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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
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Contents >> Education >> Participation in Education: The education of Indigenous people

Participation in Education: The education of Indigenous people

In 1994, 18% of Indigenous people aged 15-64 who were not attending school had completed a post- school qualification compared to 41% of all Australians.

Indigenous people have lower levels of educational access, participation and attainment, and lower secondary school retention rates, than non-Indigenous people. The curricula of Indigenous students are sometimes inadequate or inappropriate1. These issues are addressed in the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy which influences state and territory strategic plans for education providers.

National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy came into effect from January 1, 1990. It attempts to recognise the diversity of Indigenous people's social, economic and political circumstances, cultural values and educational aspirations, and aims to improve their educational opportunities and outcomes. It has four main themes:
  • to ensure Indigenous involvement in educational decision-making;
  • to provide equality of access for Indigenous people to education services;
  • to raise the rates of Indigenous participation in education to those of all Australians; and
  • to achieve equitable and appropriate educational outcomes for Indigenous people2.

In 1994, there was a National Review of Education for Indigenous people. In response to this review, the ABS is involved in appraising Indigenous education statistics over the next two years.

In this review, capital city comprises all state and territory capital city statistical divisions. Other urban comprises all centres with a total population of 1,000 and over, excluding capital cities. Rural comprises rural areas and towns with a total population of less than 1,000 people.


Attainment
Indigenous people have lower educational attainment than the total population. In 1994, 18% of Indigenous people aged 15-64 who were not attending school had completed a post-school qualification compared to 41% of all Australians. When the data are standardised to account for the younger age structure of the Indigenous population, this imbalance remains.

In 1994, 5% of Indigenous people aged 15 and over reported that they had never attended school and 71% who were no longer attending school had left before completing Year 12. A further 17% had obtained a post-school qualification. Overall, Indigenous women reported a higher level of educational attainment than Indigenous men. 5% of Indigenous women had a diploma or higher qualification compared to 3% of Indigenous men.

Indigenous people are more likely than all Australians to have never attended school. In 1994, 3% of Indigenous people aged 15-64 had never attended school compared to 0.1% of all Australians. The proportion of Indigenous people who had not attended school increased with age. 35% aged 65 and over had never been to school compared to 1% aged 15-24. This indicates that the proportion of Indigenous people receiving some education has increased over time and is related to improved access to education. Overall, slightly more Indigenous women than men had never attended school.

EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE(a), 1994

Men
Women
Persons
Highest level of education attained
%
%
%

Have a post-school qualification
18.3
15.6
16.9
    Bachelor degree or higher
0.8
1.7
1.3
    Diploma(b)
1.7
2.8
2.2
    Skilled vocational qualification
7.3
0.9
4.1
    Basic vocational qualification
3.2
5.8
4.5
    Inadequately described
5.2
4.4
4.8
Do not have a post- school qualification
81.7
84.4
83.1
    Year 12
6.0
7.2
6.6
    Below year 12
70.9
71.8
71.4
    Never attended school
4.7
5.4
5.0
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
Total people(c)
85.2
86.3
171.5

(a) Refers to people aged 15 years and over who do not attend school.
(b) Refers to associate or undergraduate diploma.
(c) Includes educational attainment not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)

PROPORTION(a) OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER BEEN TO SCHOOL, 1994

Men
Women
Persons
Age
%
%
%

15-24
0.6*
0.6*
0.6*
25-34
1.5*
1.0*
1.2
35-44
3.3
3.5
3.4
45-54
7.5
10.8
9.2
55-64
19.4
22.4
20.9
65 & over
42.2
30.0
34.8
Total
4.4
5.0
4.7
'000
'000
'000
Total
4.0
4.6
8.6

(a) Percentage calculations exclude educational attainment not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)


Distance to educational institutions
There are many variables that affect access to education, e.g cost, availability of transport and family attitudes. Distance to educational institutions is one way of measuring access to education. In 1994, the majority of Indigenous households were located within 10km of a pre-school, primary school, secondary school or TAFE college. 21% were within 10km of a university. Overall the distance increased as the level of education provided increased.

DISTANCE FROM INDIGENOUS HOUSEHOLDS(a) TO NEAREST EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS, 1994

0-10 km
11-25 km
26-50 km
51-100 km
Over 100 km
Total
Type of institution
%
%
%
%
%
%

Pre-school
93.7
4.4
0.9
0.2*
0.9
100.0
Primary school
95.6
3.3
0.8
* *
0.2*
100.0
Secondary school - Year 10
83.6
5.4
4.3
3.3
3.3
100.0
Secondary school - Year 12
74.5
5.9
5.2
4.3
10.1
100.0
TAFE college
55.0
13.1
7.9
7.9
16.1
100.0
University
20.9
14.9
10.0
7.9
46.2
100.0

(a) This question was asked on the community form, not on the household form, and the answers were applied to all households in the community.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (cat. no. 4190.0)


School students
In 1994, 65% of Indigenous people aged 13-18 reported that they were school students. This was lower than for the total population (73%). The proportion of Indigenous youth at school varied according to age and sex. 99% of 13 year olds were school students but this fell to 81% by age 15 and to 6% by age 18. A higher proportion of girls than boys were school students. Those living in capital cities or other urban areas were more likely to be school students than those living in rural areas.

In 1994, most Indigenous school students (88%) were enrolled in government schools. This was also true for non-Indigenous students, although they were more likely to be enrolled in non-government schools than Indigenous students. The type of school in which Indigenous students were enrolled also varied according to where they lived. For example, Indigenous students living in rural areas were more likely than those living in capital cities or other urban areas to be enrolled in Aboriginal Independent or Catholic schools. This pattern is related both to the availability of different types of school and to parental preferences. While only 7% of Indigenous parents reported that their children were enrolled in Aboriginal community controlled schools, a further 33% reported that they would prefer to send their children to such schools. This imbalance is probably due to their limited availability.

PROPORTION OF INDIGENOUS YOUTH WHO WERE SCHOOL STUDENTS, 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Age
%
%
%
%

13
100.0
98.0
98.5
98.7
14
100.0
98.0
95.0
97.7
15
76.0
87.3
77.4
81.4
16
57.5
60.7
48.9
56.6
17
29.5*
32.2
31.9*
31.3
18
8.5*
* *
8.5*
5.6*

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (cat. no. 4190.0)

TYPE OF SCHOOL ATTENDED BY INDIGENOUS STUDENTS, 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Type of school
%
%
%
%

Government
91.3
90.5
81.2
88.1
Aboriginal Independent
0.6*
1.6
5.6
2.5
Catholic
5.9
7.0
12.7
8.3
Other non-government
2.1*
0.9*
* *
1.1
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total(a)
22.2
36.5
24.0
82.7

(a) Includes type of school not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)


Indigenous content
There is evidence to suggest that Indigenous people's education is more effective when it includes some Indigenous content1. In 1994, the majority of Indigenous students received some Indigenous content in their schooling. 52% of Indigenous students were taught about Indigenous cultures at school, and 19% were taught Indigenous languages. Students at Aboriginal Independent schools were most likely to receive Indigenous content in their schooling.

Many Indigenous students are also taught by an Indigenous person. In 1994, 23% of Indigenous school students were taught by an Indigenous education worker, 14% were taught by an Indigenous teacher and 12% were taught by an Indigenous community member. As is to be expected, students at Aboriginal Independent schools were more likely than students at other types of schools to be taught by an Indigenous person.

INDIGENOUS SCHOOL STUDENTS RECEIVING INDIGENOUS CONTENT(a), 1994

Government
Catholic
Aboriginal independent
Other non-government
Total
Indigenous content
%
%
%
%
%

Taught about Indigenous cultures
51.2
55.6
88.5
33.8*
52.4
Taught Indigenous languages
17.8
18.0
74.9
* *
19.3
Taught by an Indigenous teacher
13.3
16.6
45.9
* *
14.4
Taught by an Indigenous education worker
23.5
11.5
43.5
* *
22.9
Taught by an Indigenous community member
12.9
6.9*
16.1*
* *
12.5
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total Indigenous school students
71.9
6.8
2.0
0.9
82.7

(a) People may report more than one type of Indigenous content. Percentage calculations exclude Indigenous content not known and not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (cat. no. 4190.0)


Post-school study
In 1994, 6% of Indigenous people who had left school were studying for a qualification. 18% of them were studying for a bachelor degree. A further 16% were studying for a diploma and 14% for a Year 12 certificate. 27% of responses could not be categorised.

More women than men were undertaking post-school study. 21% of Indigenous women who were undertaking post-school study were studying for a bachelor degree and a further 17% were studying for a diploma. Among Indigenous men, 16% were studying for a diploma, and 15% for a Year 12 certificate.

Those aged 18-24 made up the largest proportion of Indigenous people undertaking post-school study (36%). However, this is the age at which many people (Indigenous and non-Indigenous) undertake further study, particularly for a bachelor degree or skilled vocational qualification. Indigenous people aged 35-44 were next most likely to be undertaking post-school study (28%). People living in capital cities were more likely than those in other urban or rural areas to be undertaking post-school study. This difference is related to lack of access and availability of educational institutions in other urban and rural areas.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE(a) UNDERTAKING POST-SCHOOL STUDY, 1994

Men
Women
Persons
Level of study
%
%
%

Postgraduate
4.6*
2.8*
3.6*
Bachelor degree
13.6
21.5
17.8
Diploma
16.4
16.5
16.5
Skilled vocational qualification
13.0
3.6*
8.0
Basic vocational qualification
7.3*
11.9
9.8
Year 12 school certificate
15.2
12.1
13.6
Year 10 school certificate
* *
6.2*
3.5*
Inadequately described
29.5
25.4
27.3
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
Total
4.7
5.3
10.0

(a) Refers to people aged 15 years and over who had left school.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (cat. no. 4190.0)


Difficulties in participating in further education
In 1994, 46% of Indigenous people who had left school and were not currently studying indicated that they would like to do further study or training. 70% of these reported that they expected that they would have difficulty in doing so. The main difficulties expected were financial problems and lack of transport/travel, each reported by 13% of Indigenous people. These were followed by no child care available (12%), no courses available (8%), lack of pre-requisites (7%) and lack of English proficiency (5%). No child care available was the most common main difficulty expected by Indigenous women (19%) while lack of transport/travel was the most common main difficulty expected by Indigenous men (15%).

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE(a) WHO WANTED TO DO FURTHER EDUCATION, 1994

Men
Women
Persons
Main difficulty expected
%
%
%

Financial problems
13.9
12.1
13.0
Lack of transport/travel
15.1
12.4
12.9
No child care available
1.7
19.3
11.5
No courses available
10.7
6.2
8.4
Lack of pre-requisites
7.3
6.0
6.7
Lack of English proficiency
6.3
4.4
5.3
Lack of time
4.4
2.7
3.5
Family obligations
0.9*
3.0
2.0
Work commitment
2.8
1.0*
1.9
Other difficulty
6.6
4.9
5.7
No difficulty expected
30.3
29.6
29.9
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
Total(b)
38.2
40.3
78.5

(a) Refers to people aged 15 years and over who had left school and were not currently studying.
(b) Includes difficulty not stated.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)


Endnotes
1 House of Representatives Select Committee on Aboriginal Education (1985) Aboriginal Education.

2 Department of Employment, Education and Training (1989) National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy.

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