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Schools Deserve Praise for Australia’s Top Results in Global Problem Solving Test

22 November 2017

Australia’s strong performance in a global test that assessed the collaborative problem solving skills of high school students is positive confirmation of the innovative work occurring in Queensland independent schools, according to Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ).

ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said the first-ever test assessing how well 15-year-old students from 52 countries solved problems in a group situation placed Australia in the top 10 performing countries.

Mr Robertson said the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results released by the OECD also revealed:

  • almost 50% of Australian students performed in the two highest achievement levels - compared with the OECD average of 36%
  • 15.3% of Australian students achieved in the top level – almost twice the OECD average of 7.9%
  • students in Australia, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and the United States “perform much better in collaborative problem solving than would be expected based on their scores in science, reading and mathematics”
  • significantly greater proportions of Australian students reported using computers for activities such as group work and homework than students in most other countries
  • 72.4% of Australian students strongly agreed/agreed that teamwork improved their own efficiency and 89% enjoyed cooperating with their peers.

“Schools, school leaders and teachers deserve praise for this strong result. It shows that Australian schools are developing important team work, problem solving, conflict resolution, critical thinking, social and communication skills in today’s young people,” Mr Robertson said.

“Many Queensland independent schools have already taken up the challenge of recasting and reimagining their approach to the curriculum to better equip students with the skills and capabilities they will need to succeed in a connected and complex world economy,” he said.

Mr Robertson said ISQ released a discussion paper last year, Leading Curriculum Innovation, to focus education and policy attention on the future of learning.

“The paper argued that while Queensland has recently been rightly focused on the overcrowded content of the P-10 Australian Curriculum, less attention has been paid to the explicit instruction of the general capabilities which include: critical and creative thinking; personal and social capability; ethical understanding; and intercultural understanding,” he said.

Mr Robertson said ISQ hosted a range of policy forums with leading academics, educators and schools in 2017 and would build on this in 2018 with an innovation showcase that will bring together schools and leading enterprise, industry and higher education experts.

Media Contact: Justine Nolan 0428 612 315 or

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