A well educated population is essential to the economic and social development of a nation1, the role of education being to build the personal capacity of individuals to participate in, and contribute to, the communities in which they live. In Australia, school education is mandatory up to the age of 15 or 16 years, depending on states or territory legislation2. However, people with disability are sometimes at risk of being excluded from experiences that form a normal part of everyday life for the majority. Social inclusion is a major focus of current government policy on disability, and education is key to ensuring people have the means by which they can participate fully in the economic and social wealth of the nation.
Measurements of educational participation, achievement, ongoing training and work experience provide an indication of the human capital available to a nation at any given point in time and help to determine whether skills are relevant to the requirements of the current labour market. The correlation between education, employment and economy has been well documented. The indications are that countries with high graduation rates at tertiary levels generally profit from a highly skilled labour force, while people with higher levels of education generally experience better personal outcomes in almost every sphere of social and economic life3.
In this publication, examination is made of the educational and vocational experiences of people with disabilities in Australia. The focus is on their participation in education, patterns of learning, levels of attainment and outcomes associated with educational experience. Examination will also be made of barriers that might inhibit their ability to capitalise on educational opportunity. For people with disability, failure to participate adequately in education can lead to a chain of events that ends in disassociation and poorer social and economic outcomes for the future.
DATA SOURCES AND DEFINITIONS
Survey of Education and Training, 2009
Information in this publication was drawn from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Survey of Education and Training, 2009 (SET). The survey collected data on the educational experiences of people aged 15-64 years in Australia, and those aged 65-74 years who were either still in, or marginally attached to, the workforce. The survey was conducted in 2009 and summary results are available in the ABS publication Education and Training Experience (cat. no. 6278.0).
Relationship of disability measures in SET to the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC)
The main source of disability information in the ABS is the Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC), (cat. no. 4430.0) which provides prevalence rates of disability for Australia. There is limited scope in this large survey (75 questions) to collect detailed information on the characteristics of people with disabilities. Since 2002, therefore, the ABS has included a short standard disability module in most social surveys. This short module is comprised of 10 questions and a series of prompt cards which apply the same criteria as the SDAC to identify people with disability within the survey population of interest.
Disability data from surveys using the short disability module should not be used as a proxy for prevalence rates of disability in Australia. However, the disability data in these surveys indicate the relationship of disability to factors of interest and allow for analysis of differences between people with disability and those with no disability.
Severity of disability
Analysis in this publication makes reference to the categories of disability - 'Profound/severe core-activity limitation', 'Specific limitation or restriction' and 'No disability'. These categories form part of the overall 'Severity of disability' category. Further explanation of the relationship of these measures to each other can be found in the Appendix which, amongst other associations, shows that 'Profound/severe core-activity limitation' is a subset of 'Specific restrictions and limitations'.
Where possible, data for people with Profound/severe core-activity limitation have been presented as an individual category. However, in some tables and graphs this is not possible due to low sample sizes and resulting high relative standard errors.
For a complete discussion of the short disability module, its relationship to the benchmark Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers (SDAC) and the definition of each category under 'Severity of disability', please refer to ABS Sources of Disability Information (cat. no. 4431.0.55.002 ).