Article Title

International league : Australia's standing in international tests


In 2006, more than 14,000 15-year-old students from 356 schools across Australia took part in the third cycle of PISA - the Program for International Student Assessment. Schools were randomly selected and about 50 students were randomly selected for participation in each school. These students represented Australia in the world's biggest assessment, with a total of 400,000 students in 57 countries participating in PISA 2006. The OECD considers that mathematics, science and technology are so pervasive in modern life that it is important for students to be 'literate' in each of these areas, as well as in reading. Clearly there are many more skills in which PISA is interested than could be measured in each three-yearly survey, so a different domain is chosen to be the focus for each assessment. Reading literacy was the major domain in PISA 2000, mathematical literacy in PISA 2003, and scientific literacy in PISA 2006. In each cycle the two other domains are also measured, albeit not as comprehensively, while assessment of technological issues is embedded in each assessment. In scientific literacy Australia ranks equal fourth in the world, in reading literacy it ranks equal sixth, and in mathematical literacy equal ninth; however six years ago when PISA first measured achievement in these areas, Australia ranked equal third in science, and equal second in both mathematical and reading literacy. What has happened over these six years? The answer, to a large extent, is that Australia's level of achievement has remained the same, while that of other countries has improved. In two areas though, our achievement levels have declined: in reading, where the achievement levels of those at the highest levels have decreased, and in mathematical literacy, where the achievement level of girls has decreased. The results from the latest PISA assessment have shown that Australia does have a world-class education system - for most students - but there is much work to do to raise the achievement level of Indigenous, remote and poor students. The trends shown by these data also indicate that we have much work to do in order to maintain and improve our education system for all students. [Author abstract, ed]

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