The last thing students need right now is less time in the classroom. With declining academic standards in Australian schools such a critical issue, no school should be cutting attendance and compromising the education of young Australians, but that is exactly what is happening to year 10 and 11 students in government schools in Queensland, Victoria and the ACT, as reported in today’s Australian. Term 4 has been cut by two weeks, which means students miss the equivalent of five per cent of the year’s allocated instruction time. How can these bonus holidays be in the best interests of Australian teenagers? Yet the best the Minister for Education, Jason Clare, can say is ‘no comment’. At Chevalier College, a Catholic college in New South Wales, senior students next year will be forced to work remotely each Monday, which is completely unacceptable.
While the Albanese government is stuck in a vortex of reports after 18 months on the job, our schools are in freefall. The release this week of the OECD run Program for International Student Assessment, PISA, shows that, while the performance of Australian students has on average flatlined, in the longer term there is an alarming decline. We have one of the best funded school systems in the world. However, since 2000, when Australia first participated in PISA, Australian year 10 students have gone backwards in their schooling by one full year. Half of all students tested perform below expectation in maths, with 43 per cent failing to meet the grade in reading and 42 per cent in science. Of course, one in three Australian students failed the most recent NAPLAN test.
The government must do much more, including ensuring the National School Reform Agreement delivers meaningful reforms, including raising school standards by mandating the use of proven teaching methods. Saying ‘nothing’ is not good enough.