Is the Education System Failing Our Kids? The Downward Trend in PISA Results

PISA results show Australia has continued its downward trend 

In recent years, concerns have arisen about the declining performance of Australian students in international assessments, particularly in subjects like mathematics and English. The latest results from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) have experts concerned yet again, raising questions about the effectiveness of our education system. As we delve into these results, it becomes evident that something needs to be done if we want the bright future we hope for our children to be possible.

Understanding the PISA results

Before we look at the results it’s important to understand what PISA actually is. PISA is an international, large-scale assessment that measures the reading, mathematics and scientific literacy of Year 9 students. It began in 2000 and assessments have taken place every three years since. 

When the results for the 2022 assessment were released in December 2023, there was some positive commentary about Australia climbing into the top 10 of all participating countries. But experts have warned that this is more to do with the declining results of other countries, rather than any improvement from Australian students. In fact, Australia’s downward trend has continued across the board, putting today’s students a full two years behind students from 2000 in mathematics, one year behind  in science and half a year behind in English. In Victoria, the number of low performers in maths has hit a state high of 26%, with these students lacking the knowledge and skills needed to participate in the workforce. Digging deeper into the results, we see national gaps between students of different genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, cultures and geographical regions. 

What’s more, these results have occurred, despite major funding increases and a review into our education system. So what’s the problem here? Why has Australia gone from being one of the top performing countries to a state of continuous decline?

The missing piece of the puzzle

Education experts across the country have shared their two cents on what the problem is. Inadequate teaching degrees, teacher shortages, student mental health, the crowded curriculum, a system that overworks and undervalues teachers; the list goes on. While there’s no doubt all of these issues make some contribution to the overall problem, there’s also an elephant in the room that no one seems to want to talk about, likely because they’re not sure how to get rid of it.

Since the education system was built we’ve applied a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Students with widely different abilities, interests and strengths are placed in a classroom to learn the year-level curriculum in a limited amount of time, with no adjustments for any of their individual differences. We live in a world where social media can predict what products we’re interested in buying and our watches tell us if we’re on track for metabolic disease. So why haven’t we figured out a way to individualise learning? To diagnose the gaps and competencies in a student’s learning to deliver them content unique to their learning journey?

Well, this actually can be done, and it is being done in hundreds of schools and homes across Australia.

It’s called personalised learning, or differentiation, and most teachers aim to achieve it in their classrooms. But with their current workloads and lack of resources it’s almost impossible to implement.

EdTech providers like Reflective Learning Australia and Maths Pathway have stepped up to the plate to help solve this problem by developing programs to pinpoint learning gaps and competencies and design individualised programs for students. Both programs include comprehensive diagnostics that can determine exactly what students do and don’t know from the curriculum and the level that they are at for English and maths. From there, students are delivered content that aims to fill their learning gaps to create a solid foundation for their learning and extend them in areas they’re strong in.

So far, the results are showing that this approach to learning can have a huge impact. A cohort of 58 students using Reflective Learning caught up 2.2 years of learning in just 6 months, and improved overall grades by 22%. It’s not just grades that improve, students using the program also report increased motivation for learning and confidence, as they’re learning content at the right level, so they can progress and feel success.

How can parents support personalised learning?

If we want our children to be ready for the future, we must see personalised learning not as a luxury, but a necessity. After all, until the unique gaps, competencies and learning needs of every child  is taken into account, how can we ever expect to see an improvement? 

While many schools don’t yet use personalised learning programs, parents can support their child at home to close their learning gaps and extend their learning with Reflective Learning. The online tutoring program includes the comprehensive diagnostic and delivers personalised learning content and assessments to keep them on track.

You can try the program for 2 weeks for free….

Start a 7-day free trial

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