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Topics @ a Glance - Education and Training Statistics National Centre

Glossary of Terms



Adult community education
Education and training intended principally for adults, including general, vocational, basic and community education, and recreation, leisure and personal enrichment programs. Also, the providers which deliver such programs.

Apparent retention rate

This is the number of school students in a designated level/year of education expressed as a percentage of their respective cohort group (which is either at the commencement of their secondary schooling or Year 10). In ABS publications, apparent retention rates are generally calculated for full-time school students who continued to Year 12 of secondary schooling.


An apprentice is a person who has entered into a legal contract (called an indenture or contract of training) with an employer, to serve a period of training for the purpose of attaining tradesperson status in a recognised trade.

Educational institution
Any institution whose primary role is education. Included are schools, higher education establishments, colleges of technical and further education, public and private colleges. Excluded are institutions whose primary role is not education, for example, hospitals.


Refers to persons enrolled for a course of study at an educational institution (as defined).

Field of education

Field of education is defined as the subject matter of an educational activity. It is categorised according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0) Field of Education classification.

Higher education

Education offered by a university or other higher education institution, leading to the award of a degree or higher level qualification.

Highest year of school completed

The highest level of primary or secondary education which a person has completed, irrespective of the type of institution or location where that education was undertaken.

Indigenous status

'Indigenous status' indicates whether or not a person identifies as being of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin.


Industry is classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (cat. no. 1292.0)

Labour force status
A classification of the population aged 15 years and over into employed, unemployed or not in the labour force, as defined. The definition conforms closely to the international standard definitions adopted by the International Conference of Labour Statisticians.

Level of education

Level of education is a function of the quality and quantity of learning involved in an educational activity. It is categorised according to the Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0) Level of Education classification.

Level of highest educational attainment

Level of highest educational attainment identifies the highest achievement a person has attained in any area of study. It is not a measurement of the relative importance of different fields of study but a ranking of qualifications and other educational attainments regardless of the particular area of study or the type of institution in which the study was undertaken.

Level of highest non-school qualification

The highest qualification a person has attained, other than qualifications associated with school education.

Non-school qualification

Non-school qualifications are awarded for educational attainments other than those of pre-primary, primary or secondary education. They include qualifications at the Post Graduate Degree level, Master Degree level, Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate level, Bachelor Degree level, Advanced Diploma and Diploma level, and Certificates I, II, III and IV levels. Non-school qualifications may be attained concurrently with school qualifications.

Occupation is classified according to the Australian Standard Classification of Occupations (ASCO), Second Edition, 1997 (cat. no. 1220.0).

Participation in education

Participation in education refers to being enrolled in a course of study at an educational institution (as defined).

Primary education

Primary education typically commences at around age five and lasts for seven to eight years. It does not include sessional education such as preschool education. In NSW, Vic., Tas. and the ACT, primary education may extend from Pre-year 1 to Year 6. In SA, WA and the NT it may extend from Pre-year 1 to Year 7. In Qld it extended from Year 1 to Year 7. From 2007, Qld will offer Pre-year 1 statewide, following a trial between 2003 and 2006 in selected schools.


Formal certification, issued by a relevant approved body, in recognition that a person has achieved learning outcomes or competencies relevant to identified individual, professional, industry or community needs. Statements of attainment awarded for partial completion of a course of study at a particular level are excluded.


A school (other than a special school) must satisfy the following criteria:
*its major activity is the provision of full-time day primary or secondary education or the provision of primary or secondary distance education;
*it is headed by a principal (or equivalent) responsible for its internal operation; and
*it is possible for students to enrol for a minimum of four continuous weeks, excluding breaks for school vacations.

In the context of the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC), the term ‘school’ includes schools in institutions and hospitals, mission schools and similar establishments. The term excludes preschools, kindergarten centres, pre-primary schools or pre-primary classes in or attached to non-special schools, senior technical and agricultural colleges, evening schools, continuation classes and institutions such as business or coaching colleges.

School age participation rate

The school age participation rate is the number of full-time school students of a particular age expressed as a proportion of the Estimated Resident Population of the same age at June (published in cat. no. 3201.0). It indicates the proportion of the resident population who are at school. Whereas apparent retention rates rely on students having to progress year by year through the school education system, participation rates relate to the resident population as a whole.

School student

In the context of the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC), a school student is a person who is formally enrolled in a school and active in a course of study other than preschool or TAFE courses. Students not present at school on the NSSC census date were included if they were expected to be absent for less than four continuous weeks (excluding school vacations) and were excluded if they had left the school or had been absent without explanation for four continuous weeks (excluding school vacations) prior to the census date. Students who are undertaking TAFE, tertiary studies, apprenticeships, work placements, VET in schools or a combination of such pathways, in addition to 'normal' school subjects, are in the scope of the NSSC, regardless of which year of schooling these alternative pathways are undertaken.

School teaching staff

School teaching staff are staff who spend the majority of their time in contact with students. They support students either by direct class contact or on an individual basis, and have teaching duties, that is, are engaged to impart school curriculum. For the purposes of this collection, teaching staff includes principals, deputy principals and senior teachers mainly involved in administration. Teacher aides and assistants, and specialist support staff are excluded.

Secondary education

Secondary education typically commences after completion of primary education, at around age 12 years, and lasts for five or six years. In NSW, Vic., Tas. and the ACT, secondary education may extend from Year 7 to Year 12. In Qld, SA, WA, and the NT it may extend from Year 8 to Year 12. Part-time secondary student estimates vary considerably between states and territories, as each education authority has different policy and organisational arrangements. The number of part-time courses available also varies considerably between states and territories. Age level data for part-time students are not published as not all states and territories collect the age of part-time students.

Vocational education training

Post-compulsory education and training, excluding degree and higher level programs delivered by higher education institutions, which provides people with occupational or work-related knowledge and skills. Vocational education and training also includes programs which provide the basis for subsequent vocational programs.

Workplace training

Learning or training undertaken in the workplace, usually on the job, including on-the-job training under normal operational conditions, and on-site training, which is conducted away from the work process (for example, in a training room).

Commonwealth of Australia 2008

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