Australian kids behaving badly in classrooms, OECD report says
Updated 16 Mar 2017, 10:00am
Things you would find in a classroom: a student pointing a replica gun at the teacher, an entire class deciding to ignore the teacher in silent protest, chairs thrown, threats and overturned desks.
Teachers came forward to tell the ABC about the biggest classroom disruptions they experienced.
It did not stop there.
One teacher had three Year 9 boys skip her class and smear their poo all over the school gymnasium walls, while others had been cursed with the full spectrum of profanities.
The list went on…and on.
Therefore, it would not come as a surprise that two global reports have revealed Australian classrooms are among the most disorderly of the OECD nations.
Australia has a “problematic situation” in terms of classroom discipline, according to the report on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
“About one-third of the students in advantaged schools, and about half of those in disadvantaged schools, reported that in most or every class there was noise and disorder, students didn’t listen to what the teacher said, and that students found it difficult to learn,” the report said.
“It made me never want to teach again”
From a student running through class with a seven-foot pole pretending to joust to evacuating entire classes because of dangerously disruptive students — teachers divulged some of their most challenging classroom moments:
“They just didn’t listen to a word I said. They shouted across the room, pushed and shoved each other and threw things around the room. The worksheets I handed out got scrunched up, covered in glue or torn.”
“I taught a boy whose grandfather was a Nazi so he wanted to debate with the class that killing the Jews was in fact the right thing to do.”
“The whole class tried to stand on the desks or hide under the desk before the teacher turned around.”
“The brightest student in the year would hold his breath with frustration and anger, then go bright red with a hysterical crying tantrum.”
Tasmania and New South Wales are problem areas
About 14,500 students from around 760 schools participated across Australia in PISA.
Using science classes as a sample, it said on that average:
- More than 44 per cent of Australian students indicated there is noise and disorder
- Half of students in Tasmania and nearly half of students in New South Wales reported this problem occurring most frequently
- Students in Tasmania most frequently reported students don’t listen to what the teacher says (48 per cent)
- In contrast, students in each of Victoria and Western Australia (30 per cent) and the Northern Territory (29 per cent) were least likely to report the teacher waits long for students to quiet down
Dr Sue Thompson from the Australian Council for Education and Research (ACER) said the environment is challenging for teachers.
“Level of noise and disorder reported in the classroom is one of the highest in the OECD [countries] and it’s a problem at grade 4 and grade 8 level as well as at year 9 and 10 level,” she said.
The respect is gone
The PISA report stated nearly 40 per cent of students in Australia attended schools where the principal indicated student learning was hindered by “teachers not meeting individual students’ needs.”
Principals also flagged inadequate infrastructure “hindered teacher capacity to provide instruction”, with the issue identified by 25 per cent of principals of students from disadvantaged schools compared to 12 per cent from advantaged schools.
But one caller the ABC said there was another factor at play disrupting the learning process.
“I think the respect [for teachers] has gone,” she said.
She added that teachers often tried everything they could to engage students.
“We split them up, move them around, try and put seating plans in place, engage them one to one. When you’ve got 30 of them in a class though you’ve got all different needs at once,” she said.
Discipline is the issue
Dr Sue Thompson said the Trends in International Maths and Science Study (TIMSS) also revealed the impacts of classroom disruption.
According to the TIMSS there was “a clear relationship between the achievement of Australian students and principals’ reports of school discipline problems, with fewer discipline problems associated with higher achievement”.
The Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said teachers and principals need more support, as well as parents playing their part in addressing the issue.
“Parents must be part of the solution this cannot be something that rests on the shoulders of teachers and principals alone because attitudes, respect are of course formed as much in the home environment and the rest of life as they are in the school community itself,” he said.
He said he would examine whether policy needs improving, and discuss the issue with his state and territory counterparts.