Non-completion of school in Australia : the changing patterns of participation and outcomes.

Stephen Lamb, ACER
Peter Dwyer, ACER
Johanna Wyn, ACER

Longitudinal surveys of Australian youth research report ; n.16


Non-completion of school in Australia is the concern of this report. Non-completion refers to the numbers of young people who do not complete Year 12. It includes the young people who do not continue at secondary school beyond Year 10 and Year 11 as well as those who leave during Year 12 without obtaining a Year 12 certificate. This is a broader category than the one associated with the term ‘early school leavers’ which is often restricted to young people who leave by the end of Year 10. There have been substantial changes in rates of non-completion over the past 20 years. Non-completion rates fell from about 60 per cent in the early 1980s to 41 per cent in the late 1980s and 24 per cent in the early 1990s. The rates have increased by about 6 percentage points during the 1990s. Non-completers may now comprise a minority of young people, yet as a group they persist and remain important. Non-completion is likely to be an option which a sizeable minority of young people will continue to take for the foreseeable future. This report uses data from national longitudinal surveys to help understand why this group is important, the policy issues raised by non-completion and what action needs to be taken to address the issues raised. The analyses were based on data from the Australian Longitudinal Survey (ALS) and the Australian Youth Survey (AYS). Together the two data sets provide extensive information on groups of non-completers from across the 1980s and 1990s. To compare these groups, the ALS and AYS data were used to construct samples of students based on school year-level cohorts. Three samples were built. The first comprised 1635 students in the equivalent of Year 10 in 1980 or 1981. The second contained 1676 students in a matching sample for 1988 and 1989, and the third an equivalent sample of 1935 students for 1992 and 1993.