One of the most comprehensive studies of the Australian education system found that postal code and family background influence the opportunities available to students from preschool to adulthood, with one in three disadvantaged students falling through the gap.
The main point:
- The study tracked 300,000 children from school to adulthood
- Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to progress to work or further study
- Anne Hampshire of the Smith Family believes this problem can be fixed in a generation
Sergio Macklin, vice chair of education policy at Victoria University’s Michell Institute, released the Education Opportunities in Australia report, which calls for additional resources immediately to help disadvantaged, Indigenous and remote students.
“Educational success is closely tied to the wealth of young people’s families and where they grow up,” said Macklin.
“I think Australia is really disappointing students from low-income families, Aboriginal students, and those in remote areas.”
The report criticized the progress of last December’s Alice Springs Education Council meeting at which, after Australia’s poor performance compared to its international counterparts, education ministers pledged to deliver a system that generates excellence and equity.
Last year’s poor results on educational equality have now been exacerbated by distance learning, with some students without internet or stability at home falling weeks behind their peers.
“The children and adolescents most severely served by the education system are probably the most affected by it,” said Macklin.
“So you’ll see work stress in the family dramatically increases student vulnerability.”
The report follows the progress of more than 300,000 students from school to primary school, to high school and into early adulthood.
Mr Macklin believes this problem will take a generation to fix.
The report found that disadvantaged students were more than twice as likely to be out of school or work by age 24 than their peers.
The national average of students who are not working or studying is 15 percent, but this increases to 32 percent of students from the lowest SES backgrounds, 38 percent from very remote areas and 45 percent among Indigenous youth.
“I think what this report highlights is that we are missing opportunities for youth in adulthood – and that’s a real problem for young people,” said Macklin.
Fight the trend
About half an hour outside of Canberra, in the New South Wales region, 14-year-old Caitlyn, 16-year-old Iliana, 13-year-old William and their mother, Mem, buck the trend, with the help of the Smith Family.
They are members of a proud Indigenous family who hail from the country of Djangadi, far northeast of NSW.
Distance learning has been a challenge for everyone, but solving it in a two bedroom apartment that accommodates three teenagers and their single mother has its own challenges.
Even getting a table is a big hurdle.
“I’m afraid they will fight,” said Miss.
“How do we all get enough space? Because there’s nowhere to go and you’re not really allowed out.
William slept in the living room and his bedroom became a kind of school headquarters.
“I’m in the waiting room and it’s the most common area in the house. Iliana and Caitlyn have their own bedroom,” William said.
Caitlyn feels a difficult change from school.
“After a few weeks, I realized it was lousy, because I sometimes have trouble just learning online,” said the 9th grader.
But for the eldest of three children, Iliana, who is 16 years old, feels comfortable.
“I think we had a little trouble at first adjusting because we didn’t know exactly who was going to be where and who was bothering whom, but eventually we found our rhythm about how to do things,” he said.
Nona is proud of the dedication of her three children.
All are on track to become future indigenous leaders, and with the extra support they were fortunate enough to organize, they have returned to school on par with their peers.
The Smith Family’s head of research, Anne Hampshire, said it was proof it could be done.
He said equality in education could be achieved faster than in a generation if philanthropists, educators, welfare agencies and all levels of government came together.
“What is concretely seen, the kind of support that makes a difference, is a high quality pre-school program before children start school and then provide financial, emotional, and educational support – things like high-quality reading programs, after-school learning clubs. , “said Ms Hampshire.
He said the investment would soon be paid back through lower levels of welfare and health problems for those who continue to pass through the gap.
“The international evidence is that [with that], more people can do well educationally. “
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