AUSTRALIAN schoolchildren's results in maths and science have flat-lined over two decades, while their reading ability is lagging behind many developed nations, including the United States, England and Canada, new reports show.
The federal School Education Minister, Peter Garrett, said the release of two international studies of reading ability and maths and science proficiency was a ''wake-up call'' that showed ''performance problems in every state, in every school sector''.
Australia ranked 27th out of 45 countries for reading, with 21 of those countries performing significantly better. Hong Kong topped the rankings, with Finland, Russia, the US and England outranking Australia.
Australia's mean score for reading was similar to that of Poland, Lithuania and New Zealand.
Reading achievement results: Click the column headings to sort the table
|42||Male||NSW||A man was killed when his quad bike rolled on him in the Hunter Valley.|
|20||Male||NT||A 20-year-old man was killed falling off his quad bike while riding with friends near Howard Springs.|
|79||Male||VIC||A man died after the quad bike he was riding rolled onto its side on a farm near Lethbridge. The 78-year-old had been spraying weeds.|
|39||Male||NSW||A 39-year-old from Pemboka, near Bega, was riding with a group of others along the Indian Head Fire Trail in the Wadbilliga National Park. On the return trip the man's quad bike left the trail and struck a tree.|
|33||Female||QLD||Killed while riding on a quad bike in a stormwater drain in central Queensland. The woman, 33, was riding the bike in the drain at Blackwater between 4am and 5.10am when she rammed into a fence and became trapped under the bike.|
|24||Male||NT||A 24-year-old man from Herbert, in Darwin's rural area, had been camping at Gunn Point, 36km northeast of Darwin when he rolled a quad bike.|
|17||Male||TAS||A boy, 17, was killed when his all-terrain vehicle collided with a train on a private road in Tasmania's north. The teenager failed to stop at a stop sign on a private driveway and rode into the path of a train carrying cement at Spreyton, just south of Devonport. He was thrown under the train and died instantly.|
|53||Male||VIC||An Edi Upper resident was killed in what police believed was an accidental shooting. Police said the 53-year-old had been carrying a shotgun on a 4WD quad bike on his property. He was found fatally wounded on his quad bike, with the vehicle still in neutral.|
|83||Male||NSW||83-year-old male was found dead under a quad bike after trying to navigate down a hill at his farm near Adelong. He is believed to have had a trailer attached to the bike which may have contributed to the accident.|
|70||Male||TAS||A 70-year-old British tourist died when he veered off a farm road at West Ridgley and down a slope, then hit a tree.|
|68||Male||VIC||A farmer was found dead by a family member underneath his quad bike. He is believed to have been moving cows when the accident happened.|
|54||Male||VIC||A man had been spraying bushland on his Rivendell Lane farm when the quad bike he was riding overturned. Investigators believe the 54-year-old tried to jump clear of the vehicle as it rolled, but it landed on the man, killing him instantly.|
|57||Female||TAS||Died in an all-terrain vehicle accident on private land at Grassy Rd, Pegarah on King Island.|
|39||Male||VIC||Died after the quad bike he was riding left a dirt road and collided with a tree. The man was found by chance by a police motorbike patrol at 4.15pm. Although the man was riding an unregistered bike, he was wearing a helmet.|
|11||Male||VIC||Died while riding a quad bike on his family's property at Woorndoo, 20 kilometres south of Lake Bolac. The boy's father found him underneath the bike. Paramedics worked on the boy, who had gone into cardiac arrest and were able to revive him but he died a short time later at the scene.|
|62||Male||QLD||A grazier was killed when thrown from the quad bike he was riding on the family property 25km north-east of Jandowae.|
|20||Male||NSW||The 20-year-old's body was discovered in bushland near Ashtonfield after a large scale search began when he failed to return from an afternoon quad bike ride.|
|94||Male||VIC||Police believe the farmer was riding a quad bike when it hit a hole and overturned on a beef farm in Hedley. An employee found the man and notified emergency services.|
|67||Male||NT||Alice Springs stockman and ringer Billy Hayes, 67, died in a quad bike accident.|
|22||Male||VIC||The man's bike went down a small dip and into one of a row of pine trees. Police believe the man was not wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.|
|4||Male||QLD||Boy was found crushed to death underneath a mini quad bike. It is believed the child was wearing a full face helmet at the time.|
|11||Male||NSW||A boy was killed on a farm on the NSW north coast after a four-wheel drive motorcycle rolled over him. Emergency crews were called to the farm at Dulguigan, 10 kilometres north of Murwillumbah.|
|65||Male||NSW||A farmer died after his quad bike went over an embankment on his property at Tingha, in northern New South Wales.|
|Unknown||Male||NSW||Died having fallen off a quad bike at low speed on a property near Tamworth. He reportedly hit his head with great force onto hard ground; he was not wearing a helmet.|
|66||Male||NSW||Crushed when the quad bike he was riding went out of control and overturned. The man had suffered massive injuries in the rollover and died at the scene.|
|78||Male||SA||Drowned after a quad bike he was riding with his grandson plunged into the River Murray near Waikerie.|
|11||Male||VIC||Died after his quad bike rolled as he helped move cows on a Victorian farm. Ambulance crews were at the Katunga dairy farm, in Victoria's north, within six minutes but were unable to save the Nurmurkah boy, 11.|
|81||Male||NSW||Emergency services were called to a property on Tingha Rd, about five kilometres from Guyra, in the early afternoon after the 81-year-old rider failed to return for a lunchtime appointment. Police said the rider was found on a remote part of the property and that he had left home to spray weeds.|
|34||Female||NSW||Died on a property near Walcha after being trapped under a quad bike.|
|55||Male||QLD||Died as a result of serious injuries he suffered in a quad bike accident. At the time of his accident he was on his property overlooking the Maroochy River on Queensland's Sunshine Coast.|
|84||Male||SA||Died at his property off Warner Road at Upper Hermitage when his quad bike rolled on a steep slope, pinning him. Ambulance crews tried to revive the man but he died at the scene.|
|63||Female||TAS||Died following an accident on a farming property near Chudleigh.|
|58||Male||VIC||Lost control of his quad bike, which was towing a trailer full of wood, and crashed.|
|11||Male||QLD||Died after he crashed on a driveway and became pinned under a quad bike.|
|18||Female||WA||Died at the scene when the quad bike on which she was a pillion passenger collided with a car near the entrance to sand dunes at Lancelin, 110 kilometres north of Perth.|
|13||Female||NSW||Died after she crashed a quad bike and it rolled on her at a family property at Kembla Grange, south of Wollongong.|
|47||Male||TAS||Flipped his quad bike while attempting to negotiate a very steep section of track at Montumana.|
|9||Male||NSW||Suffered severe chest injuries and later died after a quad bike rolled and pinned him on a farm near Wagga.|
Maths achievement results: Click the column headings to sort the table
|Country||Average scale score|
|Korea, Rep. of||605|
|Hong Kong SAR||602|
|United Arab Emirates||434|
|Iran, Islamic Rep. of||431|
The full reports are available here.
About a quarter of Australian students did not meet the minimum acceptable standard of proficiency.
This was the first time Australia had participated in the reading study of year 4 students, the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, so the results cannot be compared with previous years.
However, Australia has participated in a second test, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, since 1995. The latest figures show some improvement in year 4 maths between 1995 and 2011, but results otherwise flat-lined.
Australia ranked 18th for maths and 25th for science among year 4 students, and 12th for maths and 12th for science in year 8 out of 50 countries.
Professor Geoff Masters, chief executive of the Australian Council for Educational Research, which implements the tests in Australia, said the ''disappointing'' results suggested it would be hard for Australia to gain a place in the top five countries by 2025, a target set by the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, this year. ''We're staying where we are and others are moving ahead,'' he said.
Results showed a link between schools that reported being under-resourced and those with lower test scores for maths.
But Professor Masters said there was no perfect correlation between high-performing nations and expenditure per student.
''Money is important up to a certain point,'' he said, adding that teacher quality and strong leadership within schools were also significant factors.
Students in NSW performed better than the national average, behind the Australian Capital Territory and roughly on par with Victoria. If NSW was a country, it would sit five places higher on the reading league table of countries. Year 8 students in NSW would rank seventh in the world in maths, ahead of England.
Test results in NSW had the widest gap between high and low performing students of any state.
Mr Garrett did not back away from the 2025 target yesterday, saying that while the results were not good enough, they vindicated reform measures such as those sparked by the Gonski review of school funding.
''These tests show the size of the problem that needed to be fixed, but they do not show that they cannot be fixed,'' he said.
The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement directed the studies.