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New research shows there is still a long way to go in providing equality in education

Rebecca Cassells and colleagues writes in The Conversation (28.6.17) that the gap between the most and least advantaged areas in Australia is reflected in educational inequality.

‘When we think of a “good society” – one that is fair and just – a defining characteristic is likely to be that all people have the opportunity to realise their potential, irrespective of the circumstances into which they are born.

‘There is growing evidence that investment in universal early childhood education is a prerequisite to providing opportunity and achievement throughout the formative years.

‘New research from the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report, ‘Educate Australia Fair? Education Inequality in Australia’, shows we are falling short on providing equal opportunity to our young people on several important dimensions. But it is also important to acknowledge substantial policy reforms over the last ten years, many involving Commonwealth-state co-operation, that are now delivering positive returns.

‘The National Partnership Agreement has led to a marked increase in the proportion of children accessing pre-school education for at least 15 hours per week. Primary and secondary school participation rates continue to climb. The retention rate to Year 12 is 84.3% nationally. Far more young people continue through high school as a result of the National Youth Participation Requirement.

‘University enrolments are at an all-time high. And there has been an increase in social mobility in Australia: children born to low-educated parents are now much more likely to gain a university qualification than was the case in the 1950s. Further benefits can be expected to flow from these reforms, particularly the greater investment in early childhood education in coming years.

‘But we have a long way to go. Many of today’s children will not receive a “fair go” in educational opportunities for no other reason than family background, demographic characteristics, and geography.’

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