Australian 15-year-olds are falling behind in maths amid a sizeable gap between rich and poor students, an international test has shown.
The Program for International Student Assessment, which assessed the performance of students from 65 countries, showed 16 nations were ”significantly higher” than Australia.
Australia recorded one of the largest declines in maths among OECD countries since 2000, a Fairfax Media analysis found.
In total, 775 Australian schools participated – and all states and territories except Victoria dropped substantially in ”maths literacy” since 2003. Victoria’s performance fell since 2003 but the decline was not considered statistically significant.
The assessment is held every three years. It includes academic tests and students’ evaluations of their schooling and background.
The test, held last year, focused on maths but also covered science and reading.
A report on the assessment, produced by the Australian Council for Educational Research, found more than 20 per cent of Australian students felt they did not belong, were not happy or were unsatisfied at school. Maths performance declined more for girls than boys.
The raw mean scores showed Australia was equal 16th in science and equal 13th in reading.
The council’s director of educational monitoring and research, Sue Thomson, said the test results were a ”major concern”.
”Other countries have managed to improve their performance over this same period of time whereas we’ve actually declined,” she said.
However, Australia exceeded the OECD average in maths.
Dr Thomson said there were substantial gaps between the performance of rich and poor students across the subject areas although it was less pronounced in Victoria.
”That’s the equivalent of about 2½ school years difference on average.”
But federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the report showed Australia’s education system was ”high-equity where socio-economic status matters less when compared to other OECD countries”.
Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon said Victorian schools were ”high performers” but the results confirmed the need for ”ambitious education reforms”.
”Inconsistency within and between schools continues to impact our performance, which means we have the capacity to be world-leading, but more work needs to be done,” he said. ”The focus of our reform agenda is on lifting our schools into the global top tier over the next decade.”
The report found Australians were more disruptive in class than students from seven high-performing countries.