opinion

"Aussie students are falling behind, but blaming their teachers won't solve anything."

This morning I, like many, woke up to the news that Australian students are falling behind in maths and science rankings according to The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).

It made me mad and a little bit sad, and not only because maths and science are important skills that students need to learn.

It made me mad because before reading beyond the headline, I knew where fingers would be pointed.

As teachers rub their bleary eyes from long nights spent writing reports and planning engaging, educational lessons to teach the bucketloads of curriculum they still need to get through as the end of the year rapidly approaches, they had the rug pulled out from underneath them.

Yet again, despite the copious amount of work they do, the blame was laid. Reading the coverage of the study, it quickly became clear the effectiveness of teachers and the training they undergo was being questioned.

Granted, Government initiatives and trying to solve problems by simply pumping money into them was also mentioned. Alas, as per usual, it was teachers who took the hardest hit.

It was clear many believe the stagnating results – you see, we haven’t actually become worse, others have simply improved – are solely the responsibility of teachers.

Because once a child starts school they are solely the responsibility of teachers. They are incapable of learning anything education related from anyone else. Duh.

Teachers are copping the blame.

Cleary Australian's performance on international scales for maths and science is alarming. Obviously something needs to be done about this to ensure our children can compete for jobs on an international scale (or get a job at all).

But suggestions that teacher effectiveness is part of the problem are not helpful. They instead shift the blame and change the focus.

The focus shouldn't be on teachers or government decisions or funding or anything else remotely bureaucracy related. It should be on the students.

Ask any child about their ability in maths or science, and they are likely to respond negatively. If you challenge a child to attempt a maths or science question they have never attempted before, they are likely to give up, quickly.

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This is because students have preconceived ideas about their ability in these subjects. They have listened to parents or older siblings reflect on their own maths related experiences and they have watched too many movies and television shows that promote a warped view of what maths and science entail.

Teaching maths and science is hard. And it won't be made any easier by quick-fix programs that ensure we will never suffer the embarrassment of being ranked below Kazakhstan - because everyone is freaking out about that.

Blaming teachers for maths and science shortfalls, while at the same time jumping up and down because students are stressed so there needs to be more meditation and wellbeing opportunities in the classroom, is both confusing and not helpful. (Post continues after gallery.)

Instead we need to consider how we can help.

That's right. Everyone is responsible for the education of children. Parents. Grandparents. Older siblings. The sales assistant giving change in a store.

There are learning opportunities everywhere.

Challenge children. Encourage children. Support children. Sit with children as they do their homework. Don't let them quit when it becomes challenging. Avoid making excuses for why something is hard and continue trying.

Help children see the value of maths and science in the community and encourage them to apply it.

Meanwhile, teachers can patch up their reputations after being dragged through the mud once again and refocus on what their sole purpose is, educating children.

Politicians can see this as yet another wakeup call, because newsflash: Australian students weren't exactly world beaters in this study four years ago. So consider changing the curriculum accordingly and sticking with it.

The news that Australian students are falling behind in maths and science is many things, but it certainly isn't solely the fault of teachers.

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