Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard   

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Wednesday, 28 March 1984
Page: 788

Senator COLSTON —I direct my question to the Minister for Education and Youth Affairs. I refer to a reported statement by the Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University that the low number of Australian students completing secondary schooling is a 'national disgrace'. What percentage of students complete 12 years of schooling in Australia and how does this percentage compare with school participation rates in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries? What can the Federal and State governments do to increase the percentage of Australian students who complete secondary education?

Senator RYAN —I agree with the Vice-Chancellor of Melbourne University that it is a national disgrace that such a low proportion of our young people complete secondary education compared with the proportions in similar countries. The appropriate measure to use when talking about students completing secondary schooling is the apparent retention rate from first to final year of secondary schooling. The latest data available for Australia shows that the apparent retention rate to final year secondary schooling was 36.3 per cent in 1982. Strictly comparable data for other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries is not available but the information which is available indicates that some OECD countries have retention rates of about 80 per cent. The Federal Government can address this serious problem by continuing the initiative we have already taken under the participation and equity program. Under that program about $75m is being made available to States and Territories this year to promote changes in government and non-government schools and tertiary and further education colleges that will make the programs better adapted to the needs and interests of young people, particularly to those young people who form part of that disadvantaged group which have been leaving school early. The Commonwealth Schools Commission and the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission are working actively with the authorities in the States on the development of this program. Representative committees are being established in the States to guide its development and to involve actively parents, teachers and young people.

In respect of that part of Senator Colston's question about what the Federal and State governments can do, I think an important part of the answer is to co- operate in this matter. I have gone to great lengths to secure the co-operation of my State ministerial colleagues in the development of the participation and equity program because we recognise that the changes that need to be made will be made effectively only if the State governments understand and share our objectives. I am happy to report to Senator Colston that a high degree of co- operation with all State Ministers of education has been established. The committees have now been appointed. I hope that the improved programs for the upper secondary years will start to operate this year and as a result at the end of this year we will be able to record a participation rate which is something better than the one we inherited from the present Opposition and which will start to move that national disgrace into a much more constructive and optimistic outlook for young people.