Tasmania's education system has been the subject of much scrutiny over the last few years, and while there has been an improvement, it's nowhere near the end of the line.
The latest government services report showed that retention in Tasmanian government schools had climbed to 80.4 per cent in 2019, which was 2 per cent higher than the national rate.
While Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff claims that it's the result of the government's somewhat controversial high school extension program, the improvement could also result from changes to the Education Act.
The Act now requires students to stay in school until the age of 18 legally, or the end of grade 12, whichever comes first.
Tasmania's retention rate has always typically been lower than other states, so we should applaud this improvement above the national average for what it's worth.
However, more qualitative data needs to be collected to fully realise the impact the extension school policy has on Tasmania's education landscape, from retention, quality of education, and its effect on colleges.
In 2019, Newstead College faced viability fears when it was revealed in Parliament that it experienced a 27 per cent decline in enrollment. While the state government stands by its extension policy, its full impact on colleges has yet to be revealed.
While it's clear that everyone wants more students to stay in school longer, that was never in dispute; it needs to be said that this is not the only measure of educational success. Making some inroads in retention rate is a significant first step, but there is more that needs to be done to ensure these educated young Tasmanians are funnelled towards skill gap industries.
There still remains a significant gap between how to get kids to stay in education, and to make that leap towards further education or an apprenticeship to benefit industries that have experienced considerable skill gaps, even pre-COVID.
Helping to educate kids towards the best pathway for them is a crucial element to maximising students' potential.
These are long-standing issues exacerbated by the pandemic and needs addressing.
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