One of the most vexing problems confronting educators is to find more effective methods to meet the diverse needs of children who fall behind in school. The Programme for International Student Assessment has found that 1 in 5 15-year-olds in Australia are failing to reach the global benchmark level in reading literacy, mathematical literacy, and scientific literacy.
We understand that low-performing 15-year-olds are at risk of completely dropping out of school, and that poor readers in school are unlikely to significantly improve by the time they become young adults. Low levels of literacy and numeracy have been linked to restricted access to well-paid and enjoyable work, as well as poorer health outcomes and lower levels of social and political engagement, according to a variety of research. While elevating standards is a worthwhile aim in and of itself, it is also critical in ensuring that our education system may meet the objectives of the Mparntwe Education Declaration – including “allowing all young Australians to have equal opportunity” .
There are several ways to change education and training so that it better meets people’s needs. Teachers require job-embedded PD that allows them to practice new skills in the classroom, receive actionable feedback about their practice, and continue to improve. Job-embedded PD is transformative for teachers because it takes place in the context of a real work situation. There is much to gain from supporting teacher professional learning.
A diverse range of programs and services currently exist to support students who are struggling at school. These include intensive literacy and numeracy programs, support for those with learning difficulties, and catch-up classes for migrants and refugees.
The Australian Government is also investing in a number of initiatives to improve teacher quality and school leadership. These investments will help raise student achievement by ensuring that our teachers are well prepared and supported, and that our schools are led by effective principals.
The National Education Reform Agenda will also help address the needs of struggling students, by providing additional resources to schools that have a high proportion of disadvantaged students. This will ensure that all students have access to a quality education, regardless of their background or circumstances. Noting that it’s more than just curriculum that needs reforming,
While there are many challenges facing schooling, there are also many opportunities to improve the system so that it better meets the needs of all students. It is up to us to seize those opportunities and ensure that all young Australians have access to a high-quality education.