4211.0 - Education and Training Matters, Jun 2008  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/06/2008   
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Welcome to the third newsletter of the National Centre for Education and Training Statistics (NCETS) at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. NCETS is pleased to have the opportunity to highlight some recent developments and current NCETS projects.

From the Director's Chair
The role of NCETS
Recent developments in education and training statistics
Adult Learning
Apparent Continuation Rate
Education and training related publications
Further contact


Since the previous newsletter of December 2007, NCETS has been working to disseminate the findings of two key surveys: the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, released in November 2007 and the Adult Learning Survey (ALS), released in January 2008. Following the release of these surveys, NCETS staff have given presentations at numerous conferences and workshops for a varied range of government and non-government stakeholders. Feedback on the results of these surveys indicate a wide range of data usage by policy makers, practitioners and researchers.

At this time, literacy and numeracy are key policy issues for governments. Through the National Reform Agenda, COAG is seeking to increase both the proportion of young people meeting basic literacy and numeracy standards, and levels of overall achievement. Concurrently, school students in Years 3,5,7, and 9 have just completed the first national assessment program of literacy and numeracy skills for students. The 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey (ALLS) provides a rich data set that enables comparison of literacy skill levels in Australia to those of other countries. The survey provides details of persons aged 15–74 years as assessed over four key domains: prose literacy, document literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

Information about the participation in formal, non-formal and informal learning was collected in the 2006–07 Adult Learning Survey (ALS) from people aged 25–64. The survey provides information on the main fields of study, learning opportunities available to individuals, and obstacles to learning that have been experienced by participants. This newsletter contains a sample of summary data from the ALS which highlights participation in learning, by selected age group.

Something new in the release of school statistics this year is the inclusion of a new measure, the Apparent Continuation Rate (ACR). The ACR reports the proportion of a birthyear cohort of school students who do not leave school between one year and the next. This new measure was developed to be used in conjunction with the existing Apparent Retention Rates (ARRs) reported in the annual National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC). The results of the August 2007 National Schools Statistics Collection were released in February 2008.

Information about the knowledge and skills required to understand and use information relating to health issues will be reported using the results of the 2006 ALLS Survey. Health literacy was derived as a by-product of the objectively assessed prose and document literacy, numeracy and problem-solving domains of ALLS. Health Literacy, Australia (cat. no. 4233.0) is scheduled for release on 25 June 2008.

Links to the above-mentioned collections are found below, see Education and training related publications.

2008 will be a critical time for survey development as the Survey of Education and Training will be conducted in the first half of 2009. NCETS has consulted with stakeholders and the ABS has undertaken cognitive testing and convened focus groups. The survey will focus on participation, educational attainment, education experience, and outcomes from education and training activities, as in earlier surveys. However, further development will refine the survey questions and meet stakeholders needs for particular data items.

Successful testing and a dress rehearsal for the Childhood Education and Care Survey (CEaCS) was conducted over the period February-March 2008. The survey will be in the field in June 2008, as a supplementary topic to the monthly Labour Force Survey. This survey will provide detailed data on child care as well as information related to children's learning activities and learning environments in their early years.

Over the past 12 months, we have focused on improving the statistics related to expenditure on education and training. A project has been undertaken by NCETS, in conjunction with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR). Whilst the project major outcome of the project will be a working document for internal use by ABS and DEEWR, it is expected the findings of the report will result in improvements in the publically available data related to education expenditure.

You can find out more about these surveys and projects on the Education and Training Noticeboard, under 'What's New' and 'Work in Progress'.

The National Education and Training Statistics Unit (NETSU) Management Board met in Melbourne late last month. This was the first Board meeting to be chaired by Professor Peter Dawkins, the Secretary of the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development. Peter has taken over as Chair of the Board following a very successful two years under the guidance of Dr Michele Bruniges, the Chief Executive of the ACT Department of Education and Training.

Mr Tony Zanderigo, Branch Manager, Benchmarks and Reporting Branch in DEEWR gave the Board a presentation on the work of COAG's Productivity Agenda Working Group and the various sub-groups and that are supporting its role. The Board also discussed papers related to the expansion of the National Schools Statistical Collection and data gaps in early childhood education.

You can find out more about recent developments and current NCETS projects in the remainder of this newsletter. We welcome your comments and feedback on any of our publications and reports, and are keen to assist you if you have any questions related to education and training statistics and research.

Dr Chris Duncan
National Centre for Education and Training Statistics


The National Centre for Education and Training Statistics (NCETS) is based at the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in Canberra. It has responsibility for:
  • collecting, disseminating, and promoting the use of quality education and training data; and
  • developing and promoting the use of standard concepts, definitions and classifications for education and training statistics.

NCETS is represented on a number of committees and working groups where we provide statistical and technical advice and support on a range of education and training policies and programmes. These include:
  • Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, Performance Measurement and Reporting Taskforce and selected sub-groups;
  • Report on Government Services, School Education Working Group;
  • National Training Statistics Committee and its sub-group, the Technical Reference Group;
  • National Centre for Vocational Education and Training Research, Survey Network Group; and
  • Longitudinal Survey of Australian Youth Steering Committee.

You can find out more about NCETS on the Education and Training Noticeboard, under 'The National Centre for Education and Training Statistics'.


The results of a research project to identify and develop quality, consistent national measures in the field of early childhood education statistics, are now available. The Information Paper: Measuring Learning in Australia: Concepts and Directions in Early Childhood Learning, 2007 (cat.no. 4232.0) was released in December 2007. It outlines the project's findings and proposes a suite of measures and data development activities needed to provide relevant and quality data for comparable analysis across states and territories. This research reflects the growing recognition of the importance of information about early childhood education, including recent initiatives related to the National Reform Agenda to assess the basic skill levels of young children, to improve early childhood development outcomes. At this stage, we are considering options for the future dissemination of the measures.

A lot has been happening recently in the area of schools statistics to enhance data collection and reporting. Core data from the 2007 NSSC was released in Schools, Australia Preliminary, 2007 (cat. no. 4220.0) on 4 February, followed by the release of the main publication Schools, Australia, 2007 (cat. no. 4221.0) on 29 February 2008. The earlier than usual release of selected summary (preliminary) data from the National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC), enabled jurisdictions to met their planning needs at the commencement of the new school year. Another development in school statistics this year, is the introduction of the Apparent Continuation Rate in Schools, Australia and related standard outputs. This new measure has been developed for use in conjunction with the existing Apparent Retention Rates. The proposed expansion of the NSSC to provide a broader range of nationally comparable data, to better meet the information needs of parents, schools systems, analysts, and researchers is a project that is being guided by the NETSU Management Board.

NCETS projects to arise from the Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, relate to youth and small area estimates. The first project, Literacy Skills of Australian Youth, focuses on the literacy of 15-19 and 20-24 year old cohorts. Comparisons have been made at the national, state and territory levels and with the findings of PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study). A report of findings has been provided to the NETSU Management Board. The second project will derive experimental estimates of adult literacy for smaller geographical areas. Results of this research project are expected to be released in July 2008.

The first of a new series of detailed education and training spreadsheets (or 'data cubes') is now available via the ABS website. In the first instance, 11 spreadsheets utilising a range of ABS data, are being developed to present data from 2001 to 2007 on a range of key performance measures of participation, engagement and attainment. The spreadsheet 'Persons with a qualification at AQF Certificate III level or above, by State/Territory of Residence, Sex and age group (Includes data for 2001-2007)' can be accessed via the publication Education and Work, Australia May 2007 (cat. no. 6227.0). More data cubes will be available during the year.

Over the last 12 months, ABS and DEEWR have worked together in improving awareness of financial statistics on education, focusing on final expenditure data. The ABS provides two main sources of relevant information: Government Finance Statistics, which in turn are a key component of the National Accounts. Other important data sources or outputs also exist. A key aim of the project has been to document the key conceptual differences between the various sources in order to assist more meaningful discussions about differences in the underlying data series. In doing so, the project will culminate in a working document for internal use by ABS-DEEWR, that will provide clarity to data and associated definitions. This will ultimately lead to more confidence in and consistency between the various series reporting on education expenditures. Other expected outcomes of the project could include further engagement of Commonwealth and state agencies to improve data quality and comparability of the collections. ABS will publish on a regular basis, estimates of total final expenditure on education (public and private), but where this will be published is yet to be determined. Our next newsletter will contain further details.

These and other recent developments are described in more detail on the Education and Training Noticeboard, under 'What's New' and 'Work in Progress'.

The education module in the 2006 Census of Population and Housing includes the variable 'Level of Highest Educational Attainment'. You can find out more about this and other education variables in Census Dictionary Australia, 2006 (Reissue) (ABS cat. no. 2901.0). The Census home page will direct you to the array of Census publications, electronic products and services that are currently available. You can also search for data based primarily on a selected location or topic, or you can go straight to one of the on-line tools to access data in the format you need.

The Directory of Education and Training Statistics, 2007 (ABS cat. no. 1136.0) has recently been updated. The directory provides a rapid guide to the growing range of statistical resources related to education and training activity in Australia, from both ABS and other sources. It provides a summary of the scope, frequency, data items and related products associated with each ABS statistical collection. Similar information pertaining to a number of non-ABS collections, along with links to relevant websites, is also published in the directory.


Results from the Adult Learning Survey (ALS) were obtained in the 2006-07 Multi-Purpose Household Survey, which was conducted as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey. This survey examined the participation of Australians in formal, non-formal and informal learning in the twelve months prior to the interview. It presents data concerned with the recent learning experiences of people aged 25 to 64 years.

The ALS built upon the concept of lifelong learning as defined in the OECD’s Eurostat Adult Education Survey, which characterises learning into three distinct categories:
  • Formal learning: In 2006-07, 1.3 million Australians aged 25-64 years, participated in learning activities that were structured, institutionalised and resulted in a qualification recognised by the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).
  • Non-formal learning: In 2006-07, 3.3 million Australians participated in activities that were structured in format but did not lead to an AQF qualification.
  • Informal learning: Undertaken by 8.1 million Australians in 2006-07. This category refers to those self-directed activities that are unstructured, non-institutionalised and related to work, family, community and leisure.
Of those Australians aged 25-64 years, 12% were engaged in formal learning activities, 30% participated in non-formal learning activities and 74% reported taking part in informal learning activities in the previous year.


graph: Participants in Adult Learning

    Overall, there was a gradual decline in participation from the age of 50, with the 60-64 year age group the least likely to participate in all learning categories (Graph 1). However, a decline in the participation of formal learning commenced much earlier, from age 30 years. These results suggest that as learning becomes more structured, there is a decline in participation.

    Of those workers in full-time employment, 69% participated in formal or non-formal adult learning. This figure was proportionately higher than those full-time workers that chose to engage with informal learning activities (61%). Conversely, those people who were not in the labour force in 2006-07 were more likely to participate in informal learning (17%), rather than formal or non-formal learning activities (10%). Interestingly, the survey also revealed that people with a Bachelor Degree qualification or above, are more likely to participate in formal or non-formal (55%), or informal learning (89%), then those who do not hold a qualification (24% and 62%).

    The ALS has yielded additional information on adult learning and data concerning the three categories of learning. To read more and access the results please refer to the Adult Learning, Australia, 2006-07 (cat. no. 4229.0).


    The ABS has moved towards expanding the number of available measures of retention and participation for school students. The latest addition, which debuted in the Schools, Australia, 2007 publication, is the Apparent Continuation Rate (ACR). The ACR is used to provide insight into participation in the non-compulsory years of school education. Similar to Apparent Retention Rates, it is probably most effective in describing the activity of cohorts in post-compulsory schooling (e.g. aged 16 years and over). In most cases the ACR will show some level of decline in the level of participation with increasing age. However, with movement between school systems and between jurisdictions, some increases in levels of participation may occur.

    More specifically, the ACR is a measure that describes the movement in the proportions of a population cohort attending school, between one year and the next, expressed as a percentage. For instance, it is estimated that 89% of Australians aged 15 in 2006 continued on in school education in 2007 and 77% of Australians aged 16 in 2006 continued on in school education in 2007.


    graph: Apparent Continuation Rates


    Statistics on expenditure on education by the general government sector, presented on an accrual accounting basis and are taken from the system of Government Finance Statistics (GFS). Latest
    data is available in Government Finance Statistics, Education, Australia, 2006-07 (cat.no.5518.0.55.001 ) released 15 April 2008.

    Results of the August 2007 National Schools Statistics Collection were released in Schools, Australia, Preliminary 2007 (cat. no. 4220.0) on 4.02.2008 and Schools Australia, 2007 (cat. no. 4221.0) on 29 February 2008. These results include information about students, school affiliation and staff, and new measures of student progression through their schooling. Detailed datacubes and time-series spreadsheets will also be released by July 2008.

    The Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey, Summary Results, 2006 (Reissue) (cat. no. 4228.0) was released 9 January 2008. The new publication, Adult Learning, Australia, 2006-07, (cat. no. 4229.0) was released on 2 December 2007.

    Measuring Learning in Australia: Concepts and Directions in Early Childhood Learning, 2007 (cat.no.4232.0) was released on 20 December 2007.

    Latest data about the educational experience of Australians were released in December 2007 and are available in Education and Work, Australia, 2007 (cat. no. 6227.0), released on 18 December 2007. This survey collected information in May 2007 to describe characteristics of education participation and experience in relation to labour force characteristics.

    For a more comprehensive listing of recently released ABS publications related to education and training statistics, please see Education and Training Releases on the Education and Training theme page.

    For information about the range of statistical collections or key statistical publications that have at least some education and training content (whether ABS or non-ABS), please see the publication A Directory of Education and Training Statistics, 2007 (ABS cat. no. 1136.0). Links to non-ABS sources of education and training statistics are located via Other Related Sources of Information, on the Education and Training theme page.


    Contacting NCETS

    Director: Dr Chris Duncan
    Email: christopher.duncan@abs.gov.au
    Phone: (02) 6252 5936
    Fax: (02) 6252 7784
    Mobile: 0419 412 770

    Postal address:
    National Centre for Education and Training Statistics
    Australian Bureau of Statistics
    Locked Bag 10


    Statistical inquiries

    The ABS' National Information and Referral Service is the first point of contact for all your statistical and publication enquiries.
    Phone: 1300 135 070
    Fax: 1300 135 211
    Post: Client Services, ABS, GPO Box 796, Sydney 1041
    Email: client.services@abs.gov.au, and you will be contacted within two working days.

    Contacting ABS state and territory Education Statistics Liaison Officers

    New South Wales
    Ph: (02) 9268 4376
    Email: larissa.wharton@abs.gov.au

    Ph: (03) 9615 7069
    Email: stella.young@abs.gov.au

    Ph: (07) 3222 6488
    Email: mark.hudson@abs.gov.au

    South Australia
    Ph: (08) 8237 7336
    Email: stuart.finlay@abs.gov.au

    Western Australia
    Ph: (08) 9360 5127
    Email: margaret.garner@abs.gov.au

    Ph: (03) 6222 5902
    Email: helen.marmion@abs.gov.au

    Northern Territory
    Ph: (08) 8943 2188
    Email: rebecca.luxford@abs.gov.au

    Australian Capital Territory
    Ph: (02) 6252 8924
    Email: mariette.oconnell@abs.gov.au