Aussie students falling behind

AN ever-changing curriculum and a shortage of trained staff is behind the latest figures showing Australian students are falling further behind other countries in maths, science and reading, according to former maths teacher Kevin Giumelli.

Released on Tuesday night, the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) revealed a worrying trend for Australian students.

The country’s rankings fell in all subjects, with the biggest tumble from 10th to 16th in science.

Statistics showed Australian students dipped five places to 14th in reading and from 15th to 19th in mathematics.

Mr Giumelli believes the biggest hurdle, for maths in particular, is the syllabus.

“Teachers can only teach what they’re told to,” he said, boasting 50 years experience teaching and tutoring students in mathematics.

“It’s changed so much over the last four years and it’s been to the detriment of what’s being taught.”

Mr Giumeli said ensuring the basics were taught well was the key.

“It comes back to tables and number combinations. If they’ve got those right then they’re not worrying about what four fives are, they know. I think there’s a shortage of trained maths teachers in schools and that’s a problem,” he said.

Optimistic the right strategies are being implemented, Orange City Library local studies librarian Peter Douglass believes the key to bolstering the reading skills of kids is early exposure.

“If you can engage them with books early they’ll understand the value of reading, the joy of reading and as they grow they can rely on books and reading to increase their knowledge. It’s an ongoing thing,” he said.

“The philosophy behind our story time and children activities is to get the kids to come into the library and engage in books ... if we can get them at an early age and develop that habit it becomes part of their lifelong learning.”

With programs in place to improve the performance of students in literacy, numeracy and science, a Department of Education and Communities spokesman welcomed the results.

“The data from this report, with other sources of data like NAPLAN, help to inform the department’s decision making and planning,” he said.

“This data informs us on the areas we need to focus. The student survey component of the report also provides useful insights into effective teaching practices.”

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