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Wednesday, 1 April 1987
Page: 1598

Senator ZAKHAROV —Is the Minister for Education aware that the retention rate to year 12 of Victorian students has reached 58.6 per cent this year, compared with 40 per cent in 1982, and that this increased rate is particularly evident in government schools? What contributions have Federal Government initiatives made to this marked improvement in the retention rate of secondary students?

Senator RYAN —I have been delighted to see the progress being made in all Australian States in improving the school retention rates because a major policy plank of our strategy for young people is that they should get more opportunities for education. It is a question related to the preparedness of young people to become skilled and productive workers; it is also a question of equity. With both those considerations in mind our Government, in co-operation with the State governments and the non-government school system, set out to increase retention rates. The Victorian Government, and particularly the Victorian education Minister, Ian Cathie, is to be congratulated on this excellent performance of improving retention rates in schools within its responsibility.

Everyone who is aware of and has been monitoring this heartening development will know that Commonwealth initiatives, such as the participation and equity program, have certainly assisted teachers in government schools where retention rates had previously been very low to bring in new and improved curricula, to set up new and improved relationships with parents and employers in the community and to give young people an education which they judged was worth while having. As well as the success of the participation and equity program in assisting improved retention rates, there are, of course, the great increases in the Austudy payments to 16- and 17-year-olds. These have now been increased by over 100 per cent on what they were when we came into office, and undoubtedly by targeting this sort of education assistance to poorer families we are giving them a very real and concrete form of assistance so that the young people can take advantage of education. I was delighted to see the Victorian results. I am also pleased that other States are showing improved participation, although the rate of increase in Victoria has been truly outstanding.