finnish system that I have found. If I had to draw a single lesson from it, it's the relative simplicity of the Finnish system, the absence of controls, the grant of autonomy to schools and teachers, the apparent absence of prescriptive measurement, that goes to the heart of performance.
Three themes in Australian education: national efficiency, citizenship and social advancement
I didn't send my daughters to school to achieve a standard
This Sydney Morning Herald piece (Falling school standards are taking a toll on Australia's wellbeing) rather captured everything I was complaining about with the misuse of PISA. I quote from the introduction:
The deterioration in the performance of school students has slashed billions from Australia's economic wellbeing.
The release of data this week showing Australian teenagers are falling behind many of their international peers has cut the value of the Fairfax-Lateral Economics wellbeing index, which puts a dollar figure on our collective welfare. The index uses reading scores from the international Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to measure Australia's human capital, or collective knowhow.
The latest PISA result, released on Tuesday, showed Australia's reading score dropped from 512 to 503 between 2012 and 2015.
"This worsening of the PISA reading scores has negatively impacted the level of economic wellbeing," the index report said.
That deterioration has sliced $15.2 billion from Australia's wellbeing since 2012.This is quite simply absurd. Australia's collective wellbeing has not declined by $15.2 million as a consequence.
In an ABC piece cross posted from The Conversation, Stewart Liddle and Bob Lingard argue in part::
It is unhelpful to use the single country ranking to determine how we are going as there are significant variances between states/territories and school sectors (government, independent, Catholic).
Instead, we need to carefully disaggregate the data and consider the social and economic factors that influence performance across states, between schools, as well as the correlations between gender, Indigeneity, class, race, geographical location, and so on.
Australia has one of the widest ranges of student achievement, with what can be described as a long tail of underachievement......
There are competing tensions in the agenda of social efficiency and social equity, which is evident in how PISA results inform global and local education policy-making. This includes the emphasis on competing within a global knowledge economy.
It is worth noting how the economic rationalisation for greater educational equity plays out in the global policy field, particularly through testing regimes such as NAPLAN and PISA.
The challenge for policymakers, schools and teachers is how to respond to increasing pressure to lift test results on PISA, TIMSS and NAPLAN, while also addressing systemic inequality in order to ensure that every Australian student is given access to a meaningful education.While there are parts of their analysis I would agree with, there is still the same focus on the importance of certain shifts in PISA and other test results, the thing that I am challenging.