When Malcolm Turnbull came to power, he was trumpeting the use of Australia becoming agile and innovative. Quite rightly, he saw the education system being able to deliver on the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Maths.)
But like so much of what Malcolm Turnbull says, it has turned out to be hot air.
Things just seem to fall apart,
String bags full of oranges
And things within the heart;
Calamities evaporate and memories depart.
People laugh at anything
And things just fall apart.
“Things just seem to fall apart”
by Michael Leunig
Australian students have plummeted in the latest international maths and science rankings, with countries such as Kazakhstan, Cyprus and Slovenia leapfrogging us over the past four years.
The latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science study, released on Tuesday, shows Australia dropping from 18th to 28th out of 49 countries in year 4 mathematics.
Australia is plummeting down international education rankings – beaten even by Kazakhstan.
Australia fell from 12th to 17th in year 8 Maths and from 12th to 17th in year 8 Science while remaining steady at 25th place in year 4 Science.
This poll does not necessarily suggest that standards are slipping in Australia, although they might be. What it does demonstrate is that Australia is falling behind the rest of the world and this will lead to a weakening of Australia’s competitive position in global markets.
This is likely to happen slowly and the deterioration in the skill level of the Australian workforce may not start alarm bells ringing until it is too late.
We need to start thinking seriously about how much money we are prepared to invest in public education.
Kazakhstan, which has a GDP per capita of $US10,546 ($A14,100) compared to Australia’s $US54,718 ($A73,174), placed significantly below Australia in maths and science in 2011 but now outperforms us.
Fixing this problem requires complex and long-term solutions.
Simply mimicking the education systems of the top nations (all of the top five are Asian) is unlikely to be the case. The Singaporean schooling system with its highly regimented approach is unlike unlikely to work Australia. The human costs of education in Hong Kong Korea and Japan a well-documented.
Nonetheless, Education Minister Simon Birmingham is going to need to come up with a long-term plan and preferably one that will not be fraught with the political shenanigans that surrounded Gonski.
Don’t hold your breath.
From the Guardian; International maths and science rankings: keep calm but change direction