You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Aust risks becoming schools laggard: govt

AAP logoAAP 6/12/2016

The second release of international data showing Australian students slipping behind in maths, science and reading has the federal education minister calling for co-operation from the states.

Simon Birmingham acknowledges Australia's performance in the three-yearly Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) was worrying - and it's a trend.

The release comes on the back of last week's Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) showing Australian students still middle of the pack after 20 years of testing.

Senator Birmingham, who will meet with his state and territory counterparts next week, says given the wealth of the nation and scale of investment, Australia should be an education leader, not risk becoming a laggard.

"I hope that ministers, who of course directly administer our school systems, will actually engage in constructive conversation with me about how we can work co-operatively to address this very serious decline," he told ABC radio on Wednesday.

Senator Birmingham says as a father of a four and five-year-old he shares the concerns of parents.

"What I want to make sure we do is actually work to the evidence."

Australia is above the OECD average, but sits equal 10th in science, equal 12th in reading and equal 20th in maths, according to analysis by the Australian Council for Educational Research, which reports on the study.

"The PISA results are showing that we are getting worse at preparing our students for the everyday challenges of adult life in the 21st century," the council's Sue Thomson told AAP.

There is an issue with the teaching of maths and science in Australia, Dr Thomson says.

"TIMSS has shown that and now PISA has shown it again," she said.

"Other countries are getting better than we are and we're not even just standing still in this one, we're falling behind as well."

More than half-a-million 15-year-old's complete the test worldwide, aimed at measuring how well they use their knowledge to meet real-life challenges, with more than 14,000 Australian students taking part.

The 2015 test, which focused on science, asked students about issues such as migratory bird patterns, running in hot weather and sustainable fish farming.

After sitting behind the likes of Kazakhstan and Slovenia in the TIMSS , Australia was outperformed by Finland in all three PISA areas, Vietnam in Science and Slovenia, again, in maths.

Singapore was the highest performing country across the board.

"I don't think there is any good news stories out of it because all of the gaps that we measure have continued," Dr Thomson said.

Labor's education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek believes the concerning data shows why needs-based funding is required to direct extra money to students falling behind.

"What the PISA results show is a highly inequitable education funding system leading to highly inequitable results," she told ABC radio.

The Australian Education Union also says the results shows the urgent need for investment in disadvantaged schools through the full six years of needs-based Gonski funding to 2019.

The Centre for Independent Studies says the recent reports show the country's education system has serious deficiencies.

"Rankings are interesting but this is not the World Cup. The trend in Australia's own performance over time is more important, and unfortunately the trend is very clearly downward," the centre's senior research fellow Dr Jennifer Buckingham said.

Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said the government needed to stop talking about issues like industrial relations and focus on education.

Teacher quality and training was a big part of the issue, he said, with many maths and science classes being taught by teachers not trained in those subjects.

"We're just not cutting the mustard," he told Sky News.

Liberal frontbencher Karen Andrews said parental engagement was also needed to stop maths and science results going backwards.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon