Some gains in education and skills but gaps remain

16-11-2011

Governments are making important gains in training and skills, but there are still gaps in performance, according to new reports.

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council reports, released the earlier this month, show national improvements in literacy and numeracy — specifically in Years 3 and 7 Reading, and Year 5 Numeracy.

COAG Chairman Paul McClintock said the council was pleased with the reports.

“For example, our baseline education report showed that Western Australia and Queensland were lagging behind in these areas,” Mr McClintock said.

“However those states have picked up their game this year with improvements in at least two of the four year levels tested in NAPLAN.”

But the council was concerned to find big differences between states and territories in the achievement of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

“Nationally the gap between high and low SES student performance in reading and numeracy is 10 percentage points or more at each year level of testing. This is clearly an issue that requires renewed attention — particularly as COAG has identified social and economic participation as a major focus.”

Another area of concern for the council is Indigenous students’ school attendance. Between 2007 and 2010 there was no improvement in the attendance rate in Years 8, 9 or 10 anywhere in Australia.

“In fact attendance decreased in most States and Territories with particularly large decreases in the Northern Territory and South Australia,” Mr McClintock said.

“Given Indigenous school attendance is crucial to meeting two of COAG’s closing the gap targets, this is a particularly disappointing result.”

The education report also found that Year 12 attainment or equivalent is increasing and COAG is on track to meet its target of 90 per cent attainment by 2015.

However, post-school engagement in education, training and work has not improved over the last decade.

The skills report found that employment outcomes for vocational education and training graduates fell significantly between 2009 and 2010, a continuing trend from 2008 albeit at a slower rate.

“The proportion of VET graduates who were employed after training fell from 80 per cent in 2008 to 76 per cent in 2010,” Mr McClintock said.

“We also found that if long-term trends continue, more effort will be required to meet COAG’s target of decreasing the proportion of Australians without minimum qualifications to 24 per cent by 2020. While it’s too early to see the effect of COAG’s reforms on these trends, meeting this target will be a challenge.”

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