There are a lot of things that Education Minister Simon Birmingham should be embarrassed about. One thing in particular are the lies that his party told about Gonski reform.
Birmingham says he is "embarrassed for Australia" that our maths and science results have fallen behind countries such as Kazakhstan and Slovenia in the latest international rankings.
The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, released on Tuesday, shows Australia dropping 10 spots in year 4 mathematics since 2011. Australia also fell five spots in year 8 maths and year 4 science.
Senator Birmingham said he agreed with educational researchers that the results are a "wake-up call" for Australia to re-examine what is being taught in schools.
As he prepares to meet with state counterparts in a fortnight to discuss the future of schools funding, Senator Birmingham said the results do not justify more money. (Of course not….I bet it’s the fault of those teachers!)
"The conversation should be about how we will use record funding far more effectively in the future to get better outcomes for our children," he said.
Birmingham said governments should focus on increasing the number of maths and science specialists in schools and rewarding high-performing teachers.
As part of school funding negotiations, the government has proposed a new literacy and numeracy test for year 1 students so that struggling students can receive extra support.
Senator Birmingham said all students should also be required to study maths or science in year 12.
The results show Australia fell from 18th to 28th out of 49 countries in year 4 mathematics. We also 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.
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. (It would be interesting to see how testing is undertaken in Kazakhstan?)
The tests were conducted in 2014 – the first year the Gonski school funding reforms were supposed to be rolled out.
Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the results showed Australia's maths and science performance had been flatlining for decades.
"This is exactly the reason why Labor supports a better needs-based funding system," she said.
She said the results showed great disparities between high and low income students and between students in the cities and regional areas. This is why it is important to roll out the Gonski school funding deals, which target funding increases at disadvantage, she said.(The disadvantages in rural Australia are stark yet there is no indication that Birmingham will directly address that issue and as usual the National Party is nowhere to be seen when it comes to education!)
Only increased funding would allow schools to invest in more specialist maths and science teaching, she said.