The job of parenting: IT workers have Australia's smartest kids, according to OECD report

Written on the 19 February 2014

KIDS who have at least one parent working in IT, business or engineering are the best performing students in Australia.

An OECD report into the link between student performance and their parents' occupations has also found the sons and daughters of subsistence farmers, salespeople and machine operators are the lowest performing students in the nation's schools.

Not only were the kids of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) workers top of the country in Maths and Science, they were also found to be the best in terms of reading.
Australian Information Industry Association CEO Suzanne Campbell said: "ICT worker's skills include the analytical, the innovative, the creative thinking, and the can-do, curiosity and solving business problems.

"My expectation is that the children of ICT workers are enjoying the benefits of being exposed to all of those skills and being inspired in their family environment to take risks."

She said exposing kids to sites like where they learn how to make code software and solve problems would also be having an effect.

The report also highlighted our poor performance in Maths, with Australian students finishing 18th out of the 63 countries measured.

The gap between Australia and the top maths performers is so big that the son or daughter of a Shanghai (China) subsistence farmer will perform as well as the offspring of an Australian health or teaching professional.

The kids of customer service clerks and clerical support workers in Singapore will on average perform better than the Australian kids of ICT workers, who are our best performing students.

The co-author of the Federal Government's upcoming Australian Curriculum review, Dr Kevin Donnelly, said the International results show there are actually more important factors in student performance than simply their mum and dad's education.

"How well you perform at school is not just about your home background and what your parents do," he said.

"There is more we can do in Australia and it gets back to having stronger expectations about what students can actually do and not trying to make an excuse that just because they might come from a working class background that they are not going to do well.

"Parents are their children's first teachers. Parents need to have higher expectations by turning off the computers and the plasma TV and actually getting their kids to do more stimulating and engaging activities."

Charles Sturt Faculty of Education Professor Toni Downes said part of the difference between Australia and Asia is due to the importance placed on education overseas.

"There is a significant difference across these countries in the importance attributed to 'schooling' by families of different socio-economic backgrounds," she said.

"In some of these countries very poor families will make extraordinary sacrifices to ensure that their children get a good education because they see it as a way of lifting the children and future generations out of poverty.

"These sentiments no longer seem as strong in Western or First-World Nations."

Prof Downes said the amount of family income parents spent on out-of-school coaching in South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan is a lot higher than in Australia.

Explore the relationship between parent's occupations and their children's performance in Mathematics, Reading and Science in your own country and in other countries by clicking here.


The best performing students in Australia are the sons and daughters of:

  • Information and Communications Technology workers
  • Business and Administration Professionals
  • Science and Engineering Associates
  • Science and Engineering Professionals
  • Legal, Social and Cultural workers
  • Chief Executives Senior Officials
  • Professionals
  • Teaching Professionals
  • Health Professionals
  • Business and Administration Associates

The worst performing:

  • Subsistence Farmers
  • Street and Related Salespeople
  • Stationary Plant and Machine Workers
  • Cleaners and Helpers
  • Elementary Occupations
  • Food Preparation Assistants
  • Market-Oriented Skilled Forestry and Fishery Workers
  • Plant and Machine Operators
  • Labourers in Mining Construction
  • Food Processing and Wood Working

Source: OECD


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