Performance of Australia’s education & training systems

Universal access to education should work to provide opportunities for all young Australians to do well, irrespective of who they are, where they live or what school they attend. This includes early childhood, primary and secondary education, a robust system of apprenticeships and vocational education, and an extensive public university sector.

But to what extent is this true of modern Australia? To what extent are the benefits of success available to all? How can education and training systems be improved? How well are our systems working to serve our whole community?

These key questions are addressed by research at CIRES in a number of projects.

Educational opportunity in Australia 2020: who succeeds & who misses out

A major new national study reveals that Australian education systems, while working well for some, are failing up to one in three children and young people.

The report – Educational opportunity in Australia 2020: who succeeds and who misses out – was set up to assess how well our education and training systems in Australia are meeting the national objectives for education as specified in the 2019 Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration.

Read the report summary

The Declaration, signed by all Australian education ministers, aspires to education and training that achieves excellence and equity. It commits to supporting all young Australians to become:

  • confident and creative individuals
  • successful lifelong learners
  • active and informed citizens.

The report, prepared by researchers at CIRES and the Mitchell Institute, draws together information from a variety of sources to measure how well the national goals for education are being met. The indicators cover the various stages of learning and development from early childhood through to early adulthood.

Results show that while our systems are working well for a number of young Australians, teaching them the skills needed for contributing effectively to modern workplaces and communities, about one-fifth to one-third of young people are behind or missing out on most indicators.

There are very uneven levels of learning across different groups of young Australians and wide gaps in achievement as learners progress from stage to stage. Young people from poorer backgrounds, Indigenous Australians, and rural students experience high rates of non-completion of school, and poorer outcomes. For these Australians, our systems are not functioning well, raising a question about the quality of education and the capacity for meeting the needs of all young Australians.

Many young Australians are not acquiring the lifelong learning skills and not mastering the knowledge and competencies needed to become creative and confident individuals and active and informed citizens. Australia must do better to lift academic learning across all stages of education and training, and also do better at developing the broader skills that young Australians need.

Client: Mitchell Institute

Year: 2020

CIRES researchers included

Educational opportunity in Australia 2015

This influential report provides one of the most comprehensive data studies undertaken into Australia’s education and training systems. It examined the experiences and opportunities provided to young Australians as they navigate the various stages of education and training from early childhood through school to post-school study and the workforce.

The report identified major patterns of achievement and opportunity at four key milestone points:

  1. early childhood and entry to school
  2. middle years progress
  3. school attainment
  4. work and study in early adulthood.

Read the report summary

For each developmental milestone, CIRES reported on how many and which students are on track, as well as who catches up and who slips behind.

The report was based on an extensive analysis of administrative data and survey data including Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) as well as Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) census data.

The study was undertaken at a national level to develop a picture of the performance of Australia’s education and training systems in delivering quality educational outcomes for all. It showed how differences in educational opportunities for different groups of learners are already apparent by the time children arrive at the school gate, and how early disadvantage can endure and compound over time.

Client: Mitchell Institute

Year: 2015

CIRES researchers included

Counting the costs of lost opportunity in Australian education

This study estimated the fiscal and social losses associated with both early school leaving and not being actively engaged in work and study in the post-school years.

Read the study summary

The economic model used to estimate the losses used national research evidence and national survey and census data.

The approach to calculating costs drew on methods used in a collection of well-regarded US studies that estimate the financial cost to government and society of young people not well prepared for further study and work.

The costs outlined in this report – of having many young Australians grow up without the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century – emphasise the need for educational reform and the extent to which it will burden the nation if we do nothing.

Client: Mitchell Institute

Year: 2017

CIRES researchers included

Improving performance in vocational education & training (VET)

Since 2016, a consortium consisting of CIRES and Wallis Consulting Group has been conducting and reporting on two surveys on behalf of the Victorian Department of Education and Training.

The two surveys comprise:

  • An annual employer survey that collects information from approximately 30,000 Victorian employers of apprentices and trainees to ascertain their levels of satisfaction with the training provided to their apprentices and trainees by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs).
  • A biennial skills and training needs survey that collects information from around 70,000 Victorian businesses about their experiences, challenges and decisions with recruitment, skills needs and training.

The research team analyses the results from the surveys with a focus on:

  • measuring employer satisfaction with the quality of, and outcomes from, training at a system level and at an individual RTO level
  • providing insights into areas of training needs and current and future skill needs development
  • collecting information that can support the Victorian VET system to better meet the needs of Victorian employers.

Reports are generated and provided to the Victorian Government annually along with key data sets.

Client: Victorian Department of Education and Training

Years: 2016-2020

CIRES researchers included