“The release of Australia’s 2023 PISA results is, by any measure, nothing to celebrate. Even though we are now in the top ten of OECD countries on the overall PISA index this is a consequence of other countries underperforming. We have basically stood still,” Innes Willox Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.


“Of greatest concern with Australia’s PISA results is our performance in mathematical literacy.This has consequences for the employability of our students and for the economy as a whole as we enter the digital age. 

“PISA, the OECD's Programme for International Student Assessment, found that just over half (51%) of students achieved the National Proficiency Standard in mathematics. Given the increasing requirement of both explicit and underpinning STEM skills for a growing number of jobs for the future, we need to seriously consider the scope of this problem and consequences. We cannot sit back and merely accept that our young people are increasingly not developing the mathematical skills that make them fit for the demands of the modern economy.


“As a first step, we need to work on better engaging students with mathematics. This can be helped by demonstrating the positive contribution of mathematics to our day-to-day lives, employment and future earning capacity. Everyone has a role to play in this.


“It is also helpful to recognise that the reasons an individual is not successful in mathematics vary. It is a subject that requires mastery before progression. Many things adversely impact this, including mental health, wellbeing, classroom management issues, and appropriate levels of support.


“The challenge of lifting the performance of our entire schooling system, including our PISA results, will require a long-term commitment. A quick fix is not possible. The problem is multi-faceted and the strategies to deal with this are complex, but necessary if we want to ensure better outcomes for future generations.


“Young people entering an increasingly complex and dynamic economy need Knowledge, Skills and Capabilities. We talk a lot about skills and capabilities and how important they are – and they are – but we can’t forget the importance of Knowledge.


“Foundational knowledge like language and literacy and fundamental mathematics and science are vital building blocks to employment, and underpin and enable all further learning. There’s no point investing in a world class tertiary education system if we’re attempting to build a house on shaky foundations. We have to get this right at the start.


“It’s not just an issue for students or schools or teachers, it affects us all. If we don’t get this right we limit opportunity and prosperity for individuals and put a handbrake on productivity and economic growth.


“This problem is profound and will require all shoulders to the wheel. While our political leaders need to act, they can’t do it alone. Everyone has a role to play in improving our educational outcomes, from parents and teachers to policy makers and employers,” Mr Willox said.


Media enquiries

Tony Melville – 0419 190 347