Australia is one such country that most people would describe as possessing a desirable level of educational equity. It is viewed as a land in which opportunities to build healthy futures are available to all.

Educational opportunity in Australia 2015: Who succeeds and who misses out is a recent study undertaken into Australia’s education and training system. It sheds some light on Australia’s position in respect to opportunities afforded to youth as they negotiate the various stages of education and attempt to establish themselves in the workforce.

The study presents the number of students on track and those who are missing out on important educational milestones.

The four key milestones are:

  • Early years: the proportion of children who are developmentally ready at the point of entry to school, as measured across five domains: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, and communication skills.

  • Middle years: the proportion of Year 7 students who meet or exceed international proficiency standards in academic skills.

  • Senior school years: the proportion of young people who have completed school and attained a Year 12 certificate or equivalent

  • Early adulthood: the percentage of 24-year-olds who are fully engaged in education, training or work.

The good news

  • A majority of students are succeeding at each milestone.

  • About six in ten or more of all children starting school get through early and middle childhood with the kinds of academic and social skills needed for later success.

  • The same proportions complete school and are fully engaged in education or work by their mid-20s.

The not-so-good news

  • At each milestone some students are missing out – insufficiently prepared to take on the challenges of the following stages of their lives.

  • About ten percent of the population begin school not developmentally ready and remain behind across all stages.

  • Between entry to school and Year 7 one in ten remain behind.

  • Roughly this number are behind at the beginning of secondary school and do not complete Year 12 or equivalent, and the same proportion remains marginalised at age 24, not able to secure full-time work, or be in study or training

The silver lining

The study has found that although there are many students missing out, this can be turned around. It’s no easy task to encourage these students to catch up to their peers and reach the successes of each milestone, but results have highlighted that it is achievable. That is the beauty of the nature of education is Australia. No matter how much a student falls behind, they always have the opportunity to jump back on the horse and turn things around.

To read the full study as prepared by the Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES) for the Mitchell Institute please click here.