Australia was among CIEB’s Top Performing Countries for 2009. This profile has been archived and is no longer being updated.
Student Support Systems
While Australia’s school system is among the world’s best performers, it has long struggled with a set of achievement gaps between boys and girls, students from high- and low-income families, and indigenous and non-indigenous students. In recent years, the Australian government has made a priority of addressing the unique concerns of Australia’s indigenous communities. In June 2011, the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) released an Action Plan that sets out a common approach for all states to work on closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous students. Several schools with primarily aboriginal student populations will undertake the policies outlined in the plan, which will then be expanded to all schools with underperforming indigenous students. The plan calls for improvement in six key areas: school readiness; attendance; engagement and connections; literacy and numeracy; pathways to post-school options; and leadership, quality teaching and workforce development.
States are also responsible for addressing the needs of students with learning and physical disabilities. They are in charge of administering evaluations and providing learning environments for these students, but accommodations vary widely between both states and individual schools. Students who are able to successfully learn in mainstream school environments, even if only for some of their classes or subjects, are encouraged to remain in mainstream schools.
Between 2008 and 2015, improving low performing schools has been a focus of the Australian government, which has committed $1.5 billion to support improvement in about 1700 schools nationwide. This initiative, called the Smarter Schools National Partnership for Low Socio-economic Status School Communities requires matching funds from state and territory governments. This funding is explicitly earmarked to attract high-performing teachers and school leaders, revamp management and staffing arrangements, provide parents and the community with greater school accountability, promote new learning opportunities for students and help schools form partnerships with other schools, communities and businesses. The government is also piloting new literacy and numeracy programs in select low-performing schools, with the hope that they will be modified and expanded to all schools where they are needed. The government and the National Partnership believe that improving student engagement and academic outcomes will help combat intergenerational poverty.
PISA 2009: Variation in Reading Performance Explained by Schools’ Socioeconomic Background