As a community, state and nation we know the value of education. Education is the pathway to opportunities. We also know that pathway has many different twists, inclines and obstacles.
In Tasmania, one of the biggest obstacles is just getting youth to stay in school, but retention issues also extend to university.
The Australian Financial Review reported in June that one in five students at some regional universities failed to complete their degrees. However, at the University of Tasmania that drop-out rate was more than 33 per cent. Nationally about 15 per cent of all university students do not finish their degrees. In response, federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the government would work with universities to improve retention strategies.
Tasmanian grade 12 retention rates are improving, but with a lot of work to go. The latest apparent retention rates for grades 10 to 12 was 74.1 per cent, with a target to reach 80 per cent by 2022. In 2013 that rate was at 68.4 per cent. Nationally the grade 7 to 12 retention rate (in 2017) was 84.8 per cent.
Telling children to study hard is not the answer to improving retention. It involves everyone in the community. It’s encouraging children to dream big, focus on participation and not the top grade, celebrate success as a family, school and community and recognise there is not one correct way to seek an education.
Then there is the delivery of education. We must place a higher value on teachers. They must be supported, well educated themselves and up-to-date with best teaching practices. The curriculum should also be relevant and engaging.
American educator Edgar Dale talks to the Cone of Learning. He says during two weeks we remember: 10 per cent of we read, 20 per cent of what we hear, 30 per cent of what we see, 50 per cent of what we see and hear, 70 per cent of what we say and write and 90 per cent of what we participate in.
If we are to improve retention rates and educational outcomes (which is in the best interest of everyone) then we must also be involved in the conversation and participate where we can.