Let us be calm when reading the 2019 PISA results and not point the blame solely at teachers. The report reminds us that there is much work to be done at the teacher training level, the curriculum level and also the classroom/school level.
Firstly, the recommendations from the Independent Review of the Teaching of Early Reading (2006) have still not been implemented into the curriculum.
The 2019 Preparation To Teach Reading in Initial Teachers Education report into 114 universities around Australia found that the majority of graduate teachers are being sent into classrooms without the knowledge they require to teach students to read.
Then given that PISA testing is administered to 15 years olds, we also need to consider the impact that technology is having on the brain of upper primary and secondary students.
Today in The Australian, Jennifer Buckingham, the director of strategy at MultiLit and senior research fellow in the MultiLit Research Unit, has written an insightful response to the survey on the key evidence we need to turn our education fortunes around. One key take away from the article is ‘One of the most well-kept secrets from previous PISA reports is the strong positive relationship between teacher-directed instruction and student performance in the tests. The OECD has typically preferred to promote inquiry, or project-based approaches, as part of its vision for 21st-century schools, despite its own findings favouring teaching practices more closely aligned with explicit or direct instruction.
A growing research literature is building toward an understanding that new content and skills should be taught methodically and systematically with student inquiry best introduced after the key concepts have been mastered.’ Quote excerpt: The Australian
In reading, the proportion of low performers grew from 12 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2018, while the proportion of high performers fell from 18 percent in 2000 to 13 percent in 2018. This pattern is replicated in maths and science. The above point Jennifer makes is important as a country we need to look at what we are providing for our growing proportion of low ability students. Note it is recommended that you read Jennifer’s full article.
PLD believes that the time is now for our education leaders to reflect on the levels of improvement identified for Australian students and work towards a better result for our children.