Australia is yet to overcome the enormous challenge of providing quality education to those outside urban centres. While only 10 per cent of Australians live in rural and remote areas, this population is spread across a vast continent with one of the lowest population densities in the world.
The evidence shows there is a consistent link between where Australians live and their educational outcomes at all stages of education, with those living in rural and remote communities doing worse than students in urban areas. To date, many of the policies in place to address this have been ineffective.
Educational opportunity in Australia 2015 is one of the most comprehensive data studies of Australia’s education system. It examines young people’s progress on four key educational milestones, from the early years right through to young adulthood.
The proportion of very remote students who meet the requirements at each milestone is between 19 and 48 percentage points lower than for the Australian population as a whole.
Students living further from cities are less likely to catch up once they are off track at a milestone.
Rural and remote students have reduced access to education services compared to metropolitan students. These students attend school less frequently, are less likely to go to university and are more likely to drop out if they enrol.
Remote students have less positive dispositions towards school on every measure (belonging, self-confidence, purpose and perseverance) than their regional and metropolitan peers.
Vocational education and training (VET) is an important pathway for regional and remote students, though very remote participation is low. Nearly one third of remote and outer regional students undertake an apprenticeship or traineeship.
Remote communities are home to one-quarter of Australia’s Indigenous population. As a consequence, the educational challenges faced in remote areas have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous Australians.