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Australian Students Lag Behind Other Countries In Key Areas

The maths skills of Australian students have slid back at least a year compared to their international counterparts, a new report says.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found student performance has declined by the equivalent of more than a full school year in maths and almost a full year in reading and science.

Australia ranked 16th in reading, 29th in maths and 17th in science, while the grouped Chinese provinces of Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang topped each category.

Education Minister Dan Tehan admitted the results were disappointing and said he would raise the matter at a meeting of the Education Council in Alice Springs next week.

"My message to the state and territory education ministers is this: leave the teachers' union talking points at home and be ambitious," he said.

"Our school systems also need to de-clutter their curriculums and get back to basics."

Australia students are falling behind other countries. Image: Getty Images.

He called on state and territory education ministers to back the entire National School Reform Agreement and include phonics as part of teacher training.

Labor education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek said the results should be a clear wake-up call for Scott Morrison and his government.

"Australia's falling performance is alarming," she said.

"After six years of failing our schoolkids, the Liberals must say how they'll fix this serious problem."

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PISA national project manager Sue Thomson said the improvement of maths performance in other countries was not being replicated in Australia.

"We are a developed, wealthy western country with justifiably high aspirations for our students so we must take notice of these results," Thomson said.

"We have observed continuing falls in our results since PISA began in 2000 and yet again the data tells us we have failed to lift our performance.

"This is about much more than just test-taking -- it's about how well we are preparing Australia's students for adult life."

Australian students are falling behind in maths. Image: Getty

Maths performance is down in all states and territories, with particularly significant declines recorded in South Australia, NSW, Tasmania, Western Australia and the ACT.

The report also notes a significant maths performance gender gap in favour of boys has returned, despite being closed in 2015.

PISA is an international measurement of how well equipped students nearing the end of compulsory schooling are to meet real-life challenges.

More than 600,000 students in 79 countries and economies took part in last year's PISA, including more than 14,000 Australian students in 740 schools.

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The maths skills of Australian students has dropped to the average result among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Other OECD member countries include advanced developed countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Japan.

The results revealed Estonia was the highest-performing OECD country in reading and science, while Japan topped results in maths.

Labor education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek said the results should be a clear wake-up call for Scott Morrison and his government.

"Australia's falling performance is alarming," she said.

"After six years of failing our schoolkids, the Liberals must say how they'll fix this serious problem."

HOW AUSTRALIAN SCHOOLS COMPARE WITH OTHER COUNTRIES

More than 600,000 students in 79 countries and regions took part in last year's Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), including more than 14,000 Australian students in 740 schools. The results revealed:

READING

1. Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang (China)

2. Singapore

3. Macao (China)

4. Hong Kong (China)

5. Estonia

6. Canada

16. Australia

MATHS

1. Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang (China)

2. Singapore

3. Macao (China)

4. Hong Kong (China)

5. Chinese Taipei

6. Japan

29. Australia

SCIENCE

1. Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang (China)

2. Singapore

3. Macao (China)

4. Estonia

5. Japan

6. Finland

17. Australia

OVERALL
  • The highest performer was the grouped provinces of Beijing-Shanghai-Jiangsu-Zhejiang in China.
  • The highest performing country was Singapore.
  • Compared to the Chinese provinces, Australian students were roughly one-and-a-half school years lower in reading, around three-and-a-half years lower in maths and around three years lower in science.
  • Compared to Singapore, Australians were one-and-one-third of a year lower in reading, around three years lower in maths and around one-and-three-quarter years lower in science.

(Source: PISA report)