The gap between advantaged and disadvantaged schools in Australia is one of the largest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), according to a comparative analysis of school systems among OECD member states.

Pasi Sahlberg, Professor of Education at the Gonski Institute for Education at UNSW, says PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) data from 2016 and 2019 showed the following equity gaps in Australia:

  • Australia has the largest gap in teacher shortages between disadvantaged and advantaged schools in the OECD and the fourth largest of the 70 countries/regions participating in PISA 2015. Only Buenos Aires, Peru and the United Arab Emirates have a larger gap of all the countries participating in PISA.
  • Inequity in the allocation of educational staff between disadvantaged and advantaged schools in Australia is the highest in the OECD, according to the PISA measure of equity in the allocation of staff, and the third highest of the 70 countries/regions participating in PISA 2015. Inequity was greater only in Peru and Buenos Aires.
  • Australia is one of only seven OECD countries where disadvantaged schools have a higher student-teacher ratio than advantaged schools and the gap in Australia is the equal second largest. Australia’s gap is the equal 12th highest of the 70 countries/regions participating in PISA 2015.
  • Australia has the fourth largest gap in the shortage or inadequacy of educational material and physical infrastructure between disadvantaged and advantaged schools in the OECD, and is only exceeded in Mexico, Turkey and Spain. The Australian gap is the 18th largest out of the 70 countries/regions participating in PISA 2015.
  • Inequity in the allocation of material resources in Australia is the fifth highest in the OECD, according to the PISA measure of equity in resource allocation, and the 15th highest of the 70 participating countries/regions.
  • Regarding student achievement gaps, Australian mean scores in reading, mathematics and science for low-SES, Indigenous and remote area students lag those of high-SES students by about three or more years. The achievement gap between high and low-SES students in reading, mathematics and science is equivalent to about three years of schooling. The gap between high-SES and Indigenous students is even larger, equivalent to about four years of learning. The high SES/remote area student gap is about three years of learning, the high SES/provincial gap is about three years.

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