Primary literacy and numeracy

Education plays a vital role in lifting the overall socio-economic outcomes of the whole community. Students in New South Wales (NSW) consistently perform above the national average in standardised literacy and numeracy tests. 

In 2013, NSW had a very high proportion of Year 5 students who met or exceeded the minimum national benchmarks for reading, writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation, and numeracy. NSW was the best performing state for reading.  


The OECD's (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Education Policy Outlook: Australia report, released in June 2013, cites a number of features of the Australian education system that place it among the world's best. 

Australian schools are recognised for their:

  • fair and equitable access
  • positive learning environments
  • strong pedagogical leadership and 
  • well-prepared teachers supported by an effective evaluation and assessment framework.

Students' instruction times and teachers' teaching time are among the highest across OECD countries. 

High completion rates for upper secondary and tertiary education and fewer underperforming students than the OECD average and effective secondary and tertiary pathways that prepare students well for social and labour market integration further demonstrate the quality of education in Australia.  

A 2010 OECD report, The High Cost of Low Educational Performances, presents economic modelling that shows there are enormous economic gains to be had by countries that can improve the cognitive skills of their school children.

Primary Literacy and Numeracy, 2013
State/Territory1 Reading % Writing % Spelling % Grammar  and  punctuation  % Numeracy %
New South Wales 96.8 93.1 94.3 95.8 93.9
Victoria 96.5 94.2 94.4 96.0 94.4
Queensland 96.2 90.0 92.5 94.4 93.6
South Australia 95.7 89.3 91.4 94.1 92.0
Western Australia 96.0 90.9 92.4 94.0 92.7
Tasmania 95.5 89.0 89.8 93.0 92.4
Northern Territory 73.7 59.8 64.1 66.6 69.7
Australian Capital Territory 97.0 94.1 94.2 96.5 95.0
Australia 96.1 91.7 93.1 94.8 93.4

Percentages reflect the proportion of students at or above the national minimum standard  

  1. Year 5 students. The typical average age of students varies by state, from 10 years 5 months in Queensland and Western Australia, to 10 years 11 months in Tasmania.  

Source: Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, National Assessment Program Literacy and Numeracy, National Report, 2013