Australia's Chief Scientist

Science and maths in Australian secondary schools datasheet

The Office of the Chief Scientist has published a datasheet summarising student performance and participation in science and mathematics in Australian secondary schools, and the supply of qualified teachers.

The datasheet has been updated following the release of new data from the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2015 and the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015. TIMSS assesses Year 4 and Year 8 students every four years; PISA is conducted every three years to access the competencies of 15-year-old students in reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. An updated version for 2018 is in development.

In PISA 2015, Australia’s performance has dropped in maths since 2003, while our international ranking has declined dramatically.

In PISA 2015, there were significant differences in the mean performance of Australian students in both science and maths based on where they live, their socioeconomic status, and between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students. Students from high socio-economic backgrounds are performing at levels 3 years of schooling ahead of those from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Participation in most Year 12 mathematics and science subjects is declining, and for science is the lowest in 20 years. Just one in 10 students completes advanced mathematics. TIMSS 2015 data show that older students are losing interest in maths – with 13 per cent of students in Year 8 versus 37 per cent of students in Year 4 liking maths.

The Staff in Australia’s Schools 2013 Survey  indicates that around 20 per cent of secondary maths and science teachers across all sectors (government, independent and Catholic) are teaching ‘out of field’ – i.e. they are not qualified to teach the subject. TIMSS 2011 data show that the proportion of schools that have difficulty filling Year 8 maths and science teaching positions was about double the international average.

Read the 2017 Science and maths in Australian secondary schools datasheet. References and notes are available here.

The 2016 edition of the datasheet and references and notes also remain available for download.