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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2003  
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Contents >> Education and training >> Participation in education: Regional differences in education and outcomes

Participation in education: Regional differences in education and outcomes

In 2001, secondary school attendance among 16 year olds ranged from 84% in Major Cities to 41% in Very Remote areas.

Students in regional and remote areas are more likely than those in cities to face problems of access and limited choice as they strive to complete their education. Residents of regional and remote Australia have consistently had lower rates of attendance in the non-compulsory years 11 and 12 of school and at non-school education institutions than city residents. Therefore, people living in these areas have been identified as a disadvantaged group requiring targeted policies to create more equal opportunity and increase participation in education.1


Education and remoteness
This article uses information from the August 2001 Census of Population and Housing to examine how the education and labour force status of young Australians varies with remoteness. The data presented are based on where people were counted on census night.

The characteristics of people in any region are affected by the movement of individuals into and out of the region over time. Consequently the data presented here for Remoteness Areas reflects only the characteristics of those counted in a particular area at the time of the census. In 2001, 15% of the people counted in Very Remote areas did not usually live there. In addition, the high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Remote and Very Remote areas, and the poor education outcomes associated with these people, influences the overall characteristics of people counted in those areas (see Australian Social Trends 2002, Education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples).

Higher education institutions provide higher education courses and include universities, colleges of advanced education, institutes of advanced education, institutes of higher education, institutes of tertiary education, agricultural colleges and some institutes of technology.

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education.

Definitions of qualifications can be found in the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (ABS cat. no. 1272.0).

Geographical classifications
This article uses a range of different geographic classifications from the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC). For further information see Statistical Geography: Volume 1- Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC), 2001 (ABS cat. no. 1216.0).

The ABS Remoteness classification is used to examine the characteristics of people in the six Remoteness Areas. Remoteness is calculated using the road distance to different sized urban centres, where the population size is considered to govern the range and type of services available. The six Remoteness Areas are: Major Cities of Australia; Inner Regional Australia; Outer Regional Australia; Remote Australia; Very Remote Australia and Migratory. The Remoteness Area names used in this article are abbreviated versions of these official names with 'Australia' omitted.

To examine migration, Australia is divided into three areas. Capital Cities are Capital City Statistical Divisions from each of the Australian states and territories. Large Population Centres are Statistical Districts (excluding the Canberra Statistical Division), which are predominantly urban areas that contain population centres totalling 25,000 persons or more (e.g. Newcastle and Geraldton) and which are not located within a Capital City Statistical Division. The remainder of Australia is referred to as Country Areas.


Qualifications across Remoteness Areas
In 2001, of Australians aged 25-64 years, 46% stated they had gained a non-school qualification. The proportion of people with non-school qualifications declined with increasing remoteness. Among people aged 25-64 years, those counted in Major Cities were most likely to hold non-school qualifications (49%). The lowest proportion occurred among those counted in Very Remote areas, where 33% had a non-school qualification.

Among people aged 25-64 years the single highest non-school qualification most commonly held was a Certificate. The proportion of people whose highest qualification was a Certificate ranged from 23% of this age group in Inner Regional areas to 18% in Very Remote areas - all close to the national figure of 20%.

Overall in 2001, 18% of Australians aged 25-64 years had a Bachelor degree or higher as their highest non-school qualification. Among people in this age group, 21% of those counted in Major Cities held a degree or a post-graduate qualification, the highest proportion of all Remoteness Areas. Across the other Remoteness Areas, the proportion was about half this, ranging from 13% in Inner Regional areas to 10% in Very Remote areas. This difference between Major Cities and the other Remoteness Areas is probably augmented by the movement of young people to cities to undertake higher education or to obtain employment. In addition, the majority of jobs requiring higher education qualifications are likely to be found in Major Cities.

NON-SCHOOL QUALIFICATIONS AMONG PEOPLE AGED 25-64 YEARS BY REMOTENESS AREA - 2001
Major Cities
Inner Regional
Outer Regional
Remote
Very Remote
Australia(b)
Highest level of non-school qualification completed(a)
%
%
%
%
%
%

Postgraduate degree
3.4
1.4
1.1
1.1
1.1
2.7
Graduate diploma and Graduate certificate
2.3
1.8
1.4
1.4
1.3
2.1
Bachelor degree
15.5
9.5
8.4
8.2
7.4
13.3
Advanced diploma and Diploma
8.5
7.2
6.4
6.1
5.5
8.0
Certificate
19.1
22.7
21.2
20.8
18.1
20.0

Total
48.8
42.6
38.6
37.5
33.3
46.1

(a) People who stated they had a non-school qualification but did not indicate the type or supply enough information to determine the type were excluded prior to calculation of percentages.
(b) Includes persons in Migratory category.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Staying on at school
The comparatively low proportion of people with higher education qualifications outside of Major Cities is at least partly linked to the lower rates of participation in post-compulsory secondary schooling in these areas. In 2001, compulsory schooling in Australia ended at the age of 15 years (16 years in Tasmania). After that age, children could leave school or voluntarily continue on to complete years 11 and 12 of their secondary education. Post-compulsory education was once mainly undertaken by students intending to undertake further studies - in the mid-1960s, under a quarter of secondary students stayed until year 12.2 In the 1980s, a greater proportion of students were successfully encouraged to remain in school and complete year 12.3 Over the past two decades the overall proportion of secondary students who stayed at school through to year 12 increased from 36% in 1982 to 75% in 2002 (see Australian Social Trends 2003, Education and training: national summary tables).

PROPORTION OF YOUNG PEOPLE ATTENDING A SECONDARY SCHOOL(a) BY REMOTENESS AREA - 2001
Aged 15 years
Aged 16 years
Aged 17 years



Males
Females
Males
Females
Males
Females
Remoteness Area
%
%
%
%
%
%

Major Cities
93.1
94.6
82.2
86.6
65.5
71.7
Inner Regional
92.1
93.8
77.5
82.7
59.5
68.1
Outer Regional
91.5
93.6
75.1
80.6
54.6
62.5
Remote
87.1
90.3
67.7
75.4
39.5
52.0
Very Remote
60.7
70.6
37.6
44.7
18.0
25.1

Australia(b)
92.3
94.1
79.7
84.6
62.2
69.3

(a) People who did not state whether or not they were attending an educational institution or did not state the type of educational institution they were attending were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(b) Includes persons in Migratory category.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


In 2001, 92% of boys and 94% of girls aged 15 years were attending a secondary school. Among 17 year olds, the proportions were lower - 62% of boys and 69% of girls. When examined by Remoteness Areas, two patterns are discernible. Firstly, the proportion of young people attending secondary school outside of Major Cities was lower than the national average and decreased with increasing remoteness. Secondly, the rate of decrease in attendance with increasing remoteness was greater for boys than girls.

One factor that may influence the low secondary school participation rates in more remote areas is the high proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in Remote and Very Remote areas. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have lower rates of participation in secondary education than non-Indigenous peoples (see Australian Social Trends 2002, Education of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). Other factors influencing secondary education participation rates in more remote areas may include difficulty in accessing educational institutions; greater teacher turnover combined with a higher proportion of inexperienced teachers; and restrictions on the range of subjects that can be offered. In addition, some regional high schools do not offer years 11 and 12.4 Although these issues may partly explain the regional differences, other attitudinal factors may also be involved. For example, a study published in 1999 suggested that, in general, higher education is considered less relevant to life and work by people in regional and remote areas.5

School completion
The 2001 Census counted 600,500 young people aged 15-19 years who were no longer attending secondary school. The characteristics of these young people varied with the Remoteness Area in which they were counted. In general, as remoteness increased, the likelihood of their having completed year 12 decreased. Further, among those who had completed year 12, the proportion undertaking further study decreased with increasing remoteness. For example, among young people aged 15-19 years who had left school and were counted in Major Cities, 62% had completed year 12; of these, 68% were undertaking further study. Among young people counted in Inner Regional areas 46% had completed year 12, and of these, 54% were undertaking further studies. This decline continued as remoteness increased. Again, accessibility may be a major factor influencing participation in further study in Remote and Very Remote areas, since there are few further education institutions in these areas.

PEOPLE AGED 15-19 YEARS WHO HAD LEFT SCHOOL(a): SELECTED INDICATORS BY REMOTENESS AREAS - 2001
% attending an educational institution

Remoteness Area
% who completed year 12
Of those who completed year 12
Of those who did not complete year 12

Major Cities
61.7
67.5
25.8
Inner Regional
46.0
53.9
25.8
Outer Regional
40.5
37.8
21.6
Remote
32.8
22.7
14.1
Very Remote
20.0
16.1
4.1

Australia(b)
55.4
62.4
24.5

(a) Comprises those who were not attending a secondary school. Excludes those who did not state whether or not they were attending an educational institution and those who did not state the type of educational institution they were attending.
(b) Includes persons in Migratory category.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Among school leavers aged 15-19 years who were not undertaking further study, and who were participating in the labour force, the proportion who were employed was higher in the remote areas (91% in Very Remote areas and 85% in Remote areas) than in the less remote areas (78% in Inner Regional areas and 79% in Major Cities). This supports the premise that jobs in more remote areas may be less likely to demand non-school qualifications. However, across all areas those who had completed year 12 had a higher employment rate than those who had left school early. For example, in Major Cities the proportion employed among labour force participants who were not studying and who had completed year 12 was 86%, compared with 73% of young people who had not completed year 12.

Overall, 17% of school leavers aged 15-19 years who were not studying were not in the labour force (i.e. they were neither working nor looking for work). Among young people who were not studying and who had completed year 12, 9% were not in the labour force. In comparison, among those who had not completed year 12, 22% were not in the labour force. A similar difference was observed across all the Remoteness Areas, though the difference between those who completed year 12 and those who did not complete year 12 was greater for Remote and Very Remote areas.

PEOPLE AGED 15-19 YEARS WHO WERE NOT ATTENDING AN EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION(a): PROPORTION OF THOSE IN THE LABOUR FORCE WHO WERE EMPLOYED - 2001
Graph - People aged 15-19 years who were not attending an educational institution(a): proportion of those in the labour force who were employed - 2001

(a) Excludes those who did not state whether or not they were attending an educational institution and those who did not state the type of educational institution they were attending.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Further studies
Historically, urban Australians have been more likely to undertake further education than regional and remote residents. This is probably related to the better access urban dwellers have to non-school educational institutions and to differences in educational aspirations between residents of city and regional and remote areas.5

PROPORTION OF 15-24 YEAR OLDS ATTENDING A NON-SCHOOL EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTION(a) BY REMOTENESS AREAS - 2001
Major Cities
Inner Regional
Outer Regional
Remote
Very Remote
Australia(b)
Selected type of non-school educational institution
%
%
%
%
%
%

Males
University or other higher educational institutions
17.5
8.1
4.1
1.4
0.8
14.0
Technical or further educational institutions (including TAFE colleges)
10.7
10.4
8.1
6.1
3.0
10.3
Females
University or other higher educational institutions
21.9
12.3
7.3
3.6
2.5
18.3
Technical or further educational institutions (including TAFE colleges)
7.9
8.1
7.1
6.2
3.2
7.8

(a) Excludes people who did not state whether or not they were attending an educational institution. Those who stated they were attending an educational institution but did not state the type of educational institution have been excluded from the calculation of percentages.
(b) Includes persons in Migratory category.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


In 2001, the census corroborated this difference, finding that among young people aged 15-24 years, the proportion attending a non-school educational institution declined with increasing remoteness. However, some of this difference may be related to young people moving to less remote areas to undertake further education. In Major Cities, 28% of young men and 30% of young women aged 15-24 years were attending either a University or other higher educational institution, or a Technical or further educational institution. These levels declined with increasing remoteness, with proportions in Outer Regional areas of 12% and 14% respectively. Among young men in this age group, attendance at a Technical or further educational institution was more common than at a University or other higher educational institution in all Remoteness Areas other than Major Cities. Among young women, a greater proportion attended a University or other higher educational institution than Technical or further educational institutions in all areas except in Remote and Very Remote areas (where very few universities are located).

Young people moving
Every year, young people move to find work or to study. Those in regional areas are particularly likely to move because of the greater employment and education opportunities available to them in Major Cities (see Australian Social Trends 2003, Youth migration within Australia).

In 2001, the census counted 174,400 young people aged 15-24 years who were no longer attending school and who had changed their address since 1996 to one in a more populous area. These young people were more likely than all young people aged 15-24 years who had left school to be attending a University or other higher educational institution. In 2001, 26% of young men who moved compared with 20% of all young male 15-24 year olds were attending a University or other higher educational institution. For women, the comparable figures were 34% and 26% respectively. In contrast, the proportion of young people who moved and were attending a Technical or further education institution (11%) was slightly lower than for all 15-24 year olds who had left school (13%), perhaps reflecting the wider availability of those institutions in Large Population Centres.

PEOPLE AGED 15-24 YEARS WHO HAD LEFT SECONDARY SCHOOL: THOSE WHO MOVED TO A MORE POPULOUS AREA(a) - 2001
People who moved(a)
All 15-24 year olds who had left school


Male
Female
Male
Female
%
%
%
%

Attending a Technical or further educational institution
12.2
9.5
14.3
11.0
Attending a University or other higher educational institution
26.2
34.2
19.5
25.7
Not attending an educational institution
59.8
53.9
64.5
60.8

Total(b)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0



‘000
‘000
‘000
‘000
Total(c)
80.1
94.3
908.4
873.0

(a) Comprises youth aged 15-24 years who moved from a Country Area to a Large Population Centre or Capital City, and those who moved from a Large Population Centre to a Capital City between 1996 and 2001.
(b) Includes those attending Other educational institutions.
(c) Includes those attending Other educational institutions and educational institution not stated.

Source: ABS 2001 Census of Population and Housing.


Among young people aged 15-24 years who moved to a more populous area, 60% of young men and 54% of young women were not attending an educational institution. Although most of these young people were working or looking for work, 11% were not. Young men who had moved and were not studying were the most likely to be in the labour force (93% compared with 90% of all 15-24 year old men who had left school and were not studying). A smaller proportion of young women who had moved and were not studying were in the labour force (84%), though this proportion was still larger than that found among all 15-24 year old women who had left school and were not studying (80%).

The employment rate of young labour force participants aged 15-24 years who had left school, were not studying, and who moved, was the same as that among all young people aged 15-24 who had left school, who were not studying and were in the labour force (86%).

Endnotes
1 Department of Employment, Education and Training, 1990, A Fair Chance For All, AGPS Canberra.
2 Commonwealth Schools Commission 1987, In the National Interest: Secondary Education and Youth Policy in Australia, AGPS, Canberra.
3 Marginson, S. 1997, Educating Australia: government, economy and citizen since 1960, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne.
4 National Youth Affairs Research Scheme 2001, Creating better educational and employment opportunities for rural young people, Australian Clearinghouse for Youth Studies, Hobart, Tasmania.
5 James, R., et al 1999, Rural and Isolated School Students and their Higher Educational Choices, National Board of Employment, Education and Training, Higher Education Council, Canberra.

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