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Australian Schools, Comparison with World-PISA Scores

The heterogeneous education systems and teaching methodologies across different countries of world have brought the various global education surveys. These surveys provide the shrinking world of today with some stark reality and space for introspection to improve ways and methods towards quality education. Australian students too take some of these international benchmarks; we can discuss Australia’s student’s position per se world in light of such surveys.

PISA –An Introduction

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a worldwide study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in member and non-member nations of 15-year-old school pupils' scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading.

PISA is sponsored, governed, and coordinated by the OECD. The test design, implementation, and data analysis is delegated to an international consortium of research and educational institutions led by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). The assessment instruments fundamental to PISA's reading, mathematics, science, problem-solving, computer-based testing, background and contextual questionnaires are similarly constructed and refined by ACER.

It is done with a perspective to improving education policies and outcomes. PISA aims at testing literacy in three competence fields on a 1000 point scale. They are:
  • Reading
  • Mathematics
  • Science

PISA- Comparison

PISA 2012 was presented on 3 December 2013, with results for around 510,000 participating students in all 34 OECD member countries and 31 partner countries. This testing cycle had a particular focus on mathematics, where the mean score was 494. About 14,481 Australian students were measured in the assessment.

Who took part in Australia?
The Australian PISA 2012 sample of 14,481 students, whose results feature in the national and international reports, was drawn from all jurisdictions and all school sectors according to the distributions shown in the table below.

Sector

 JurisdictionGovernment
 CatholicIndependent Total
 ACT 26 8 11 45
 NSW 113 43 28 184
 VIC 77 31 26 134
 QLD 83 24 25 132
 SA 56 18 18 92
 WA 51 18 21 90
 TAS 47 12 12 71
 NT 17 5 5 27
 Australia 470 159 146 775

Note: These numbers are based on unweighted data.

Interpreting Differences

Analyses of the PISA data indicate that one school year in Australia corresponds to an average of 35 score points in mathematical literacy, and an average of 34 score points in scientific and reading literacy.

Mathematical Literacy

  • Australia achieved an average score of 504 points in the PISA 2012 mathematical literacy assessment, which was significantly higher than the OECD average of 494 score points.

  • Sixteen countries scored significantly higher in mathematical literacy than Australia. Shanghai–China achieved the highest score, with an average score of 613 points. The difference between Shanghai–China’s and Australia’s mean scores represents just over three years of schooling.

  • Seven countries had mean scores that were not significantly different from Australia. All other countries performed at a level significantly lower than Australia.

  • The range of mathematical literacy scores between the lowest and highest performing students (students who scored between the 5th and 95th percentiles) was wider for Australian students (315 score points) than the OECD average (301 score points). A wider range indicates that there is a larger gap between the lowest and highest achieving students.

Scientific Literacy

  • Australia achieved an average score of 521 points in the PISA 2012 scientific literacy assessment, which was significantly higher than the OECD average of 501 score points.
  • Seven countries performed significantly higher than Australia. Shanghai–China achieved the highest score, with an average score of 580 points. In terms of schooling, Shanghai–China performed almost two years higher than Australia.
  • Australia’s performance was not significantly different from that of 11 countries, while all other countries performed at a level significantly lower than Australia.
  • Australia showed a comparatively wide distribution of students’ performance in scientific literacy, with 329 score points between students in the 5th and 95th percentiles, compared to 304 score points across OECD countries.

Reading Literacy

  • Australia achieved an average score of 512 points in the PISA 2012 reading literacy assessment, which was significantly higher than the OECD average of 496 score points.

  • Nine Countries scored significantly higher in the reading literacy than Australia. Shanghai–China achieved the highest score. The difference between Shanghai-China’s and Australia’s mean scores represents more than one-and-a-half-years of schooling.

  • Eleven Countries had mean scores that were not significantly different from Australia. All other countries performed at a level significantly lower than Australia.

  • Australia’s spread of 318 score points between the lowest and highest performing students was wider than the OECD average of 310 score points.

Comparison Points

Australian students’ motivation to learn and succeed in mathematics

Students’ motivation and engagement can have a profound impact on their classroom performance in the short term and can affect the quality of their learning in the long term.
  • Australian students, on average, demonstrated a higher level of intrinsic motivation (or higher levels of enjoyment or interest in mathematics) than the OECD average. This was similar to levels reported by students in the United States, New Zealand and Canada, but below the levels of enjoyment reported by the high-performing countries of Shanghai– China and, in particular, Singapore.

  • The percentages of Australian students who agreed that learning mathematics would enhance employment, career and study opportunities were higher than the OECD average. Approximately one-third of females in Australia reported that they did not think that mathematics was important for later study compared to one-fifth of males.

  • Australian students’ average level of self-concept (how competent they perceived themselves to be in mathematics) was just above the OECD average. Australia and all comparison countries had a significant difference by sex in reported self-concept in favour of males, with the biggest gap being found in Shanghai–China.

  • Students from New Zealand had the lowest calibers of self-efficacy, whereas students from Shanghai–China reported levels of self-efficacy almost a standard deviation higher than the OECD average. Students from Australia and the United Kingdom scored at a similar level, just above the OECD average. Females scored significantly lower than males on the self-efficacy index in all countries, with Australia and New Zealand having the largest gap between the sexes.

  • In Australia and all comparison countries there was a pattern for students to take responsibility for failure in mathematics, rather than attribute it to external factors. In Australia, male and Indigenous students reported more of a tendency to attribute failure in mathematics to their own efforts compared to females and non-Indigenous students, who were more likely to attribute failure to factors beyond their control.

The Australian school environment and conditions for learning

School climate shapes the environment of students’ learning. PISA’s examination of school climate was considered in relation to five domains: order, safety and discipline; academic outcomes; social relationships; school facilities; and school connectedness.
  • Australian students, on average, reported a higher frequency of student’s not listening, noise and disorder, and teachers needing to wait a long time for students to quieten down compared to the OECD average and all other comparison countries, except New Zealand.

  • Australian students were more likely than students from all comparison countries to report skipping days of school in the two weeks prior to the PISA assessment. Australian students were less likely than the OECD average to report skipping classes.

  • Australia’s jurisdictions, in general, had access to a high quality of resources compared to the OECD average. However, 38% of Northern Territory principals reported that a lack of access to science laboratory equipment affected learning ‘to some extent’ or ‘a lot’, while 52% of principals in the Australian Capital Territory and 30% of Tasmanian principals reported learning being affected ‘to some extent’ or ‘a lot’ by inadequate internet connections. Thirty-two per cent of principals in the Australian Capital Territory and 29% of principals in the Northern Territory reported problems with a shortage or inadequacy of instructional materials.

  • Principals from the United Kingdom and New Zealand reported the highest levels of teacher morale. While teacher morale is perceived by principals to be highest in Australian Capital Territory schools, it is below the OECD average in Northern Territory schools.

  • On average, over 20% of Australian students felt that they did not belong, were not happy or were not satisfied at school.

Quality and Equity in Australian Schools

One of the most significant indicators of equity in education is the intensity of the relationship between the social background of students and their educational achievement. If the relationship is strong, the education system is not acting to produce more equitable outcomes, but is instead reinforcing privilege where it subsists by conferring higher scores and gainsaying the potential to achieve where privilege does not already exist.

Australian school comparison with world PISA

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