Last week, an analysis of the latest PISA data by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) found student performance across various domains including reading, mathematics, and science has remained steady despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In his response to the findings, Craig Petersen, President of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council, commended students, teachers, and school leaders for their resilience in the face of major challenges, including the pandemic and significant teacher shortages.
“While many OECD countries experienced significant declines in maths and science performance due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia’s results remained stable, even showing slight improvements in our ranking among top-performing nations,” Petersen told The Educator.
“The SPC would like to acknowledge the incredible efforts of our educators in supporting students through two challenging years of disruption.”
“It’s a testament to the skill and dedication of our teaching workforce in maintaining our position while others did not fare as well.”
Petersen said positive indicators were also noted in students’ sense of belonging and experiences of bullying.
The report found that measures of belonging improved since 2018, while bullying decreased by 5%, showcasing a positive trend in the overall well-being of students.
However, Petersen expressed serious concern about the persistent socioeconomic gap in academic achievement.
“Equity needs to be the top priority in Australian education, and there must be a coordinated effort to target resources where they are most needed, with the goal of lifting the performance of students from disadvantaged backgrounds,” he said.
“Inspired by the success stories of top-performing countries in PISA, we believe that Australia can aim higher.”
Petersen said that by directing efforts towards transforming investment into teaching and learning where it is needed the most, ensuring system coherence, and supporting school leaders and their communities, Australia has the potential to close the equity gap and improve outcomes for all students.
“Investing in teachers, reducing complexity, and targeting disadvantage can make a real difference. Australia can match global leaders in education, but we must reduce segregation in education to drive any further improvement.”