Lost opportunities in Australian education costing billions

A new report by the Mitchell Institute reveals increasing numbers of young Australians are not effectively engaging with the education system, costing taxpayers billions each year.

The findings show that one in eight Australians will never attain a Year 12 qualification, with some remaining disengaged from the workforce for most of their lives. The fiscal and social costs of this are enormous, with immediate change needed to reverse the trend.

For taxpayers, having 38,000 people aged 19 who will never achieve Year 12 or equivalent costs $315 million each year (more than $12 billion over a lifetime). Having 46,000 people aged 24 who will be disengaged for most of their lives costs taxpayers $472 million each year (almost $19 billion over a lifetime).

From a social perspective, the group of early school leavers is costing governments and communities more than $580 million annually (more than $23 billion over a lifetime). The figures are even larger for the disengaged 24 year olds – $1.2 billion each year (more than $50 billion over a lifetime).

These costs are based on cohorts from just one year and are fairly conservative: actual costs are likely higher.

"When we fail to set young people up for success, they are not the only ones affected – the impact stretches to all corners of society," explains Victoria University's Vice‐Chancellor, Professor Peter Dawkins.

"The size of the impact, we've discovered, is staggering. Poor investment in our education system, especially in areas that help young people transition to careers, is costing our country billions of dollars every year."

The report follows recently unveiled exciting plans to transform Victoria University into one of Australia's leading teaching and research institutions, giving students the support they need to succeed in their studies and careers.

"To push the system in the right direction, we are transforming the delivery of our curriculum to allow students to engage more deeply with their teachers and classmates; strengthening pathways from vocational to higher education; embedding employability and entrepreneurship skills into the curriculum to help students discover their passion at university; and providing more wrap-around support for students who may need additional help to succeed."

Professor Dawkins is urging governments, industry leaders, educators and communities to help drive changes necessary in ensuring that all young Australians have the opportunity to succeed.

"It is very important for VU's philosophy - to provide opportunity and success - to become more prevalent across the whole education system and the whole country. Otherwise, we'll all keep paying the costs."

The report is available on the Mitchell Institute website: Counting the costs of lost opportunity in Australian education.

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