Australia's education minister embarrassed by the "appalling results" in international ranking of national students

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Australia
School of Business graduates toss their hats into the air for family members to take pictures outside the main building at the University of Sydney in Australia, April 22, 2016. Reuters/Jason Reed

Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) recently released its rating from its 2015 study, which showed that while Australia remained in the median group, its overall ranking has lowered. Now below Kazakhstan and Slovenia, Education Minister Simon Birmingham is embarrassed at the results.

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“I think they’re appalling results,” Birmingham said in an interview with ABC radio (via Yahoo! News) on Wednesday. "I am embarrassed for Australia that we are not performing at the standard that we would expect our schools to perform."

The TIMSS ranking has existed for 20 years and shows some very disappointing trends in terms of Australian education. The results showed that since 2011, Australian students have fallen behind in year 4 math by 10 places and have not progressed at all in year 4 science. Moreover, year 8 Australian students have slipped five places in both science and math. The publication went on to explain that the issue, as the Australian Council for Educational Research explained, is that a quarter to a third of students are not performing at the proficient standard.

The council's Sue Thomson explained that low socio-economic background -- measured by the number of books per home -- has played a huge part in a student’s academic success. It was found that if only students of richer families were tested, that Australia would have ranked eighth in the world. However, if only poorer students were tested, the country would be within the bottom quarter of the rankings.

“A substantial proportion of our students are below the Australian proficient standard, with roughly half of students in remote areas at or below that level,” Thomson told The Guardian. “Clearly, we have a problem.”

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Thompson also told the publication that the United States and England were among the countries who had improved their rankings in the long term. Theories surrounding this boost in ranking include revisions in curriculum to cover more of what the TIMSS focused on, as well as an increased focus in math and science in general.