January 31, 2011
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AUSTRALIAN 15-year-olds who live in remote areas rank nearly 40th, behind Lithuania, in a comparison of literacy standards among 65 developed nations.
The Australian breakdown of figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has fuelled the NSW opposition's plan to invest $250 million in providing an extra 900 teachers over four years to schools most in need.
Its education spokesman, Adrian Piccoli, said a key objective of a Coalition government, if elected in March, would be to tackle the growing problem of inequity in reading literacy and numeracy standards.
He said the OECD's Program for International Assessment for 2009 showed that not only was Australia slipping in its overall ranking in literacy standards, to ninth position, the picture of remote regions was dire.
Mr Piccoli, the National Party MP for Murrumbidgee, said students in remote areas achieved a mean score of 465 in reading, 28 points below the OECD average.
''Australia's overall ranking in maths is 15th out of 65, but in remote areas it is 38th, just above Greece and just below the Russian Federation,'' he said. ''I think people would be shocked if they knew we were doing so badly in remote areas of the country.''
Yes, but it's not valid to compare rural breakouts with whole populations. What are the figures for Russian rural areas, or Greek backwoods? If our rurals were compared with everybody else's rurals I'd be surprised if we didn't improve our rating slightly, if anything.
Not to mention that relative rates show very little. If everybody else got better and we got no worse, which is a possible reading, why should we take that as a personal insult?