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Long term decline in student results should ring alarm bells for the Albanese Government

Shadow Minister for Education, Sarah Henderson, has called on the Albanese Government to take the tough action required to reverse declining academic standards in Australian schools with international testing showing that nearly half of Year 10 students are functionally illiterate.

The results of the OECD-run Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released overnight show that while the performance of Australian students has flatlined, in the longer term there is an alarming decline.

PISA 2022 assessed the knowledge and skills of 690,000 15-year-old students in 81 countries, with 13,437 Australian teenagers from 743 schools completing the test.

In 2000 when Australia first participated in PISA, students scored on average 533 for mathematics, 528 for science and 528 for reading.  In the 2022 PISA, student results fell 10 per cent to 487 for mathematics, 507 for science (down 4 per cent) and 498 for reading (down 6 per cent).

Since 2018, Australia’s global ranking increased to 10th in science, 12th in reading and 17th in maths, but this is due to a major decline by some high-performing countries during the pandemic.

“There is no excuse for declining standards and the lack of tough action from the Albanese Government,” Senator Henderson said.

“While the 2022 results have flatlined, there is very little to celebrate.

“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.

“Alarmingly, half of all students tested performed below expectation in maths, with 43 per cent failing to meet the grade in reading and 42 per cent in science.

“Given one in three students failed the most recent NAPLAN test, raising school standards including by adopting evidence-based teaching methods in every Australian classroom must be a critical priority.

PISA 2022 shows students from low socio-economic families are around five years of schooling behind other teenagers, with Indigenous students four years behind and students in regional and remote areas at a disadvantage compared with students in the cities.

“These results underline the importance of strong action to better support disadvantaged students and those living in regional and remote Australia.   The evidence shows the greatest disadvantage a child can suffer is not their postcode, but a lack of proficiency in literacy and numeracy.”

The PISA results confirm that once funding per student reaches a certain level, the impact of funding on determining academic outcomes recedes.

Classroom disruption is identified as a major issue, with 25 per cent of surveyed students noting an inability to work effectively, 33 per cent inattentive and a 40 per cent distracted by digital devices.

“With a concerning correlation between mobile phone use and poor results, combating classroom disruption must be a top priority for the government.

“It is vital the new National School Reform Agreement delivers the reforms required to raise school standards including mandating proven teaching methods, fixing the teacher shortage, improving the curriculum and holding school systems to account when they fail students particularly disadvantaged cohorts,” Senator Henderson said.

“For our nation to prosper, young Australians must be given every opportunity to reach their full potential.”

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