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Declining abilities for Australian students

9 December, 2010

A fairly damaging report has been put out by the Program for International Student Assessment, a ranking of how well 15 year old students in OECD (i.e. developed) countries are performing. The basic summary of this is that Australian students’ results have “plummeted” since 2000, when Australia started undertaking the assessment.  The worst areas have been reading literacy and maths, with literacy abilities declining and being outperformed in maths by a dozen nations.

Perhaps the most damaging part of the report is the uneven distribution of student ability. For example, when it comes to reading literacy, higher socio-economic students are approximately 3 school years ahead of their lower socio-economic contemporaries, and urban students approximately 2 school years ahead of rural students.

Teens Struggling at English and Maths“, Australian Teacher Magazine, posted 8 December 2010.

I feel confident that our school system, in some way, can sort this out.  I feel far less confident in the system’s ability to do this with any amount of urgency – and certainly not the urgency that it should have.  Whether this should be a high priority or not, I think that the National Curriculum will get far more attention than this.

However, no one could feel confident in saying that because a child is going to school, he or she is, therefore, getting an education.  Clearly, and for many reasons, this isn’t happening as much as it could – or, arguably, should.

Those who want to get ahead must be able to find some sort of advantage.  Some students will be able to get by on sheer hard work.  Most students that I know wouldn’t do this voluntarily, though.

This is an important role that tutors can play – making sure that children don’t end up becoming a statistic.  It may not take much for a student to have that edge over other competitors for a job – but they will need something that helps them stand out.

What are some ideas that you have about making the education system better?  Post them in the comments!

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