Round And Round Or Fully Rounded? How Can We Improve Youth Transitions

Richard Sweet, University of Melbourne

Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Research Conference (13th : 2008 : Brisbane)


Successful transitions from school to work result from a complex mix of institutional settings, opportunity structures and personal effectiveness. Policy needs to work on all of these simultaneously: Australia needs both systems to work and to be fair, and young people who are confident and competent. On the basis of school completion rates, and their consequences in terms of teenage unemployment and the youth labour market disadvantage, Australia performs relatively poorly compared to other advanced economies and has improved little over a long period. A wide range of innovative transition programs has had little impact. We need to shift to a universal structure of separate senior high schools. These can take advantage of larger grade cohorts and economies of scale to offer 15–17 year olds wide curriculum choice that can satisfy the full range of personal and vocational interests. They can provide adult teaching styles and discipline policies, and support services such as remediation, counselling and welfare for those who struggle the hardest. Little is likely to change unless this occurs. TAFE is not the answer.