Friday, 18 Feb 2000

Early school leavers in Australia are more likely than those in the United States to pursue post-school education and training, according to a study released by the Australian Council for Educational Research today. However, more United States than Australian early school leavers later go on to complete secondary school. "Almost half the early school leavers in the United States complete high school within two years of normal high school graduation, whereas fewer than 10 per cent of early school leavers in Australia eventually complete high school," Dr Phil McKenzie, coordinator of ACER’s longitudinal research program said. Most of those in the United States who eventually complete high school do so by acquiring the General Educational Development credential, which is widely recognised as equivalent to a high school diploma. "Even though a higher proportion of Australians than Americans never complete high school, Australian early school leavers are more likely than their American counterparts to enrol in postsecondary education and training," Dr McKenzie said. In the United States one in ten early school leavers who never completed high school participated in education or training during the first two years after high school. In Australia, about two in three male early school leavers had participated in post-school education or training. For most this was in apprenticeships or other vocational education or training programs. This was the case for only about one in three female early school leavers. However, the rate for females was still five times that of females in the United States. In both Australia and the United States dropout rates were substantially higher for students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, for students attending public or government schools, and for students with low achievement levels. Similar percentages of students in both countries left high school early – 21 per cent in the United States and 22 per cent in Australia. The research is based on comparable longitudinal surveys in both countries. The United States data were drawn from the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS), a longitudinal survey of 25 000 students. Australian data were collected from 6500 students. The data were collected in 1994, from young people approximately 20 years old. The report is part of the Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth research program, which is conducted by ACER and supported by the Commonwealth Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs. The authors of the study are Dr Stephen Lamb, Senior Research Fellow at the Australian Council for Educational Research and Professor Russell Rumberger from the University of California, Santa Barbara.