27 October 2015

25% of Australian students drop out before graduating

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After the Abbott Government’s 2014 budget announced unprecedented cuts to Federal funding of State education, New South Wales Premier Mike Baird referred to the cuts as a “kick in the guts to the people of New South Wales.”

The then Federal Education Minister’s perceived back flip on Gonski funding did nothing to ensure smooth waters between Federal and State Level Governments across the country, with Australia’s school students caught in the cross-fire.

The recent “The Education Opportunity in Australia 2015” report launched on Monday by education policy think tank the Mitchell Institute exposed the alarming statistic that 26 per cent of Australian students, or approximately 81, 199 people, are not finishing their high school education.

The sheer volume of students failing to complete their high school education and dropping out of the education system altogether paints a bleak picture for the future workforce in Australia, developing a system of “haves and have nots,” that will firmly entrench disadvantage in Australian society for the coming generation.

According to the report, New South Wales experienced at 27% drop out rate equating to 26,535 people failing to achieve high school graduation.

Statistics in the report show socially disadvantaged students were leaving school at a much higher rate – 40 per cent – compared to approximately 10 per cent of students from wealthier backgrounds.

Most of the students from socially disadvantage backgrounds are attending government schools (approximately 77.5 per cent), however current government expenditure on private schools has increased 107 per cent in recent years, more than double the growth in funding for state schools.

This is the future workforce of Australia,” Mitchell Institute Director Dr Sara Glover said in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday. “If we are not equipping them well enough for that, this is a quarter of young talent wasted. For our economy, and our future, we can’t afford to do that.”

Given the transitioning Australian economy and the call to increase enrollment and study in S.T.E.M subjects, the idea that a quarter of Australia’s next generation is being left behind is one that must be addressed.

The report also reflected on the fact 28.4 per cent of Australian Year 7 students do not meet international standards in reading, with one in six students who do perform above benchmark standards failing to complete Year 12, or an equivalent by the age of 19.

Education has been stuck in the traditional model now for many years. Perhaps it is time to examine a more flexible approach to education, providing students with the opportunity to both study and gain long term skills to help bridge the gap caused by increased high school drop outs. 

Given the levels of success shown by the digital revolution in Higher Education, perhaps there are more flexible options which could allow students to learn and flourish outside the more traditional and rigid classroom model.

For further information and to download The Educational Opportunity in Australia 2015 report, please click here

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