Australian students are among the best educated in the world but high schoolers from regional and remote areas aren't keeping pace with city kids.
A study of 15-year-old students from across the world found major city schools in Australia are overachieving when compared to the U.K., U.S. and around 60 other countries.
While regional and remote students scored lower in reading, mathematics and scientific literacy than their city counterparts, according to a study released by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER) on December 5.
"Australia has a good education system, but it can be a lot better and fairer, and these results again highlight this," federal education minister Jason Clare said.
"We have to fix the funding gap and fix this education gap."
Comparing regional and metro students
The study, which involved more than 690,000 students from 81 countries, tracked academic achievement through the pandemic and noted an "unprecedented drop in performance" overall.
ACER said the assessment went beyond basic tests and focused on "young people's ability to apply their knowledge and skills to real-world problems and situations".
Students from major city schools significantly outperformed regional schools in all tested fields.
Regional schools averaged 463 out of 800 in mathematics while metro schools reached 496. Remote schools had an average mathematics score 70 points lower than metro with 426.
Regional science scores were 27 points behind city schools while remote schools trailed by 68 points out of 800.
Similarly, regional reading scores were 31 points behind metro and remote schools were 66 points short of the city.
Where are the highest performers?
There were twice as many high performing kids at metro schools than in the regions with 14 per cent of city schools classified as "high performers" compared to seven per cent in the country.
Only two per cent of kids at remote schools were high performers, the research found.
The concentration of "poor performers" increased in regional and remote areas.
Around a quarter of students in major city schools were considered poor performers while 34 per cent were studying in regional areas.
"Disturbingly, almost half of students in remote areas" were poor performers, ACER said.