The math, science and reading scores of Australian 15-year-olds in all school sectors—public, private and Catholic—have dropped significantly since 2012, according to a report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
PISA compared test scores with students from 73 countries, including 14,000 Australian children. In these particular assessments, students were challenged “with questions they are likely to meet in the workforce and in every day life,” The Australian Financial Review reported.
While Australia’s scores ranked slightly above the global average in all three subjects, they confirmed a steep decline in scores over the past three years.
This occurred despite increased educational funding during the same period. According to Australian Senator Simon Birmingham, “Commonwealth funding for schools has increased by 50 per cent since 2003 while our results are going backwards.”
He further stated that “Australia ranks as spending the fifth highest amount on education [of nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development] and once you get to that level there is little value in just increasing spending.”
Experts have blamed a shortage of math and science teachers, despite a surplus of teacher graduates in the nation. For instance, in 2001, “Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, dropped the requirement for students to study maths or science to graduate from senior high school,” BBC reported. “Three others among the eight states and territories mirrored that step, while the rest require very minimal study of the two subjects compared with other countries.”
Other research suggests that student underperformance is having a negative impact on the economy. The Fairfax-Lateral Economics Index of Australia’s Wellbeing, which rates the connection between test scores and graduates’ productivity in the job market, determined that $15 billion had been lost from the nation’s economy since 2012 due to the educational standards slipping.
Overall, the decline is fueling fears that the nation “is steaming towards an education crisis, which could leave future Australians lagging behind the rest of the world,” the BBC reported.
According to Rachel Wilson, a senior lecturer at the University of Sydney: “…that’s frightening, because [math, science and reading] skills are fundamental in the modern world. Unfortunately in Australia there seems to be a lot of resistance to the realities of the new world.”