Australian schools are falling behind in innovation

23 July 2014

If you are interested in how Australian schools are tracking against their international equivalents, the latest report into the state of Australia's school education system from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) provides some worrying insights.  The Report shows that Australian schools are falling behind in innovation when compared to schools overseas.  The OECD's report entitled 'OECD 2014: Measuring Innovation in Education: A New Perspective' (Report) is available from the OECD website and a summary 'Country Note' for Australia has also been published (Note).

The OECD believes that the 'ability to manage innovation is essential to an improvement strategy in education' and accumulating data to find out how practices are changing within classrooms, such as time spent employing front of class practices and use of computers, is key to developing an 'international education knowledge base'.  The Report measures changes in school and classroom innovation practices over an eleven year period between 2000-2011 against the OECD mean.  The Report showed that:

  • Australia underperforms the innovation mean with the United States, Austria, New Zealand and the Czech Republic; and
  • top innovators were Denmark, Indonesia, South Korea, the Netherlands and the Russian Federation.

Despite the negative results from the Report, a 'top 5' list of Australian innovative practices was also included, listing:

  • more parental involvement in school projects, programmes and trips; and
  • more external evaluation of teachers practices by inspectors,

amongst our best innovations.

The Report follows another damning publication, the '2012 Programme for International Student Assessment' (PISA Report), which found from its analysis of mathematical, scientific and reading literacy amongst students across 65 countries, that secondary students in Australia were falling behind in maths and reading skills.  PISA is managed by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) for the OECD. The PISA Report is available here and when it was released in December 2013 its results produced panic amongst parents and fingerpointing from the Federal Government.

However, since the PISA Report, another more positive report for Australian schools was released earlier this month by the same institution.  The new report is based on a PISA 2012 financial literary assessment which involved testing 15 year-olds on their knowledge of personal finances and their ability to apply it to their financial problems. The results were published in a report called 'Financing the Future: Australian students’ results in the PISA 2012 Financial Literacy assessment' and it showed that:

  • Australia is in the top five in the world’s first international assessment of young peoples' financial literacy; and
  • in general, the higher the level of a student’s socioeconomic background, the better the student’s performance in financial literacy.

Clearly there are no shortage of reports into issues affecting the education sector.   Other reports released by the OECD in 2013 have revealed interesting insights into trends in Australian classrooms such as:

  • a report on the key findings from the 'Teaching and Learning International Survey' which showed that 39% of Australian teachers feel undervalued; and
  • a report on 'Education Policy Outlook: Australia', which analysed education policies and reforms across OECD countries which found that funding for Australian schools lacked transperancy and coherence.

The real question is: what is there to gain from comparing Australian students to students from countries who are geographically and culturally very different? Do comparisons with countries such as China, Latvia and Israel make sense given the differences in educational system and values?

Overall, these reports produce insights into how our students are placed on the world stage in secondary education.  And although our students are not 'competing' against other students overseas for anything in particular at this stage of their education, it's a matter of public interest if Australia's standard of education slips to a level below which our graduates are able to compete internationally for university courses or jobs.

Ultimately, OECD reports are just that - reports - unless State and Federal Governments, and of course schools themselves, decide to respond to them and implement changes to Australia's current education priorities and practices.

What do you think about the latest OECD report?  Do you find these reports are helpful?


About the author

Xenia Hammon is the  Editor – School Governance. She can be contacted here.

CompliSpace Media

CompliSpace is an Australian company that helps over 600 non-government schools across Australia with their governance, risk, compliance and policy management. What makes us different is that we monitor over 200 sources of legal and regulatory change to ensure our clients have the updated policies and tools they need to meet new requirements. We share that knowledge with the broader Education community via School Governance.