The OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) examines what students know in reading, mathematics and science, and what they can do with what they know. It provides the most comprehensive and rigorous international assessment of student learning outcomes to date. Results from PISA indicate the quality and equity of learning outcomes attained around the world, and allow educators and policy makers to learn from the policies and practices applied in other countries.
PISA 2018 assessed the cumulative outcomes of education and learning at a point at which most children are still enrolled in formal education: the age of 15. The 15-year-olds in the PISA sample must also have been enrolled in an educational institution at grade 7 or higher. All such students were eligible to sit the PISA assessment, regardless of the type of educational establishment in which they were enrolled and whether they were enrolled in full-time or part-time education. Not all of the students who were eligible to sit the PISA assessment were actually assessed. A two-stage sampling procedure first selected a representative sample of at least 150 schools, taking into account factors such as location (state or province; but also whether the school is located in a rural area, town or city) and level of education. Then, in the second stage, roughly 42 15-year-old students were randomly selected from each school to sit the assessment. Most countries assessed between 4 000 and 8 000 students. Students selected to sit the PISA assessment received sampling weights so as to represent the entire PISA-eligible cohort.
Key findings for Australia:
- Students in Australia scored higher than the OECD average in reading (503 points) and science (503), but not significantly different from the OECD average in mathematics (491). Overall, their scores were most similar to those of students in Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- While Australia’s reading performance in PISA 2018 was similar to that observed in 2015, when considering a longer period, mean performance in reading has been steadily declining, from initially high levels, since the country first participated in PISA in 2000. Performance in mathematics has been declining too since 2003, and in science, since 2012. In reading, more rapid declines were observed amongst the country’s lowest-achieving students. In mathematics and science, performance declined to a similar extent at the top and the bottom of the performance distribution, as well as on average.
- Some 24% of advantaged students in Australia, but only 6% of disadvantaged students, were top performers in reading in PISA 2018. Yet, students’ performance in reading, mathematics and science was less strongly associated with socio-economic status in Australia than on average across OECD countries.
- Amongst high-performing students in mathematics or science, one in three boys in Australia expects to work as an engineer or science professional at the age of 30, while only about one in five girls expects to do so. Only 4% of boys, and almost no girls, in Australia expect to work in ICT-related professions.