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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2001  
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Contents >> Education >> Participation in Education: Time spent studying

Participation in Education: Time spent studying

Australian students spent an average of almost 6 hours per day on education activities in 1997, 20 minutes less than in 1992.

The number of Australians pursuing post-compulsory education increased by nearly 30% during the 1990s (see Australian Social Trends 2000, Beyond compulsory schooling). To a large extent this increase was driven by a growing demand for skilled and educated workers. For many Australians, this meant that a successful and rewarding career was dependent upon an investment of time in education.

The amount of time a student invests in education activities is influenced by many factors and choices, including their living arrangements and family responsibilities, their financial means, and their own aspirations. Consequently, many students find that study time represents a balance between the 'opportunity cost' of reduced time on other activities (such as employment and recreation), and the future rewards education can bring.

In 1997, over 2.1 million Australians aged between 15 and 64 years (18% of this population) were enrolled in some form of education.1 Of these, 31% were still at school, 27% were in full-time post-school study, 34% were in part-time post-school study, and 8% were studying by correspondence. Similar proportions of males and females were studying in 1997.


Time spent studying
This article uses data from the 1997 and 1992 Time Use Surveys, and refers to those people aged 15 years and over who were enrolled in a recognised course of study. Unless otherwise stated, the data used apply only to students who participated in education activities during the survey period.

Time spent is the average time in minutes per day averaged over a seven day week.

Educational activities include:
  • attendance at educational course (including school);
  • job related training;
  • homework/study/research;
  • breaks at place of education;
  • associated travel;
  • associated communication; and
  • other associated activities.

Full-time students are students aged 15 years and over attending secondary school, and full-time tertiary students.


Time spent on education activities
Students overall spent 354 minutes per day on education activities in 1997. This was 20 minutes per day less than they spent in 1992. Most of this change can be attributed to a reduction in the amount of time male students spent studying (from 403 minutes in 1992 to 359 minutes in 1997). Male school students recorded the largest reduction in study time, spending an hour less on education activities in 1997 than they did in 1992. While female school students also spent slightly less time studying in 1997 (404 minutes per day compared with 412 minutes in 1992), the overall time spent by all female students increased by 3 minutes between 1992 and 1997. In 1997, both sexes overall spent similar amounts of time on education activities (359 minutes for males and 350 minutes per day for females).

TIME SPENT BY STUDENTS ON EDUCATION ACTIVITIES

1992
1997


Males
Females
Persons
Males
Females
Persons
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day

Still at school
454
412
433
394
404
399
Full-time post-school study
428
384
406
406
391
397
Part-time post-school study
279
210
241
245
174
205
Study by correspondence
185
155
168
166
187
175
Total
403
347
374
359
350
354

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


The proportions of time students spent on specific education activities did not change greatly between 1992 and 1997. However, students spent less of their time attending education courses in 1997 (42% compared with 45% in 1992), and more of their time on homework, study and research (39% compared with 36% in 1992).

PROPORTION OF TIME SPENT BY STUDENTS ON SELECTED EDUCATION ACTIVITIES

(a) Includes Associated communication, Education activities not further defined, and Education activities not elsewhere classified.

Source: How Australians Use Their Time, 1997 (ABS cat. no. 4153.0).


Age and participation
In 1997, education was undertaken mainly by young people, with 62% of all students (88% of full-time students) being aged between 15 and 24 years. The average time these students spent on education activities each day (388 minutes) largely reflected the high proportion of students in this age group who were studying full-time.

While the number of full-time students was much lower among students aged 25 years and over, the number studying part-time decreased only slightly in the older age groups. The smaller total average time older students spent studying consequently reflected this lower proportion of full-time participation. Full-time students across all age groups spent similar amounts of time studying in 1997, with those aged 25-34 years spending the most time (415 minutes per day).

TIME SPENT ON EDUCATION ACTIVITIES BY FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME STUDENTS, 1997

Age group (years)

15-24
25-34
35-44
45 and over
Total





Proportion of students
Average time spent
Proportion of students
Average time spent
Proportion of students
Average time
spent
Proportion of students
Average time spent
Proportion of
students
Average time spent
%
mins/day
%
mins/day
%
mins/day
%
mins/day
%
mins/day

Full-time student
82.1
398
26.3
415
17.6
355
5.8
*375
58.1
398
Part-time Student
15.8
249
56.7
187
64.4
141
80.5
261
34.3
205
Total(a)
100.0
388
100.0
295
100.0
211
100.0
264
100.0
354

(a) Includes students studying by correspondence.

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


The different proportions of full-time and part-time students did not account for all variations in total average study time across age groups in 1997. Students aged 45 years and over spent more time studying than those aged 35-44 years (264 minutes compared with 211 minutes per day), despite being a much smaller proportion of full-time students. This possibly reflects their greater availability of time, due to the reduced child care, and other family responsibilities, within this age group.

FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME STUDENTS BY AGE GROUP, 1997

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


Type of qualification
There are a wide range of qualification options open to post-school students in Australia. However, each different qualification type places different demands upon students, and these demands are often reflected in the respective amount of time students spend studying.

Among full-time students in 1997, most time was spent by those studying for a bachelor degree (419 minutes per day), followed by those studying for a skilled vocational qualification (382 minutes). Among part-time students, those studying for a skilled vocational qualification in 1997 spent most time on education activities (264 minutes per day), followed by those studying for a higher degree (255 minutes). Students studying for a basic vocational qualification spent the least time on education activities among those studying either full-time or part-time (324 minutes and 105 minutes per day respectively).

TIME SPENT BY POST-SCHOOL STUDENTS ON EDUCATION ACTIVITIES, 1997(a)

Qualification
Full-time students
Part-time students

Higher degree
381
255
Post graduate diploma
*335
161
Bachelor degree
419
220
Undergraduate diploma
361
n.a.
Associate Diploma
365
165
Skilled vocational
382
264
Basic vocational
324
105
Total
397
205

(a) Does not include students still at school or studying by correspondence.

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


Life stage and living arrangements
The amount of time younger students have available to spend on education activities is often made possible through family support and an absence of other responsibilities. However, for those living independently, or in relationships, the availability of study time can be dependent upon the distribution of household duties and responsibilities (e.g. childcare, domestic activities), and the level of support given by partners or others.

Among those studying full-time, male students living alone spent more time on education activities (537 minutes per day), than students in any other living arrangements. This is likely to reflect their lower level of responsibilities and family obligations. In contrast, lone parents (predominately females) who studied full-time averaged the least amount of time studying (254 minutes per day), as might be expected with their level of child care responsibility and absence of partner support. Among full-time students who were living with a partner in 1997, females spent more time studying than their male counterparts, regardless of whether they had dependent children or not. However, the majority (89%) of students who were partners in couples with dependent children were not studying full-time.

In 1997, part-time students spent around half the amount of time on education activities as their full-time counterparts. Among part-time students, those living in a family household without either parenting or partnering responsibilities (mainly those living with parents) spent the most time on education activities (234 minutes per day), while lone parents studying part-time spent the least time (143 minutes).

TIME SPENT BY STUDENTS ON EDUCATION ACTIVITIES, LIFE STAGE AND LABOUR FORCE STATUS, 1997(a)

Males
Females
Total



Full-time students
Part-time students
Full-time students
Part-time students
Full-time students
Part-time students
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day

Life stage
    Neither parent nor partner living in family household
393
250
405
214
399
234
    Partner in couple without children
*252
181
406
147
353
164
    Partner in couple with dependent children
385
243
449
143
424
203
    Lone parent
n.a.
n.a.
254
143
254
143
    Person living alone
537
n.a.
426
192
477
192
Labour force status
    Working full-time
*193
220
*263
177
*226
203
    Working part-time
394
*209
377
231
384
227
    Unemployed
324
241
319
n.a.
321
213
    Not in labour force
417
*486
427
123
423
186
Total(b)
399
245
398
174
398
205

(a) Does not include students studying by correspondence.
(b) Includes partners in couples with non-dependant children only, and other living arrangements.

Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey.


Labour force participation
For students who work, the time spent on education activities must often be balanced with their employment commitments. Over half (57%) of all students were employed in 1997, with similar proportions working full-time and part-time (29% and 28% respectively). The majority (82%) of students who were not working were either still at school or in full-time tertiary study. Further information about students combining work and education commitments can be found in Australian Social Trends 2001, Combining study and work.

Among full-time students, those who were not in the labour force averaged the highest amount of study time (423 minutes per day). However, part-time students not in the labour force averaged less time studying than those either employed or unemployed. This was primarily because female part-time students who were not in the labour force spent only 123 minutes per day on education activities, reflecting the greater amount of time this group spent on household work and child care (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Time spent on unpaid household work).

Time spent on other activities
Spending time on education activities often involves a cost in terms of other activities a student could be doing. While the responsibilities of parenting or employment can be non-negotiable competitors for study time, the amount of time spent on other activities, such as recreation or personal care, is often a choice made by the student.

In 1997, recreation and leisure made up the largest proportion of students' waking hours (29%). Education and employment activities both accounted for a further 17% each, while 15% was spent on personal care, and 8% of their time was spent on domestic activities.

Compared with the population as a whole, students spent 25 minutes more sleeping, but 42 minutes less each day on employment, and 15 minutes less on personal care. Students averaged less time on child care than other Australians (18 minutes per day compared with 31 minutes), largely because the majority of students were aged under 25 years and therefore less likely to have child care responsibilities. While students spent less time on domestic activities (71 minutes compared with 136 minutes per day for the overall population), they still spent almost the same time as other Australians on recreation and socialising.

AVERAGE TIME SPENT ON SELECTED MAIN(a) ACTIVITIES, 1997

All persons
Students(b)


Males
Females
Persons
Males
Females
Persons
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day
mins/day

Sleeping
517
515
516
549
534
541
Waking hours
    Personal care (excluding sleeping)
141
156
149
123
144
134
    Employment related
261
132
196
182
129
154
    Education
24
28
26
147
157
152
    Domestic activities
94
177
136
46
92
71
    Child care
16
45
31
13
23
18
    Purchasing goods and services
35
54
45
25
46
36
    Voluntary work and care
19
24
22
12
18
15
    Social and community interaction
43
48
45
49
49
49
    Recreation and leisure
286
257
271
286
245
264
Total(c)
1,440
1,440
1,440
1,440
1,440
1,440

(a) Time spent on the activity reported as the main activity in a particular time period only.
(b) Includes average time spent by all students, not just those who participated in education activities
during the time of the survey.
(c) Includes activities not described elsewhere.

Source: How Australians Use Their Time, 1997 (ABS cat. no. 4153.0).


Endnotes
1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1997, Transition from Education to Work, May 1997, cat. no. 6227.0, ABS, Canberra.



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