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Friday, 9 December 1983
Page: 3575

Senator RYAN (Minister for Education and Youth Affairs)(9.32) —The meaning of the word 'encourage' in the objects clause of the States Grants (Education Assistance-Participation and Equity) Bill means just that. We believe that about 70 per cent of young people have been discouraged from completing their secondary schooling or undertaking appropriate education or training in the post-compulsory years by a number of factors. They have been discouraged by inadequate curriculum; they have been discouraged by a school organisation which has been unsuitable for older adolescents and they have been discouraged perhaps by teachers who have not been appropriately prepared or trained to assist them in those years. We believe that the kinds of programs which will come about in secondary schooling and other educational institutions as a result of this legislation will encourage people. There will be a whole range of programs which will be funded under this allocation.

I should point out to Senator Peter Baume that the Commonwealth Schools Commission report on the participation and equity program will be tabled next week and will set out in considerable detail exactly how the program will work, the way in which State governments, non-government school authorities, teachers and parents will be involved in developing new programs for the post-compulsory years. Many of Senator Baume's more detailed considerations will be met then. But it is very clear that there have been many discouraging aspects for many young people in the way secondary schooling has been organised, and those aspects go to a very large extent to explain the fact that on a national average about only 30 per cent of our young people complete secondary schooling. I would not have thought any honourable senator in this place would find that a satisfactory situation. I would have thought that anybody who was concerned with the plight of unemployed youth, with the underskilled character of many sections of the work force, with the high unemployment rate, with the need of this economy for new skills, new industries and new activities, would realise that some changes, particularly in the post-compulsory years of schooling, are needed . Of course this Bill will help to make some of those important changes come about.

Senator Baume questioned the phrase 'more equitable outcomes'. He seems to have difficulty in grasping the fact that outcomes in schooling are very unequal and very inequitable. I repeat the statistic: 70 per cent of young people leave school without having completed their secondary education, not competent to proceed to higher education or training and not able to get jobs. That is an unequal outcome. That is an outcome which is inequitable because those young people are having an unequal share of educational resources spent upon them. In contrast to those young people there are other young people who complete their secondary schooling and who go on to university for several years, or to some other form of higher education, and who have very successful outcomes in terms of further qualifications, access to the job market and high and secure incomes for the rest of their lives.

While 70 per cent of the population have very minimal outcomes from schooling and 30 per cent of the population have very successful outcomes the situation is inequitable. That situation is unsatisfactory as far as this Government is concerned. Hence, we have funded and planned, in co-operation with State education authorities and non-government school authorities, a program which will help to change the outcome so that a much higher percentage than 30 per cent of students who finish their secondary schooling are competent to go into some other form of education or training or compete successfully on the job market. That is what we mean by 'more equitable outcomes'. In no sense will we, in providing more and better opportunities for the vast majority of young people , be reducing opportunities for others. Those who already have many, many opportunities will not have their situation impaired by the fact that some opportunities will be extended to children whose needs have not been addressed in the past.