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Science and Maths in Australian Secondary Schools datasheet

In July the Office of the Chief Scientist published an excellent data sheet that outlines the performance and attitude of Australian students towards Mathematics and Science. It also highlights the issue of under supply of qualified teachers in the area of Mathematics.

What was most alarming and integral to our organization was the data on student participation that showed as students get older their interest in mathematics and science wains. Although knowledge of this is nothing new, the graphic shows that at a year 4 level, 45 % of students like Maths which in itself is disappointing but then to show that by year 8 this drops to only 16% of students. So in an average year 8 mathematics class of 30, you have less than 5 of those students liking the subject. I can imagine the data on Year 9 and 10 students. Some of this data has been drawn from the “Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMSS) 2011 which assesses year 4 and Year 8 students every four years and from the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) 2012 that studies 15 year olds and is conducted every three years. Australia’s international rankings in both PISA and TIMMS has dropped significantly over the last decade. Student participation rates in mathematics at a senior level have also been on the decline especially in the more academic ATAR mathematics subjects.

What this infographic also displays, based on the data collected from the “Staff in Australia’s Schools 2013 Survey”, around 20% of Australian Secondary Maths teachers across all sectors, Government, Catholic and Independent, are teaching ‘out of field’. It would be interesting to see the data on WA and particularly in regional and remote areas. I believe that 20% is not a fair representation and in fact it would be a lot higher. The fact that 41% of schools are experiencing difficulty filling year 8 Maths teaching roles can this be reflected in the 84% of year 8 students’ not liking mathematics?

This data sheet was launched by the Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel, at CONASTA 65, which was the annual conference of the Australian Science Teachers Association, in Brisbane on 4 July 2016. I feel it needs to be disseminated amongst the mathematics Education community of WA as food for thought and used to heighten the situation of Mathematics Education in Australian Schools.


OCS-Datasheet-secondary-schoolsSTEM Strategy


Rachael Whitney-Smith

MAWA Professional Officer

WA Tempest Implementation Officer

WA Outreach Officer for reSolve: Maths by Inquiry