Qld students lagging behind in maths, science


Queensland students are lagging behind their counterparts in southern states in school mathematics and science, new international test scores show.

Data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) reveals Queensland's Year 4 mathematics student results went backwards between 2015 and 2019, with 66 per cent achieving the minimum standard in the latest test.

This was down from the 69 per cent of students who met the benchmark in 2015 and below the national average of 70 per cent - with fewer Queensland kids achieving the national standard than their peers in most other states and territories.

In Year 4 science results, Queensland was the only jurisdiction to have significantly improved since 1995, with an increase in mean scores of 503 to 530.

But with 77 per cent of students hitting the national proficient standard in Year 4 science, Queensland was only ahead of WA and the NT, and slightly below the national average of 78 per cent.

It comes as experts say in order to improve results, Australia needs to address a shortage of qualified mathematics and science teachers, and the inequity between metropolitan and regional, rural and remote education.

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) deputy chief executive Dr Sue Thomson, who compiled the Australian report, said while the difference in Year 4 mathematics results over time in Queensland was not statistically significant, across Australia those results "were not a great report card".

"There's always a problem getting enough teachers who can teach [science and maths], and we need to make sure that schools are set up well so they can do what they need to do," she said.

"If we could improve education for disadvantaged students, that will improve the outcomes overall."

Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute advocacy and policy officer Dr Maaike Wienk said a lack of specialist maths teachers was part of the problem holding back achievement alongside the city, regional and rural divide.

She also urged parents to stop talking down mathematics as being difficult or something they were not successful at in the home.




"How parents interact with their children and encourage their children to engage with mathematics and science is a very important factor in students achieving in those subjects," Dr Wienk said.

She said primary school teachers needed to be "really enthusiastic mathematics teachers", so as a nation any lack of training, reluctance or anxiety around teaching mathematics had to be addressed.


In Year 8 mathematics Queensland students mean scores jumped nine points between 2015 and 2019 (from 498 in 2015 to 507 in 2019), with 67 per cent of students meeting the national standard, behind NSW and the ACT.

Queensland had high gains in Year 8 science results, improving by 17 points since 2015 (up from 507), and had a 4 percentage point increase in the number of high achievers since 2015.

In Year 8 Science Queensland had the third-highest proportion of students meeting the national proficient standard, at 74 per cent of students.

More than 1000 Year 4 students and 1600 Year 8 students in Queensland sat the TIMSS, which assessed 580,000 students around the world.

Originally published as Qld students lagging behind in maths, science

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