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Wednesday, 19 April 1972
Page: 1772

Mr KENNEDY (BENDIGO, VICTORIA) - 1 ask the Minister for Education and Science a question concerning drop-out rates in secondary schools throughout Australia. Do the figures he released yesterday show that in 1971 only 26 per cent of government pupils and only 33.9 per cent of Catholic pupils were still enrolled for their final secondary year? Do the figures also show that 81.7 per cent of non-Catholic private pupils were still enrolled for their final year? Does a comparison between 197 1 and 1970 in Victoria's government schools show that the only improvement was that last year there were only 29 more pupils still staying on out of the original 46,000 government pupils? How does the Minister account for the inequalities reflected in these figures? Is he concerned about them? If so, what action does he intend to take?

Mr Malcolm Fraser (WANNON, VICTORIA) - The background to the figures that the honourable gentleman has mentioned to the House - insofar as he quoted figures which I gave in answer to a question, I believe they are correct - is one of the reasons underlying the Commonwealth's increasing and growing support for education in all areas. It needs to be noted that the greatest growth in education in recent years has been in the government sector, where over the last 8 or 10 years - I think it is 10 years - enrolments in government secondary schools have increased by about 85 per cent and the improvement in retention rates has been largest in the government sector, as one would expect, because the greatest backlog was in that area. The honourable gentleman would also need to note that those who leave secondary school do not necessarily go immediately into the work force. There are other avenues of training for people who leave before the end of secondary schooling. These figures would not be reflected in the basic overall statistics which the honourable gentleman has quoted.

I think the honourable member for Bendigo would know that it is the Government's objective to achieve a situation in which there is full and complete equality of education for all students in Australia, and that is one of the basic reasons why over a long period the Government has been pursuing policies to up-grade the quality of education in all schools. The Government will contine to do just that. In certain specific areas where inequalities have been demonstrated the Government has selected programmes designed to give people in those areas greater opportunity than might otherwise have been the case. The child migrant programme, under which over 20,000 children have been given special assistance with English, and the Aboriginal study grant programme are 2 specific examples of measures designed to assist under-privileged groups in the "community.

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