Australian children have ‘significantly’ improved in science and maths, but regional and Indigenous kids continue to lag behind.
Australian children have ‘significantly’ improved in science and maths, but regional and Indigenous kids continue to lag behind.

Aussie kids’ test scores improve

Australia has climbed into the top 10 for Year 8 maths and science globally, but the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children has not significantly narrowed over four years.

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) has released its 2019 report into Year 4 and Year 8 learning achievements, finding an overall improvement in the nation's maths and science standards.

Australia "significantly improved" in Year 8 science and maths, and Year 4 science, in absolute terms and relative to other countries. Year 4 maths results remained unchanged.

Australian Year 8 students performed particularly strongly, and were outperformed by just six of the 39 countries surveyed.

Australian students’ results in science and maths have ‘significantly improved’. Picture: Robert Pozo/AAP
Australian students’ results in science and maths have ‘significantly improved’. Picture: Robert Pozo/AAP

Education Dan Tehan Minister welcomed the results, suggesting they showed government reforms had the education system "moving in the right direction".

"Our Government is focused on improving the literacy and numeracy skills of Australian students, because they are the fundamental building blocks of a successful education," he said.

"We all must maintain our focus on student outcomes and achieving the highest standards."

Dr Sue Thomson, ACER deputy chief executive, said while the results were encouraging, more needed to be done to boost the results of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds.

Education Minister Dan Tehan has welcomed the results. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Education Minister Dan Tehan has welcomed the results. Picture: Mick Tsikas/AAP

"Strong results in mathematics and science are vital for our long-term economy, and these findings show that some progress has been made in achieving our national goals," she said.

"However, as always, we need to note that these results are not uniform, and that there is still a solid tail of underachievement that needs to be addressed."

Between 68 and 78 per cent of Australian students hit the report's benchmark, the nationally agreed proficient standard.

But the survey, which is conducted every four years, showed that the achievement gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children had not significantly narrowed since 2015.

The results found the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids had ‘not significantly’ narrowed. Picture: Supplied
The results found the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous kids had ‘not significantly’ narrowed. Picture: Supplied

Students from remote and regional areas also continued to lag behind their metropolitan contemporaries.

The results come after a 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment report found Australian students lagged more than three years behind their Chinese counterparts.

It also revealed Australian students' scores in science had fallen to their lowest recorded level.

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said although the latest figures were an improvement, Australia was well behind where it needed to be.

"Australia's results are still not good enough - we should be at the top of the pack," she said.

"One in four Australian kids aren't meeting our national standard, (and) around one in 10 Australian kids failed to display even a basic understanding of maths.

"Results for country kids are still behind those for city kids. Results for Indigenous kids are still behind those for non-Indigenous kids."

Other key findings:

- Australian boys outperformed girls in Year 4 mathematics, but there was no significant gender difference in Year 4 science or Year 8 results

- In Year 8 mathematics, students who spoke a language other than English at home outperformed those who did not. That result was reversed in Year 4 science.  

Originally published as Aussie kids' test scores improve


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