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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Thursday, 9 December 2010) . . Page.. 6089 ..

Education—achievement gap

MR DOSZPOT: My question is to the minister for education. Minister, the OECD program for international student assessment, PISA, report states:

… low socioeconomic students in the Australian Capital Territory are not particularly well-served by their education system, with average scores for these students only just above those for Tasmania and the Northern Territory and between 19 and 24 points lower than students of the same socioeconomic level in the other five states.

Why is the education system failing to meet the needs of low socioeconomic students in the Australian Capital Territory? Why is the achievement gap between students from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds the highest in Australia?

MR BARR: I do thank Mr Doszpot for the question. It is, indeed, a concerning trend in relation to the program for international student assessment. Without wanting to diminish the value of this three-yearly assessment, about a thousand ACT students across 25 schools within the government, Catholic and independent sectors are tested every three years. It is an assessment that, given the size of the student cohort that participates, is subject to a degree of standard error higher than the more robust NAPLAN assessments that are undertaken by all students within the Australian Capital Territory.

Whilst I acknowledge that the trend for PISA results within Australia over the last decade has been concerning in that, as a nation, our results have been slipping, the ACT results continue to show the territory performing equal to the highest performing countries, Finland, Hong Kong and Singapore. There is some cause for concern in relation to some of the areas that have been highlighted within PISA but of course we have more robust data collected through NAPLAN. Until we get the 2010 NAPLAN results beyond a jurisdictional level, looking at a school-by-school level and a student-by-student level, it is difficult to draw absolute conclusions on the basis of one test. I do note that those who have been critical of the NAPLAN testing process usually say one should not be drawing conclusions on the basis of one test. The same applies in relation to PISA.

Mr Coe: Rest assured if it was the opposite, you would be bragging about it, though.

MR BARR: We acknowledge that there are challenges and that some of those challenges are shared across the nation.

Mr Coe: If it is bad, it is inconclusive. When it is good, it is a Barr media release.

MR BARR: They reflect, in my view, a long-term decline in the status of the teaching profession, which is reflected in the entry-level scores for those wanting to enter the teaching profession to go through university. So in this country what we have seen over a long period is where—

Mr Coe: You are a passionate reformer as well?

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