Review aiming to achieve excellence in schools

December 12, 2017

The Australian Government has initiated a review looking at ways to achieve excellence in Australian schools. The review will examine and report on how Australian schools could use additional funding to improve student performance.

Australia has remained one of the leading countries in terms of public investment in education—at the same time as students’ average performance in science and mathematics has declined in relative terms.

The Academy made a substantive submission to the inquiry, which was chaired by David Gonski, who also delivered the 2011 Gonski Review.

The core message of the submission was that a solid grounding in science and maths in both primary and secondary school is vital for younger Australians.

Beyond this key principle, the Academy noted that:

  • fundamental science knowledge should continue to include a coherent understanding of scientific concepts, and generate experience and trust in the process of scientific inquiry
  • education should build an appreciation of science as a human endeavour, as well as how science shapes society and how society shapes science.

The submission acknowledged the evidence that the average performance of Australian students in maths and science is falling behind that of their counterparts in other developed (and many developing) nations.

Policy responses will need to include more effective evaluation of programs intended to improve student performance (to see what works, and what doesn’t), and supporting new and existing teachers through best practice training and professional learning.

A solid grounding in science and maths … is vital for younger Australians.

Realising this broader and deeper culture of evaluation can be fostered and supported by a National Education Evaluation Agreement, as recommended by the Productivity Commission in its report into the National Education Evidence Base.

The Academy has developed evidence-based science and mathematics teaching and learning resources for primary and secondary schools teachers and students  for a number of years.

Our flagship Primary Connections and Science by Doing programs are used by more than three-quarters of Australian schools and school science teachers, while our new reSolve: Mathematics by Inquiry program is quickly establishing a strong network of teacher Champions across the country.

These programs have a track record of being highly effective in improving student engagement and broadening teacher skills.

© 2020 Australian Academy of Science

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