Poor Australia education ranking prompts soul-searching

Poor Australia education ranking prompts soul-searching, by the BBC. A recent international study found Australia crashing down international leaderboard for education, falling behind Kazakhstan, for year 4 and year 8 maths and science.

Critics say the apparent dumbing-down is Australian society’s own making, that too much emphasis on pursuits such as sport, and an outdoorsy culture, has long compromised the regard for academic endeavours like science and maths. Since the Australian of the Year award began in 1960, five have been scientists, while 14 have come from sport. …

Maths and science requirements were weakened:

In 2001, Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, dropped the requirement for students to study maths or science to graduate from senior high school. Three others among the eight states and territories mirrored that step, while the rest require very minimal study of the two subjects compared with other countries.

“What message does that send to students?” Rachel Wilson, senior lecturer in educational assessment and evaluation at the University of Sydney, told the BBC.

“It’s a reflection of Australia not valuing these skills. There’s evidence that a lot of students now drop out of maths and science as soon as they can, and that’s frightening, because those skills are fundamental in the modern world. Unfortunately in Australia there seems to be a lot of resistance to the realities of the new world.

Most teachers are clueless about maths, and few people who can do maths want to become teachers — because if you can do maths, there are better jobs available.

In a knock-on effect, roughly 40% of maths classes in Australia from Years Seven to Ten were now taught without a qualified maths teacher, Dr Wilson said. Also, university entrance scores to study teaching remained among the lowest.

The Australian curriculum is too retarded:

Under an article posted on Facebook, Arjun Swaminathan wrote: “Unlike most people here, I don’t blame the government or teachers. I blame ordinary Australians and their lack of respect for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education. There’s a reason why the top classes in maths and science in high schools are full of kids with Asian ancestry and it isn’t because their brains are any bigger but because their parents fostered a culture of education.”

Sydney parent Rowena Lam said the TIMSS results reflected those of her child, in Year Five in a NSW government school.

“When she did a nationwide maths exam, her results were great,” Mrs Lam told the BBC. “When she did an international test, she crashed. Her school had covered only one of the five areas tested. The students who did well all had after-hours coaching. Australia needs to really do something about this.