Higher levels of education are associated with increased likelihood of being employed, being in good health and reporting life satisfaction (OECD 2016a, 2018). In Australia, children must attend school until they complete Year 10. They then can participate in full-time education, employment or training (or a mix) until they are 17. This page presents national statistics to provide an overview of Australia’s performance in education for these compulsory schooling years.
School students and teachers across Australia were severely impacted by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020. It disrupted teaching and learning across all states and territories. Each state and territory experienced and responded to the pandemic differently. Some were able to maintain a capacity for classroom learning, while others had to quickly adapt to an entirely online learning environment for an extended period of time. Similar impacts are also likely to occur during the outbreaks of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Australia in 2021.
Due to the impact of COVID-19, school attendance data, usually published on an annual basis, are not available for 2020. Similarly, the National Assessment Program literacy and numeracy tests scheduled to take place in 2020 were cancelled. Preliminary NAPLAN results for 2021 suggest that the pandemic had no significant impact on students’ literacy and numeracy overall (ACARA 2021a), however the full impact of COVID-19 on learning and teaching is yet to be fully understood and is likely to be a focus of research well into the future.
Attendance is an indicator of a child’s participation in school. Each day of attendance in school contributes towards a child’s learning and there does not appear to be a ‘safe’ threshold for which school absences do not have an impact (Hancock et al. 2013).
Student attendance rates refer to the number of days school was attended as a percentage of the total number of possible school days (see Glossary).
As 2020 attendance data are not available, data from 2019 has been used for analysis. In 2019, student attendance rates were:
- 92% for all students in years 1–6 and 90% for all students in years 7–10, remaining fairly stable since 2015 (94% and 91% respectively)
- lower in later year levels (88% in Year 10) than in earlier year levels (92% in Year 7)
- higher in non-government schools (93%) than government schools (91%) for years 1–10
- lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australian children than for non-Indigenous children in years 1–10 (82% and 92% respectively). Attendance rates for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous children remained relatively stable between 2015 and 2019
- higher in Major cities (92%) compared with Inner regional (91%), Outer regional (90%), Remote (86%), and Very remote (71%) areas for years 1–10 (SCRGSP 2021).
The National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) is an annual assessment of students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9. NAPLAN assesses the types of skills essential for every child to progress through school and life:
- language conventions (spelling, grammar and punctuation)
- numeracy (ACARA 2019a).
NAPLAN results provide data to assess achievement against the national minimum standard and mean score (see Glossary).
NAPLAN mean scores generally range from 0–1,000 points, with higher scores indicating better performance, and are equated so that a score of 700 in Reading has the same meaning in 2009 and 2019 (ACARA 2019b).
A review of NAPLAN was commissioned in 2019, with results published in August 2020. The review considers whether NAPLAN remains fit-for-purpose, and makes several recommendations for future versions of the national standardised assessment.
NAPLAN 2020 Cancellation
Education ministers made the decision to cancel NAPLAN in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This meant students in years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in 2020 did not undertake the assessment. The decision to not proceed with NAPLAN in 2020 was taken to assist school leaders, teachers and support staff to focus on the wellbeing of students and continuity of education, including online and remote learning.
In May 2021, NAPLAN was undertaken in schools across the country, with national summary preliminary results released in August 2021.
From 2008 to 2021, national mean NAPLAN scores have generally improved across all domains, except Writing (Figure 1).
The largest improvements were in the Reading domain at Year 3 (37 points) and Year 5 (27 points). The greatest reductions in skill were in Writing for Year 9 (15 points) and Year 7 (7 points).
National mean scores on NAPLAN domains in 2021 did not change substantially from 2019 results.