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New PISA report links student experiences with performance in maths

New PISA report links student experiences with performance in maths

Media release 5 minute read

Australian teenagers with higher levels of curiosity than others performed better in mathematics in the world’s largest assessment of 15-year-old students, a new report has shown.  

The Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) today released its second report based on 2022 data from the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

The report analysed responses from students and principals about their experiences, referencing student mathematics performance and making comparisons with 24 of the 81 participating countries and economies.

Student questionnaires included a focus on curiosity for the first time in PISA, which has collected data every 3 years since it began in 2000 (with a delay in 2021 due to COVID-19).

Curiosity was higher in Australia (particularly in the ACT and NSW) compared with most countries that performed at a similar or higher level in maths, including Macao (China), Hong Kong (China) and Estonia.

Most Australian students (80%) reported they were ‘curious about many different things’, while 79% liked to know how things worked. Conversely, 1 in 4 students reported frustration in having to learn the details of a topic.

‘Curiosity is important in education and life,’ lead researcher Lisa De Bortoli said. ‘Being curious can help students adapt to different environments, including developing tolerance to anxiety and uncertainty. It also promotes critical thinking.’

Other factors associated with higher mathematics performance included stronger relationships with teachers, a greater sense of belonging and safety at school, less exposure to bullying, a more favourable disciplinary climate in class, greater resistance to stress and more perseverance.

More students from advantaged backgrounds than disadvantaged ones experienced these things positively, as did those in urban locations.

Male students reported a greater sense of belonging and resistance to stress than females, and more positive relationships with teachers, despite reporting greater exposure to bullying.

Higher proportions of females reported feeling nervous about exams or not being near their digital device, panicking easily and being worried ‘about many things’.

Australian students’ resistance to stress was lower than in 10 other comparison countries that performed better or at the same level in maths; 58% reported being able to work under pressure, while 35% reported handling stress well.

Students in the Netherlands, Finland, Switzerland and Estonia were among those with greater resistance to stress, while students in Singapore, the United Kingdom and Macao (China) had a lower resistance to stress than Australian students.

The report also compared principals’ leadership behaviours, revealing every Australian jurisdiction had greater leadership than the OECD average.

Three out of 4 Australian students attended schools where the principal reported collaborating with teachers to solve classroom discipline problems once a week.

Just under half of Australian students attended schools where the principal took actions at least once a week to support teachers in developing new teaching practices and improving skills.

More than 13,430 Australian students took part in PISA 2022 which ACER conducted in Australia on behalf of and with funding from the Australian and state and territory governments. 

ACER is the lead international organisation responsible for the design, development and implementation of PISA 2025.

Read the full report, PISA 2022. Reporting Australia’s results. Volume II: Student and school characteristics, or visit for more information on PISA in Australia. 


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ACER Communications
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