China tops educational system rankings; Australia doesn’t crack top 15

Results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) are in, and things aren’t looking so good for Australia. Run every three years, the PISA measures 15-year-old students’ performance in maths, science and reading in order to judge the quality of different countries’ educational systems.

According to the results of the 2018 assessment, the top position in all three subjects went to China, with Singapore in second place and Macau, a special administrative zone in China, in third. Other strong performers include Hong Kong, Estonia, Finland and Japan. Meanwhile, Australia ranks 29th in mathematics, 17th in science and 16th in reading.

Speaking to the New Daily, Catherine Scott, former research fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), blamed the poor performance on Australia’s cavalier approach to giving out education degrees. In other words, our teachers are not up to snuff.

“The only indicator we have of intellectual competency is a student’s ATAR,” Scott said. “So if we’re letting people in on quite low enter scores, we’re admitting people who don’t have the cognitive competency to do a good job in the classroom. We’ve allowed the quality of the teaching force to lower.”

Studies show that the requirements for obtaining a teaching degree (i.e. the ATAR scores) have become far less stringent over the past decade.

The New Daily reports that, according to the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, only 82 percent of year ten students in Australia satisfied the international baseline reading level in 2015.

Again, Scott says teachers are to blame.

“The techniques that people are given to teach are inadequate. People come out of their initial training with no idea how to teach kids how to read,” she said. “The problem is a whole ideology has taken over teacher education that includes ways of teaching that don’t work. The programmed way to teach reading is called balanced literacy and it’s garbage. It leaves 25 per cent of kids illiterate.”