National Report on Schooling in Australia 2011

Part 5

Student achievement


The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians identifies literacy and numeracy and the knowledge of key disciplines as the cornerstone of schooling. Goal 2 is that ‘All young Australians become successful learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed citizens’. Having the ‘essential skills in literacy and numeracy’ is one attribute of successful learners listed under this goal.

The Declaration commits all Australian governments to work with all school sectors and the broader community to achieve the educational goals for young Australians. As part of the commitment to promote world-class curriculum and assessment, Ministers agreed that ‘together the national curriculum and curriculum specified at the State, Territory and local levels will include a strong focus on literacy and numeracy skills’.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) National Education Agreement also articulates high-level policy and reform directions for measuring and improving the literacy and numeracy achievement of young people. As part of its commitment to ensuring that young people are meeting basic literacy and numeracy standards, in 2008 COAG agreed to a Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership, with funding over four years, focusing on:

  • achieving sustainable improvements in literacy and numeracy, as a key indicator of the ability to go on and complete Year 12, for all students

  • improving literacy and numeracy for primary school students, especially Indigenous students

  • developing a national understanding of what works and a shared accountability for the achievement of Australian students.

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority

The Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) is directed, under its charter, to manage the development, and oversee the delivery, of assessments and reporting for the National Assessment Program (NAP) including the National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), Science Literacy, ICT Literacy and Civics and Citizenship.

ACARA publishes nationally comparable information on student achievement to support accountability, policy development and resource allocation. Information on student achievement in NAPLAN at the national, State and Territory, and student subgroup levels is published in reports for the National Assessment Program and is reported at the school level on the My School website.

The National Assessment Program (NAP)

The National Assessment Program is run at the direction of the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs (MCEECDYA). It has both national and international components. It includes:

  • annual full cohort literacy and numeracy assessments in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 (NAPLAN)

  • triennial national sample assessments in science literacy (Year 6), information and communication technology literacy (Years 6 and 10) and civics and citizenship (Years 6 and 10)

  • participation by a sample of 15-year-old students in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted every three years by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which assesses students’ reading, mathematical and scientific literacy. The most recent PISA assessment for which results are publicly available took place in 2009. The national report for this assessment is available on the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) website. A further report, published by ACER in 2012, revealed that Australian students ranked second of participating countries in the Electronic Reading Assessment component of PISA 2009.¹

  • participation by a sample of Year 4 and Year 8 students in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) conducted every four years by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) which assesses students’ performance in mathematics and science.

National assessments conducted for 2011 included both national and international elements:

¹ Sue Thomson and Lisa Bortoli, 2012, Preparing Australian Students for the Digital World: Results from the PISA 2009 Digital Reading Literacy Assessment, ACER Press