I think it started when I got an email from Vivienne, a lady who has moved from Australia to the UK. She felt quite strongly that educational standards in the UK were better than here in Australia.
Then, in a post I wrote about the cost of education in Australia, Waleed asked….
“Here in the UK during year 10 and 11 (secondary school) we take GCSE examination. 62.4% get A*-C Grades (college only accepts you if you have A* TO C) with 20% GETTING A*/A.
I would like to know what’s the equivalent in Australia and percentage.
I promised to look into it again. Today I do.
Firstly, let me get my cynical statement about statistics out of the way. When I was a lad, we used to take “O” levels and “A” levels. I left school, one week shy of my 16th birthday, with four “O” levels tucked under my arm.
Where I lived, this was regarded as near genius at the time. These days, kids can often come away with 10 to 12 “A” grade GCSEs when in our day we never knew there were that many subjects!
So, have educational standards improved over the years? Or is it the case that governments and education authorities have learned how to better present themselves to the public?
Cynicism aside, here’s what I found.
Firstly, I cannot answer Waleed’s question directly. Why? Because in Australia, each separate state runs its own school system and therefore each has a different exam at the end, like this:
The BobinOz Rough Guide to Education
In Australian Capital Territory, each student gets a year 12 certificate which lists the subjects they have taken and the results are achieved.
In New South Wales, a student’s achievements are based on a combination of the results of Higher School Certificate (HSC) exams along with their accumulated subject results.
In Northern Territory they have the Northern Territory Certificate of Education, exams which tests student’s abilities in various subjects.
In Queensland students who graduate in year 12 received a Queensland Certificate of Education (QCE), based mainly on tasks submitted throughout the relevant years.
In South Australia they do a similar thing as QLD, but theirs is called a South Australian Certificate of Education.
In Tasmania it is, yes you’ve guessed it, the Tasmanian Certificate of Education, again based on students accumulative results.
In Victoria, they call it the Victoria Certificate of Education (VCE), but this one is an actual exam at the end of year 12.
Finally, in Western Australia, students are encouraged to take the Western Australia Certificate of Education, which are individual subject exams similar to those in Victoria and NT.
On top of all that, Queensland call their highest achievers VHA’s, Very High Achievers whilst NSW call theirs DA’s, Distinguished Achievers. I didn’t bother to see what the others do. But hopefully, everyone can now see how impossible it would be to answer Waleed’s question.
We’re talking grids, matrixes and headaches! But there is an easier way.
This stands for “Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study” and it’s a bunch of really clever people that have worked it all out for us. Every four years they look at the educational standards achieved in countries all around the world.
They look at both maths and science for year 4 and year 8 students. Here’s a snapshot of their results for 2007.
Year Four Maths.
- Hong Kong: 607 points: Top.
- England:541 points: 7th.
- USA: 529 points: 11th.
- Australia: 516 points: 14th
- Scotland: 494 points: 22nd.
Year Eight Maths.
- Chinese Taipei: 598 points: Top.
- England:513 points: 7th.
- USA: 508 points: 9th.
- Australia: 496 points: 14th
- Scotland: 487 points: 17th
Year Four Science.
- Singapore: 587 points: Top.
- England:542 points: 7th.
- USA: 539 points: 8th.
- Australia: 527 points: 13th
- Scotland: 500 points: 23rd.
Year Eight Science.
- Singapore: 567 points: Top.
- England:542 points: 5th.
- USA: 520 points: 11th.
- Australia: 515 points: 13th
- Scotland: 496 points: 15th.
The result is clear-cut, almost. Educational standards in England are certainly better than here in Australia with the USA somewhere in between. But education in Scotland is not as good as it is here in Australia, casting doubt over whether an argument about education in Australia versus the UK has a clear winner.
So England wins!
But hold on one cotton picking minute.
This stands for “Programme for International Student Assessment” – another bunch of really clever people and this lot look at the educational achievements of 15-year-olds around the world. Every three years they give their results for science, reading and mathematics. Here’s their results for 2006:
- Finland: 563 points: Top
- Australia: 527 points: 8th.
- UK: 515: 14th
- USA: 489: 29th.
- Chinese Taipei: 549 points: Top.
- Australia: 520 points: 13th.
- UK: 495: 24th
- USA: 474: 35th
- Korea: 556 points: Top
- Australia: 513 points: 7th.
- UK: 495: 17th
- USA: Do not appear to have been assessed in 2006. But in 2000 they came 15th with 504 points.
So, now you have all the facts, but if you need more, visit the US Department of Education and look at TIMSS and PISA . If you can work out which country has the best educational system between the UK, the USA and Australia, you’re a smarter man than me. All I could get from all this was that Chinese Taipei are pretty good at maths.
So I’m calling it a draw.