Page 767 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 1 April 2008
It was interesting in March to see a press release from the minister headed “Research confirms ACT students are among the best”. And that is what we would expect. When these surveys have been done before, the ACT has always performed very, very well. When you look through the minister’s press release, you see that there is only one statistic. I was quite shocked. If we are doing as well as the minister claims we are, I expected this press release to be full of statistics lauding the achievements of ACT students. The only statistic that the minister deemed worthy of praise and to be put in his press release was—and I quote:
Around 70% of ACT students performed at a level higher than the OECD … average in each of the three literacies. The average for Australia overall for each is around 62%.
It is not uncommon in these sorts of reports to see that the ACT is doing much better than the rest of Australia. It is because we actually do care about and invest more in education, and have done traditionally for some time. But for the minister to put that press release out would either indicate that the minister had not read the report or that he did not understand it. Perhaps the minister should buy himself a dictionary and look up the two words “significant” and “decline”, particularly when one follows the other. In The performance of students in the Australian Capital Territory on PISA—report to the ACT Department of Education and Training, dated February 2008, put together by the Australian Council for Educational Research, the first key finding is as follows:
There has been a significant decline in the reading literacy performance of students in the ACT from PISA 2000 to PISA 2006.
Let me repeat that:
There has been a significant decline in the reading literacy performance of students in the ACT ...
The next dot point states:
There was no statistically significant difference in mathematical literacy …
That dot point goes on to state:
There was a significant decline in the mathematical literacy performance of students in both the ACT and Australia at the 90th and 95th percentile.
So there was a significant decline in reading literacy and a significant decline in mathematical literacy at the higher level. Science, it would appear, is going along as per normal. So I give credit to the minister for that. We have actually been able to hold that average. But the next dot point in the report states:
Proficiency levels in reading and literacy have barely changed over the three cycles of PISA ...