Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study sparks Government criticism of classroom teachers

05 DECEMBER 2016
Is the Government placing unfair emphasis on teacher performance in Australian students’ poor global ranking in maths and science?

The 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) report has shown Australia’s ranking for mathematics has dropped dramatically with Year 4 maths down to 28th place and Year 8 maths in 17th place, taking us well below similar and even smaller nations.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham has denied that our continuing fall in international rankings will be fixed by pumping more money into schools and has laid the blame squarely on teachers. "Some of the things we're doing in our classrooms clearly aren't up to scratch," he said. “What can we do in terms of quality of teachers.. performance of teachers?”

Is this an unfair emphasis on teacher performance, especially in the light of the Government’s backing down on Gonski reforms? A recent survey showed that teachers in some states work up to 15 hours of overtime each week and that teachers in poorer schools were less equipped to do their job properly - only 58 per cent of teachers at these schools claim they had access to appropriate teaching and learning resources. There clearly needs to be change, but where?

In analysing the TIMSS data, Professor Geoff Masters, Chief Executive of ACER points to the importance of knowing where students are in their understanding of Maths and Science. “Significant improvements also depend on better ways of monitoring where students are in their mathematics and science learning. What do they currently know? What do they not know? What misunderstandings have they developed? Diagnostic information of this kind is crucial for targeting teaching, setting personal learning goals and monitoring individual progress”

Online teaching products such as Cambridge HOTmaths and Cambridge Dynamic Science provide much needed teacher support and monitoring capabilities, with a comprehensive range of teaching notes and ideas, a variety of reporting tools, and walkthroughs and activities available for classroom projection. Planning and marking time is reduced by the ready-made worksheets and topic quizzes and instant marking is provided for tests. Teachers can assess exactly where there may be problems in comprehension across a whole class or individual students. 

For students, mathematic or science comprehension is enhanced by extensive visual demonstrations and a wide variety of colourful and encouraging activities that reinforce their learning.

With STEM skills driving many future career paths, these interactive products may provide the support teachers need to lift the achievement of their students from Foundation to Year 10 and keep them engaged in the subjects longer.

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