PISA Study Shows the Need for a Real Education Revolution

Save Our Schools (SOS), a public education advocacy group, has called on the Rudd Government to reduce the achievement gap in education outcomes in Australia. SOS spokesman, Trevor Cobbold, said today that glaring inequities revealed by the PISA 2006 study shows the need for a real revolution in education in Australia.

“While Australia remains in the top league of countries, education policy and funding in needs a thorough overhaul to address ongoing education disadvantage.

“The achievement gaps between rich and poor and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous are the major problems facing Australia’s education system. It is unacceptable that such gaps exist in an egalitarian country committed to a ‘fair go’ for all.

“The PISA 2006 report shows that 15 year-old students from low socio-economic status (SES) families are about two and a half years behind their high SES counterparts. A similar gap exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. These are enormous achievement gaps, despite some slight improvements since 2003.

“The report shows that:

  • 22-23 per cent of students in the lowest SES group and 38-40 per cent of Indigenous students did not achieve adequate proficiency in reading, mathematics and science compared to only 5 per cent of the highest SES group.
  • Only 4-6 per cent of students in the lowest SES group and 2-4 per cent of Indigenous students achieved the highest proficiency level in reading, mathematics and science compared with 21, 29 and 26 per cent respectively of students in the highest SES group.

“As the report states: This gap places an unacceptable proportion of 15-year-old students at serious risk of not achieving levels sufficient for them to participate fully in the 21st century work force and to contribute to Australia as productive citizens. [p.246]

Mr. Cobbold said that there is an urgent need to change direction in Federal Government education policy and funding.

“The Howard Government’s education policies and funding extended middle and upper class welfare. As Education Minister, the new Leader of the Opposition dismissed claims of a social divide in education and said that the demonstrated relationship between socio-economic status and student achievement was a statistical artifice.

“The PISA results show the need for policy change. An education revolution is needed to address education disadvantage and reduce the gap between rich and poor and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

“Federal and State/Territory governments should give priority to implementing the social equity goal of the National Goals for Schooling which commits governments to improving the learning outcomes of educationally disadvantaged and Indigenous students so that they come to match those of other students.

“This requires more than putting computers in schools, extending vocational education and continuing with discredited funding approaches.

“It requires improved social policies to address poverty and hardship. It means re-directing school funding to address learning need and social disadvantage in education. It means supporting teaching and curriculum change in schools so as to reduce the achievement gap.

“All schools in Australia should be part of a national effort to improve education equity. All schools should have a plan to reduce the achievement gap. This would be a real education revolution.”

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