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Briefing paper

This Issues Backgrounder discusses Australia’s and NSW’s performance in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Although a range of factors influence educational outcomes, the association between socioeconomic background and educational outcomes is well-established, with 'a vast body of literature showing that more advantaged students tend to do better in school than disadvantaged students'. Socioeconomic background was also associated with the largest range in Australia’s most recent (2018) PISA results.

For those reasons, this Issues Backgrounder also sets out the association between NSW’s PISA 2018 scores and the socioeconomic background of NSW students. Reflecting national outcomes, NSW students from the lowest socioeconomic quartile performed approximately three years behind students from the highest socioeconomic quartile.

Academically resilient students performed well in PISA 2018 despite socioeconomic disadvantage. Two factors associated with academic resilience were a growth mindset and a positive school climate.

PISA 2018 data further suggests that socioeconomically disadvantaged students may have been particularly disadvantaged by the need for remote learning due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements.

This paper also discusses recent proposals for reform of NSW school education made by the NSW Curriculum Review; the NSW Legislative Council’s Portfolio Committee Number 3–Education; and the NSW Audit Office.

Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
Issues Backgrounder 2/August 2020