Education Comparison between UK and Australia

Schooling Differences between Britain and Australia

A common comment is that the primary education is different here in Australia when compared to the UK.

A number of people have said that children here are allowed to be children for longer, no real pressure on direct learning, but lots of encouragement in learning to learn and enjoying school.

More involvement in school and class dramas, plays etc. Learning to be social etc.

As a direct age comparison, I have read that UK children are further ahead academically, but that Australian children are more ahead in being a person.

This can change when they move to High School, and by the end of their schooling, it seems to even itself out.

International Education Survey Comparisons

There are two International Education surveys carried out on a regular basis; PISA and TIMSS.

Both of these surveys provide information about different aspects of students’ mathematics and science learning.

  • PISA assesses careful reading, logical thinking and the application of general mathematical and scientific processes and principles to everyday problems.
  • TIMSS assesses mastery of the factual and procedural knowledge taught in school mathematics and science curricula.

This page originally Published on: 16 May 2011, and updated Sept 2015

By comparing the 2009 PISA and the TIMMS results, it would seem that the following applies:

  • Australia and New Zealand students perform better (on average) in applying general mathematical and scientific principles and skills to everyday problems than in recalling and using curriculum-based factual and procedural knowledge.
  • UK students perform better (on average) in recalling and using curriculum-based factual and procedural knowledge, compared to the application of these skills in everyday situations.

2012 PISA results

MATHS 2012 PISA results

Student Performance in Math (mean score)

504 Australia
494 United Kingdom
494 OECD Average

Boys’ performance in maths (mean score)

510 Australia
500 United Kingdom
499 OECD Average

Girls’ performance in maths (mean score)

498 Australia
489 OECD Average
488 United Kingdom

READING 2012 PISA results

Student performance in reading (mean score)

512 Australia
499 United Kingdom
496 OECD Average

Boys’ performance in reading (mean score)

495 Australia
487 United Kingdom
478 OECD Average

Girls’ performance in reading (mean score)

530 Australia
515 OECD Average
512 United Kingdom

SCIENCE 2012 PISA results

Student performance in science (mean score)

521 Australia
514 United Kingdom
501 OECD Average

Boys’ performance in science (mean score)

524 Australia
521 United Kingdom
502 OECD Average

Girls’ performance in science (mean score)

519 Australia
508 United Kingdom
500 OECD Average

SPENDING per country in USD. 2012

Cumulative expenditure per student aged 6 to 15 by educational institutions (equivalent USD using PPPs)

$98,025 Australia
$98,023 United Kingdom
$83,382 OECD Average

In 2012, Asian countries as Shanghai-China, Singapore, Hong Kong-China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea have the highest scores in mathematics, reading and science. The only exception is Finland, which also is among the top five performers in science.

Source for 2012 PISA figures:

PISA Result Changes from 2009 to 2012


Australia has dropped from 514 to 504
United Kingdom has risen from 492 to 494


Australia has dropped from 515 to 512
United Kingdom has risen from 494 to 499


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Australia has dropped from 527 to 521
United Kingdom has stayed the same at 514


Pisa 2009

Pisa 2009 figures can be seen at: and at:

These results show the following:

PISA 2009 results in the three subjects.

Rank Reading Score
1 shanghai-China 556
2 Korea 539
3 Finland 536
6 Canada 524
7 New Zealand 521
9 Australia 515
17 United States 500
25 United Kingdom 494
Rank Maths Score
1 shanghai-China 600
2 singapore 562
3 Hong Kong-China 555
10 Canada 527
13 New Zealand 519
15 Australia 514
29 United Kingdom 492
32 United States 487
Rank Science Score
1 shanghai-China 575
2 Finland 554
3 Hong Kong-China 549
7 New Zealand 532
8 Canada 529
10 Australia 527
16 United Kingdom 514
23 United States 502

PISA 2006 World rankings for Reading, Maths and Science
An article in the Daily Telegraph in December 2007 showed the rankings of 57 countries in the subjects of Reading, Maths & Science.

  • In Reading, the UK was position 17, with Australia at position 7
  • In Maths, the UK was position 24, and Australia at position 13
  • In Science, the UK was position 14, and Australia at position 8.

The data comes from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

There is another article also at the Daily Telegraph with more information.

More information on the UK – Australia comparisons, from the: PISA 2006 Results PDF File

PISA 2006 results in the three subjects.

Science Proficiency PISA 2006

  • 563 Finland – The Highest Scoring country
  • 527 Australia – Position 8
  • 515 United Kingdom – Position 14

Reading Proficiency PISA 2006

  • 556 Korea – The Highest Scoring country
  • 513 Australia – Position 7
  • 495 United Kingdom – Position 17

Mathematics Proficiency PISA 2006

  • 549 Chinese Taipei – The Highest Scoring country
  • 520 Australia – Position 13
  • 495 United Kingdom- Position 24

TIMSS 2007

TIMMS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) is a worldwide research project, taking place every four years and providing data about trends in Mathematics and Science achievement over time.

A total of 36 countries at Year 4, and 49 countries at Year 8, participated in the TIMSS 2007 study, with approximately 425,000 pupils involved worldwide.

Most countries tested pupils with 4 years formal schooling, but England and Scotland tested year 5 pupils.

  • In Australia 228 schools and 4,108 students participated in year 4, with 228 schools and 4,069 students in year 8.
  • In Scotland 139 schools and 3,929 students participated in year 5, with 129 schools and 3,929 students in year 9 (P5).
  • In England 143 schools and 4,316 students participated in year 5, with 137 schools and 4,025 students in year 9.

Note: TIMSS  assesses the knowledge and skills of pupils aged 9-10 (otherwise known as grade 4.) and 13-14 (grade 8. ). Both England and Scotland entered year 5 and year 9 children, whilst the other countries entered year 4 and year 8.

The results can be seen at:

A few examples of this report, based on this following Points System,

  • 625 Advanced benchmark
  • 550 High benchmark
  • 475 Intermediate benchmark
  • 400 Low benchmark


Actual score Results:

  • Primary Mathematics
    • 541 England Year 5
    • 516 Australia Year 4
    • 494 Scotland Year 5
  • Primary Science
    • 542 England Year 5
    • 527 Australia Year 4
    • 500 Scotland Year 5
  • Senior Mathematics
    • 513 England Year 9
    • 496 Australia Year 8
    • 487 Scotland Year 9
  • Senior Science
    • 542 England Year 9
    • 515 Australia Year 8
    • 496 Scotland Year 9

Year 4 Mathematics

Australia’s score has increased by 17 since 2003 and by 22 score points since 1995.

Australia’s year 4 was outperformed in 2007 by England’s year 5, but was higher than Scotland’s year 5.

Students in Year 4 who spoke a language other than English at home achieved significantly lower on average in mathematics than students who predominantly spoke English.

Year 8 Science

Australia’s average score has declined by 12 points since TIMSS 2003, and is relatively unchanged since 1995.

Australia’s year8 was outperformed by England’s year 9, but came ahead of Scotland’s year 9.

The proportion of students achieving the advanced benchmark was strikingly higher for students with at least one parent completing a university degree.

Australian students tend to receive less mathematics and science homework at both Year 4 and Year 8 than students in other countries.

There is a difference between the States with ages of the children participating, with the lowest year 4 average age group being 9.5 yrs (QLD) and the highest being 10.3 yrs (TAS).

This is due to different school starting ages in the different States.

The results for Queensland are consequently lower than most other States.

There is a PDF document with all the results, and sample questions, which makes very interesting for anyone interested in the Education in Australia.

The TIMMS 2007 document is here:

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Thanks for this. Would be great to see these stats updated if possible? Very useful.

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