Wednesday, 19 Dec 2001

Approximately 37 per cent of Year 12 non-completers had undertaken some sort of vocational education and training (VET) study in their initial post-school years, according to a report released today by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER).

The report, Participation and Achievement in VET of Non-completers of School by Katrina Ball and Stephen Lamb, investigates differences between those who participate in VET after leaving school and those who do not. The report provides information on the characteristics and success rates of non-completers who participate in VET.

The results are based on data from the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY) research program, which is jointly managed by ACER and the Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training (DEST).

LSAY follows the experiences of a national cohort of 13 613 students as they move from school into post-compulsory education, training and work. It focuses on students who were in Year 9 in 1995 and examines their experiences up to 2000. It is the most up-to-date and detailed information on recent school leavers in Australia.

The report indicated that participation by non-completers in VET varied by background. There were clear differences according to gender, ethnicity and locality. Of note were:

  • Higher participation rates for males than females (42 per cent compared to 30 per cent);
  • Higher participation for non-completers from Catholic schools (44 per cent compared to 36 per cent from government schools and 31 per cent from independent schools);
  • Lower participation rates for non-completers from lower socioeconomic status (SES) backgrounds (35 per cent for the lowest quartile of SES compared to 43 per cent for the highest quartile); and
  • Lower participation rates of non-completers living in areas of high unemployment.

Participation also varied by type of VET course:

  • Over 40 per cent of all non-completers who enrolled in further study entered trade-related courses (preparatory or full trade courses);
  • A quarter enrolled in non-trade skills courses;
  • Male non-completers (57 per cent) were more likely to enrol in a trade-related course, while females (82 per cent) were more likely to enrol in courses that teach other skills; and
  • Males who leave school after commencing Year 11 were less likely to enrol in a trade-related course compared with males who leave earlier (51 per cent compared to 64 per cent).

The study found that not all non-completers are successful in their vocational education and training studies. In looking at achievement measured in terms of module outcomes:

  • Almost 60 per cent of modules undertaken by non-completers in the sample resulted in a successful outcome, while 29 per cent of modules were not successfully completed. Non-completers withdrew from a further 11 per cent of modules;
  • Failure rates varied depending on the type of qualification, with the highest failure rates in the advanced courses – diploma-level courses; and
  • Pass rates were highest in trade-related and similar level courses.

Module outcomes also varied across different categories of non-completers:

  • Failure rates were lowest in modules undertaken more often by students who performed well at school (14 per cent) compared to those who did not perform well at school (17 per cent);
  • Failure rates were lowest in modules undertaken more often by high SES (13 per cent), rather than low SES non completers (19 per cent);
  • Successful completion rates were 63 per cent for high SES non-completers compared with 59 per cent for low SES non-completers; and
  • Failure rates were lower in modules undertaken by non-completers from English-speaking rather than non-English speaking background (16 per cent compared to 22 per cent).

Ball, K., Lamb, S. (2001). Participation and Achievement in VET of Non-completers of School, LSAY Research Report 20, Melbourne: ACER.

The full report is available in pdf format or hard copy from ACER Press, phone (03) 9277 5447; fax: (03) 9560 4799; email sales@acer.edu.au