Students: One of the highest PISA performers among OECD countries, Australia has fair and inclusive practices that strive for equity, quality and high completion rates for upper secondary and tertiary education. Australia has fewer underperforming students than the OECD average, a high proportion of children enrolled in early childhood education, and comprehensive school until age 16. However, overall PISA reading performance has not improved since 2000, and rural and indigenous populations have lower academic performance and less access to tertiary education than the national average. Effective secondary and tertiary pathways in Australia aim to have students well prepared for social and labour market integration.
Key policy issues
Australia’s high education performance can be complemented with further focus on reducing inequities by tackling system-level policies which hinder equity in education, including school choice, support or funding. Continued support for professional development of teachers and school leaders can be combined with clearer evaluation and assessment information on how schools can improve. Strengthening the incentives for attaining skills demanded by the labour market is also important. A particular issue within a decentralised environment is the need for clarity in policy and in funding.
Recent policy responses
To strengthen performance and support disadvantaged and indigenous populations, Australia has made key investments in early childhood education and care, with a National Early Childhood Development Strategy (2009), has developed a number of strategies for Aboriginals peoples and Torres Islanders, and has focused on skills development, defining completion objectives for vocational education and training and ways to strengthen apprenticeships.
Various efforts are being made to raise the quality of teachers and school leadership by creating a specialised institution (the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership), setting standards, and developing an accountability system which includes a new website with key information on performance (MySchool) (2010).
Given the lack of clarity in funding, the Australian Government commissioned a Review of Funding for Schooling (Final Report, December, 2011), which examined current challenges and proposed recommendations for a new funding approach. In response, the Australian Government has introduced into Parliament the Australian Education Bill 2012 which aims to shift towards needs-based education funding.
Australia achieves higher-than-average scores in PISA, and the impact of socio-economic status on attainment is lower than the OECD average, although its PISA results have not improved since 2000 (see interactive chart below).
Secondary and tertiary education attainment in Australia is higher than the OECD average: 85% of 25-34 year-olds have attained secondary education (compared to the OECD average of 82%) and 44% have attained tertiary education (compared to the OECD average of 38%) (see interactive chart below).
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OECD work on education: www.oecd.org/education