Source: Issues Paper No. 1 produced for the Closing the Gap Clearinghouse. Nola Purdie and Sarah Buckley
Summary: Engagement or participation in education is a key factor affecting the life chances of all Australians. It is particularly important for Indigenous Australians who have lower levels of educational attainment than non-Indigenous Australians.
- Regular school attendance, important for achieving core skills, such as literacy and numeracy, and achieving adequate levels of education, is one of the key factors that is likely to reduce Indigenous disadvantage.
- A combination of home, school and individual factors are involved in students’ absence from school, although the relative importance of the various causes is contested:
- parents and students tend to stress school-related factors (for example, poor teaching and failure to engage students); educators tend to stress parental attitudes and the home environment (for example, poor parental attitudes to school).
- The available data on attendance and retention are limited, though there is evidence that Year 7/8 to Year 12 school retention rates for Indigenous students have improved over the last 10 years (from 35% in 1999 to 45% in 2009).
- The available data also show that the gap in school attendance and retention between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students is large:
- the proportion of students attending school is some 10 percentage points lower than non-Indigenous students and this gap increases as the level of schooling increases
- the retention rate from Year 7/8 to Year 12 in 2009 was 45% for Indigenous students compared with 77% for non-Indigenous students.
- This paper provides information on the different approaches that have been used to improve attendance and/or retention, including programs that:
- directly address attendance and/or retention, for example through applying incentives or rewards for attendance or sanctions for non-attendance
- indirectly address attendance and retention issues, for example through attempts to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes; improve teacher quality; develop culturally relevant curricular.