What is educational disadvantage?
Educational disadvantage occurs when people are prevented from reaching their academic potential at school due to external factors in their life which they have no control over. These could be things such as where a child grew up, the occupation of their parents, their culture, health or unanticipated circumstances beyond their control. Things such as grades, age or IQ do not cause educational disadvantage, instead lower grades occurs as a result of it. Most of the time it is caused by socio-economic factors that influence how people live.
But isn't Australia one of the most developed countries in the world?
Factors of disadvantage
There are 5 major factors that contribute to educational disadvantage in Australia, according to the Gonski Report released in 2011.
We focus on three of them.
Level of remoteness
Level of remoteness is known to correlate directly with the educational outcomes of students. This means that students in more remote areas are contistently outperformed by their metropolitan peers simply because of their post-code growing up.
On average for example students in provincial areas in Australia, such as Kalgoorlie and Northam where we visit, are 1-and-a-quarter-years of schooling behind metropolitan students and likewise remote students are a whole 2-and-a-half years behind3.
ICSEA is a scale method adopted in Australia which uses a range of socio-economic factors to measure the external influence affecting a student's education. We use this when approaching schools which are most in need.
Unfortunately Indigenous students are over-represented in all categories of disadvantage.
Poor educational outcomes:
The problem with "the gap"
The problem lies however with the disproportionate range in achievement of Australian students which is much greater than those of other countries, which unveils a vastly inequitable schooling system as revealed in the Gonski Report. Australia's education gap is larger than the average of all OECD countries. 42% of Australian students fall below the nationally agreed baseline in mathematics6. This is far greater than the likes of high-performing countries such as Shanghai-China where only 12% of students performed below this level.
The key factors of educational disadvantage contribute to this vast gap in performance, amongst other things such as supposedly inequitable school funding. Indigenous students are by far overrepresented in all areas of performance, and are on average 2.5 years behind their non-Indigenous counterparts in all areas7. By location alone, remote students are 2 years behind metropolitan students8. On top of this in the same very remote areas, Indigenous students are almost 10 times more likely to be below the national minimum standard in mathematics by Year 79, and which gap will only get bigger into high school leaving Indigenous students at a huge disadvantage to their non-Indigenous peers before they even start high school. No matter the location that a student goes to school in Australia, children who's parents happen to be in the lowest income bracket perform on average 2.5 years behind their high-income peers in all areas by Year 10 at school10, simply because of the occupation chosen by their parents which they have no control over.