Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

2.06 Educational participation and attainment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults

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. Longitudinal studies show that people who go on to higher education (universities, colleges of advanced education, and other tertiary institutions) and graduate with a degree or diploma are more likely to obtain full-time work and earn higher incomes compared with those who do not. Likewise people who complete a course at a Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institution are more likely to be employed after the completion of their course than they were before. Those undertaking TAFE education who are already em­ployed are more likely to receive a promotion and/or an increase in income after completion of their TAFE course (SCRGSP 2007).

There is an association between socioeconomic factors such as education, employment, income, and health status. Generally, population groups with lower socioeconomic status have poorer health than those with higher socioeconomic status. Reporting socioeconomic factors affecting health such as educational attainment will help to inform public policy and encourage whole of government collaboration to address health inequalities.

Research has shown that health outcomes are influenced by a person’s ability to use a wide range of health-related materials. The mean health literacy score for Indigenous Australians in 2006 was lower than for non-Indigenous Australians. Lower health literacy is likely to be a barrier to health promotion activities based around health education (Centre for Medicare Education 2000; National Centre for Education and Training Statistics & Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008).

International research has demonstrated that maternal education is a determinant of child health and survival (ABS & AIHW 2008). There has been little conclusive research undertaken in the Indigenous Australian context on this issue (Ewald & Boughton 2002).

Findings:

In 2008, 19% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged over 15 years were currently studying at an educational institution compared with 16% of non-Indigenous Australians in the same age range.

Year 12 was the highest level of school completed by 23% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in 2008, compared with 51% of non-Indigenous adults. The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults who had completed Year 12 increased from 19% in 2002 to 23% in 2008. Younger age groups were more likely to have completed Year 12. Among those aged 18–24 years, the proportion who had completed Year 12 was 32%. People in remote areas were less likely than those in non-remote areas to have completed Year 12 (16% compared with 25%).

In 2008, approximately 40% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 25–64 years reported they had a non-school qualification compared with 61% of non-Indigenous Australians within this age group. A slightly higher proportion of Indigenous Australians were studying at TAFE, particularly in the older age group, compared with non-Indigenous Australians. A similar proportion of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians aged 25–64 years had completed a certificate qualification. Fewer Indigenous Australians were currently studying at university/other higher education institutions in 2008 compared with non-Indigenous Australians (3% and 6% respectively), particularly in the younger age groups. Much lower proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons had a bachelor degree or above as their highest level of non-school qualification (7%) compared with non-Indigenous Australians (25%).

Vocational education and training (VET) courses are providing large numbers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Is­lander peoples with non-school education training opportunities. During the year 2008, there were approximately 9,660 course completions in the VET sector by Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over. This constitutes 3% of the Indigenous population aged 15 years and over com­pared with 2% for other Australians.

Between 1996 and 2008, there was an increase in the proportion of Indigenous students and other students who had completed a course in the VET sector and the magnitude of the increase among Indigenous students was considera­bly higher. In 2008, the VET load pass rate for Indigenous students was 70% compared with 80% for non-Indigenous students.

During 2008, 0.4% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians completed a course in the higher education sector compared with 1.3% of other Australians. In the 22–24 year age group, 0.9% of Indigenous Australians completed a course in the higher education sector com­pared with 8% of other Australians. The gap narrows in the older age groups indicating that Indigenous students completing higher education courses have an older age profile than other students.

Implications:

Despite improvements in recent years there are still large gaps between Indigenous Australians and other Australians in educational participation and attainment. The greatest improvements have been in the VET sector where Indigenous participation exceeds non-Indigenous participation. However there are continuing large gaps in the university sector and in course completion rates for both VET and university.

A specific target agreed to by COAG aims to halve the gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020.

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy includes a number of goals relevant to this performance measure including equality of access, participation, involvement and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.

The Australian Government is the primary funding source and developer of policy relating to the higher education sector. A range of measures are in place to support Indigenous students in higher education including: the Indigenous Support Program, Indigenous Higher Education Centres and Tutorial Assistance. Funding to support Indigenous students in the VET sector is also available (e.g. Supplementary Recurrent Assistance, Infrastructure and Tutorial Assistance). The universities with the highest success have formal policies for encouraging Indigenous students, allocated places and specific pathways as well as support strategies (Drysdale et al. 2006). There remains a strong need to focus efforts on supporting Indigenous students to complete higher education qualifications to bridge the gap in participation and attainment.

Figure 81 – Educational institution currently attended, by Indigenous status and age group, persons aged 15 years and over, 2008


Figure 81 – Educational institution currently attended, by Indigenous status and age group, persons aged 15 years and over, 2008
Source: AIHW and ABS analysis of the 2008 NATSISS. Non-Indigenous estimates are from the NHS 2007–08
Text description of figure 81 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 82 – Highest level of school completed, by Indigenous status, persons aged 18 years and over, 2002 and 2008


Figure 82 – Highest level of school completed, by Indigenous status, persons aged 18 years and over, 2002 and 2008
(a) Includes persons who never attended school.
Source: AIHW and ABS analysis of the 2002 and 2008 NATSISS. Non-Indigenous estimates are from the NHS 2001 and 2007–08
Text description of figure 82 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 83 – Highest non-school qualifications, by Indigenous status and age group, persons aged 25–64 years, 2008


Figure 83 – Highest non-school qualifications, by Indigenous status and age group, persons aged 25–64 years, 2008
Source: AIHW and ABS analysis of the 2008 NATSISS. Non-Indigenous estimates are from the NHS 2007–08
Text description of figure 83 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 84 – Total completions in the VET sector for persons aged 15 years and over, by Indigenous status, 1996 to 2008


Figure 84 – Total completions in the VET sector for persons aged 15 years and over, by Indigenous status, 1996 to 2008
Source: AIHW analysis of National Centre for Vocational Education Research, National VET Provider Collection 2008
Text description of figure 84 (TXT 1KB)

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