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Educational opportunity in Australia 2020

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This report comes at a time when the Australian economy is reeling under the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. More than at any other time, young Australians need to be prepared to face an uncertain economic and social future. The uncertainty they face increases the importance for education and training in Australia to foster the development of a broad range of knowledge and skills. To meet the challenges of the future, Australians must grow up resilient, adaptable and well-informed. 

Prior to the COVID crisis, Australian governments had already re-affirmed the importance of promoting a broad base of learning, and in doing so aimed high. The 2019 Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration commits Australian governments to providing all young Australians with the opportunity to reach their full potential where they become successful lifelong learners, confident and creative individuals, and active and informed members of the community (Education Council, 2019). According to the goals set out in the Declaration, every learner in Australia, irrespective of where they live or who they are, will develop the knowledge, skills and attributes that will lead them to become personally successful, economically productive and actively engaged citizens. 

How well are our systems delivering on the goals? 

This study draws together information from a variety of sources on the opportunities being provided to young Australians for mastering the skills needed to be well prepared for the future. Its goal is to show where the strengths and weaknesses of the education system lay prior to the COVID-19 crisis, to point to areas where it will most need to be strengthened. It is a tool for educators, policymakers and communities, to monitor Australia’s learning progress. 

The information is reported as a set of key indicators which provide a framework for measuring how well Australia’s education and training systems are achieving the national goals for education. The indicators cover the various stages of learning and development from early childhood through to early adulthood to assess how well our systems are doing. They allow us to measure in some way how many young Australians at each stage display the sorts of attributes that Australian education is intended to help shape so that community members can contribute successfully and meaningfully to social, economic and cultural life. The indicators also provide insights into those whom the systems are not supporting as inclusively. A test of the effectiveness and condition of education and training systems is how many people do not acquire the full range of desired skills and attributes and get left behind. It is important to know who they are and what it is that hindered their progress. 

Exhibit 1 presents the key indicators used at each stage of learning and development in the current report, accompanied by our best estimate of the proportion of the population at each stage that is succeeding and the proportion that is not. The estimates are of the numbers of successful lifelong learners, creative and confident individuals and active and informed citizens produced by our kindergartens, schools, and tertiary institutions, as well as estimates of those who are struggling and not being well served. They draw on a range of data sources, demonstrating the diverse range of data captured about young Australians and their learning. 

Source: Lamb, S., Huo, S., Walstab, A., Wade, A., Maire, Q., Doecke, E., Jackson, J. & Endekov, Z. (2020). Educational opportunity in Australia 2020: Who succeeds and who misses out. Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University, for the Mitchell Institute: Melbourne.

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