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More finish year 12, but then hit the wall

Aiming high: Tenile Bryce, 17, with her mother, Gail, and sister Teigan, 19, who was the first in the family to go to university.

Aiming high: Tenile Bryce, 17, with her mother, Gail, and sister Teigan, 19, who was the first in the family to go to university. Photo: Jacky Ghossein

The number of students finishing year 12 has grown over the past five years but the result is soured by a drop in school leavers moving on to full-time work or study.

A new national education report card shows 85 per cent of people aged 20 to 24 had completed year 12 or equivalent as of 2011, up from 82.8 per cent five years earlier.

"It's still extraordinary that we can't do better than that.": Tony Nicholson, Brotherhood of St Laurence.

"It's still extraordinary that we can't do better than that.": Tony Nicholson, Brotherhood of St Laurence. Photo: Supplied

Despite the progress, the Council of Australian Governments Reform Council doubts the nation will meet its target of 90 per cent year 12 completion by 2015.

And the proportion of people aged 17 to 24 who were fully involved in work or study after school dropped from 73.9 per cent to 72.7 per cent over the five years.

Although the rate of young people studying full-time increased, this gain was outstripped by a big decline in full-time employment.

The COAG Reform Council defined people as not fully engaged in work or study if they were not in full-time study, full-time work, or a combination of study and work.

COAG Reform Council deputy chairman Greg Craven said the global financial crisis would be one of the influences behind the lower post-school participation rate.

But he said the increase in year 12 completion was important because of a direct link between outcomes of parents and children.

''If more Australians are attaining the end of school, we can expect children of those Australians are going to do better,'' he said.

The results are much bleaker among disadvantaged students.

The report shows 41.7 per cent of those from the poorest backgrounds were disengaged from work or study, more than double the 17.4 per cent rate in the most well-off group, with a widening of the gap between 2006 and 2011.

The report shows no improvement in indigenous school attendance over this period, although year 12 attainment has improved 6.5 percentage points.

But after leaving school, 60.6 per cent of indigenous young people were not fully engaged in work or study - well above the 26 per cent rate among the rest of the youth population.

Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Tony Nicholson said the disparity was ''shameful'' and he was frustrated that so little progress had been made.

''It's still extraordinary that we can't do better than that,'' he said.

Mr Nicholson, whose organisation helps deliver services to disadvantaged young people, called for funding under the Gonski school reforms to provide remedial programs.

He said the modern economy placed a premium on qualifications and skills, with non-school completion often leading to ''a life sentence of poverty and exclusion''.

Disengagement from school was typically began after students moved from primary to secondary schooling, when more independent learning was required.

Professor Craven said early childhood reforms had started to lead to improved results in primary school but secondary results were yet to improve as hoped.

One in eight working age people had only the lowest level of literacy skills and one in five had the lowest numeracy level in 2011-12, creating a barrier to workforce participation.

''Governments have their work cut out in that particular area,'' Professor Craven said.

 

 

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148 comments

  • Prof Craven has mistaken early childhood reform with lowering the bar. Unfortunately this will only be seen in 5-10 years. But there is always a solution, lower the bar further up the schooling assesment.

    Commenter
    abc
    Date and time
    October 30, 2013, 7:13AM
    • Agree ABC. Also just another worrying symptom of the primitive two party political system that completely blocks quality leadership and sound management.

      Commenter
      kanga
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 10:24AM
    • Bender,

      Actually the "crucible of life" as you so quaintly put it was not competition. The earliest form of reproduction were asexual reproduction which did not involve competition at all.

      Commenter
      Lesm
      Location
      Balmain
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 3:49PM
  • There are a combination of factors at work here but most of them are off limits to discussion and resolution because of the prevailing minor ideologies. The first is that the best motivation for everything in our society is competition. We have imbibed this at our mothers knee as a result of a propaganda campaign of unprecedented scale over the last hundred years in the West. It has excluded any other motivation or any other approach and it's fundamental problem is that there can only ever by a very small number of winners in a competitive society. That consigns the rest to being "losers". Once they have accepted that they are losers they often give up and no longer try. Our society is littered with such results of the ideology, largely taken from the economists, that competition will solve every human problem. An ideology that has, for anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear, has failed the bulk of our citizens dismally.

    The second minor ideology is closely related and that is neo-liberalism combined with a strangulated and constipated version of free trade. That tells us that we need to move production of any good or service to the cheapest point on the planet as that will benefit us all as consumers, and as economics looks only at us, at any depth, as consumers. It has nothing useful to say about us as producers. That means that most of the skilled jobs are no longer available here. The best brains therefore have to go in to the unproductive and sometimes destructive activities like finance, real estate and insurance, and there are only a limited number of those jobs. (cont)

    Commenter
    Lesm
    Location
    Balmain
    Date and time
    October 30, 2013, 7:18AM
    • Lesm you can not be serious can you ? The fact is there has and will always be competition in the natural and human world. I believe it is some little know theory called survial of the fittest. If you wish to sit on your hads whilst Singapore and China pump out masses of intelligent students do not be surprised when multinational countries give the high end jobs to them and not our little darlings.

      As to most of the skilled jobs are not in Australia anymore too true but that is because they are going to countries that have the academic talent. Look at the figures ( in my opinion the most significant but not reported of the study) relating to the students in the top bands, In academically advanced countries they have 40% of students in these bands, then look at Australians rates, really disgusting. It would indicate that only more and more top end jobs will be going overseas in the next decade. Not surprising considering most of Australians attitude to academia.

      That lack of study and supporting academic excelence in Australia has lead to our poor education levels is hardly surprising.

      Commenter
      abc
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 8:44AM
    • I somewhat agree about the competition Lesm. Perhaps I'd modify your comments to add that what we see as success for school children is very narrow. This article perpetuates that in the case study at the end, highlighting the success of the system in getting a disadvantaged child to university, as if this is the ultimate goal of schooling.

      Many students are not suited to academic study. This may be due to many reasons, not simply innate abilities but also their suitability to learn in a classroom environment, their parents view of school undermining their approach to school, events in the earlier life putting them behind or giving them emotional blocks to the school environment. These students should not be forced to stay on at school where the only thing they seem to learn is the disenchantment and disengagement you mention, leaving them wholly unsuitable for working life. These students may well be able to learn but need to come at it from a different angle, under their own steam, at tafe (yes and this is being wound back) or after having a time in the workforce to generate a sense of self. Whether they do or not is up to them and they should not be judged on it by society one way or another.

      An alternative approach, the two/three tier schooling systems, (academic, trade, special needs) in some European countries is seen as compartmentalising students too early in life. Unfortunately our system does exactly the same, but it compartmentalises everyone to an academic stream, failing far more than the tiered approach. I would like to see the vocational stream recently introduced expanded substantially and lowered in age to year 9 but with an ability to transition between the streams. And let them leave at 16.

      Commenter
      nowt
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 8:50AM
    • Nowt

      great idea !

      would suggest 4 types of schooling.. selective, academic, trade and special needs.

      The report shows we have neglected our academically gifted students for too long

      Commenter
      abc
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 9:12AM
    • Abc@ Not sure about that. Electrolux closing going to Thailand, a lot of new japanese cars being manufacturing in Thailand and imported into Australia. Lots of other companies offshoring to Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam. Would be interesting to know the academic standards in these countries.

      Commenter
      Garrick
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 9:15AM
    • abc,

      I am actually! The jobs have gone to those countries not because they have the talented people but because those talented people that they have work for a fraction of the wages we have achieved by developing industry and bringing ourselves to our current state of development through our own talents. Now we have economic ideologues running everything here who believe that money is a trade commodity and not just an abstraction that is designed to grease the wheels of real production. These economic cretins have then shipped the skilled jobs out of Australia leaving talented, highly educated Australian kids to take crap jobs or go overseas and contribute to the national wealth of smart countries who don't simply see people as consumers and not producers.

      Incidentally the education systems of Singapore and China do not "pump out masses of intelligent students". Those students were intelligent, just like Australian kids, before they went in to the system. They produce educated kids, as do our Universities. If that were not true, why are the numbers of Asian students studying at our Universities growing exponentially. Actually our students, when they go overseas, are in much demand as being highly skilled. The problem is that we focus only on the gifted and largely ignore the rest because of this obsession with winners. No society in history has been successful over the long term by ignoring the bulk of the population in terms of their potential contributions.

      You also missed the point, hardly surprisingly, that competition is only one motivator in a complex, modern society. How about co-operation??

      Commenter
      Lesm
      Location
      Balmain
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 9:21AM
    • nowt,

      A very thoughtful and considered contribution. I agree!!

      Commenter
      Lesm
      Location
      Balmain
      Date and time
      October 30, 2013, 9:25AM

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