Students across the Nation have failed for the first time to exceed the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average in Maths and recorded declining global rankings in Reading and Science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) tests.
PISA measures 15-year-olds’ ability to use their reading, mathematics and science knowledge and skills to meet real-life challenges.
According to a Sydney Morning Herald article, PISA tests began in the early 2000s but by 2003 Australia's results in Maths had declined further than any country but Finland and students who sat the test last year were three years behind in Maths and more than a year behind in Reading and Scientific Literacy, compared with their Singaporean counterparts.
CEO of the World Literacy Foundation, Mr Andrew Kay said Australia’s declining rates of reading skills is a national disgrace.
"Clearly, Federal and State Governments, Education Unions and other leaders in the sector have failed our children. Australia’s drop in literacy skills from 4th in 2003 to 16th in 2018 should set off alarm bells in the whole community," Mr Kay said.
"We estimate the annual social and economic cost of illiteracy is hundreds of millions in Australia. If a child struggles to read, they often become an adult who struggles with issues related to unemployment, welfare, crime and health."
Over the past decade $473 billion Australian taxpayers dollars have been poured into education but despite this, education has gone backwards in delivering results.
Although PISA results show that there is a positive relationship between investment in education and average performance, the findings indicated that Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States all spend more than USD 107 000 per student from age 6 to 15, yet scored no better than Canada, Ireland and New Zealand, all of which spend between 10% and 30% less.
In Reading, Maths, and Science, students in South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory fell below the OECD average for the first time while New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland met the average. The ACT and Western Australia both beat the average.
However students are encouraged to keep reading. Why? Because 15-year-old students in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang outperformed their peers in all 78 participating education systems – in mathematics and science by a wide margin, and in reading, only Singapore came close.
"Our society has a moral obligation to ensure each student can read fluently in their early years and it starts from birth. Also, parents need to read to children from birth and be their child’s first teacher," Mr Kay said.
"The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results should be a wake-up call to the whole community."