Australia’s downward slide in performance in international rankings in maths and science education can be reversed if we arm our teachers with access to the best evidence in approaches to learning.
The release of the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) shows Australia has not improved in performances in maths and science in 20 years.
Australian Year 4 maths students were outperformed by 21 countries, Year 4 science students by 17 countries, Year 8 maths students left behind by 12 countries and Year 8 science left behind by 14 countries. Countries including Canada, England and the United States are improving and now outperform Australia. Evidence for Learning Director Matthew Deeble said it is telling that all of these countries have invested in supporting evidence-informed teaching over the last four years and it appears to be working.
‘Unfortunately in Australia arguments about the cause of the decline or the solutions to arrest it will be hotly debated but they are unlikely to be informed by evidence. It is this preference for opinion, rather than fact, that is holding us back,’ Mr Deeble said.
‘That’s because as a nation, we don’t make the best use of international and local evidence. And this is especially the case in maths and science where new programs promising quick fixes appear every day.
‘We need to arm our busy teachers and school leaders with easy access to the most dependable learning strategies - what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t.
‘For example, evidence from across the world shows that streaming students in classes of similar levels of ability undermines the confidence of those children who are not top of that class.
‘But the evidence also shows that having students working on structured tasks in small groups benefits all in the group.
‘Armed with this evidence and combined with their expertise, teachers and school leaders can then make better decisions about their own class structures, lesson plans and approaches to teaching.
‘We expect our doctors to have access to the best medical knowledge when treating our kids. We should expect our education system to provide our teachers with similar access to learning advances for teaching our kids.
‘Using the latest evidence and research also provides parents and governments with the assurance that every dollar being invested in education is being put towards things we know will give children in Australia the best start in life.’