MOST Victorian students have gone backwards in the key areas of reading, spelling and numeracy over the past five years, the results of this year's National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests show.
Preliminary results of the NAPLAN tests show year 3 students declined in reading, spelling and numeracy between 2008-12. Over the same period, year 5 students slipped in numeracy and spelling but improved in reading while year 7 and year 9 students were down in all three key areas.
New South Wales, Victoria and the ACT outperformed other states and territories around Australia and of the 1 million students who took the test, 92 per cent met the minimum level standards.
Federal Minister for School Education Peter Garrett said the declines were minimal although he agreed they were of concern. ''Where there are declines, they are in areas that are small in percentage in most cases and they are areas which require attention,'' he said.
Equally, the gains in performance are marginal but Mr Garrett denied that students were flatlining. ''Arresting educational decline takes time and takes targeted investment and clear policy and that's what we have been providing,'' he said
He acknowledged that Australian students have a long way to go to meet the government's goal of being in the top five international performers by 2025. ''It's not entirely a good story,'' he said. ''We do need to focus on writing and certainly there are some issues around year 9 students and how they are performing generally.
''We are arresting the decline in education which was identified by the Gonski panel as being under way since 2000.''
David Zyngier, senior lecturer in the Monash University education faculty, said he was not surprised to see little change in NAPLAN results.
''Government schools, especially government schools which are struggling with low NAPLAN results, have thrown everything out of the curriculum to focus on literacy and numeracy and passing the test,'' Dr Zyngier said.
''There is so much research from around the world that shows when children are made to focus on high stakes testing they do not learn anything; they learn the test.
''It's become a very lean and mean curriculum. It disengages the child from learning and it's only going to get worse.''
He said funding cuts to the Victorian education system would only drive student performance down.