Time to Get Real on Maths as PISA Reveals Decline

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Urgent action is needed to strengthen the teacher workforce and reverse Australia’s falling mathematical performance warns the Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI).

Released this week, the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data shows the nation’s performance in mathematics is in continued decline. Compared to other countries, over the period 2003-2018 Australia’s 33 point decline in mathematical literacy was second-highest compared to Finland which has dropped 37 points since 2003. Third was New Zealand which dropped by 29 points over the 15-year period.

While unfortunately not surprised by the report, AMSI Schools Program Manager, Janine Sprakel said Australia needed to get real on the issues impacting mathematics performance to ensure it remained economically and socially competitive on the world stage.

“This data should be a wake-up call for all Australians. It is critical we act now to reverse this trend starting with measures to address out-of-field mathematics teaching and strengthen the primary and secondary teacher workforce,” she said.

Janine Sprakel said it was worrying that students were entering senior high school unlikely to pursue high level calculus-based maths subjects into Year 12.

“Only 29.6% of Year 12 students participated in high-level mathematics in 2018, a trend that looks certain to continue. This represents a significant loss for the Australian economy in terms of capability and skills needed in the future,” she said.

The gap between high and low maths performers also continues to increase, with persistent inequality putting regional and remote students at risk of falling even further behind.

“It is deeply concerning to see that 45% of students in remote schools perform poorly in mathematical literacy. This locks them out of opportunities and has the potential to put the brakes on their futures leading to disadvantage that will likely follow them into adulthood,” said Janine Sprakel.

With countries like Sweden and the UK showing improvements since 2015, the good news is there is growing evidence that interventions can work.

“As we look to reverse trends here in Australia, it would be worth understanding what is working so well for these countries. To see how we can learn from their success,” Janine Sprakel said.


About AMSI

AMSI is the collaborative enterprise of Australia’s mathematical sciences. Established as an independent platform and advocate for the discipline, the Institute has built a record of national and international achievement as the recognised leader in delivery of services, activities and strategic initiatives across the mathematical pipeline.

Working with key discipline, government and industry partners, AMSI delivers its mission through through the delivery of activities and engagement under its Schools, Research, Higher Education and APR.Intern Programs.

Available For Interview
Janine Sprakel, AMSI Schools Program Manger

Media Contact: Laura Watson
E: media@amsi.org.au
M: 04215 18733

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