Australia has recently climbed the ladder in international reading rankings which has reversed a decade of underperforming results in literacy outcomes for domestic schools.
The PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Study) has ranked Australia 21st out of 50 nations in reading outcomes for Year 4 students. This is an marked improvement from 27th in the last study that took place in 2011.
The study noted Russia and Singapore as the best worldwide performers for reading. England, Ireland and Poland were also ranked very highly in reading outcomes.
Australia landed itself in the middle area of performers alongside Canada and the United States. Australia performed better than New Zealand, France and Spain.
Despite the overall improvement in results the study noted that the performance of Australia’s lowest 20% of students had not changed. ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research) announced that the results were satisfactory.
ACER officials stated that it was pleasing that Australia had made a significant improvement since the last occurrence of the study in 2011. Despite the highest levels of Australian students ranking higher, officials acknowledged there was still a lot of work to be done.
It was noted that the biggest issue was the falling behind of students in lower socio-economic bands. These students, many of whom are Indigenous, were not reading at a level that matched average Australian or international standards.
This was reflected in statistics that showed only 57% of Indigenous students were meeting or exceeding the international benchmark. This was in comparison to 83% of non-Indigenous students.
At a state by state level, the study shows that Victoria had the best results. 86% of Victorian year 4 students had met the international reading benchmark.
The ACT performed marginally better than NSW with 82% of year 4 students achieving the benchmark. Western Australia lifted its performance to 81% while Queensland lifted theirs to 78%.
The worst results were found in the Northern Territory and South Australia with 75% of students hitting the international benchmark. Education officials welcomed the nationwide improvements but noted that there was still a huge job ahead.
The improvements to nationwide averages were thanks to reforms in teaching quality, a simplification of school curriculums and an increased focus on the most basic literacy skills.
Education officials reaffirmed that Australia should be proud of its education system. This paise included the marvellous work of Australian teachers and other staff.
Australian schools will still need to strive for better outcomes to remain competitive on the international stage. The results also highlight a need to give more attention to Indigenous students and their literacy performance.
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