Conducted every four years, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) has found that Australian students are struggling in comparison to their international counterparts.
Among the significant results were that since 2011, Australia has plunged from 18th
for Year 4 mathematics, 12th
for Year 8 mathematics and 12th
for Year 8 science. Australia held its 25th
place for Year 4 science. TIMSS looks at the Year 4 results of 49 nations and Year 8 outcomes of 39 nations.
Kazakhstan, a former Soviet republic in Central Asia with a population of approximately 18 million, has moved past Australian on the leaderboard for all four of the aforementioned subjects.
Responding to the sobering news, Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham
said that being lower on the report card than Kazakhstan should act as a wake-up call.
"I don't want to denigrate Kazakhstan, or indeed their artistic skills with movies like Borat
," Birmingham said. The satirical movie Borat
was actually a British-American production made by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.
"I think though Australia should be seeking to be amongst the best in the world and declines like this are unacceptable and that we need to be working hard to turn it around."
A number of other countries are outperforming Australia across the TIMSS results, including England, the United States, Singapore, Chinese Taipei and Japan.
According to the Federal Government, TIMSS results have been on a downward spiral since 2003, despite the fact federal education spending has increased by nearly 50 per cent.
Increasing funding is not the answer, says Birmingham, who aims to raise the subject of the poor results in talks with states and territories regarding funding beyond 2017.
"Some of the things we're doing in our classrooms clearly aren't up to scratch."
"What I am urging the Opposition – the Labor Party – and the states and territories to focus on is how we can best use what is a record and growing investment in Australian schools to get the best possible outcomes for the future rather than continuing a debate that pretends that money itself is the solution."
Labor education spokesperson Tanya Plibersek said the results prove that the Gonski education-funding model was necessary.
"They show that kids from poorer families in poorer schools in remote and regional areas are doing worst of all," said Plibersek.
"It is a wake-up call to Australia because we think of ourselves as a wealthy nation, a nation with a highly developed education system."
Australia has ignominiously fallen behind the likes of Kazakhstan on the latest international leaderboard for education.