International Education Tests; an overview 2005

This document landed on my desk this week, a short and fairly uninteresting summary of the International education tests, presented by Betsy Brown Ruzzi from the National Center on Education and the Economy (US)

What was interesting in the light of my post earier this month about ‘Is education really broken?’, is how this reports sits alongside our politicians decrying national standards and promising us education ‘revolutions’. In actual fact Australian students tested fare pretty well overall in the international league tables.

That’s not to suggest that all students are reaching literacy and numeracy targets, or that there aren’t entrenched pockets of under-achievement, or that we should stop striving for improvements, but overall Australian students ranked in the top 10 countries for all three subjects: reading, mathematics and science. Is this this crisis the politicians want us to believe they can solve?

The report makes some fairly unspectacular findings:

…students and schools perform best in a climate characterised by high expectations that are supported through strong student-teacher relations, students who are ready to invest effort and who show interest and lower levels of anxiety with mathematics, and a positive disciplinary climate.

The report has little specific to say about Australia except:

‘Australia, Canada, Finland and Japan stand out for high standards of both quality and equity, with abaove average mathematics performances and below-average impac of socio-economic background on student performance.’

Remember, this sits next to Bishop’s statements from her recent press conference like:

Notwithstanding the billions of dollars invested in schools in Australia, there is evidence that standards have declined, particularly in the teaching of the fundamental areas of literacy and numeracy.

Employers complain of young people lacking basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Universities admit they are offering remedial classes in English and mathematics, to bring first-year students up to an acceptable level.

The Australian Defence Force Academy says that many Year 12 school leavers are not ready for university mathematics despite achieving good results in Year 12 maths and finishing in the nation’s top 15%.

At the same time as Bishop slams the achievements of Australian school systems, Rudd is calling for revolution. It would be good to depoliticise education in this country.

Read a PDF of the full report HERE

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