Indicator: Education

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Summary of results

Education levels of ACT residents remain higher than national averages. ACT School students continue to rate highly in relation to national literacy and numeracy benchmarks, and also in relation to international competency surveys.

Kindergarten students are now being evaluated to ensure that students in need of enrichment programs or who are at risk are identified. Schools’ equity funding is assisting 14 schools that have students who are experiencing relative socioeconomic disadvantage.

What the results tell us about the ACT

Education levels of ACT residents continue to remain higher than for Australia as a whole. At all levels from primary school through to postgraduate qualifications, the ACT community consistently achieves higher than national benchmarks or qualifications.

Overall, the higher qualifications for ACT residents appear to correlate with higher average weekly earnings of the local workforce, and lower unemployment rates compared to Australian averages.

ACT students score well against benchmarks

In literacy and numeracy testing during the reporting period, ACT students in Years 3 and 5 achieved high ratings in most areas, continuing the trend reported in State of the Environment 2000. In that report, 89.9% of Year 3 students achieved at or above the national benchmark for reading in 1999, which was then the only benchmark assessed. Since then, Year 3 students have achieved around the 95% mark in 2000, 2001 and 2002 for reading.

Other national benchmarks have since been established. Reporting against numeracy benchmarks occurred for the first time in 2000. In that year ACT students in Years 3 and 5 achieved higher than the national average. There are no national averages available in 2001 and 2002 for comparison, however the results show more than 95% of Year 3 ACT students achieved at or above the numeracy benchmarks. More than 90% of Year 5 students also achieved at or above the benchmark also.

In contrast, writing benchmark results in 2000–02 were excellent in Year 3, but over two of the past three years the Year 5 results show only 83.2% (2000) and 86.3% (2002) of students achieved higher than national benchmarks. In those Year 5 results, girls performed better than boys.

During 2000, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study reported that the proportion of 15 year old students who achieved at or above the mean for reading literacy was significantly higher for the ACT (71.4%) than for Australia as a whole (61.8%). However, in Year 9 results for the ACT Assessment Program in 2002, fewer students achieved competence in the top two profile levels in reading and numeracy than in 1999.

More students stay on to Year 12

The trend of high retention rates from Years 10 to 12 in the ACT remained relatively steady at 89.8% in 2002, although the total Australian retention rate is actually increasing. The retention rate in nongovernment schools in the ACT has increased by 10% from 2000 to 2002, with a concomitant fall of 10% in government schools.

The percentage of ACT residents with post-school qualifications has risen over the past 10 years, particularly in the areas of Bachelor Degrees and Postgraduate studies (see Table 1). ACT residents are also more highly qualified compared with national averages.

Table 1: ACT residents with qualifications
Highest Qualification Number of people 2001 1996 1991
Postgraduate degree, diploma or certificate 11,550 males and 9,054 females 8.5% 7.0% 5.2%
Bachelor degree 20,481 males and 21,801 females 17.4% 15.5% 12.8%
Advanced diploma, diploma or certificate 27,984 males and 21,708 females 20.4% 18.0% 18.0%
No qualification, none stated or none in definition 58,636 males and 72,393 females 53.8% 59.6% 63.9%

Source: Census data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics

Disadvantaged assessed

The kindergarten early assessment, using the Performance in Primary Schools program, is also providing information to schools. It is helping teachers and schools plan teaching programs, identify students at risk, identify students who need enrichment programs, and report to parents.

Government funding provides help

As reported in the State of the Environment Report 2000, The ACT Department of Education, Youth and Family Services has addressed disadvantage at the lower socioeconomic levels through a program for learning assistance support for students in the greatest need. Funding continued throughout the current reporting period. It is allocated to schools based on enrolment and the number of students they have in the bottom 20% of ACT Assessment Program scores. Funding is averaged over three years to prevent ongoing programs being disrupted by individual schools having a significant increase or decrease in results from one year to the next.

Funding covers programs such as Reading Recovery and Scaffolding Literacy as well as the Parents as Tutors program at the University of Canberra. Schools also use data from their ACT Assessment Program and Performance in Primary Schools to support their applications for Early Literacy Officers.

The Schools Equity Fund Program 2001–03 is providing assistance to schools for literacy and numeracy support programs. To qualify, schools must have at least 25% of their student enrolment from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Fourteen schools (13 primary and one high school) are receiving Schools Equity Fund Program funds under the current program.

Link between poverty and education

A 2002 report compiled for the ACT Government discussed the high correlation of poverty within the ACT to suburbs with higher percentages of people who completed Year 10 only or did not go to school.

For Year 12, the Report on Government Services (SCRCSSP 2003) shows that estimated completion rates for high socioeconomic groups were marginally (about 2%) higher than for the ACT as a whole. That report was unable to compare ACT Year 12 completion rates for low socioeconomic groups because the ACT does not appear in the lowest groups in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage.

Data sources and references

ACT Department of Education, Youth and Family Services 2001, School Management Manual , Department of Education, Youth and Family Services, Canberra.

ACT Department of Education, Youth and Family Services 2002, ACT Government School Education Literacy and Numeracy Performance (brochure), Department of Education, Youth and Family Services, Canberra.

ACT Department of Education, Youth and Family Services 2003, Annual Report 2002–03 , Department of Education, Youth and Family Services, Canberra.

Australia Bureau of Statistics 2000, 2001, 2002, Schools Australia (Cat. No. 4221.0).

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2002, 2001 Census Basic Community Profile and Snapshot – Australian Capital Territory (Cat. No. 2001.0) .

Ministerial Council on Education Employment, Training and Youth Affairs, National Report on Schooling in Australia 2000 accessed via website <>. Last accessed 4 March 2003.

Lokan, J., Greenwood, L., Cresswell, J. 2001, 15-up and counting, reading, writing, reasoning: how literate are Australian students?: the PISA 2000 survey of students’ reading, mathematical and scientific literacy skills , ACER, Melbourne (cited in Steering Committee for the Review of Commonwealth/State Service Provision 2003 Report on Government Services 2003 Volume 1, Ausinfo, Canberra).

National Centre for Economic Modelling, University of Canberra 2002, Locating Poverty in the ACT, Chief Minister’s Department, Canberra.

The Schools Equity Fund Program funding is calculated using the Australian Bureau of Statistics Index of Relative Socioeconomic Disadvantage based on Census Collection Districts as derived from the 1996 Census.

Notes about PISA

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is an Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) initiative that focuses on students’ ability to apply their knowledge and skills to real-life problems and situations, rather than on how much curriculum based knowledge they possess.

In 2000, PISA conducted a survey of the reading, mathematical and scientific literacy of 15 year olds across 32 countries. Reading literacy was the major domain, accounting for almost 70% of total assessment time. Almost 6200 students from 231 Australian schools participated in the survey (Lokan et al. 2001). The main sample of Australian students represented approximately 2.3% of 15 year old secondary school students in Australia. PISA survey assessment results are reported in terms of the proportion of Australian students who achieved at or above the mean score for the 27 OECD countries for which data are available.

Supplementary information was also provided by staff from the ACT Department of Education, Youth and Family Services.

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