Educational opportunity in Australia – 2015 and 1965

First – hard to believe – it is fifty years since I first taught (practicum) at Cronulla High School, though appointed in 1966 and teaching the first HSC 1966-1967. A few years ago I revisited.


At Cronulla High September 2011

Going back to that half-century ago and more see Recycle 4: from March 2006; links may not work now:

Note too that when comparing present and past courses, the best comparison is between the Advanced course and the older course, as retention rates become very significant. “The student retention rate has increased from around 35 per cent in the early 1980s to over 70 per cent today.” In 1959 it was probably below 30% — we were elite students doing an elite course with university — and there were only three of them in NSW — very much in mind. The nearest I could get to a retention rate for 1959 was a 1960 figure for all of Australia on this PDF file — 12% of 17-year-olds* were in school in Australia in 1960.

* See comments. It is true that in 1959 NSW had five-year high schools. In my own cohort we ranged from 15 (Ted Oliver: brilliant!) to 19 when we sat for the leaving. I was 16; maybe half were 17. Now the HSC is usually done at 17-18, with most being 18.

2 Responses to “Penguin Classics: Wuthering Heights”

  1. 1 Marcel Proust May 5th, 2006 at 11:48 pmHaloscan 16 March 2006

    That’s a good attempt to obtain a retention figure, but as NSW in those days only had 5 years of secondary education, the “standard” age for the final year must have been 16. Presumably the introduction of the Wyndham scheme (1967 was the first year of six-year secondary education) accounts for a large part of the jump in the percentage between 1966 and 1968 shown in your source.


  2. 2 Owner May 5th, 2006 at 11:50 pmHaloscan 16 March 2006

    I wish I had kept my copy of the Wyndham Report; I think it was all in there. I agree about the five-year high school; I was 16 myself when I did the Leaving. I seem to remember the retention rate was somewhere around 25%. Even at Sydney Boys High where it is now close to 100% (actually more like 110% due to add-ons in Year 11) we went from 206 in 1955 to 143 in that cohort’s final year of 1959.

I replay all that to accompany this news item from today: Quarter of Australian students drop out, new report reveals.

One in four Australian students fails to complete a year 12 certificate or vocational equivalent, and 30 per cent of year 7 students are falling behind international benchmarks in reading.

A landmark national study by education policy think tank the Mitchell Institute has also exposed an alarming discrepancy between advantaged and disadvantaged students, and warns the gaps are widening in a “segregated” system that leaves poorer students behind.

The Educational Opportunity in Australia 2015 report, which was released on Monday, has found a staggering 26 per cent of Australian 19-year-olds, or 81,199 people, are not finishing school.

In NSW, 27 per cent (26,535 people) dropped out, while 23 per cent of Victorian 19-year-olds (17,886 people) did not complete year 12 or an equivalent.

About 40 per cent of Australia’s poorest 19-year-olds are leaving school early, compared with about 10 per cent of the wealthiest…

Most socially disadvantaged students attend government schools (77.5 per cent), yet total government expenditure on private schools increased 107 per cent between 1991 and 2000.

This was more than twice the growth in funding for state schools, at 52 per cent, and far outstripped growth in enrolments.

The report’s lead author, Professor Stephen Lamb, said the the effects of student disadvantage were strong in Australia compared with Canada and New Zealand.

Personally I deplore the rise and rise of expenditure on so-called “independent” schools, even if at times I have worked in some. Parents waste a lot of money — too often with dubious tangible reward, in my opinion. But that aside, it is worth comparing the two items in this post so far and reflecting on the fact that when I worked at Cronulla High all those years ago we would have been amazed to contemplate a Year 11/12 retention rate of 75%! We certainly wouldn’t have been wringing our hands about it.

Next thing is I always suspect think tanks. I wonder who they are and what their agenda is, so I checked. The Mitchell Institute is in Melbourne and is named for philanthropist Harold Mitchell. It has been going since just 2013. I note a couple of known names among its advisers: Lindsay Tanner and Peter Dawkins.

And the report itself looks interesting.

Educational opportunity in Australia 2015: Who succeeds and who misses out is one of the most comprehensive data studies undertaken into Australia’s education and training system. Prepared by the Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES) for the Mitchell Institute, this study draws together information on the opportunities being provided to young Australians as they negotiate the various stages of education and training and attempt to establish themselves in the workforce during their transition to adulthood.

The findings are presented as an index of educational opportunity which measures how many students are on track and missing out at important developmental milestones, as well as who catches up and slips behind…