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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2000  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 04/07/2000   
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Contents >> Education >> Participation in Education: Mature age people in education and training

Participation in Education: Mature age people in education and training

Between 1989 and 1999, participation rates in formal education among people between 35 and 64 years of age increased from 4% to 5% for men and from 6% to 7% for women.

Participation in education or study
In this article, participation in education or study refers to formal courses provided by educational institutions. The statistics are derived from the 1999 ABS Transition from Education to Work Survey which collected information on education participation of persons aged 15-64 years.

Mature age people - refers to people aged 35-64 years.

Educational institution - any institution whose primary role is education. Includes schools; higher education establishments such as universities and institutes of higher education; institutes of technical and further education; and other educational institutions such as business colleges and industry skills centres.

Student - refers to persons enrolled for a course of study at an educational institution.

Older students - refers to students aged 35-64 years. Because the vast majority of students are in their teens or twenties, 35 years and over can be considered relatively old in the educational context.

Education participation rate - for any group, the number of students expressed as a percentage of the total (civilian) population in the same group.

Studying full-time - refers to students who considered themselves to be studying full-time.

Recognised qualification - refers to a course of study for which an award is conferred upon completion, and which is recognised as one of the seven levels of post-school qualification under the ABSCQ. See ABS Classification of Qualifications (ABSCQ), 1993, (cat. no. 1262.0) for further information.


For the most part, formal education and training courses aim to equip people with both general and specific knowledge and skills that are likely, ultimately, to be of use in the job market and to enable them to get the type of job they would like. However, some people take education or training courses purely out of personal interest. These can be of a formal nature (e.g. short courses or selected units of courses at educational institutions) or informal (e.g. courses on recreation, personal development, hobbies, crafts, etc.). This article describes participation in work-related training (including formal training courses and on-the-job training) and all formal education (regardless of why it was undertaken), but excludes informal hobby type courses.

EDUCATION PARTICIPATION RATES

1989
1999
Increase(a)
%
%
%

Men aged (years)
    15-24
46.9
56.0
19.4
    25-34
10.5
12.7
21.0
    35-44
6.0
7.3
21.7
    45-54
3.1
3.5
12.9
    55-64
1.2
1.6
33.3
    Total 35-64
3.9
4.6
17.9
    Total 15-64
16.1
17.5
8.7
Women aged (years)
    15-24
42.9
56.1
30.8
    25-34
9.6
13.7
42.7
    35-44
8.1
10.3
27.2
    45-54
4.4
5.7
29.5
    55-64
2.4
2.3
-4.2
    Total 35-64
5.5
6.8
23.6
    Total 15-64
15.6
18.7
19.9

(a) Difference between participation rates in 1989 and 1999 expressed as a percentage of the 1989 rate.

Source: Unpublished data, Transition from Education to Work Survey, 1989 and 1999.


Education participation increasing among mature age people

Although in the minority, older students make up a substantial and growing proportion of all students. In 1999, students aged between 35 and 64 years accounted for 18% of all students, up from 15% in 1989.

Even though education participation rates decline dramatically with age, particularly after people reach their early to mid twenties, participation in education is increasing among mature age people. Between 1989 and 1999, education participation rates for people aged 35-64 years increased from 4% to 5% for men and from 6% to 7% for women. With the exception of women aged 55-64 years, education participation rates increased for both men and women in all age groups 35 years and over. In common with younger age groups, the increases among mature age people were greater for women than for men (again with the exception of women aged 55-64 years).

PROPORTION OF STUDENTS STUDYING PART-TIME, 1999
PROPORTION OF STUDENTS STUDYING PART-TIME, 1999 - GRAPH
Source: Unpublished data, 1999 Transition from Education to Work Survey.

PROPORTION OF STUDENTS STUDYING FOR A RECOGNISED QUALIFICATION, 1999
PROPORTION OF STUDENTS STUDYING FOR A RECOGNISED QUALIFICATION, 1999 - GRAPH
Source: Unpublished data, 1999 Transition from Education to Work Survey.

Most older students study part-time
The competing demands of work and family commitments limit the amount of time and energy available for study. These factors not only contribute to lower education participation rates as people get older, but also mean that the vast majority of older students choose to study part-time. In 1999, 83% of older students were studying part-time compared to 45% of those aged 15-34 years. The proportions of older students studying part-time increased from around 80% of those aged 35-44 years to more than 90% of those aged 45-64 years.

LEVEL OF QUALIFICATION AND FIELD OF CURRENT STUDY, 1999

Age group (years)

15-34
35-64
%
%

Level of qualification(a)
    Higher degree
6.4
15.9
    Postgraduate diploma
4.1
10.2
    Bachelor degree
48.7
23.1
    Undergraduate diploma
11.1
15.6
    Associate diploma
5.3
9.6
    Skilled vocational
13.1
3.4
    Basic vocational
11.3
22.2
    Total post school qualifications
100.0
100.0
Field of study(a)
    Business and administration
24.9
27.6
    Health
10.1
10.9
    Education
5.6
7.7
    Society and culture
21.3
29.5
    Natural and physical sciences
12.9
11.9
    Engineering
12.8
5.5
    Architecture and building
4.9
*1.6
    Agriculture and related fields
2.4
2.4
    Total post-school qualifications(b)
100.0
100.0

(a) As categorised within the ABS Classification of Qualifications , 1993.
(b) Includes miscellaneous fields and field not stated or uncodable.

Source: Unpublished data, 1999 Transition from Education to Work Survey.


Qualifications and field of study

Older students are less likely to study for a recognised qualification than younger students, and more likely to undertake a short certificate course of less than one semester, or selected units of an award course (without the intention of gaining a formal qualification). In 1999, 76% of students aged 35-64 years were studying for a recognised qualification, compared to 94% of students aged 15-34 years. Among older students, men were more likely to be studying for a recognised qualification than women (82% compared to 73%).

Of those students who were studying for a recognised post school qualification in 1999, older students were more likely than younger students to be studying for a postgraduate qualification, an undergraduate or associate diploma, or a basic vocational qualification, but less likely to be studying for a bachelor degree or a skilled vocational qualification.

The most popular broad fields of study among older students in 1999 were: society and culture (undertaken by 30% of older students); and business and administration (28%). Older students were more likely than younger students to be studying for a qualification in the fields of society and culture, business and administration, education, and health but less likely to be studying for a qualification in engineering, architecture and building, or the natural and physical sciences.

Participation in training
In this article, training refers to formal training courses as well as informal on-the-job training. The statistics are derived from the 1997 Survey of Education and Training. This survey collected information on training received in the 12 months prior to the survey date.

Training courses - activities undertaken to obtain, maintain, or improve work-related skills, and conducted at a designated time and in a structured format. Includes in-house and external courses. Questions about training courses were asked of persons aged 15-64 years who, at the time of the survey, were either in the labour force, marginally attached to the labour force, or studying (excluding students aged 15-20 years who were still at school), or who had been employed at any time during the 12 months prior to the survey.

On-the-job training - comprises activities such as self-learning, being shown how to do a job, watching others work, and other activities undertaken to improve job skills, while working. Excludes training that occurred as part of an in-house or external training course. Relates to persons aged 15-64 years, who had been employed at any time during the 12 months prior to the survey date.

Retraining - training done with the specific purpose of enabling the recipient to do a different kind of work to that performed in the job held at the time of training, or - in the case of courses undertaken while not employed - a different kind of work to a previous job.

PEOPLE WHO TOOK ONE OR MORE TRAINING COURSES IN THE PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS, 1997

Proportion of population(a)
Average number of courses
Age group (years)
%
no.

15-24
35.1
2.0
25-34
44.0
2.3
35-44
45.2
2.3
45-54
40.8
2.3
55-64
27.7
2.1
Total 35-64
40.9
2.3
Total 15-64
40.6
2.2

(a) Population in scope for questions on training courses. See ‘Participation in training’ box above.

Source: Education and Training Experience, Australia, 1997 (cat. no. 6278.0).

PROPORTION OF EMPLOYEES(a) WHO UNDERTOOK TRAINING IN THE PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS, 1997

Age group (years)

15-24
25-34
35-44
45-54
55-64
Total 15-64
Type of training
%
%
%
%
%
%

In-house training courses
22.1
37.0
38.8
36.3
25.0
33.0
External training courses
15.4
21.4
23.9
20.6
14.2
20.0
    Employer supported
6.8
13.1
15.1
12.9
8.3
11.7
On-the-job training
72.5
77.1
73.5
66.3
54.8
71.6

(a) Persons who had a wage or salary job for any part of the last 12 months.

Source: Education and Training Experience, Australia, 1997 (cat. no. 6278.0).


Work-related training

Mature age people are much more likely to undertake a work-related training course than a course of formal education. The 1997 Survey of Education and Training found that 45% of 35-44 year olds (who were asked - see ‘Participation in training’ box on this page) had taken one or more training courses in the previous 12 months in order to obtain, maintain or improve work-related skills. However, the proportion declined with age within the 35-64 years group, as did the average number of courses taken.

This general pattern was also evident among those who had been employed in a wage or salary job in the previous 12 months. While 35-44 year olds were more likely than any other age group to have taken an in-house or external training course, or to have received employer support (such as payment for fees or paid study leave) for external training, the proportions declined with age among 35-64 year olds, as did the proportion who received on-the-job training.

For each course completed in the past 12 months, people were asked for specific information about why they had taken each course. For each course taken while employed, people were asked whether or not the course had been taken in order to improve chances of promotion and whether or not it had been taken for retraining. Each course may have been taken for one, both or neither of these reasons. Promotion was reported as a reason for only 7% of courses taken by 35-64 year olds while employed, compared to 12% of courses taken by younger people. Around 40% of all courses taken by 35-64 year olds while employed were for retraining, compared to 47% for those aged under 35 years.

Similarly, for each course taken while not employed, people were asked whether or not it had been taken in order to help find a job. In common with 15-24 year olds, almost 90% of all courses taken by 45-54 year olds, while not employed, were to help get a job. For each course taken while unemployed or marginally attached to the labour force, people who had previously had a job were also asked whether or not the course was for the purpose of retraining. Around 70% of such courses taken by 45-64 year olds were for retraining, about the same as for 15-24 year olds.

REASONS FOR COURSES UNDERTAKEN IN PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS WHILE EMPLOYED, 1997
REASONS FOR COURSES UNDERTAKEN IN PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS WHILE EMPLOYED, 1997 - GRAPH

REASONS FOR COURSES UNDERTAKEN IN PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS WHILE NOT EMPLOYED, 1997
REASONS FOR COURSES UNDERTAKEN IN PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS WHILE NOT EMPLOYED, 1997 - GRAPH
(a) Relates only to courses taken by persons who had previously had a job and who were unemployed or marginally attached to the labour force at the time of training.

Source: Education and Training Experience, Australia, 1997 (cat. no. 6278.0).


Reasons for not studying or taking training courses

The reason most commonly reported by 35-64 year olds for either not studying or not training was that there was no need. This reason was reported by 54% of those who had not taken a training course, and 46% of those who had not studied, in the previous 12 months. The proportion who said that they had no need for study or training increased with age (within the 35-64 years age group), as did the proportion who said they that lacked interest or motivation.

On the other hand, barriers such as lack of time, work, and family commitments, appear to become less important with age (within the 35-64 years age group), as do financial considerations. Overall, reasons such as lack of time; too much work; problems with scheduling work and study or training; caring for family members; or children too young, were reported by 31% of 35-64 year olds who had not studied and 20% of those who had not taken a training course in the previous 12 months.

MAIN REASON REPORTED FOR NOT STUDYING OR TAKING TRAINING COURSES IN THE PREVIOUS 12 MONTHS, 1997

Did not undertake study, age group (years)
Did not undertake training, age group (years)


35-44
45-54
55-64
Total 35-64
35-44
45-54
55-64
Total 35-64
%
%
%
%
%
%
%
%

No need for study/training
37.5
50.0
62.2
46.3
47.9
56.3
65.5
54.4
Too much work, or difficulty
scheduling work and study/training
15.6
12.2
6.6
12.8
8.9
8.3
4.3
7.8
No time
15.0
11.4
6.2
12.2
9.6
8.1
5.1
8.2
Lack of interest or motivation
6.3
8.8
8.1
7.6
4.1
4.3
4.9
4.3
Caring for family members,
or children too young
9.4
2.6
1.5
5.5
7.7
2.1
*1.2
4.4
Too expensive, financial reasons, no money
4.5
2.9
1.3
3.3
2.9
2.0
*0.6
2.1
Lack of information, no suitable courses
1.0
1.2
*0.7
1.0
2.5
1.9
1.7
2.1
Other reasons
10.7
10.8
13.4
11.2
16.4
17.1
16.7
16.7
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: Education and Training Experience, Australia (cat. no. 6278.0).


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