Huge cost of losing our smarts

AUSTRALIA'S declining performance in education will cost the economy an estimated $119 billion in coming decades, according to a new report that highlights the rising cost of inequality in Aussie schools.

The Public Education Foundation has calculated the total cost of Australia's flatlining performance in reading, maths and science would be $118.6 billion over the working lives of current students, based on the long-term impacts of falling test scores, Fairfax Media reports.

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The figure comes from an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development calculation that estimates a 0.87 per cent decline in long-term GDP growth per year for every 50-point fall in a country's Programme for International Student Assessment test scores.

In its latest issues paper out today, the PEF has highlighted that inequality alone has cost the nation $20.3 billion and has contributed to a widening gap between the nation's rich and poor.

It found Australian students were generally slipping behind their global peers but that those with the lowest scores were falling behind further and at a faster rate.

"This trend should be deeply concerning for all Australians," the report's author David Hetherington said.

"If this continues, there will be lower incomes, fewer job opportunities, a less dynamic society - and that affects all of us, not only the kids at the bottom who bear the most direct brunt of it."

The report, What Price the Gap? Education and Inequality in Australia, shows the average performance of students in the bottom ten per cent fell 21.3 points between 2009 and 2015, while those in the top ten per cent fell 14.4 points.

It comes ahead of the public release of the Gonski 2.0 review, which will recommend new evidence-based methods to improve outcomes in Australian schools.

The Turnbull Government commissioned the review from David Gonski last year. The completed report was due to be handed to government in March.

It's understood the government will announce its action plan, based on the review, this year.

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