New Report Says Australian Education Needs Urgent Overhaul

10/11/2015 6:14 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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Six year old boy learns the keyboard during a computer class.

A new report into Australia's education system has claimed Australian youth are taking almost five years to find full-time work after finishing their education, while up to 70 percent of young people are studying in pursuit of jobs that may not exist in the near future.

The Foundation for Young Australians released their annual report card 'How Young People are Faring in the Transition from School to Work' on Tuesday, sharing some startling data on how our education system is preparing students for life in a rapidly-shifting workplace affected by technological disruption, industrial reform and automation.

The report stated young people are slogging through an average of 4.7 years between finishing full time education and finding full time employment, and just 65 percent of university graduates managed to gain full time work within four months of graduating, down from 84 percent in 2008.

university graduate

University graduates seem set for a long wait before gaining full time work

Of more concern to the foundation's CEO Jan Owen, however, were the findings around current or future students; for instance, that among 15-year-olds, 35 percent were not proficient in science, 42 percent were not proficient in maths and 35 percent were not proficient in technology.

"We have not yet understood the clear and urgent requirement for us to start thinking about what we are doing now to set up 15-year-olds for the future. This is a clear and urgent call," Owen told The Huffington Post Australia.

"We’ve got an ageing population, there will be way more older people than younger people soon, so you can't have any group left behind. There is a requirement for every single young person to be actively contributing to the economy. We can't afford to have a group not participating. We need to lift the tide mark across the board."

The report card found 70 percent of young people's entry-level jobs were at risk of future automation, while 60 percent of young people were currently studying for jobs that will be "radically altered" by automation. Owen said Australia's education system was among the best in the world, but that a wholesale, across-the-board reform was needed to better fit young people to the workplace of the future; from curriculum content and methods of teaching, all the way down to careers advice at school and from parents.

"They are studying for jobs that will not exist in the next 10 to 15 years. That comes back to information -- where is the career and education advice coming from? Employers aren't influencing what is going on in schools, teachers don't know what the career landscape is and neither do parents," Owen said.

"We need much better information from industry and government about what to expect and where will the jobs be. Our young people are better educated than ever, no doubt, but the question is -- better educated in what? To what end? Will this education get them a job in the future?"


Australian education needs vast and rapid change, Owen said

She said recent political calls for coding to be taught to all students was a step in the right direction, but only one step. Owen said the Foundation for Young Australians are advocating "enterprise education" to be entwined into existing curriculums, to teach students so-called "soft skills" such as time management, networking and creative thinking.

"We need to have a universal enterprise education strategy. Other countries have it and are working toward a basic skills set, with skills like digital literacy, financial literacy, analytics, problem solving. Every person needs these skills as a base line, but they're not being taught universally by any stretch of the imagination in Australia," she said.

"[The changing workplace] requires a different type of teaching and skill set, and a type of school that is prepared to bring in a lot of different skills. Some skills, like technology, sit outside the school in fields like industry. We firmly believe we need to design these experiences with industry and teachers that go beyond the classroom."

"Schools should start to be much more deeply engaged with designing opportunities for young people to get access to career understanding and pathways."

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