Education and skills

Education is about gaining the knowledge and skills a person needs to participate in all aspects of daily life. Having a higher level of education generally results in better employment outcomes and higher income – key factors in economic security and independence.

While most school-age (5–18 years) children with disability go to school, and many people with disability are undertaking further study, some face challenges engaging in education. This is reflected in the overall lower levels of educational attainment for people with disability.

This domain looks at the participation of people with disability in education, their level of educational attainment, and their educational needs.

Disability Standards for Education

Disability Standards for Education 2005 is part of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cwlth). The standards set out the rights of students with disability and how education providers, such as schools and universities, must help them have the same educational opportunities and choices as other students.

School students with disability

In 2018, 1 in 10 (10%) school students aged 5–18 had disability.

Type of school attended

In 2018, 9 in 10 (89%) school students aged 5–18 with disability went to a mainstream school and 12% went to a special school.

Year 12 completion

As at 2018, 34% of people aged 20 and over with disability had completed Year 12, compared with 66% without disability.

Higher education

As at 2018, 17% of people aged 20 and over with disability had a bachelor’s degree or higher (35% without disability).

Schooling restrictions

In 2018, 4 in 5 (80%) school students with disability had one or more schooling restrictions.

Unmet need for support in education

In 2018, 3 in 10 (31%) school students with disability, and 14% of non-school students (aged 15–64) needed support but did not receive any, or needed more support than they received.

Reporting on education and learning of people with disability for Australia’s Disability Strategy

Australia's Disability Strategy 2021–2031 (the Strategy) is Australia's national disability policy framework. It sets out a plan for continuing to improve the lives of people with disability in Australia over the 10 years to 2031.

The Strategy is supported by an Outcomes Framework. The Outcomes Framework is a key initiative under the Strategy to measure, track and report on the outcomes for people with disability across 7 outcome areas.

One of these outcome areas is Education and learning. This outcome area is about making it easier for people with disability to get what they need from school, education, and training. It includes 4 priorities with a total of 12 measures that are used to track what changes over time (7 of which currently have reportable data and 5 require future data development):

  • Participation in early childhood education priority:
    • Preschool enrolment: Proportion of children enrolled in a preschool program in the year before full-time schooling (YBFS) who have disability (6.3% in 2022), compared with proportion of children aged 4 to 5 years who have disability in community (7.6% in 2018)
    • School readiness: Proportion of children with disability who meet school readiness indicators in first year of school (future data development)
  • Participation in school education priority:
    • Year 10 completion: Proportion of people with disability (aged 20–64) who completed Year 10 (or equivalent) (86% in 2018)
    • Year 12 completion: Proportion of people with disability (aged 20–64) who completed Year 12 (or equivalent) (45% in 2018)
    • School attendance: Proportion of students with disability attending school 90% or more of the time (future data development)
    • Year 9 reading: Proportion of students with disability in Year 9 achieving at or above the national minimum standard for reading (future data development)
  • Participation in tertiary education priority:
    • VET participation: Proportion of Vocational Education and Training (VET) students with disability (aged 15–64) (4.1% in 2022)
    • Undergraduate participation: Proportion of undergraduate higher education students with disability (10% in 2021)
    • VET completion: Qualification completion rate for VET students aged 15–64 with disability (42% of 2018–22 cohort), compared with students without disability (49% of 2018–22 cohort)
    • Higher education completion: Proportion of students with disability who complete a higher education qualification (51% of 2016–21 cohort)
  • Participation in informal education (life skills) priority:
    • Adult and Community Education: Proportion of person with disability who reported satisfaction with their access to Adult and Community Education (ACE) (future data development)
    • Informal learning participation: Proportion of people with disability who report having participated in an informal learning activity in the last 12 months (future data development).

Note: the numbers reported in this summary box and on the Reporting on Australia's Disability Strategy 2021–2031 website may differ slightly from the numbers reported elsewhere in this report, due to different data sources, populations, and/or reporting periods.