New data gathered from the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has revealed the impact that online learning has had for students and schools around the world.
The report, titled: ‘Effective Policies, Successful Schools’, analysed the policies and practices used in the education systems of the 79 countries and economies that participated in PISA 2018.
According to the data, teachers’ capacity to use technology varies widely between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged schools.
On average across OECD countries, 65% of 15-year-olds were enrolled in schools whose principal reported that teachers have the necessary technical and pedagogical skills to integrate digital devices in instruction.
However, the report also highlighted a glaring equity gap, both in Australian schools and across the OECD.
Australia ranked ninth-worst of 77 countries for the equitable allocation of resources between disadvantaged and advantaged schools, with only Colombia, Panama, Peru, Cyprus, Philippines, Mexico. Brazil and Thailand ranking lower.
Australia was one of only eight countries that recorded that socio-economic status has a negative impact on the likelihood of students expecting a high-skill occupation.
Australian Education Union (AEU) federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said the report provides further evidence of the “clear and urgent need for governments to address school funding inequality as an immediate priority for our students”.
“Commonwealth and state/territory bilateral funding agreements will leave public schools under-resourced by tens of billions of dollars by 2023,” Haythorpe said.
“PISA 2018 shows that Australia does not rank well on the global stage when it comes to funding equity for disadvantaged schools, with overall investment significantly behind that of many comparable nations”.
Access to digital resources on the decline
The report found that access to portable computers for Australian students in disadvantaged school has declined by 3% since 2015 whilst access for students in advantaged schools has increased by 9%.
Educational equity has also been impacted by conditions within students’ home environment. For some students, even the basics for learning are not available at home. On average across OECD countries, 9% of 15-year-old students do not have a quiet place to study in their home.
In South Korea – a top PISA performer – one in five students from the 25% most disadvantaged schools reported they do not have a place to study at home, compared to one in 10 students in advantaged schools.
Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills said that while there was an average of a 1:1 student-computer ratio across the OECD, many principals reported that insufficient computing capacity impacted one in three students.
“This crisis has exposed the many inadequacies and inequities in education systems across the world,” Schleicher said.
“Disadvantaged young people have been particularly affected and every country should do more to ensure that all schools have the resources they need so that every student has an equal opportunity to learn and succeed.”
Students report high self-efficacy
In an encouraging finding from the report as Australia’s students and schools continue to struggle amid the COVID-19 pandemic was that students tend to have a strong belief in their abilities and feel supported by their teachers.
An recent analysis of the PISA 2018 data by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) found that most Australian students believe they usually manage one way or another (93%), and that when they are in a difficult situation, they can usually find their way out of it (86%).
“Students surveyed as 15-year-olds in 2018 would be in their final stages of schooling now, and have faced major challenges this year,” PISA National Project Manager and report co-author, ACER Deputy CEO (Research) Dr Sue Thomson, said.
“The results show that many of them have high levels of self-efficacy – or belief in their own ability – and hold attitudes that may have helped them through these difficult times”.
Ninety-two per cent of 15-year-olds reported ‘I feel proud that I have accomplished things’, while 73% agreed ‘I feel that I can handle many things at a time’. Sixty-seven per cent of students agreed that ‘My belief in myself gets me through hard times’.
The data revealed that female students aren’t as confident, reporting lower self-efficacy than male students. The researchers also found that the most socioeconomically disadvantaged students reported lower self-efficacy than the least disadvantaged students.
However, when it came to being academically resilient, PISA found that 13% of disadvantaged students in Australia overcame their socioeconomic background to go on to high academic performance.
Across the OECD, about 11% of disadvantaged students were identified as being academically resilient.
“While it is encouraging that 13 per cent of Australian students showed academic resilience and overcame their disadvantaged background to do well, this means that 87 per cent of disadvantaged students did not. They continued to perform at a low level,” Dr Thomson said.
“Most disadvantaged students were not academically resilient in 2018 – they performed at a low level. So it is a concern that some of these students may face very poor outcomes after experiencing severe disruption to their education during the pandemic”.