Why are completion rates important?
Completion of secondary school is the first step along the pathway to either further education or entry into the labour market, and is considered important preparation for participation in many aspects of adult life. Students who fail to complete Year 12 may have fewer employment opportunities and are more likely to experience extended periods of unemployment than Year 12 graduates (Lamb et al. 2000). Vocational education is an alternative pathway to secondary schooling, with Certificate III considered an equivalent qualification (Lim & Karmel 2011).
In order to encourage as many young people as possible to complete Year 12 in Australia, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) introduced a youth participation requirement from 1 January 2010, which requires young people to attend school until they complete Year 10 and then to participate in full-time education, training or employment until they turn 17 (COAG 2009) (See notes below regarding the age ranges reported in this portal).
The National Education Reform Agreement (NERA) sets targets of 90% of young people aged 20-24 to have attained Year 12 or Certificate II or above by 2015, and Year 12 or a Certificate III or above by 2020. Both the NERA and the National Indigenous Reform Agreement (NIRA) set a target of at least halving the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students in attainment rates of Year 12 or Certificate II or above by 2020.
Do completion rates vary across population groups?
In 2014, 77% of young people (aged 20–24) had attained a Year 12 qualification (see notes for definition). The proportion of 20-24 year olds with a Year 12 qualification or Certificate II or higher was 86%, while the proportion with Year 12 qualification or Certificate III or higher was 85%.
Females were more likely than males to have attained a Year 12 qualification (82% compared with 73%), a Year 12 qualification or Certificate II or higher (90% compared with 83%) or a Year 12 qualification or Certificate III or higher (89% compared with 82%).
These data are consistent with other research showing that males are less likely than females to complete school, and are more likely to undertake vocational programs or to find employment (Curtis & McMillan 2008).
In 2012–13, Indigenous young people aged 20–24 were less likely than non-Indigenous young people to have attained a Year 12 qualification, Certificate II or higher (59% compared with 87%), or a Year 12 qualification, Certificate III or higher (54% compared with 85%).
Has there been a change over time?
Between 2004 and 2014, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of all young people aged 20–24 with a Year 12 qualification (from 74% to 77%). There were also increases in the proportion of 20-24 year olds with Year 12 qualification, Certificate II or higher (from 81% to 86%) and for those with Year 12 qualification, Certificate III or higher (from 80% to 85%).
While both 20-24 year old males and females showed increases in attainment rates between 2004 and 2014, the increases were slightly greater for females. The proportion of males attaining a Year 12 qualification increased by 3 percentage points (from 70% to 73%). The proportion of males attaining a Year 12 qualification, Certificate II or higher increased by 4 percentage points (from 79% to 83%) as did the proportion of males attaining a Year 12 qualification, Certificate III (from 78% to 82%).
Over the same time period, the proportion of females attaining a Year 12 qualification increased by 5 percentage points (from 77% to 82%). The proportion of females attaining either a Year 12 qualification, Certificate II or higher increased by 7 percentage points (from 83% to 90%) as did the proportion of females attaining either a Year 12 qualification, Certificate III (from 82% to 89%).
The proportion of Indigenous 20-24 year olds who had attained a Year 12 qualification or Certificate II increased by 14 percentage points from 45% in 2008 to 59% in 2012-13. During this period, the rate for non-Indigenous 20-24 year olds increased slightly from 85% to 87%. Between 2008 and 2012-13, the gap decreased by 12 percentage points (from 40 percentage points in 2008 to 28 percentage points in 2012-13). Consequently, the NERA and NIRA target to halve the gap for Indigenous Australians aged 20-24 in Year 12 attainment is on track (by 2020) (Australian Government 2015).
This report is based on survey data; relative standard errors and 95% confidence intervals are provided in the Source data tables: NYIF indicators. Significance testing was undertaken on values cited in the text; unless otherwise stated, differences were found to be statistically significant.
A Year 12 qualification is awarded for successfully completing senior secondary schooling (Years 11 and 12) and is known under different names in different states and territories. It is sometimes referred to as a senior secondary certificate of education.
Australian Government 2015. Closing the gap: Prime Minister’s report 2015. Canberra: Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.
COAG (Council of Australian Governments) 2009. COAG Communiqué, 2 July 2009. National Partnership Agreement on Youth Attainment and Transitions. Canberra: COAG. Viewed 3 July 2015.
Curtis DD & McMillan J 2008. School non-completers: profiles and initial destinations. Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth. Research report 54. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Lamb S, Dwyer P & Wyn J 2000. Non-completion of school in Australia: the changing patterns of participation and outcomes. Research report no. 16. Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.
Lim P & Karmel T 2011. The vocational equivalent to Year 12. LSAY research report 58. Adelaide: NCVER.