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Why 15-year-olds don't care about PISA rankings

Experts have looked for quick explanations, including a lack of funding, socio-economic status and even the rise of technology in and out of the classroom for why Australia's 15-year-olds flunked PISA, the international test of students in maths, reading and science.

But as a 15-year-old, I can tell you I have witnessed high levels of stress, a lack of motivation and students who have no interest in Australia's national results when it won't affect their school marks personally.

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I see these things every day in the classroom, and I believe they are inherently linked to these PISA outcomes, which have seen our reading, maths and science abilities decline over a 16-year-period.

My peers who took part in this test were unanimous in that they did not, to the best of their ability, attempt the exam. Why? They were given a very small amount of information on what the test was for and its importance.

While China might pride itself on a dedication to PISA outcomes, this national pride just does not exist in Australian society where there is no cultural expectation for nationwide academic success. This lack of expectation, interest and even knowledge of what students are meant to achieve generates a blase attitude towards PISA.

At the same time, the stress levels students associate with exams means that any test that is not necessary for their final report seem extremely pointless.


Every term when exam week comes around, stories start to pop up about anxiety attacks and people making themselves sick so they can stay home. In every exam I have attended this year, one person or more has cried.

Year 9 and 10, when the exams are scheduled, also falls at a time in our lives when we are putting off thoughts about the future, dismissing school in favour of our recent discoveries of the perks of teenagehood combined with dreading the next two years of our lives during the HSC.

This is not to say I do not believe in the academic abilities of my friends, but it is thought among high school students that 15-year-olds have the lowest levels of motivation of any year group.

The problem is that the PISA tests are some of the best ways of measuring our problem-solving and every-day life skills.

While it remains this way, Australia needs to better inform its students on not only how to prepare for life's realities but also to better motivate students who are stuck in the limbo between their daunting senior years and the past excitement of junior years.

Our falling results since PISA's inception should be a wake-up call to schools and teachers for the need to integrate more engaging ways to educate their older students on the realities of everyday life.

Paloma Jackson-Vaughan is a year 10 student at Canterbury Girls High School.