School Retention Figures
SCHOOL RETENTION FIGURES
The Hon. Dr MEREDITH BURGMANN: My question without notice is directed to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Did her representative in another place, the Minister for Industrial Relations and Employment, yesterday state that New South Wales retention rates were 80 per cent? Did the official statistics released this year by her department and the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that New South Wales retention rates are only 66.6 per cent for public schools and 70 per cent for all schools - the lowest of any mainland State? Did she provide her with false information and cause the inister to mislead the House?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I thank the honourable member for her question. It provides me with the opportunity to talk of the proud record of participation of young people in education and training in this State. It is true that over 80 per cent of young people in New South Wales aged between 15 years and 18 years are engaged in education and training this year? The honourable member would be well advised to look to reports that have bipartisan support, such as the Finn review, a national report of some stature; the Mayer report; and the training reform agenda, which is strongly promoted by her Labor colleagues in Canberra. A basic tenet of part of that program is to break down the traditional boundaries that have existed to the detriment of students between schools and TAFE.
Considerable effort has been made by the Government in recent years to ensure that the boundaries between schools and TAFE and the world of work or university are broken down. This has been done by a number of mechanisms that I presume the honourable member would support, such as joint school-TAFE programs and industry studies programs. This year, for the first time in the history of this State and of the nation, students can do the higher school certificate in TAFE while continuing with vocational training. Therefore it is accurate to refer to participation rates in education and training of people from 15 years to 19 years. That figure is 80 per cent, and the Government stands by it. It is a figure of which I and the Government are proud.
Compared with the national figure of 74 per cent, 80 per cent in New South Wales looks pretty good. I am proud of this direction, because it has benefited students, who have greater choices and options and greater relevance in the choice of courses available to them in the senior levels of high school than ever before in the history of this State. The Government intends to continue with that work. This morning I attended a meeting with the deputy director of the TAFE Commission, who gave me a verbal report of a survey that has been conducted about student satisfaction for the first group of students doing the HSC in TAFE this year.
Student satisfaction is high, and I predict that despite the carping criticism and negative comments from members opposite, if the program continues next year even more students will decide to exercise an option in year 10 to combine a higher school certificate with the capacity to obtain a tertiary entrance rank if they so desire with ongoing vocational training that is accredited in this State and nationally. That is a fabulous development. It is a fallacy to return to old culture. Given that the Hon.
Dr Meredith Burgmann truly describes herself as a child of the sixties and a radical feminist socialist, it is distressing to find her trapped in this old ethos, this old conservative reactionary culture. She may have been a radical in the 1960s but on these matters she is in some sort of conservative time warp. She should break free from that and get with the educational movement of the 1990s.
That is the way of the future. It serves our students well by easing the pathways across the different traditional sectors; it suits and enhances their opportunities to obtain a job; it suits and enhances their opportunities to combine generalist school education with vocational training or a university option. New South Wales is leading the nation. That was recognised yesterday at Willoughby Girls High School - another fine public school - when the Federal Labor Minister, Ross Free, and I jointly launched a program based on the notion of reporting on key competencies. Again New South Wales is leading the nation, as is recognised by a $4 million contribution to its work by the Federal Minister.
What is the honourable member on about? These are great developments that serve our students well, serve public education in this State well, and serve the community well. Those students will be better equipped to enter the world of work, or the world of further training or tertiary study. She should get with it, get out of her time warp and realise that again this State is leading the nation in education and training.