New data from the 2015 OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveals the extent to which schoolchildren feel anxious about homework.
The report, released on Tuesday by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER), found that the highest levels of schoolwork-related anxiety were reported in Singapore, and the lowest levels in Finland, both academically high-performing countries.
“A recent report in the same series showed Finland and Estonia recording low levels of achievement motivation,” ACER Deputy CEO (Research) Dr Sue Thomson said.
“This suggests an interesting pattern for these countries – high performance associated with lower anxiety and attitudes that focus less on comparison and competition between students.”
Other high-performing countries scored higher than the OECD average on the schoolwork-related anxiety index – Japan, Hong Kong (China), Macao (China), Singapore and Canada.
“Overall, PISA results show that countries where students are highly motivated to achieve also tend to be the countries in which many students feel anxious about their schoolwork,” Dr Thomson said.
“Students need to find a balance between striving for success and placing unnecessary and potentially harmful pressure on themselves.”
Dr Thomson said performance is optimal where “pressure is neither too low, where no one really cares how anyone does, nor too high, where deadlines are too tight and a sense of panic can set in”.
Mathematics anxiety was surveyed by PISA as a specific focus area in 2003 and 2012.
Most countries reported increased agreement with statements demonstrating maths anxiety over this period, with the greatest increases in Australia, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.
However, Japan and Hong Kong (China) recorded decreased agreement with statements demonstrating maths anxiety.