Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

2.05 Years 10 and 12 retention and attainment

Page last updated: 26 May 2011

Why is it important?:

Education is a key factor in improving the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (see measure 2.04). An important educational outcome is the extent to which Indigenous students stay on at school, until Year 10 and until Year 12, which is measured by the ‘retention rate’. Another measure is the extent to which Indigenous students are awarded a certificate at the end of Year 10 or Year 12, which is measured by the ‘attainment rate’.

Historically, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students have had lower retention and attainment rates compared with non-Indigenous students. COAG has acknowledged that the pathway to closing the gap in Indigenous disadvantage is linked to economic development and improved education outcomes (COAG 2007). COAG has agreed to a target to halve the gap in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020 (COAG 2008a). Successful completion of Year 12 is critical to improving the economic and social status of Indigenous Australians. Higher levels of education improve employment prospects, future income, standard of housing and access to health care (ABS 2002; SCRGSP 2007; ABS & AIHW 2008).

Higher levels of education have been associated with reduced propensity to engage in health risk behaviours, particularly smoking, but also for alcohol consumption. Improved health literacy is associated with education. Research has shown that health outcomes are influenced by a person’s ability to use a wide range of health-related materials (ABS 2008). Research in the US (Wong et al. 2002) found that mortality from all-causes was higher for persons with fewer years of education, particularly for smoking-related diseases. Persons without a high school education lost 12.8 potential life-years per person. International literature has also documented improvements in child mortality associated with in­creased levels of maternal education and attributed this to a variety of factors, including improved understanding of and greater willingness to access health services (Gakidou et al. 2010).

Findings:

Data for 2009 show that the apparent retention rate of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Years 7/8 to Year 10 was 91% compared with 100% for other students. In the same year, the apparent retention rate of full-time Indigenous students from Years 7/8 to Year 12 was 45% compared with 77% for other students. The apparent retention rate of full-time Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from Year 11 to Year 12 was 67% compared with 86% for other students. The apparent retention rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females were similar to those for males from Year 7/8 to Year 10 (92% compared with 90%) but higher than males for retention from Year 7/8 to Year 12 (50% compared with 42%).

There have been significant improvements in Indigenous student retention rates to both Year 10 and Year 12 in the last decade. Apparent retention rates from Year 7/8 to Year 10 increased for Indigenous full-time students between 1998–2006 and have remained at around 90% since 2007. Ap­parent retention rates for Indigenous full-time students from Year 7/8 to Year 12 increased from 32% to 47% between 1998 and 2008, but declined slightly in 2009 to 45%.

In 2009, the Australian Capital Territory, South Australia and Tasmania had the highest retention rates of Indigenous students from Year 7/8 to Year 10 (98% and 107% respectively), while the Northern Territory and Victoria had the lowest (75% and 80% respectively). Retention rates of Indigenous students from Year 7/8 to Year 12 were highest in the Australian Capital Territory (70%) and Queensland (58%) and were lowest in the Northern Territory (35%) and New South Wales (37%). Rates for Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory should be interpreted with caution, due to small numbers in these jurisdictions. Some rates exceed 100%, reflecting the move­ment of students interstate and from non-government to government schools in Years 11 and 12.

National attainment rates indicate that in 2006 less than half (47%) of Indigenous 20–24 year olds had attained at least a Year 12 or equivalent qualification compared with 84% of non-Indigenous Australians of the same age. Indigenous attainment rates were highest in the Australian Capital Territory (66%), followed by Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania (around 57%) and lowest in the Northern Territory (18%) (CRC 2010).

In this same period, attainment rates for Indigenous young people steadily decreased with remoteness (from 59% in major cities to 50% in regional areas, 37% in remote areas and 23% in very remote areas). In comparison, the non-Indigenous attainment rate was not as affected by re­moteness, with a rate of 86% in major cities and around 75% in all other areas. The gap widens from 27 percentage points in major cities to 38 in remote areas and 54 in very remote areas (CRC 2010).

In the 2008 NATSISS, Indigenous parents identified a range of assistance that would support children to complete Year 12 such as support from family, friends and school (83%); career guidance (36%); subsidies or grants to help with affordability (25%); and schools being suitable for culture and/or beliefs (17%).

Implications:

Improving retention and attainment for Indigenous students requires multi-faceted strategies addressing access to education, family and community engagement, home learning environments, mentors, culturally inclusive support strategies and pathways to employment. COAG has committed to a range of reforms in education designed to improve outcomes for Indigenous students (see measure 2.04). The Indigenous Education Action Plan (2010–2014) involves Commonwealth–State and non-government education providers in activities to close education related gaps. This measure should be examined in conjunction with educational participation in other settings, for instance Year 12 equivalent qualifications in VET education (see measure 2.06).

Figure 78 – Apparent Year 10 retention rates, by Indigenous status, 1998–2009


Figure 78 – Apparent Year 10 retention rates, by Indigenous status, 1998–2009
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection
Text description of figure 78 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 79 – Apparent Year 12 retention rates, by Indigenous status, 1998–2009


Figure 79 – Apparent Year 12 retention rates, by Indigenous status, 1998–2009
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection
Text description of figure 79 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 80 –Year 11 to Year 12 retention, by Indigenous status and sex, 2004 to 2009


Figure 80 –Year 11 to Year 12 retention, by Indigenous status and sex, 2004 to 2009
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection
Text description of figure 80 (TXT 1KB)

Table 42 – Apparent retention rates , by Indigenous status, jurisdiction and sex, 2009

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
Non-Indig.
NSW
Vic.
Qld
WA
SA
Tas.
ACT
NT
Aust.
Aust.
Year 7 to 10 - Apparent retention
Males 85.2 81.2 96.3 89.0 101.0 105.4 100.0 75.9 89.6 99.2
Females 90.0 79.6 99.4 93.8 94.9 109.2 94.4 74.0 92.3 101.1
Total 87.6 80.4 97.8 91.2 98.0 107.3 97.4 75.0 90.9 100.1
Year 7 to 12 - Apparent retention
Males 33.3 35.8 53.6 39.3 53.3 27.4 69.0 30.1 41.5 72.1
Females 40.4 50.9 62.5 40.2 58.8 53.5 70.0 39.2 49.5 82.7
Total 36.7 43.4 58.0 39.7 56.0 39.7 69.5 34.5 45.4 77.3
Year 11 to 12 - Apparent retention
Males 71.2 61.4 73.4 48.1 69.0 73.5 90.6 44.5 64.2 83.7
Females 72.0 65.8 77.2 50.8 78.5 89.1 121.7 56.0 69.6 88.5
Total 71.6 63.9 75.4 49.3 73.6 82.7 103.6 50.2 67.0 86.1
Source: AIHW analysis of ABS National Schools Statistics Collection (NSSC)

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