There have been significant improvements in the educational participation and attainment of Indigenous Australians in recent years. Between 1996 and 2004, there were steady increases in Indigenous primary and secondary school enrolments and in Indigenous apparent retention rates. Indigenous participation in vocational education and training also increased, with Indigenous students comprising 3% of the total VET student population in 2003. Indigenous students continue to be under-represented in the higher education sector, accounting for only 1% of the total higher education population in 2003.
The 1994 NATSIS and the 2002 NATSISS showed that the proportion of Indigenous people aged 25-64 years who had a non-school qualification increased from 20% in 1994 to 32% in 2002. However, Indigenous people were about half as likely as non-Indigenous people to have a non-school qualification in 2002 (32% compared with 57%).
While international research has clearly established that higher levels of educational attainment are associated with better health outcomes, there has been little investigation into whether this relationship applies to Indigenous Australians. The ways in which health impacts on educational attainment, however, is better understood. Hearing loss as the result of chronic ear infection, and poor nutrition are the two health issues that are commonly identified as being the most detrimental to Indigenous educational outcomes. Research has shown that both of these conditions are associated with poor school attendance and achievement.
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