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2.05 Education outcomes for young people

Why is it important?

Higher levels of education are associated with improved health outcomes through greater health literacy and better prospects for socio-economic status (including income and employment) which supports increased access to safe and healthy housing (see measures 2.01 & 2.02), healthy lifestyle choices such as regularly eating fruit and vegetables; and not smoking (see measures 2.15 & 2.19) (Clark et al. 2014). Research in the US (Wong et al. 2002) found that mortality has declined at a faster pace for those with more education, with a 7-year increase in life expectancy for college-educated students. International literature also documents improvements in child mortality associated with increased levels of maternal education and attributed this to a variety of factors, including improved understanding of and greater willingness to access health services (Gakidou et al. 2010).

The 'retention rate' measures the extent to which students stay on at school until Year 10, and until Year 12. Another measure is the 'attainment rate', the extent to which students are awarded a certificate at the end of Year 10 or Year 12. Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have had lower retention and attainment rates compared with non-Indigenous students.

Findings

Data for 2013 show that the apparent retention rate of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Years 7/8 to Year 10 was 98% compared with full retention for other students. In the same year, the apparent retention rate of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Years 7/8 to Year 12 was 55% compared with 83% for other students. The apparent retention rate of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Year 11 to Year 12 was 71% compared with 87% for other students. The apparent retention rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females was higher compared with males across all year groups of school retention.

There have been significant increases in Indigenous student apparent retention rates from Year 7/8 to Year 12 (55%), Year 7/8 to Year 10 (20%) and Year 10 to Year 12 (30%) between 1999 and 2013.

In 2013, NSW had the largest number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander full-time students (57,728) followed by Qld (53,768). In the NT 40% of full-time students identify as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ABS 2014l). In 2013, NSW and Victoria had the highest retention rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Year 7/8 to Year 10 (around 100%), while the NT had the lowest (75%). Retention rates of Indigenous students from Year 7/8 to Year 12 were highest in SA (77%) and the ACT (69%) and were lowest in the NT (36%). Rates for Tasmania and the ACT should be interpreted with caution, due to small numbers in these jurisdictions. Some rates exceed 100%, reflecting the movement of students interstate and from non-government to government schools in Years 11 and 12.

Between 2008 and 2012–13, the gap in the Year 12 or equivalent attainment rate for those aged 20–24 years has narrowed by 11.6 percentage points and the COAG target to halve the gap by 2020 is currently on track (Australian Government 2015). Nationally, the proportion of Indigenous 20–24 year olds who had attained Year 12 or equivalent increased from 45% in 2008 to 59% in 2012–13.

In 2012–13, Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates for Indigenous 20–24 year olds were highest in outer regional areas (66%) and lowest in very remote areas (37%). The gap in attainment rates between Indigenous and non-Indigenous was smallest in outer regional areas, where non-Indigenous attainment rates were also lower. The 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment, an international survey of 15-year-olds, found no significant difference between Indigenous Australian males and females in mathematical and scientific literacy; but Indigenous Australian males performed below Indigenous Australian females in reading literacy. Across mathematical, scientific and reading literacy, Indigenous Australian students had a mean score that equated to 2.5 years of schooling below non-Indigenous students. Half of Indigenous Australian students were low performers compared with 18% of non-Indigenous students (Thomson et al. 2013). Indigenous Australian students also achieved lower scores in financial literacy compared with non-Indigenous peers (Thomson 2014).

In the 2008 Social Survey, Indigenous parents identified assistance that would support children to complete Year 12 such as support from family, friends and school (83%); career guidance (36%); subsidies or grants to help with affordability (25%); and schools being suitable for culture and/or beliefs (17%).

Implications

Multi-faceted strategies addressing access to education, family and community engagement, home learning environments, mentors, culturally inclusive support strategies and pathways to employment are needed to improve education outcomes.

COAG has committed to improving educational standards and the quality of schools and has recently agreed a new Closing the Gap target on school attendance (to be met by 2018) (COAG 2014). Under constitutional arrangements, state and territory governments are responsible for ensuring all school-age children have the opportunity to enrol in a safe and supportive school that provides high quality education (SCRGSP 2014b). State and territory governments are responsible for the administration of government schools and provide the majority of the government funding for these schools. Non-government schools operate under conditions determined by state and territory government registration authorities. In 2012, 85% of Indigenous students attended government schools (SCRGSP 2014b).

The Australian Government is responsible for allocating funding to states and territories to support improved service delivery and reform to meet nationally agreed outcomes. The majority of these funds are provided through the National Schools Specific Purpose Payment with supplementary funds through other arrangements such as National Partnerships under the National Education Agreement. The Australian Government provided $6.8 million in 2014 to assist non-government schools with large numbers of Indigenous boarders from remote areas. The Youth Connections programme provided individual support services to almost 75,000 young people between January 2010 and December 2013 (19% of participants were Indigenous).

Figure 2.05-1 Apparent Year 10 retention rates, by Indigenous status, 1998–2013
apparent Year 10 retention rates

Figure 2.05-1 shows apparent Year 10 retention rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians for the period 1998–2013. Data for 2013 show that the apparent retention rate of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Years 7/8 to Year 10 was 98% compared with full retention for other students.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection

Figure 2.05-2 Apparent Year 12 retention rates, by Indigenous status, 1998–2013
apparent Year 12 retention rates, by Indigenous status

Figure 2.05-2 shows apparent Year 12 retention rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians for the period 1998–2013. The apparent retention rate of full time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Years 7/8 to Year 12 was 55% compared with 83% for other students.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection

Figure 2.05-3 Apparent Year 11 to Year 12 retention rates, by Indigenous status and sex, 2004 and 2013
apparent Year 11 to Year 12 retention rates

Figure 2.05-3 shows the proportion of Year 11 to Year 12 retention among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians for the period 2004 to 2013. Data is presented separately for males and females. The apparent retention rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females was higher compared to males across all year groups of school retention.

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection

Table 2.05-1 Apparent retention rates (in per cent), by Indigenous status, jurisdiction and sex, 2013
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples Other
NSW Vic Qld WA SA Tas ACT NT Aust
Year 7/8 to 10 - Apparent retention
Males 103.7 105.3 98.6 90.6 99.7 103.3 105.2 75.3 97.2 101.5
Females 107.7 103.4 102.3 89.0 96.6 101.8 96.2 74.4 99.0 101.9
Total 105.6 104.3 100.4 89.8 98.1 102.6 100.9 74.9 98.1 101.7
Year 7/8 to 12 - Apparent retention
Males 44.2 50.0 64.2 50.2 70.6 49.2 70.6 33.2 52.0 79.1
Females 54.9 60.0 66.4 48.7 83.5 61.8 65.8 39.5 58.2 86.9
Total 49.5 55.1 65.3 49.5 76.9 54.7 68.5 36.1 55.1 82.9
Year 11 to 12 - Apparent retention
Males 63.2 63.6 80.1 62.5 75.8 68.4 60.0 64.0 69.6 85.5
Females 71.4 75.8 78.1 61.3 79.8 75.6 44.6 72.6 72.9 89.2
Total 67.5 69.8 79.1 61.9 77.9 71.8 52.6 68.1 71.3 87.4

Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection